Road Atlanta is a classic racetrack that uses elevation change to challenge drivers. On paper, the track map is relatively simple, but in reality the compressions and crests at key points on the track make it a flowing yet difficult place to master. It is a track I always look forward to racing.
Our 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season began with remarkable consistency, but faced some challenges in the middle of the year, most recently at VIR when a brand new alternator proved faulty and cost us our lead in the championship.
Fortunately, Fall-Line Motorsports gave us another good car at Circuit of the Americas and made a great strategy call that resulted in our second win of the season in the No. 46 M3. That win gave us the championship lead back, but we arrived at Road Atlanta with a mere 5 points in hand over the Stevenson Camaro and my former teammate Robin Liddell.
I have fought for and won championships in the past, but the season finale for the Continental Challenge was one of the more stressful races that I’ve competed in. Trent was forced to start from the rear of the pack after qualifying was red flagged during his hot lap, but he drove his way through the field like a seasoned pro. I’ve known Trent for a long time, but his stint under the pressure of the championship showed his maturity more clearly than any other time this season.
All of the pit stop practice that Fall-Line Motorsports does paid off in our first round of stops as we beat the No. 6 Camaro out of the pits. I knew Robin had nothing to lose from behind me, and as expected, he was aggressive as we went back to green. I defended the position a bit, but ultimately was happy to follow Robin, as we could afford to finish third if he won the race.
Unfortunately, the race wasn’t only down to Robin and me as an aggressive pack of Mustangs, and Aston Martin, and a Subaru were all pushing for the podium. I dropped to fourth, nearly to fifth, and even got hit by the Subaru in the middle of the straight away over my hour and forty-five minute stint. This was a lot more action than I had hoped for after entering the race leading the championship.
Fortunately, I maintained my spot in P4 while Robin dropped to P2, which put him in a situation that he needed to win. He took some risks going side by side with an Aston at the end, which resulted in contact and allowed me to sneak through to claim P2 and the championship title for Fall-Line Motorsports and Trent Hindman.
Aside from three races in which we had problems that put us at the back of the pack, we never finished lower than four this season. I think that is a statistic that we can be proud of, as we were always a threat every race weekend.
As usual, I didn’t have much time to celebrate on Friday as I had to prepare for Petit Le Mans on Saturday with BMW Team RLL. Our Z4 wasn’t the quickest in Austin and we did not expect it to be the quickest in Atlanta, but we were optimistic for the race since it was a long endurance race, where more variables increase our chances of overcoming our lack of pace.
We ran well early in the race, but ultimately a broken shock put us 3 laps down, which we were never able to make up. Unfortunately, we experienced more downs than ups in our 2014 GTLM championship bid, and were never a real threat for the lead.
I believe that we as a group are better than our championship position showed, but the GTLM class is so tightly competitive that some small issues or a slight lack of pace can make a big difference over the whole season.