Everything’s bigger in Texas, and this week, the big talking point was the heat.
It was brutally hot in Austin this year. We finished second in COTA last year, but had the strongest Corvette DP in the race. This year we went in with that motivation.
We rolled off the truck pretty strong. I think we were in the top-three in all of the practice sessions. It was particularly tough to tell who was quick on lap time because of all the traffic, but you could look at the splits to get a better idea of how you were overall.
The car wasn’t that easy to drive in the heat. The car moved around a lot and it was easy to hurt the tires. All we did in practice was work on our ‘race’ car.
We weren’t just looking for lap time, we were looking to make the car better over the long run. Managing the tires over the stint was going to be the big factor for winning the race.
Ricky surprised us when he put the car on the pole. It was only by 0.003 seconds over the Mazda, but we were almost half a second clear of the next Corvette DP.
Ricky can often pull out a lap in qualifying, faster than what we think the car is capable of, but this pole was definitely unexpected. It was a nice surprise.
Having the pole in our pocket, showing the car had good speed, we knew we were going to have a strong race considering we worked on long runs all through practice.
We had lots of guests in town for this race, over 70 people from DLL and Konica Minolta, so the pressure was on for us to back up our qualifying effort.
When the race went green, Ricky had a great first stint. He pulled out a gap of about ten seconds in the first 45 minutes of the race.
Unfortunately a yellow came out and we lost all of that. I jumped in right at the hour mark and the guys were able to get the stop done in time to retain the lead.
My first stint was pretty uneventful. The race was somewhat of a fuel-mileage race. At this point it was tight to do it on one more stop. We spent almost the entire stint saving fuel and were able to pull about 10-12 seconds on the rest of the field.
It was both good and bad to be doing two stints to finish off the race. The nice part was to see how much tire management I needed to do to keep the tires strong at the end.
It’s also nice to get into a groove with traffic and track conditions. The bad part was how hot it was in the car.
After our final stop, we maintained that gap on the field. I caught two GTD cars into the last corner with about 40 minutes to go.
I was trying to set up the exit and must have had too much steering angle when I touched the throttle. It was an embarrassingly slow spin to say the least. As it went around, I turned off TC to make sure I could spin the car back around.
When I got back going, our lead was down to about four seconds, but I had a big problem with traction control.
As soon as I would touch the throttle, I would only get what seemed like 5 percent power.
We spent the next 3-4 laps trying to figure out what the problem was, turning TC on and off and cycling other things. Through all of this, the 31 was able to catch all the way back up to us.
We figured out the issue and we were good to go, but now it was going to be a race. We were about 3-5 tenths quicker than the 31 all race, so I was comfortable with keeping him back.
He was only able to get close on one occasion through traffic, and thankfully we were still quick enough in clean air to pull that gap out again. We hit reserve on the last lap of the race, so the guys called the strategy perfectly.
We came home with the victory, our third of the year. It was great to do it at COTA.
We’ve had a strong car there the last few years, but could never get the job done.
We head to Petit Le Mans third in the points, seven back.
The championship is definitely still alive, and we won the race back in 2014. Can’t wait to get there next week!