Sebring is a track with a lot of history in racing, but I also have a lot of personal history there. It’s the track where I got my Skip Barber racing license over 10 years ago, and it’s the site of my first Atlantics win in 2009.
Given BMW Team RLL’s history at the track of winning back to back in 2011 and 2012, I was excited to come back to the track in the middle of Florida.
As usual, I did double duty this weekend, driving in the GS class in the Fall-Line Motorsports GS car. We had quite a bit of testing with the February days and early week testing leading up to the race, so I knew our car would be quick on one lap.
However, it was difficult to say where everyone was on old tire pace because you never know exactly how old everyone’s tires are when they’re running off the new tire pace.
Trent proved our sticker tire pace, putting the car on pole. He did three laps in qualifying and every single lap was fast enough to put him P1. It was an impressive run, but I was more impressed with his race stint.
He had plenty of guys with a lot more experience chasing him, and he set a quick pace while keeping the tires underneath him as the others used up their tires. For a guy that looks like he hasn’t started shaving yet, he drove like a veteran.
After a quick stop, I got in the car 13 seconds in the lead. It’s a strange spot to be in because it feels like a practice session running alone, only dealing with ST traffic and the occasional lapped GS car.
My engineer Ryan kept me updated on the gap so I only drove as hard as I needed to in order to keep the gap where it was. I felt like I could get used to Trent bringing the car to me 13 seconds in the lead, but as expected, the field eventually got bunched up on our first full course yellow.
After another quick stop, we restarted behind Shane Lewis, who had just pitted before the caution flag flew. My old (and by old, I mean former… I would never say anything about his age) teammate Robin Liddell was restarting behind me, and I was as concerned about keeping him there as I was about getting by Lewis.
When we got on power coming to the green flag, I realized we were about to pass the safety car before it was into the pit lane, which is obviously not allowed. I lifted, and knew immediately that I was in trouble as Robin had lagged back a bit and had a good run.
He went to my right, which would put him on the outside for T1. I was confident I could keep him there by following Shane Lewis through the corner, but was surprised as Lewis hit the brakes earlier than I expected.
With Robin on my right, I had nowhere to go but into Lewis’ rear bumper, spinning him into the inside wall. I made it out with minimal damage and ended the race in P2 as there was another caution for a big wreck only two laps later that ended the race under yellow.
I was disappointed to lose a race that we had dominated the whole way through, but we came away with the points lead and we still finished on the podium while others lost a lot more from that incident, so I feel lucky looking back on it.
Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring didn’t go as well. Although we had a good car that was comfortable throughout a stint, we had a season’s worth of bad luck in one race.
The first major incident for us came when Malucelli spun, causing a yellow flag in T1. Dirk Werner was in our car and lifted for the yellow, but got punted from behind by the #912 Porsche, which coincidentally went on to win the race.
The damage to our car took 5 or 6 laps to repair, which put us in a difficult spot. I got in the car around 4 or 5 hours into the race and we had a bolt come out of the right front upright just after T1.
A big snap and vibration on the brakes isn’t a comforting feeling at ~120MPH, and that repair put us more laps down and completely out of contention for the win. We circled around the rest of the race in case anyone crashed out, but ended up P10.
Hopefully we’ve used up all our bad luck in the Z4, and can get back to the top of the podium in Long Beach, where BMW finished 1-2 last year.