SRT Motorsports’ expectations were high returning to Road America following our victory in last year’s Wisconsin race and the recent victory by our sister car, the No. 93 Viper at Indianapolis.
Our Viper seems to like the track layout with its 90-degree corners, as well as the long straightaways in Elkhart Lake’s rollercoaster-like design.
The weekend started out very well and both our cars showed great speed in the practice sessions. But we also got lucky because we experienced some technical problems with our car.
I was glad it happened in the practice session and not in the race, as we had fifth gear break and we also had an electrical problem with the starter motor.
But in both cases, we did not lose a lot of track time – we worked around the starter problem in practice by push starting the car and fifth gear broke after the checkered flag was out ending the second practice. I have to mention that the Riley Motorsports boys solved both problems in a heartbeat.
With a lot of Viper enthusiasts at the track this weekend there was a lot of pressure and we wanted to look good in front of our biggest fans.
Marc Goossens was chosen to qualify our No. 91 Viper, while Jonathan Bomarito qualified in the sister Viper. We did very well with both Vipers, as Jonathan managed to qualify the car in the first row in P2 and my teammate Marc did an outstanding job putting us right behind Jonathan in the third spot.
On race day, I was the starting driver for the No. 91 Viper, while Kuno started the No. 93. I was on the inside, which is a good spot in Road America. I had a very good start and managed to get by Kuno at the start.
I then followed John Edwards through the first couple of corners and we managed to get by a couple of PC cars that had problems getting their tires up to temp. And it’s always good to get prototype drivers in between you and other GTLM cars at the start.
After the first lap, I got a good run on Edwards on the front straight and overtook him on the outside on the front straight, allowing me to lead the race. I was catching other prototypes in front because there was a big queue of cars trying to get by a new P-car.
After three laps, a car had a big accident and I was lucky not to get hit by the loose tires, while Edwards got hit by one of them and had to pit for repairs.
At the restart, I had to defend my position because the PC cars were attacking from behind and got by after a while. Then right before the second safety-car procedure, I was stuck behind the CORE car with Jon Bennett in it and I was right on his bumper – or let’s say diffuser – in Turn 6 when the safety car lights came on.
Mr. Bennett was braking and I was not able to brake, so I tapped him and spun him around. I didn’t do it on purpose and I felt very sorry for that. I went to Mr. Bennett after the race and apologized to him. Thankfully, he didn’t lose position and could continue right away. I was afraid I would get a penalty, but fortunately I did not hear from race control.
After the second restart, while fighting with one of the PC cars. I was pushed wide and Nick Tandy squeezed by in the No. 911 Porsche. I fought with Nick until the next safety car came out. I then got called in for a driver change to Marc.
We got a little tangled up in the pits with the GTD cars and the No. 93 car in our pit stall and we ended up losing a few positions. It was very tight there, so we had to push the car back to get out of our pit stall, which cost us a few spots and we came out on P7.
Marc managed to get by a couple of cars and we also took advantage of the No. 911 getting a stop-and-go penalty. The 93 snuck by us when their pit crew did an outstanding job with their last pit stop.
In the end, it was a great result for us, as we had one car on the podium and our car was on P4. It was a great result for the championship points. We got closer to the leader with both cars and Marc and I overtook the BMW in the championship standings.
That makes the No. 93 Viper second in the championship and our car third in the championship. Oh, and did I mention SRT is second among the manufactures now.
I’m just happy I get to go to one of my favorite tracks in the U.S. next, VIR!