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CALDERON: Under the Heat of Sebring

Tatiana Calderon files her first Sportscar365 column following mixed weekend at Sebring…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Looking back on our weekend in Sebring, I can’t help but feel a mix of emotions.

This was my first appearance in the Twelve Hours of Sebring and only my second race driving the No. 66 JG Wentworth Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 for Gradient Racing. Although we have only been together for a short amount of time, the team already feels like a family to me.

I love the atmosphere and dynamic, and it is so cool to be a part of an all-female line up in GTD, although we did have a great time with Stevan McAleer in Daytona!

We had a two-day test leading up to the race a couple of weeks prior, which not only really helped us as a team, but it was also important for me as I was able to continue learning and understanding the car and this amazing but very bumpy track.

I have always loved driving on technical and challenging circuits like Sebring, and there is nothing quite like unique corners such as Turn 1 and Turn 17.

The atmosphere at Sebring is also unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was surprised to see the number of people who showed up and camped around the track during the event. It was such a cool experience and it definitely made for an interesting track walk!

Photo: Gradient Racing

It was also Sheena Monk’s birthday on Saturday, so we enjoyed some nice cupcakes the day prior to celebrate her birthday as well as mine since it was earlier in the week. It was a great bonding moment between us all.

Shifting focus back to the race itself, I’m incredibly proud of the whole team. We faced a lot of uphill battles from the start. Sheena was hit from behind on the first lap while approaching Turn 3, Katherine Legge had to serve a drive-through penalty, and another competitor ran Sheena off-track during another stint, which resulted in some front nose damage.

Nevertheless, we were quick despite all damage sustained to the car. We adapted and showed strong performance and pace. Despite the setbacks, a good result was definitely possible.

The heat was also an added layer of challenges to manage, we burn so many calories during our stints, so it is incredibly important to stay hydrated and refuel.

I drank my last electrolyte drink, ate another banana, finished listening to my favorite Karol G song, and went to take off my cool suit and put my helmet on as I prepared to take the wheel from Katherine for my third stint.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

As we were waiting for the car in the pit lane with four new tires, which we had saved for the last part of the race, one of the mechanics gave me a clear sign that it seemed we were out of contention. I didn’t see the crash live, but we eventually saw the replay of the big hit from our car and a GTP competitor in Turn 17.

Thankfully, Kat got out of the car and was taken to the medical care center, where she was treated and released.

Unfortunately, this meant our race had come to an abrupt end with just over three hours to go.

The most important thing is that Kat is ok and ready to go again! I’m not going to lie, it was a tough pill to swallow for the whole team, but I’m confident that we’ll come back stronger.

I had the pleasure of having most of my family with me this weekend, and also want to say a big thank you to all our sponsors.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love most, and I’d like to express my gratitude to J.G Wentworth, Acura and Honda USA, Wander Studio, Con Cora foundation from Karol G, AVL RACETECH, and Escuderia Telmex.

My next race with Gradient Racing will be at Watkins Glen for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. In the meantime, I want to wish the team, Sheena, and Katherine all the best for the next couple of sprint races, I’ll be following along closely. See you guys in June!

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