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UDELL: Long Beach Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Porsche Cars North America

Photo: Porsche Cars North America

The Long Beach Grand Prix is always an exciting track to race at… who knew getting there could be exciting too?

I started my trip to Long Beach on Wednesday morning, leaving early in order to attend the Circle Porsche event at the Porsche Experience Center that evening in LA. Due to delays and crew timeouts for the airline, I didn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon.

For any of you out there also affected by the delays, I hope you made it to your destinations safely!

This weekend was my first as a GT competitor, I was eager to show what I could do in the all-pro class.

Practice Friday afternoon had a great time slot because all the drift car rubber – they run from Turns 9-11 – had been burnt off by the other series and we had a decent track to run on. I took the first 15-minutes to learn the track with my Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

By midway through the session, I was comfortable with the track and started turning fast laps. I was all the way up to the top-four, but then everyone else seemed to drop the hammer.

I had to do the same. I put down a respectable lap late in the session and was sitting sixth. I knew I had to hit the data Friday night to see where I could gain that time. I was so close!

Saturday morning I woke to an overcast sky and a very damp track. Considering we were the first cars on track that’s not exactly what you want to see.

I actually enjoy driving in the wet weather, but those in-between conditions where it’s just damp enough to not run slick tires, however too dry for rains are, very treacherous.

Luckily we had a warm-up scheduled before qualifying and the stewards changed qualifying from two 15-minute groups to one 20-minute group and extend our warm-up. This would give the track time to dry. In the practice session I posted the second-quickest time, by 0.005 seconds!

The track was drying throughout practice and qualifying so I knew that the fastest times would be posted at the end. I pushed hard but couldn’t get the car where I needed it to be. Showing how much the conditions changed throughout the session, from the warm-up to the end of qualifying I picked up 1.3 seconds.

I had a time that was good for eighth on the grid. I was back in the similar place from the practice, only five-tenths out of pole position, but all the way back in the fourth row!

Going into the race I was a bit nervous. It was my first race as a GT driver. We had made a few adjustments to the car from the previous day because I thought we could better optimize the Euroworld Motorsports/GMG Porsche.

I picked up one spot on the start going into Turn One. I came out of One unscathed and into the infamous “Fountain Turn.”

The usual accordion effect happened, and I got quite a large hit from Johnny’s [O’Connell] Cadillac from behind which pushed me into Ryan [Dalziel] in front of me.

My car seemed to be all good so I put my focus forward, ignoring the carbon fiber shower going on behind me. All was good and I was running a strong race.

About 20 minutes in we go into the back straightaway and I see a bit of smoke, or what I thought was smoke, ahead. Turns out it was two-inches of water streaming across the track from a fire hydrant!

That was a crazy ride going sideways at 140 mph! The stewards red-flagged the race and the safety team did a superb job cleaning up the mess.

We got back to green flag racing with just under 30 minutes left to run. I was still in seventh with Johnny pushing me hard from behind. I was simultaneously chasing down Ryan ahead of me in his Mercedes.

A late yellow saw the field bunch up one more time. I knew I was quicker off of the corners than the cars behind me so all I had to do was keep my focus forward and not make any mistakes.

I was able to stay in a bit of a no-man’s land, just out of reach of both the cars ahead of and behind me. I brought the No. 17 home in seventh-place. Great points finishes for me at the two street circuits!

Post race I saw the damage to the car. My Porsche faired better than I anticipated. It was just some carbon fiber damage on the front and rear bumpers, which Euroworld Motorsports will be able to take care of in-house.

It was a successful weekend for our GMG team, two overall top-10 finishes, with James [Sofronas] taking the GTA win. I was happy to show well in front of the team’s home crowd. Now I am looking forward to the SprintX rounds in three weeks teaming with Preston Calvert at VIR!

The competition this year is pushing me harder than I have been pushed in a long time. I knew this would be a challenge and it’s turning out to be exactly what I expected.

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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