Hard-nosed tactics

12th May 2014

Our second visit to California is usually one of the highlights of the season, with everyone enjoying the atmosphere and ambiance of the fantastic Monterey Peninsula. This year was a little different though, as round four of the United SportsCar Championship was cut to a two-day meeting, with five different series all vying for track time on the notoriously tricky Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Right from the outset it meant we were going to be really short on track time prior to our Prototypes/GTLM classes only, two-hour race on Sunday afternoon and, worse still, all 55 cars from the four combined classes were going to have to practice together. I’m not sure how much of the two one-hour sessions we lost to red flags but it was too much for an international racing series with manufacturer entries at our level. There is a lot of discontent among the teams and it should be a stark message to someone somewhere.

When you have so little track time you have to take a bit of a stab at set up and sometimes you hit it right and sometimes you don’t and, for whatever reason, we were working our rear tires just a bit harder than most other cars out there. We got fourth on the grid while our sister car got pole position, great for the team but a bit frustrating for me and my team-mate, Tommy Milner.

Tommy took the start and the top four cars remained the top four until the pitstops. We took a gamble on changing the compound of our Michelins to try and make up some lost ground. Once all the pitstops had taken place we were running in a steady fifth place and I was beginning to pressure Nick Tandy in the Porsche.

Unfortunately this was around the time there was a big drop off in tyre performance and the rear of the car started to snap away. With less than 30 minutes to go I lost the rear of the car into Turn 6 and ran through some sand so lost time there, and from then on to the flag the car seemed to be on a knife edge.

I knew Dirk Müller’s BMW was coming up on me like no tomorrow and we were racing hard, but I wasn’t going to just open the door to let him by. Dirk is fairly uncompromising in those situations and when he did make the move it was somewhat inevitable that we would touch and I got spun around, losing three places. It sort of summed up our day and our final finishing position of fifth was pretty frustrating – especially when we know that Corvette Racing has a car which is a race-winner.

Family fun in San Francisco

Or should that be boys on tour? With a scheduled Corvette Racing pre-Le Mans test at the end of the week at Road America in Wisconsin, we had a couple of days to spare so Tommy, Jan Magnussen, Antonio García, Richard Westbrook and I took ourselves to San Fran for a ‘family outing’. While we were there we decided to go to an Oakland Athletics baseball game with some of our engineers and there was much discussion about what form of public transport we could take to get there.

We didn’t take into account that some of our group “don’t do public transport” (much micky-taking and rib-digging followed that, as you can imagine). Tommy saved the day when it emerged he had this great new App called Uber which is pretty much your own private driver whenever you want him. Within minutes, we were whisked off in a limo to the game and had a fully immersive ball game experience complete with foam fingers, rubber fists into which you fit a drink, and the whole nine yards.

This will be the last time we all get to fully let our hair down for a little while as it’s now flat out preparing for the big one – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Our test at Road America went really well and all we need now is some of that elusive good luck to turn our season around.

A side portion of Callaway

Alongside my Corvette Racing commitments and the Autumn endurance races I’ll be doing in the Australian V8 Supercar Series, I’m also going to be racing in a limited number of races in the ADAC GT Masters Championship. At the moment it looks as though it will only be for three rounds, but it’s great to do something different – and in Europe!

I’m driving for Callaway Competition in a Corvette ZO6.R GT3 alongside reigning champion, Daniel Keilwitz, in a very high-calibre field with cars from eight different manufacturers. The opening round was at Oschersleben, and it promised much but ultimately failed to deliver as a number of frustrating technical issues held us back. We definitely had the pace and it was beginning to look more positive for the second race of the weekend.

The field was very tightly packed up when the lights eventually went green and it all kicked off from there. Daniel had made a good start and was taken out – like a number of others – through no fault of his own. He was unbelievably lucky not to have been seriously injured which is the most important point, but it was a hugely disappointing way to close out our first ADAC GT Masters weekend of 2014.

So, roll on June, as April and May haven’t been as kind to us as we’d have liked. We’re looking at it like a Ctrl+Alt+Del situation, reset to zero and start from scratch. That way, things can only get better!

See you in France.

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