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ASCHENBACH: COTA Debrief

Lawson Aschenbach files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: PWC

What does it mean to win a championship? It means that hard work and dedication pay off. Whether you’re the driver, crew member, engineer, or team owner/manager you need to be perfect at all times to win. You need to eat, sleep, and live this sport, and be willing to make tough sacrifices.

As a driver, dedication is key. You need strong mental stamina to have the confidence to get results when you have a fast – or slow – car. Focus comes into play each and every time you strap into the race car. You can never give up.

As a crew member, teamwork is key. When everyone is headed in the same direction and desires the same goal, you will have a group of people that respect one another and are willing to fight together. Everyone is accountable.

As an engineer, balance is the key. Making decisions from driver feedback and/or sorting through countless amounts of data is a tough task. Trust is an important word when it comes to the engineer’s relationship with the driver. You have to be decisive.

As a team owner/manager, vision is the key. Steering the ship all season long isn’t easy. Making personnel decisions and changes can be difficult, but necessary. In the end you have to see things from above, directing the controlled chaos. Calm and assertive minds matter.

It takes a team to win a championship. Team equals family. You’re together week in and week out, and have each other’s backs at all times. If everyone has a common goal, you will succeed.

As Blackdog Speed Shop rolled into Circuit of The Americas, we were looking for a rebound. Utah was a tough weekend that saw us finish mid-pack with no speed or ability to fight for a podium. We were racing with both arms tied behind our backs.

There are three championships on the line every season: Manufacturer’s, Team and Driver’s. Each one is difficult to clinch, especially an event early. We had a shot to wrap up the Driver’s title, but in all honesty that wasn’t on my mind.

Race wins are what give me a sense of accomplishment. Podiums are nice, but there is nothing like crossing the finish line first. Championships are a great résumé builder, but in all honesty race wins are what matter to me until the last event of the season.

After four solid practice sessions, I felt we had great direction with the Camaro GT4.R and we were ready for qualifying. Unfortunately, it looked like a few cars had more left in the tank and we found ourselves eighth, almost a second off the pace.

Frustrating? You better believe it, but I knew we gave it our all and there was nothing left in the car. In the end you have to be at peace with yourself and focus forward. Qualifying is about a fast lap; the race is where it counts.

Race 1 started and I made my way into the top-five pushing as hard as I could to keep pace. It was clear it wasn’t meant to be as I slowly started fading due to tire wear. After pulling out every trick in the book to keep cars behind me, we were able to muster a fifth place finish.

No, it wasn’t ideal but in the end it was an overachievement and we were proud to even be in that position.

Race 2 saw us start ninth and I was excited to get back to standing starts, a place where we seem to excel. When the lights went out the torque of the Chevy LT1 allowed me to immediately gain on the car in front.

That driver made a reactionary move (that’s considered blocking) when he realized I was going to pass him. I was still able to squeeze the car in between the wall and his car to gain position into Turn One. With the blend line fast approaching, there was nowhere for me to go.

We ended up receiving a drive-through penalty for crossing that line. It was a bad call in my opinion, but there was nothing we could do about it. We still soldiered home to a top-10 finish.

To help turn around our day, we ended up clinching the Driver’s Championship in Race 2! A huge feat for a brand-new car with limited running before the first race of the season in St. Petersburg. It’s a true testament to Chevrolet, Pratt & Miller, and Blackdog Speed Shop.

Although this was a gratifying fifth Pirelli World Challenge Championship, we aren’t done. We are going to be pushing harder than ever to try and bring home the Team and Manufacturer’s titles in Sonoma.

I want to win. Remember… there’s nothing like that feeling. On to Sonoma!

Lawson Aschenbach (@lawsonaracing) is a former Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge champion, driving for Stevenson Motorsports in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Blackdog Speed Shop in Pirelli World Challenge.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ed Vandenack

    September 6, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    To the consummate Pro, Lawson Aschenbach… In the face of many, many “leg weights” from many different sources, you still maintain poise and confidence due to your team spirit and “Never give up and never lift” attitude! 5 time Champion is much more than just a resume builder, it’s a legacy few have been able to accomplish. Congrats, Dude!

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