Road Atlanta is another iconic circuit known throughout the world, but in North America it means so much more. Not only does it host the incredible Petit Le Mans event, but it also signals the home stretch of our season.
The solid weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Rounds 7 and 8 of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America Championship gave us much needed momentum entering the penultimate weekend.
Our Prestige Performance team had a very solid day for our first official free practices on Wednesday. Enrique Bernoldi and I were fast in each session and our newest teammate Will James continued to gain invaluable seat time and learn a new circuit.
On Thursday the weather was clear, but reports showed a chance of rain throughout the entire weekend. We knew it was going to rain, we just didn’t know when. Our qualifying session began early in the morning with the green flag waving at 8:30 a.m.
With cool, dry conditions, the track had a lot of grip and we saw the fastest lap times of the weekend in this session.
In the first qualifying session, traffic was very heavy and nearly every lap I had to make a pass, which hurt our times. In the second session I had a solid lap going but made a mistake into the chicane and relegated us to P10, my worst qualifying result ever in Super Trofeo.
One of the elements that makes Road Atlanta challenging and fun is that there are only a few places to pass. Outside of the “passing zones” you have to be creative, brave and a little bit lucky to make it work.
I knew that I would have my work cut out for me to catch the leaders starting mid-pack. At the drop of the green flag on Round 7 I was able to move up just outside of the top five. After 50 minutes racing we finished second in the Pro-Am class. It was the solid podium finish that we needed.
After hours of meetings and watching the rainfall on Friday, Round 8 was ready to roll off the grid under ominous skies and light rain.
Our qualifying effort from Thursday again had me starting just outside of the top 10 which would make the start even more challenging as the spray from the rain tires and down force would mean very little visibility.
We haven’t had a rain race in the North America championship with the Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeo car. The previous generation Gallardo was excellent in the rain. The all-wheel drive gave the car tremendous grip under acceleration.
With the rear-wheel drive Huracán, we did not know what to expect, with the exception that our counterparts in Europe and Asia have had great success with the Huracán Super Trofeo in the rain.
At the drop of the green everyone was jockeying for position while also getting a feel for the track conditions. Our first laps in the rain were quite exciting but the car handled incredibly well and the Pirelli rain tires were very good.
I must say I had expected a race with full course yellows and multiple safety car periods, but as the pit window opened at the 20th minute of the race we had a very clean race with no cautions and no safety car periods.
We made our mandatory pit stop and kept pushing hard for the remaining 30 minutes of the race as the rain began to stop.
The track began to dry out and the entire field had full wet Pirelli tires. They are the softest compound and will wear out quite quick in drying conditions. With the rain stopping I had to really search for puddles or very wet areas of the track to cool my rain tires.
Those who had pushed early in the race were now paying the price with a higher level of tire degradation. We still had a little bit of tire left and I was able to push into the top three with a last lap pass to take the final step on the podium in class.
Overall, Road Atlanta was a great weekend for Prestige Performance, Lamborghini Paramus and all of our partners.
My teammate Enrique Bernoldi came away with a second place and a win overall, I ended up with a second and a third in class and Will James learned a great deal and survived his first race in the rain.
Now, our sights are set on Sebring for the final rounds of the North American Championship and the World Finals where I hope to repeat from last year and bring home another Pro-Am World Finals Championship.
This year has been full highs and lows but I am proud of our team and honored to be a part of a great group of people and one of the greatest championships in the world. On to Sebring!