I love having Road America on our calendar. The track has been one of the greats for a long time, and I always feel like we’re putting on a proper event there with plenty of fan support.
Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t start out great for me. At first I thought I had allergies, but those symptoms didn’t really go away all weekend. On the test day, I only did a few laps in the 2nd session before going back to the hotel to lie in bed and try to recover for Friday when it really mattered.
Although I always felt a little sick through the weekend, the extra rest helped and I was ready to push on Friday. While preparing for qualifying, my Stevenson Motorsports engineer Ryan told me he expected the car to be best on lap 2. Since Road America is so long, you don’t have as many chances to get the most out of the tires for a fast lap.
Ryan was right, the car had a little understeer on the first timed lap, was neutral on the 2nd timed lap, and already had some oversteer on the 3rd timed lap.
Fortunately, I put a good lap together when it counted and came away with my first GS pole. This is the last race of the GS season that I’m finishing, so I was happy to finally put the car on pole after Trent Hindman had done so multiple times this season. I can’t have the kid showing me up like that.
For the Continental Tire race, I had a little scrap going into T1 with Billy Johnson, who started P2. We both broke late, and he had a nose on me in the brake zone and tried to squeeze me a little.
I thought I would slot up alongside him and have the optimal line for T1 and T3, but overestimated the stopping power my car would have with cold brakes and cold tires.
Unfortunately, I slid into Johnson and we both ran wide in the first corner. Somehow, I kept the lead, but eventually fell back to P2 and ran there most of my stint.
The team pulled off some great pit stops and put us P1 after the first cycle. Although the M3 can turn a fast lap time around Road America, its strength is not in acceleration, which makes racing tough on a track where we have slow corners leading on to straight-aways.
That showed through on the last lap when Trent accelerated out of T5 and Robin Liddell was able to drive by him. Unfortunately for us, Liddell was also able to sneak by the Subaru that was limping across the line, which gave the Camaro a 4 point gain in the championship.
I was a little disappointed with the end of the race, but there wasn’t much Trent could have done to keep the Camaro behind.
Regardless, I had to switch my mind back to Z4 mode as I got ready for GTLM practice and qualifying with Team BMW RLL.
Our car was close to the balance I wanted when we did a simulated qualifying run during practice. A couple minor changes made it ideal for qualifying.
That qualifying run was my most enjoyable part of the weekend. The car was already fast on lap 1 and just got better on lap 2 and lap 3. I found a little time in the first part of the track on lap 3, but had a mistake in T6, and the lap time was the same as lap 2, a 2:04.0. Bobby Rahal told me I was 0.2 off of Jonathan Bomarito for pole, so I had my head down to put all my sectors together.
I felt good about the lap as I came through T13, and was already watching the predictive lap time as I got on power exiting T14. The predictive showed me a 2:03.9, and ticked to 2:03.8 as I was heading up the hill towards start/finish. I knew it was going to be close. Fortunately, I had squeezed out enough for my first pole of the season in the GTLM class.
My race stint was the shortest I’ve ever had in any race. I drove for about 6 minutes before the crash involving a DP and a PC car happened exiting Canada corner. Unfortunately, I sustained some bodywork damage as I clipped the PC car in front of me, who had hit the brakes before I saw the accident ahead.
We pitted to fix the damage, and it made sense to do the driver change since I was good for points and it would save us doing it on the shorter stops later in the race. It made sense strategy-wise, but it was a strange feeling to have my stint done only 20 minutes into the race, of which most laps were turned under caution.
Ultimately, Dirk drove a great stint and held off Bomarito for P2, which got us back on the podium for the first time since Long Beach. We’re now only 5 points out of 3rd place in the championship, which would be a great spot for us considering the early season troubles we experienced.
I’ve got a week to recuperate and then we’re back at it in VIR next weekend.