Setbacks at the Glen1st July 2014
It was a long time since I’d last raced at Watkins Glen – home of the US Grand Prix ‘back in the day’ – but it didn’t take long to remember why it’s such a popular venue with drivers.
It’s a proper, old-school track with lots of ups and downs, high speed corners, loads of history and pretty good, modern facilities. It wasn’t great having to park what felt like a mile and a half away in a field (thanks to five different series all racing the same weekend) but that was a small price to pay… racing drivers, despite being fit, don’t like walking anywhere!
I’d last been there with the Grand-Am series but, remarkably, it was the first time that Corvette Racing had ever been there. It was also a first for the United SportsCar Championship and the first time that all four classes were going to be racing together since the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. We ended up with 53 cars on the grid, which is quite a number for a 3.7 mile track.
1. Magnussen/García, Chevrolet Corvette
2. Bomarito/Farnbacher/Goossens, Dodge Viper
3. Bomarito/Goossens/Wittmer, Dodge Viper
4. Gavin/Milner, Chevrolet Corvette
5. Lietz/Tandy/Pilet, Porsche 911
6. Edwards/Müller, BMW Z4
7. Fisichella/Kaffer, Ferrari 458
8. Christensen/Long/Pilet, Porsche 911
9. Henzler/Sellers, Porsche 911
10. Auberlen/Priaulx, BMW Z4
11. Jonsson/Krohn, Ferrari 458
The team made it a weekend to remember with a great victory in the GTLM class for our sister car but the very hot sun didn’t shine down on Tommy [Milner] and me quite so brightly. We were on course for a podium finish, having held second place behind Jan [Magnussen] and Antonio [García] for much of the six-hour race, but a stop-and-go penalty inside the last hour for what race officials judged to be avoidable contact between Tommy and a GTD car effectively ended our challenge and we finished fourth.
It’s not all bad though as that result was enough to move us into the lead of the GTLM class standings in the four-event North American Endurance Championship with just the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans remaining at the end of the season. This is a kind of championship within a championship and includes Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans.
For the last few months we’ve been struggling with a mysterious handling imbalance so we decided to make some drastic chassis set up changes the day before the race, and now feel we’ve made a good step forward. We went back to basics with stuff and, although it wasn’t perfect because we hadn’t had the chance to fine-tune it, it was good enough to allow us to be in the hunt at the front of the field.
Magnussen, Westbrook and García exchange congratulations
The GT class is so competitive, you’ve got to be at the top of your game in every respect, but I genuinely think we should have had a second place. Tommy did a brilliant job at the start and really got us in a fantastic position, and it was really hot and intense racing throughout the whole six hours; every lap felt like it was a qualifier. It was all looking good until the penalty and the late yellow which closed up the field for everyone.
Second would have been a proper reward for the guys on our Corvette C7.R who all worked extremely hard this weekend, but the progress we’ve made with it is very encouraging for the rest of the season and I think we’re back in the game now. It was a great job and a fantastic result in front of a huge Corvette Corral (nearly 400 cars over the weekend) by the No.3 crew, and hats off to Jan and Antonio, but it’s definitely our turn now! Big congratulations too to our endurance team-mate at Spirit of Daytona Racing, Richard Westbrook, who won overall in a Corvette DP with a great pass on the last lap.
Pop goes the extinguisher…
One of the more bizarre things to have happened over the weekend was in the third and final practice session prior to qualifying when Tommy was in the car. We were trying out the changes we’d made but, with three red flag stoppages in the one-hour practice, it was all getting a bit frustrating. Tommy was finally running at a decent pace when the fire bottle exploded in the car!
He said it sounded like the engine had blown and he tentatively pressed the accelerator to see what would happen but soon realised that it wasn’t that. The bottle looked like someone had taken a can opener and just taken the whole top off it. It was extraordinary and no one at the team had ever seen it before. We were all sitting there on the timing stand wondering what else could possibly go wrong – here’s hoping that the penalty is definitely the last setback for a good long while.
Hair today, gone tomorrow…
Along with Richard Westbrook in our No.4 car, we at Corvette Racing also have Jordan Taylor as one of our endurance team-mates for Le Mans. Son of former racer Wayne Taylor, Jordan races in the Prototype class with his brother Ricky for the United SportsCar events but is definitely one of the family and provides all of us with much hilarity and irreverent laughs off track and some great racing on it.
In what started as a bit of a joke, he’s been growing a mullet for the last 18 months and his hair had taken on a life of its own with more Facebook posts and Tweets about it than anything else he did which is saying something as he’s not one to sit quietly twiddling his thumbs! He decided it was time for it to go and set up a social media campaign called ‘Taming the Mullet’, aiming to raise money for two youth summer camps.
The grand prize winner received two paddock passes, tours of Wayne Taylor and Corvette Racing, and a ride around in a Daytona Prototype, and also got to help in the ceremonious cutting of the exalted mullet. Jordan not only raised an amazing $13,550 for the charities, but had more media interest and photographers present for the cut than the Governor of New York had earlier in the day!