Although I always enjoy racing in Elkhart Lake, last weekend’s race at Road America wasn’t our best.
Michelin brought a new tire to the race, which we planned to evaluate on Friday. Unfortunately, the Friday practice sessions were extremely wet and we only had a short time to test the tire around Road America on Saturday morning.
We tried a quick evaluation of the tire, but it would require more time and development on our setup to make it work properly, so we went to our standard medium tire that we know well.
Overall, our car handled similar to the way it has the past few events in qualifying. Unfortunately, we were nearly a second off despite being half a second quicker than the pole time I set during last year’s event.
By qualifying, we knew that all the other cars were running the new spec Michelin tire. However, with higher temperatures forecasted for Sunday and the unknown factor of how high the degradation would be on the tire, we decided to stick to our plan and run the mediums for the entire race. BMW was leading the manufacturer points heading into the race and we couldn’t afford the risk.
The first 5 minutes of the race were pretty entertaining from my standpoint. I saw an opening into T1, opting for the outside in the brake zone while the top 3 were in a traffic jam on the inside. It allowed me to jump from P4 to P2 in one corner, and even pressure the Porsche for a couple corners before he started to pull away.
However, I’ve never gone from hero to zero in such a short amount of time. A little more than 2 minutes after my move to P2, I locked a tire like I’ve never locked a tire before, dropping to P4 and creating a huge flatspot in the process.
Unfortunately the flatspot really hurt the tire in right hand corners, causing me to lose a lot of time in the Carousel and kink, which are both crucial for lap times. Luckily a caution came in the middle of the first stint, which allowed me to pit for new rubber and start attacking again.
The next stint was an intense one, with some hard fights between the Falken Tire Porsche, the #4 Corvette and myself. Tommy Milner and I swapped positions a few times, with some light contact as we battled. That battle was exactly what the GTLM class is about to me, but it was too bad for us that we were fighting for P6.
After handing the car off to Lucas, I got to see the timing screen and it was disappointing to see that we were not even in the same league as the Porsche. Our fast lap was 2 seconds off and we finished 80 seconds behind in a class that can normally have all 8 cars within half a second during practice and qualifying.
I’m not really sure what to think of the huge gap between the Porsches and us. They did get some BoP changes before the Road America round, but I wouldn’t expect that to cause a 2 second advantage. We also ran the whole race on medium tires, but that shouldn’t cause a 2 second disadvantage either.
Fortunately, we have some great engineers at BMW whose lives will be busy this week and next to find the source of our deficit and get us back in contention at VIR.
Although Lucas and I have dropped back quite a bit in the drivers’ championship, BMW has been in charge of the manufacturers championship for the bulk of the season and we don’t plan on letting Porsche steal it away in the remaining races.