Welcome to my first driver column for Sportscar365! One of the most unexpected parts of my racing career so far has been my fan base.
Earlier this year, I was featured in Continental Tire’s IMSA Driver spotlight on Sportscar365 and it was one of the most read driver Q&A’s they’ve done. So because of you guys, I get to come back and do post race reports and fill you in on my weekend from Lime Rock so thank you and here it goes…
I missed my flight. Yep.. I’m that guy. Left about 7 minutes too late according to Cindy from Delta. I caught the next flight out which was really bumpy and exciting to say the least but all was well when I landed because when I turned my phone on I had a text from my boss Karl Thomson at Compass360 Racing saying I was going to be starting the teams second GS Subaru. I had driven that car at the World Challenge event at Barber so I knew in GS trim it would be somewhat competitive but my main focus is ST which is my full time ride.
In the first session we went out in our HPD Civic and right away I thought, “This is the best our car has ever been here in 5 years”
It was so hooked up through the downhill I was really impressed. Going into the weekend I predicted an MX-5 podium lockout, So it wasn’t surprising to me that as we were clicking off very quick laps. One of the CJ Wilson Mazdas was about 3 car lengths in front of me doing the exact same lap times but with much better tire wear.
Kyle Gimple my co-driver and I agreed that the car was very good and that we should only make a few changes to the car. In the 2nd session we experimented with some settings on the shocks but didn’t like the car as much so we put it back to how we started and it was fast again.
After ST practice we had the Subaru, which we really didn’t know what to expect. The car has been quick in years’ past but Kyle and I haven’t driven it since last December in testing and when we did we found some teething issues so we never got a great read on it.
Kyle started the session got comfortable and immediately jumped up to P2 on the charts and was really excited on the radio. We did a driver change and I knew on my 2nd lap we had a car capable of getting the podium. The power was good and the brakes felt fantastic but the eye opening thing about the car is the grip level and how well it can put the power down.
The 4WD system at a high tire wear track is going to be a massive advantage anywhere you race and towards the end of the session it started to rain slightly and the WRX came to life. We were able to pass a few Camaros and a couple of the BMWs that have been winning in this class so we were in the mix with the big dogs.
Qualifying time rolled around and it started to downpour but the current IMSA rules for the Continental Tire Challenge states that we don’t qualify if its raining so we had to set both grids based on points. We were 18th in ST and 26th in GS so we definitely had our work cut out for us.
The ST race started at 9 am (Ooof) but I was so excited to be greeted by a lot of fans wearing my “Believe In Orange” t-shirt and making the drive from as far away as Maine just to come see us race our CTF Honda!
It’s always great to introduce new fans from Twitter to our series and I think we made a good impression on them! Lime Rock is pretty far away from anything so to have fans get up that early just to come meet us and take photos on the grid means so much to me.
Kyle got off to a great start in the Honda and by the 30-minute mark had worked himself into the top-10. While coming through the field unfortunately he and a BMW made contact which broke our left front suspension and we lost three laps in the pits fixing the damage.
We were able to get one of our laps back but by the time I got in the car the goal was to just get as much points as possible. We ended up getting a few spots but finished well outside the top-15, so it was an unfortunate result after having such a good car.
Now for the good part! It’s been a long time since I’ve started a GS race but I couldn’t wait to unleash our Subaru on Lime Rock! We took the green and my goal was to wait a few laps to get settled in and then try working cars over one by one.
I was able to pick a few guys off on the third lap and was trying to just get up front as quickly as possible. At one point I was passing Brad Jaeger in his Nissan and even though he was letting me through I skipped off the curb and made some contact with my left rear and his right front.
Our car held up and we were able to continue on but I felt really bad about it. Sorry to those guys but Lime Rock is pretty tight and it was a mistake. By this point my crew was telling me we had the fastest car on track and to just keep pushing to the front as quickly as possible so Kyle would have some clean track ahead when he finally got in the car.
By the 25-minute mark I was up to 7th and working on cracking the top 5. Once I got into 4th there was about 10 minutes left in my stint so I had to push very hard to catch the Rum Bum Porsche of Nick Longhi before we pitted. As I closed in on Nick I had a run on him around the outside of the left hander which put me on the inside for Turn 4 and I slid up and took the spot.
I could see the leaders up the road but knew we were stopping for fuel soon but I was having so much fun I even asked if I could stay in for an extra. We stopped and had a good driver change but when Kyle went to leave the car stumbled just for a few seconds before pulling out and when it cycled through we were P2.
I hopped over the wall and the crew was freaking out! Our beloved fan Vickie Miller ran up to me crying and cheering at the same time, It was awesome! After I got a drink of water and settled down it was back to coaching mode and helping Kyle stay focused and aware of the gap back to my friend Andy Lally. Kyle never faltered and was calm and laying down great pace all the way to the checkered where we finished P2 and both got our first podium in GS!
Being a small team with three full time employee’s and standing on the podium with Rum Bum and Stevenson was a really important moment in the history of Compass360 Racing.
The team has shown how competitive they can be with a front wheel drive car in the ST class and now shown that with a good car in the GS class we can run with anyone as well. I
fully understand that the Subaru is very suited to Lime Rock Park but I’m really glad Kyle and I got to take advantage of it and go for a podium in a very tough series.
Massive thank you to all of our fans for sending messages and notes, Tweets, FB posts everything has been really overwhelming. See you guys at Kansas right here on Sportscar365! #BelieveInOrange