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UDELL: Road America Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column after Road America…

Photo: Porsche Cars North America

Summer Racing is always fun. It has been a busy summer for me professionally and personally. This week brought all of that together at Road America.

In addition to my studies in Mechanical Engineering at Clemson, I’ve undertaken a minor in Economics.

So, although I am out of classes until the fall, this summer I’ve been out in Irvine, Calif. interning at Compass Group Management, a private equity firm.

For my summer here I’ve been airbnb’ing around. I found a great room in Irvine, however it ended the Wednesday of this past week, meaning I had to pack up all my life and live out of my car until the next Tuesday when I move into my next one!

That is a lot to consider when you are trying to prep for a race and learn Valuation and Financial Modeling at the same time.

Wednesday night was my mother’s birthday, she met me in the Chicago O’Hare airport and my father and I took her to a nice dinner at a small Italian restaurant (my favorite) midway between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Funny enough our waitress was a race fan; she and her husband bring their kids to the race weekend every year! It’s great to meet fans away from the track.

Thursday was our test day which was filled with rain. We got one dry session in and had two wet sessions. I only went out in the second wet session.

I really enjoy driving in the rain. I had not had the opportunity to drive my Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the rain yet so I was itching to get out there!

With the weight right over the drive wheels the car has so much “on power” grip – even in wet conditions – it’s shocking! I kept pushing harder each lap and was surprised with how much stick the car had.

I was able to be my “young adult” self and wake up at 10:30 a.m. on Friday since we didn’t have anything until a 30-minute session at 5:10 p.m. We prepared as much as possible and had a strong afternoon. It was really the first time we could actually do some good tuning on the car.

The (second) best part of this sport is the personal relationships that you build.

I have met some of my closest friends at the track. I was fortunate enough to have Euroworld Motorsports owner, Frank Lee and his wonderful wife Tammy join me for this Sprint round.

Friday we had dinner with them and a few family friends, my grandparents, Preston Calvert, his wife Meg, engineer Stefan Pfieffer, the “Voice of Pirelli World Challenge”, Greg Creamer and his wife Jude.

No matter how different all of us in that group are, and we are quite different, we always enjoy time with each other away from the track. The love for the sport spans every generation.

It allows everyone to be a kid again: staring in amazement at the cars, taking in the sounds and smells, getting to explore outside of your comfort zone. There’s something for everyone at a track.

Saturday’s qualifier didn’t go quite as planned. I pushed hard and ended up 11th, not the best position which meant I would have work to do in the race.

By moving up six positions on the opening lap – from P11 to P5 – in Race 1, I was able to get both the Optima Batteries Best Start and the VP Hard Charger awards.

I had good battles with Michael Cooper in the Cadillac, Alvaro Parente and Bryan Sellers in the McLarens.

Ultimately I ended up P7 overall, four positions up from where I started. I found myself struggling for grip at the end of the race, most likely due to the extra laps I ran in qualifying on my tires, so we had work to do overnight.

My performance on Saturday put me right back in 11th for Sunday’s race. I knew the start would be another good place for me to pick up a few positions.

A caution period stemming from a first lap incident in Turn 5 saw us lose 10 minutes of racing time.

On the restart, I was able to close up on the two cars in front of me. I got a great run out of Turn 3 and was able to pull up along the inside of the two Acuras and edge out a pass going into Turn 5, picking up two more spots to seventh.

An unfortunate incident in the pack just behind me brought out a red flag, where we lost another 15 minutes. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and saw us finish in seventh again, yielding another VP Fuels Hard Charger of the race award.

Overall, we had a successful weekend. I’m still searching for that extra bit in the car to put me in the top-give.

I know we’re on the verge of getting it. I’ve got a great team in Frank, James, Nev, Stefan and the GMG crew. I’m looking forward to being back in my Euroworld Motorsports Porsche at Mid-Ohio the end of July.

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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