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ASCHENBACH: Watkins Glen Debrief

Lawson Aschenbach files latest Sportscar365 column after Watkins Glen…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

I’ve always loved racing in the rain. They call it the great equalizer in the world of motorsports. It’s a time in racing that can separate the amateurs from the pros. You could be 10th in speed in the dry, and all of a sudden be seconds faster than others and fighting for the win!

The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series headed to Watkins Glen for round number four and Stevenson Motorsports was on a roll. Although we had a rough go in Laguna Seca, we were very confident that our No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R was going to be fast after a solid two-day test before the event.

As we started practice, rain was becoming increasingly evident for race day. In this instance, we were looking forward to the rain. This was going to help negate the recent Balance of Performance changes that hurt the Camaros. The fastest car in the dry doesn’t always win in the wet!

Matt Bell (my teammate) did a great job in getting the maximum out of the car in qualifying and put us fifth. We felt very good about our dry weather setup.

One of THE MOST IMPORTANT rules of rain racing is to keep the car on the track at all costs. That’s easier said then done. Between typical fogging issues, hydroplaning and mistakes, it’s easy to have a single tire touch the grass. When that happens, you’re gone… who knows how far and bad!

As the race started we felt very confident. Unfortunately, we immediately had an ABS issue and Matt had the tough job of keeping all four wheels on the pavement. We knew we needed a caution to get a chance to try and fix it. The Stevenson Motorsports team always amazes me as they are ready for anything and I felt a sense of calmness that they would figure it out.

Fortunately we got a caution before the drive time requirements and that gave us some time to diagnose the issue. Matt came into the pits and within seconds the team knew the problem. They immediately got to work and were able to get him back out on track without losing a lap.

Matt made quick progress and at times he was three seconds faster than anyone! It was clear we had a really fast car and Chris “Crumpet” Mander (our engineer) put the perfect setup on the hot rod.

We came in the pits sitting seventh for the driver change and tires (rears only). After a quick stop it was hammer time (I love that saying) and before long we were sitting 6th under caution after only two green flag laps. This allowed us to catch up for the lost time early in the race. Our Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R was on rails.

This was one of the most confident times I’ve been in a racecar. I love the rain and I knew we had the car to beat. As the green flag flew the race was on. We had about 35 minutes to go and some work to do.

I slotted into fifth after a mistake by another driver on the first lap and was putting the pressure on for another pass. At that point another caution came out for a wreck in Turn One. I noticed that the rain had started to pick up just before the previous green and it was clear the series did as well.

Before long a red flag was shown. It was so disappointing because this stalled our progress and who knew when and if the race would go green again. Sure enough, they sent us out on track with about 10 minutes to go but we sat under caution until the checkered flag.

It was a hard one to swallow. This was the third race in a row that I believed we were the car to beat and didn’t have the finish to show for it. But, hey, like I said before…that’s racing! You take the highs with the lows and keep on trucking!

Thanks to the entire Stevenson Motorsports crew for all the hard work and congrats to our teammates, Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis, on their win!

On to Canada! Eh?

Lawson Aschenbach (@lawsonaracing) is a former Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge champion, driving for Blackdog Speed Shop in Pirelli World Challenge and Michael Shank Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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