A good friend who worked with the late Canadian Greg Moore once told me that anything other than winning is just an excuse.
Finally, a difficult start to the season is finally behind us. The first win of the year came during the Blancpain GT World Challenge America races in Sonoma on June 8-9.
The weekend started off with a test day, which was a little misleading given the lack of grip on the circuit. After the test, I concluded Sonoma was a permanent street course based on the way you have to tackle it. I’m not sure I’ve ever had as much fun pushing the limits as I did over this weekend!
Throughout practice, our Porsche 911 GT3 R was really good getting out of the low speed corners.
This helped us tremendously and it became apparent we would be quite competitive. I qualified second for Race 1 and Patrick Long qualified third for Race 2, which gave us our best combined qualifying effort of the year.
At the start of Race 1, I was able to stay side-by-side with Molina into the first turn, only to be pushed off the circuit by the untamed Ferrari. To say I was disappointed with the start would be an understatement.
Through sheer luck and commitment, however, I regained control, falling only to third position behind the Bentley of Baptista.
I spent the next 40 minutes applying pressure to Rodrigo and had one of the most entertaining battles of the year.
We were two wide several times, eventually drag-racing down the front straight, remaining side-by-side all the way through turn one and into turn two, finally completing the pass on the brakes.
Our pit stop was just a few laps later and sights were now set on the leading Ferrari, but it wasn’t meant to be as the tires were mixed up during the tire change resulting in a 30-second time loss.
After that, Pat did a great job to battle back for a sixth-place finish after rejoining in ninth!
Sixth would have been just another excuse, so we hoped Race 2 would be where our fortune changed. But first, a little off-road tour of the facility was necessary. Sonoma is in a brilliant part of the world.
Back to racing.
As Race 2 started, Pat held onto his third-place starting position and applied pressure to the race-winning Ferrari of the day before.
The sister Wright Motorsports Porsche driven by Matt Campbell lead the race in a tremendous Pro-Am effort.
Our goal now was to stay within a couple seconds of the Ferrari and see if we could execute a pass during the pit sequence. This may have been wishful thinking, but we were able to pull it off with the help of a fantastic pit stop, a win-it-or-bin-it out lap, and sheer will to win.
Our sister Porsche led the race with Anthony Imperato behind the wheel. I was thrilled to see Anthony in that position and he graciously let me by when the time came.
From then on, the Ferrari of Molina continued to apply pressure. There were two restarts towards the end of the race I had to manage from the lead. This was made significantly more difficult by the absurd amount of discarded rubber around the track finding a new home on my tires.
The final restart came with just two laps to go and with little drama as we managed to cross the line first!
Having spent the last two weeks on the road, I can tell you it sure is a lot easier to be away with a victory on your mind.
Over the last week, I’ve been coaching at Area 27, a beautiful new track only three-hours from my house. We also celebrated the grand opening of their new club house there (pictured below). More on this in another column! Needless to say, it’s also in a very beautiful part of the world.
Next up for me is the Watkins Glen Six Hours with Pfaff Motorsports and teammates Zach Robichon and Lars Kern, as well as the Michelin Pilot Challenge Four-Hour with AWA and Orey Fidani.
They say momentum is everything in sports, so let’s hope I’m back with more winning stories soon.