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BRAUN: Sebring Debrief

Colin Braun files Sportscar365 column after Sebring runner-up…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

After Daytona, I think a lot of people assumed we needed a new car or that our guys were working 24/7 to get the car ready for Sebring. The truth is, a lot of the parts damaged on the car in the Daytona fire were ones that would have been replaced before Sebring anyway. Daytona is tough on the car and Sebring is even tougher, so it’s pretty much routine for our guys to rebuild the car between the two races.

There was still quite a bit of work to do of course, but I think it was cool that we were the first car in line, 10 or 15 minutes before the first practice ready to go out and do our first run. We didn’t even have to come in and look anything over, we just went out there and were quickest in the first practice. I think that’s a testament to the confidence everyone has in all the guys working on the car and the job that they do.

This year Sebring was especially hot and humid. I think being in an open cockpit car has its advantages over some of the cars that don’t have the A/C systems in them. Talking with some of the GTLM drivers though, it sounded like their cars were quite a bit cooler than the ambient temperature, so I was a little bit jealous. All in all it wasn’t too bad. The temperature didn’t have much affect on us physically.

Sebring’s always been a track that seems weather and track temp dependent in terms of setup and balance of the car. I was really surprised, with the extreme temperatures, how much the car’s balance changed. I saw a number of teams up and down pit road making pretty wholesale setup changes with the nose off or the engine cover off — making shock or bump rubber or packer adjustments. Normally in these 12-hour events, you don’t see people making those kinds of adjustments.

We certainly struggled at times in the race with our car. It’s impossible to have your car drive well in all the different conditions that we saw. There were points in the race we kind of had to suck it up and soldier through the balance that we had and know that once conditions changed, we’d be back in business.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do when conditions are changing like that. We made a couple tire pressure changes. Other than that, there’s nothing we can do on our cars. We don’t have any adjustable sway bars in our cars. We’re not able to change the gurney on the back of the rear wing. For us, we’re pretty limited in what we can do for our setup. When we go to race, you’re stuck with what you have.

I thought we had a very strong race though. We qualified second and I got to the lead pretty early on in the first lap. I was able to lead my whole opening stint. Then we put Jon in and he did a good job and James did a great job.

We ran through the plan from there forward. We seemed to be on the back foot throughout the middle of the race and were playing catch up toward the end. It’s tough when you don’t have any caution flags for a while in that race. Luckily we got a caution near the end of the race and got a lap back and set to work through to the checkered flag. We made a good run at it. I thought we were going to have a shot at it, but we didn’t have anything for the PR1 guys who did a really good job and ran strong.

With how successful we’ve been, people are always surprised or disappointed when we don’t win. We’ve set the bar pretty high. I don’t think the level of competition has escalated in PC to be completely honest. Across the PC field I don’t think anyone’s gotten any tougher to beat. We’re still in contention to win races week in and week out.

We did an excellent job executing our program in 2014 at Sebring to win the race and we were in a position to win this year at Daytona too, but came up short with the crash at the end. Moving forward, we just need to buckle down and get it done and continue to execute. The level of expectations placed on us is motivating and we’re working hard and we’ll come to Laguna swinging and hopefully we can get a win soon.

After Sebring, on Sunday I had a little fun taking part in Patrick Long’s charity go-kart race. I got a really nice helmet signed by all the TUDOR drivers from Continental Tire to donate on my behalf. That was really big for the auction and we raised a lot of money. I thought we had a good shot at the kart race. I started and got to the lead.

I pitted and my co-driver was doing a great job, but near the end of the race we had a wheel fall off. That was a little bit of a surprise, because we don’t change tires. I’m not sure why it fell off, but luckily my co-driver actually grabbed the wheel and drove back to pit road on three wheels with the fourth wheel in his hand. That was kind of the end of our day. How cool is it to drive back to pit road carrying your own wheel though? That’s pretty badass!

Colin Braun (@colinbraun) is a sports car racing standout and former NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series driver, currently racing with CORE autosport in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship

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