Monterey is one of my favorite places in the country and that would hold true regardless of whether there was a world-class racetrack there or not.
I always enjoy racing on the West Coast, but especially because I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success at Laguna Seca.
The No. 25 car’s win at Long Beach ended a drought for BMW, but it was a little bittersweet as our No. 24 car was set to join the white car on the podium before my co driver Lucas Luhr had to deal with overheating brakes at the end of the race.
On a personal level, it had been two years since my last win in the category back in Lime Rock Park in 2013. Lucas is new to BMW this year so he was looking for his first win as a BMW driver.
So, we came to Monterey as hungry as ever to keep BMW on top. Unlike Long Beach, we rolled off the trailer with a car that we weren’t very happy with during the first practice.
Although we were able to stay towards the top of the timesheets in practice, the car wasn’t handling the way we wanted it to, especially when the tires were past the peak grip level.
Each session the car got better and better, and Lucas and Dirk Werner were able to repeat the front-row lockout that Bill and I accomplished in Long Beach.
It was a very satisfying feeling for the group that we could improve the cars over a few practice sessions and have something that we were happy with for qualifying and the race.
Lucas’s race stint was short, but crucial for our race. He brought the car to pit lane for our driver change from P1 after the No. 25 car got boxed in with some traffic in T11. I left the pits under yellow behind the Ferrari, but caught him sleeping on the restart.
He tried to start pushing too early in T10 and had to brake for the prototypes. I tried to keep up some momentum and heard “GREEN!” in my radio just before I had to hit the brakes. I was able to sneak inside and take the lead at the apex of T11.
Although I was leading the GTLM class, we had a field of PC cars ahead of us, and found that many of them were running slower than the GTLM leaders.
I think I was fortunate to be the first car to catch each of the PC cars because I could surprise them a little if I was aggressive enough. I made my way through some of the traffic, while Fisichella got stuck behind one of the prototypes.
With clear road ahead and the rest of the field stuck in traffic, I pushed hard to get a gap. By the time the other GTLM cars got around the traffic, I was way ahead and could manage the gap for the rest of the race.
After two years without a win in the GTLM class, this one is a big relief.
The class is so competitive with the manufacturer support and highly skilled drivers, so winning here always feels hard earned.
Over the past 7 weeks, I’ve competed in 6 races and flown over 35,000 miles between Germany, Florida, and California.
Now I get a short break, with a whole week at home to ride my bike and enjoy the spring weather.
On Tuesday, I head back to Germany for the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, which I expect will be the most intense endurance race I’ve ever competed in. I’m looking forward to the challenge.