Heading into last weekend’s GS race at Lime Rock, Trent and I had stood on the podium in 100% of the year’s races. Ok, so there had only been 3 races, but it’s still a pretty cool figure.
Our consistency on the podium had also given us the championship lead, and Lime Rock is a place where the M3 was fast last year. At the beginning of the year, Michael Harvey (Fall-Line Team Manager) had told me that the team’s goal this year was not only to win the championship, but also to develop my up-and-coming teammate Trent. Since he put it on pole at Lime Rock Park last year, we all agreed this would be a good place to give him his first shot at finishing a race this year.
We had a very limited schedule this weekend, with only two 25-minute practice sessions before our 15-minute qualifying session. This limited running was different to what I’m used to, since I’m normally more worried about finding time for lunch as I hop between sessions in the Z4 GTLM car and the M3 GS car. Being able to focus on only one car is a nice change of pace every now and then, but I don’t do well sitting still between sessions.
Some rain brought it down to only one dry session before qualifying—split between two drivers. Although we’ve had a fast car at every race this year, we’ve also had a lot of practice time to tune the car throughout the weekend, so it put some pressure on us to get the car in the window quickly.
I wasn’t super happy with the car in my few dry laps during practice 2, so I was looking forward to using the 15-minute qualifying as a bit of a test session to see if we were headed in the right direction with setup before the race. Sadly, qualifying was rained out.
Although it meant we started on pole as the championship leaders, I still love qualifying and wish that we could have had a shot to earn the pole. I also felt that we had some unanswered questions about our setup changes since we had no time to test them in the dry before the race.
Fortunately, I work with some pretty smart people. The changes helped the car rotate better late mid-corner when the front was under load for a long time, which is exactly what we needed. With a comfortable car, I was able to pull a gap during my stint, aside from some traffic issues that are common at a short track like Lime Rock.
I pitted from the lead and handed the car off to Trent, who immediately got up to speed and settled in, turning some quick laps on stickers. After the TRG Aston pitted, Trent had an 18 second lead and started saving his tires in case it went yellow and he would need the extra grip.
Unfortunately, a yellow did come out and closed our big gap down to nothing. The team began discussing some strategy options over the intercom and the radio to the car, but in the process we missed the all-important call from IMSA that the pits were opening that lap. Being the leader, we didn’t have the opportunity to see other cars pulling in ahead of us to realize that the pits were indeed open. We were forced to pit on the 2nd lap of the pits being open, which dropped us down to P7 for the sprint to the end.
It was all in Trent’s hands at that point, and he did a great job to move through both lapped traffic and cars for position. I know he’ll say he was frustrated to not get by Lally since he could catch him every time traffic got them separated, but Lime Rock is a tough place to pass with such short straight-aways, so I was impressed to see him move through the field.
Our P4 did stretch our points lead a little bit since we were in front of the cars closest to us in the championship, but it was frustrating to lose a race that we dominated. Maybe that will give us a little extra determination to get back on the top step in a couple weeks in Kansas.