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UDELL: Utah Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Porsche Cars North America

Salt Lake City is a beautiful place. The surrounding mountains serve as a wonderful backdrop for the city, yet they also cause quite a bit of air turbulence; I can’t think of any flight I’ve taken into SLC that’s had a smooth landing.

The track sits outside of the city 30 minutes to the west in Tooele. To get there you drive past the Great Salt Lake. I always wondered why I’ve never seen boats on the lake and, as I found out from a few locals, the lake is actually more of a marsh, with a maximum depth of 33 feet.

You learn something new every day!

Continuing on with the science lesson, Utah Motorsports Campus sits at an altitude of around 4,300 feet, the highest altitude that we race at all year.

Just like at higher altitudes you have a harder time breathing, so do cars. This means our naturally aspirated Porsche makes less power at altitude.

Comparatively, the boosted cars – turbo and supercharged, lose less power at altitude.

In order to even the playing fields, the turbo and supercharged cars are required to run reduced boost pressures at higher altitudes. Even with the decreased boost levels, I still think the boosted cars have a little edge on the normally aspirated cars, and it seems to play out every year.

Because UMC was a stand-alone event for Pirelli World Challenge we got lots of track time: four practice sessions, a qualifier and two, 60-minute races.

That extra track time is definitely needed on these weekends as Preston [Calvert] and I split the time in the sessions between the two of us.

We’ve finally nailed our driver changes though, so switching between the two drivers is a breeze. The main focus in our practice sessions was getting the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche in the right spot for handling; a spot that would maximize both my and Preston’s abilities in the car.

Now this weekend Preston decided to go super hero style and not only run our PWC SprintX races, but also run his 911 GT3 Cup car in the Pirelli GT3 Cup USA series!

After too many on-track sessions for me to count (I’m still on summer break for one more week) and four races over the weekend, I think I only heard him once say he was exhausted from all the driving. When you’ve got a passion for driving, you do anything you can to satiate your desire to drive.

Race 1 came mid-afternoon on Saturday, our qualifying run wasn’t amazing, but Preston drove a great first stint, narrowly missing a spun car on the first lap, and continuing on to pass three more cars across his 25-minute stint.

As I said earlier, we’ve gotten our driver changes down pat. It’s very exciting when you get it all done correctly!

In I went for my 35-minute stint in the 911 GT3 R. I was a bit in no-man’s land just running consistent laps the second part of the race. I had a good battle with a Mercedes for a few laps when we got some sprinkles from a rain cloud above the track.

I was able to take advantage of a mistake and get a run down the front straight into Turn One to move us into the fifth- position in the Pro/Am class where we would run to the finish.

I started Race 2. My lap time from the day prior put me in the ninth starting position overall. From there I was able to pick up two spots on the opening lap and settle into a good rhythm for my 30-minute stint.

Running 7th overall and third in Pro/Am, I ducked into the pit lane to pass the car off to Preston. The story of the second half of the race was caution flags.

We unfortunately got tangled up and sandwiched between a GT Cup car and a Pro/Am competitor which spun Preston around on the first re-start. He was able to get moving again and managed to stay on the lead lap, bringing the car home in sixth-position.

A post race penalty for one of our competitors saw us move up one more position for another fifth place on the weekend!

I’m very happy with our performance this weekend, two top-five finishes in an extremely competitive Pro/Am field is something to be proud of. Next up, my home track: Circuit of the Americas! See you in two weeks

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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