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UDELL: Sonoma Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Porsche

Sonoma, California is a beautiful area of the country. We stayed in a house on a vineyard that had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and grape vines growing all around the property.

My family always comes to this event, as well as Frank and his wife Tammy from Euroworld Motorsports.

The majority of the day they spend exploring vineyards in the area then show up for the on-track action. It’s really a unique event!

This weekend was tough. On track action started on Friday, we had two practice sessions, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

After a solid afternoon session, coming out of the session in fourth, I felt my Euroworld Porsche was ready for qualifying Saturday morning. After qualifying eighth, I knew in the first race I’d have a little bit of work to do.

On the start of Saturday’s race I was on the outside of the fourth row, which put me inside for Turn 11. Because we go through side by side I had to check up a lot.

As I made the turn the leaders accelerated away from the field early, which caused a bit of a spread out start. I ended up going into Turn 1 just outside of Bryan Sellers, and was able to close up and go inside into Turn 2.

Unfortunately, Bryan and I had contact which broke my steering rack, disabling the car, and gave both my and Bryan’s cars flat tires. It was a bit of a give and take incident.

I own that I had partial responsibility in the wreck. You never want to sit out a race so it was a frustrating end to the day.

Due to not turning a lap in Saturday’s race I started Sunday’s race from the back (19th).

Determined to not have a similar issue on the start, I put it out of my mind and focused on the task at hand. I was able to get a great launch and move my way up to about 11th going into Turn 2.

At this point, up ahead, there had been some contact and I couldn’t tell but a car was coming across the track. Being in the middle lane, I was a bit along for the ride. The Audi next to me narrowly escaped contact with the spun car, moving over towards me.

A full course caution came out for the incident. The rest of the race was uneventful. I was able to pick off two more cars for a ninth-place finish, earning yet another Best Start and Hard Charger awards.

It wasn’t the performance I was hoping for coming out of a great weekend at Mid-Ohio, but as we say “that’s racing.”

Sunday night was the Pirelli World Challenge awards banquet and I was awarded the overall Hard Charger Award for the year, meaning I gained the most positions throughout the season!

What an honor. I am proud of this one. As a racer, you want to race and you want to be known for being aggressive but smart. I feel like this award really recognizes that.

The banquet also gave me a chance to reflect on the successes of the 2017 season.

We came out strong at St. Pete with the blue and orange Euroworld Motorsports Porsche with two wins in the GTA class. From there, I had a long run of top 10’s in Sprint, while in Sprint-X Preston [Calvert] and myself had several top-5 finishes in the Pro-Am class.

Ultimately, Mid-Ohio was my best overall finish this year with a third-place in the Pro class.

Coming into the year I had set goals for myself. First was to compete in the Pro class, then get a Top-5 finish, a podium and a win. I consider completing every goal but one a success.

We’ll strive for the Pro win next year. I knew this year the competition level was going to be the toughest I’ve seen in my career, but that’s what makes you better.

I really had to push myself harder than before, but in the end it has most definitely paid off.

I want to take this chance to thank Frank Lee from Euroworld Motorsports. We’ve had a great few seasons in the Porsches and I’m excited to keep pushing forward with it! James Sofronas and his crew at GMG; they’re a top-level program and I am very excited that James was able to take the championship in GTA!

I also want to thank Preston Calvert, we had some great racing in the SprintX series. I enjoyed being a dynamic duo in the 77 car and look forward to more opportunities in the future!

I can’t say for sure yet what we’re doing next year, but I think it might involve some longer races. Stay tuned.

Thank you all very much for following the season progress with me this year and stay tuned for news about next one! Coming up: eight hours at Laguna Seca. As we say here at Clemson… “C U There!”

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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