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UDELL: COTA Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Porsche

I always look forward to Circuit of The Americas. Being that it’s less than two hours from home, I consider it to be my “home track.”

I’ve been driving on the circuit since it opened in 2012, and actually, I was a part of the grand opening. The track is like no other that we drive on in our Pirelli World Challenge championship, which makes it a unique challenge, setup and driving wise, to tackle.

Before I get too far into my column I would like to say a few things on the storm that affected my hometown of Houston just the week prior.

My family was fortunate enough to stay dry through the storm; I’ve been back at Clemson since classes just started so I luckily missed the brunt of the storm. Unfortunately, the floods have affected thousands in the Houston community.

The best part about being from Houston is the strength of the community.

During and immediately following the storm, volunteers were lined up, ready to help in any way possible. We won’t let the storm bring us down and we’ll bounce back as spritely as ever!

I really would encourage any of you who are able to help out to do so, whether it’s a dollar to the Red Cross, volunteering if you’re in the area, or sending electronics to help get people back online, every bit will help and be extremely appreciated by the receiving party.

Luckily for us the track wasn’t impacted very much by the storm and we still were able to race. Although that would’ve been a comical situation, considering one of the races this weekend was a re-scheduled race that got rained out when we were in Canada.

The city of Austin is one of my favorite places in the country.

I spent last summer interning there and I’m always looking for a reason to go back. It’s got a world-class race track, beautiful lakes, and is the live music capital of the world, everything I love! Not to mention, it’s close to home, so there’s plenty of friends and family that attend the races whenever we go.

Our test sessions Thursday in the Calvert Dynamics GMG Porsche started out pretty well. We had a pretty straightforward testing strategy: I would hop in early in the session to work on setup on the car and then Preston would jump in to finish the session out. I think we were running around top 10 times both sessions, which I was content with considering we were on older tires.

Friday things got exciting. We had another practice session and then a Friday night race to make up for our missed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park race.

I started in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R, fought my way up a few positions on the first lap when a caution came out for debris on the front straightaway.

I got passed under yellow by two cars who gave it back immediately after. Unfortunately, the only thing the stewards caught during the race was me going back by the cars under yellow and I was forced to serve a drive through penalty, which put us out of any contention for the race. “Oh well, tomorrow will be better,” I thought.

Tomorrow wasn’t better. Preston started and was an innocent bystander that was collected in a Turn 1 scuffle that saw us as the only GT car taken out of the race. It just wasn’t our day.

The mantra “third time’s the charm” seemed to hold true this weekend for us. Because we didn’t complete a lap for Saturday’s race we had no time with which to qualify for Sunday’s race, meaning we started second-to-last, 22nd position, another car had to replace an engine overnight so they were behind us.

Going into the start of the race I knew my only job was to pick up as many positions as I could and bring a clean car back in to Preston to finish the race with.

As a kid my dad and karting coach used to always make me start at the back of the pack for races in which I wasn’t contending for a championship to help me learn how to pass. At the time I thought that was unfair but on days like Sunday, you learn they were right.

It sure did the trick. I came out of lap one in tenth-position, gaining 12 spots, and the “Optima Batteries Best Start Award.”

Throughout the stint I eventually picked up another four spots to put our Calvert Dynamics GMG Porsche up into the sixth-overall position from 22nd.

After pitting for our mandatory driver change, Preston ran the rest of the race and brought home another Top-5 finish! Success!

After a lot of adversity throughout the weekend we finally got the result we knew the team was capable of. Michael, Kyle, Nev, Stefan and the GMG crew gave us a great car throughout the whole weekend.

I’m glad we finally had a chance to show it in that final race! Again this weekend Preston went into “Iron Man Mode” and drove in both our PWC Sprint X races as well as the Pirelli Driver’s Cup GT3 Cup class.

Both days the races were back to back and both days Preston showed the field how it was done. He earned two overall podiums and class wins!

I’m extremely happy with the progress and success we’ve had in the Sprint X series this year, and look forward to continued successes for both Preston and myself for the remainder of this year in solo events at Sonoma.

Alec Udell (@AlecUdell) is the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT Cup champion, driving for GMG Racing and Calvert Dynamics in the 2017 PWC GTA and SprintX Series. Udell is a Clemson University student, majoring in engineering.

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