There’s nothing that compares to the excitement of entering a home race week.
While it has been a challenging season at times in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, I’m really proud of the strides my co-driver, Erin Vogel and I have made with the support of everyone at DXDT Racing.
Our tenacity and hard work paid off earlier this year with a record-making victory at Virginia International Raceway, and now we head into race week at my home track, Watkins Glen International.
Coming off the back of our win at VIR before a long break, we had our first race weekend back in months at Road America.
It didn’t go as my teammate Erin Vogel and I had hoped for, but it was nice to see DXDT bring home some hardware with David Askew and Ryan Dalziel back on the podium.
Then the whole team left Elkhart Lake and went straight to Watkins Glen for a pre-race test.
I was born and raised in New York, still live in the state, but oddly enough I hadn’t driven the Watkins Glen track before 2018.
The circuit quickly became one of my favorites because it’s an old-school, high-speed track. There is major elevation change and a lot of surface grip.
Prior to this test, Erin had never been to Watkins Glen before. Having learned the track myself just a few years ago, it gave me a perspective I don’t normally have to assist her in getting up to speed.
For the fans that don’t know much about the track layout or what is it like from a driver’s perspective, I’ll give you a bit of an idea.
Turn 1 is very banked, which lets us carry a lot of speed through the corner and up the next section which is the Esses.
The Esses are full throttle pretty easily from the downforce in these GT3 cars which lets us reach 160 mph before braking for the bus stop: a right, left, right combination where the minimum speed is over 100 MPH. Immediately out of the Bus Stop, you’re into the high-speed carousel: a long right-hand corner that leads us to the Chute, a downhill corner that is a bit slower but very challenging.
A short straight from the Chute is the Toe of the Boot: a steep uphill right-hander where we peak at almost two G’s going up into the corner.
The next and last section of the lap all happens very quickly and is critical to putting together a good lap time. There’s a straight from the toe of the boot to turn eight, a short brake zone, and you go into a downhill right-hander which requires an immediate setup for nine.
Turn 9 is a tricky left-hander that starts off uphill but quickly flattens out and leads straight into turn ten. Turn 10 is basically a flat-out left-hander at 100 mph, which again immediately requires you to switch sides of the track to set up for the last corner, another right-hander with a lot of banking and speed just like turn one.
Overall after two days, our Watkins Glen test was very successful and worth the time.
Erin got up to speed quickly and continued to progress, as she always does. I’m very pleased with the setup we’ve come up with and leaving there the car felt the most connected it has all year.
Each weekend is a progression, as DXDT invests in track testing and all circuits on the 2021 calendar, giving us more track time, experience, and data for every event, giving us an edge over the competition.
We owe a massive shout-out to DXDT for continuing to push and grow. The guys and girls on this team are incredibly hard workers that overcame and pushed through a lot these last few events, especially the back-to-back race and test.
The crew is phenomenal each day as they prepare our Mercedes, and the support from the engineering side is second to none. I’m honored to drive for this group and appreciate all the hard work and dedication they bring week in and week out.
It has been great to welcome fans back into the paddock this year, and I hope they come out to see the action at Watkins Glen.
With five rounds remaining in the championship battle, there are a lot of points still up for grabs. The tension will be high, and we hope to deliver.