It was great being back in the ALMS this weekend after a two month gap, and the GT class at Lime Rock Park once again delivered close and fast racing, some bumping and banging, and nose-to-tail action all the way. We maintained our 2012 100% podium record and took third which has kept us in the lead of the points standings so we’re happy with that.
After qualifying third on the GT grid, Lady Luck decided to favour us as we lined up in pole position for the start of the race. Although profiting from the misfortune of others – one put to the back of the grid and the other having a late fuel leak – is never a preferred method of gaining position, in racing you take what comes your way. Tommy was able to lead until the first of four full course caution periods, despite the threat of some rain just before the start of the race and in the early laps.
It has been exceptionally hot and humid in practice and qualifying and then, on the grid, spots of rain started to fall. There was a lot of head scratching and deciding what to do about tyre choice, and we were all ready for a last minute change on the grid, looking constantly at the radar. It was a bit stressful for the team and provided us with a different view of Antonio Garcia. He’s normally Mr Uber-Cool, and rarely gets upset about things, but we saw a tiny chink in his armour as he was getting very twitchy about the weather. Ammunition for the future!
Anyway, at the re-start after the yellow Tommy was boxed in amongst the GT pack and dropped down a few places although he never lost contact with the leaders and kept a cool head under pressure. I took over with a little over an hour to go and it was a pretty challenging race. Lime Rock is narrow and fast and racing there feels a bit like you’re in a bare knuckle fight; your car is always bashed and bruised and you never come away with all the panels straight.
In those last few laps Jörg was driving smartly and cleverly, playing to the strengths of his car and determined to keep up his great victory record at Lime Rock. You have to try and keep working to find a way past with these guys but no one had a significant performance advantage over anyone else. If they don’t make mistakes, which these guys don’t often, then it’s tough. It shows the calibre of the drivers and why we all love racing in the ALMS.
Lime Rock saw a special celebration for four ALMS drivers as it was their 100th race and there was a special ceremony: Bill Auberlen of BMW, my team mate at Corvette Jan Magnussen, Flying Lizard Motorsport’s Jörg Bergmeister and Butch Leitzinger who is with the PR1 Mathiasen Prototype Challenge team.
Each of the centenarians had a team mate come along to the ceremony to help ALMS boss Scott Atherton present a plaque and a picture and there was a special ‘100’cake. I was there for Jan, James Weaver for Butch, Pat Long for Jorg and new DTM BMW driver Joey Hand for Bill.
As many involved in motorsport will know, drivers gathered together in groups tend to revert to childhood and it can get quite silly! There was plenty of talk before the presentations about who was going to ‘wear’ the cake and several photographers entered into the swing of it all and started a bidding war to pay several hundred dollars to the bravest who would anoint Scott Atherton with the cake. Everyone was egging each other on, but it turned out the format of the ceremony was changed and only the four long-serving drivers were on stage and they all bottled out. Shame; Jan might have done it a few years ago but he’s a responsible dad and factory driver now!
Since Le Mans I’ve also been back at Watkins Glen for the Grand Am six hour race the week before Lime Rock. Watkins Glen is amazing to race on and is one of my all-time favourite tracks. It wasn’t a perfect weekend for us in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing DP Corvette but it was really good to see all my Grand Am friends and colleagues and Richard scored more points for the championship so not a bad outcome. Running in two different series gives you an opportunity to appreciate different things from both and it’s a massive plus for Grand Am to go to Watkins Glen.
I’ve only had about three days at home in the last six weeks because of Le Mans, a short break to celebrate my wife’s birthday, the Grand Am race and Lime Rock, so I’m really looking forward to about ten days back with the family and sleeping in my own bed. See you all at Mosport – sorry, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – in a couple of weeks!