This week the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama heads to Virginia International Raceway for Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2020 season.
The opening weekend of our series from Road America was an exciting way to begin the season.
For this entry, I am going to dive into our first race weekend of 2020, look ahead to this week’s event at VIR, and introduce a new partner on my Moorespeed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for this year.
Going into the race weekend at Road America, the obvious “elephant in the room” was COVID-19. For everyone in our paddock, this was the first experience with the new procedures that IMSA put into place.
A 37-page booklet that lays out all the protocols for a safe return to racing. No stone unturned, it was obvious that IMSA was committed to getting it right.
From the first moment rolling through the gate on Thursday afternoon until load out on Sunday, IMSA did an excellent job keeping everyone safe as well as making everyone feel safe.
At the beginning of each day, every team member had to go through IMSA’s screening process to ensure everyone’s safety. During the event masks were mandatory, along with the requirement to keep yourself socially distanced when possible.
All teams took this seriously and there were no complaints – after all, we were finally RACING!
All in all, throughout the entirety of the weekend IMSA did a fantastic job managing the event and providing us a safe environment to operate in.
Friday was a busy day for us. Two practice sessions, plus our qualifying session to wrap up the day. Both practice sessions went smoothly, no surprises, and we were able to pick up right where we left off from our test a couple of weeks ago.
In IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, our qualifying format is slightly different.
We use one fifteen-minute qualifying session to set the grid for both of our races, potentially. The fastest lap during the qualifying session establishes the pole for Race 1, and the second fastest lap is provisional pole for Race 2 (unless there is a faster lap time in Race 1).
So essentially, you need two fast laps during the qualifying session, as opposed to the traditional one.
Road America is the longest track we go to, and the standard qualifying procedure is to use the out lap to get everything warm, then it is GO FAST time. No time to relax or think about it, two quick laps to get the job done. The second lap is typically the fastest lap.
During qualifying, on the first timed lap I struck first and laid down the fastest lap which put me on provisional pole for Sunday’s race.
On the second timed lap, as I exited the final corner I pushed just a little too hard, the car wiggled ever so slightly, which cost me pole for Saturday. I was pretty upset with myself because I knew we would have had it. The difference to pole was .087 second ….amazingly close for a 4-mile course with a two-minute plus lap time.
This speaks volumes to how competitive this series is. At the end of the day, this was still a great result and we would start on the front row both days.
Walking into the false grid on Saturday for Race 1, there was almost an eerie feel to it. In roughly five to ten-minutes we were all going to strap into our Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars and race for the first time since October at Road Atlanta. There was quite a bit of excitement, anxious energy, along with uncertainty throughout the GT3 Cup Challenge paddock. Looking back, it was a pretty unusual feeling.
Race 1 for us was fairly straight forward. There were a couple of full course yellows to make things interesting, but overall we simply didn’t have the pace and finished in second.
After the fact, there was plenty to learn from and study for the following day. The entire team stayed up late Saturday night putting the final touches on the car while David Moore and I reviewed data.
After starting from pole in Race 2, I fell back to second. At the start of the race we had the pace of the leader and at times were faster, but we fell off after about halfway through the 45-minute race. Shortly after, a full course caution came out that changed everything.
Before the restart I was told that we would have a two lap shootout to end the race. I knew that this was going to be my best shot at the win.
I was still in second, but I had a lapped car in between myself and the leader. Once the green flag dropped I quickly passed the lapped car, however that created a small gap to the leader, and gave the opportunity for the third-place driver to attempt a pass as we headed into Turn 1.
We both laughed about it after the race because we both went deeper into the corner than we had all weekend!
I was able to maintain second, but shortly after the leader made a mistake that brought me right to him. I capitalized on the opportunity and took the lead with only a lap and a half to go.
I was in incredibly focused those last two laps, no mistakes. I wanted to get the win for my guys, and ultimately was able to so.
Overall, we had a great weekend. It felt great to be back at the track – finally! And as with any race weekend, there was a lot to learn from that I’ve been able to digest over the past couple of weeks. Heading into VIR, we are feeling confident that we will continue to build from what we learned at Road America.
During the short break between events, I was given the opportunity to partner up with the Hill Country region of the Porsche Club of America for the remainder of the 2020 season.
For those that don’t know, the Porsche Club of America (PCA) is a member-based community that consists purely of Porsche owners, and is divided up into its respective sub-regions across the country.
Everyone that is involved in the PCA is a Porsche enthusiast, and most are racing fans as well. If you are looking to connect with fellow Porsche owners or get into racing yourself, then the Porsche Club of America is the place for you.
There are a wide variety of events that they sponsor for the members. Everything from monthly get togethers, Driver Education courses, group tours to Club racing events. They have a bit of everything for all Porsche owners to enjoy.
Wherever you may reside in America, you fall into a region of the PCA. You can go to their website to find out more and how to join at www.pca.org.