It was back to reality this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as riding the dream wave that was VIR finally crashed and settled back down again.
With that said, it was still shaping up to be quite the busy one, as the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was also joined by Lamborghini Super Trofeo for the fifth time this year and the final time on U.S. soil.
I’ve really enjoyed these double header events, but what I failed to recall when making my final preparations was the fact that this CTSC race would be our second four-hour endurance event of the season.
This was great news to me; more testing time, longer runs, and the opportunity for Cameron Cassels and me to achieve a result that matched the opening four hour race event of the year in Daytona.
This event was also much more crucial now since this was the last opportunity for Cam and me to keep ourselves in the GS title fight, as we had a less than stellar summer full of poor luck.
The plan for the entire weekend involved me qualifying and starting the four-hour race, Cameron in for the middle stint, and then I would get back in at the end.
Judging by the amount of time behind the safety car at Daytona this year, we figured that at least a few laps under yellow were possible, but nothing we could really count on.
Our strategy revolved mostly around long runs and green flag stops, and that’s the direction we went with the car during testing and official practice.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a track renown for the legendary corkscrew and scenery, but one thing often overlooked is the nature of the racing surface itself.
It’s dirty, fairly bumpy, but above all else, it is rough. Rough on cars and so rough on tires that after only a few laps on new tires it’s about as grippy as driving in the snow. It’s an extraordinarily tough place to predict conditions at any given time of day since the track reacts so much to even the slightest change in ambient temperature.
Engineers have their work cut out for them just listening to whiney drivers, and drivers have their work cut out for them just keeping the damn car on the road!
It’s all very challenging, in a good way, but it does force you to sacrifice performance of the car in some areas in order to have that speed in others. In our case at Bodymotion Racing, we were solely focused on longevity over the long haul.
Finishing P6 in qualifying was a tough pill to swallow but at the end of the day it was necessary to stay focused on what we had worked towards in practice. As long as we had long periods of green flag running, we were good.
My first stint in the car went exactly to plan as we were able to move up a few positions on the start and find ourselves in a comfortable gap, away from any drama.
I was a bit worried because we flat-out just did not have the speed to keep up with the leaders or defend from any attack from behind. My hope at this point was that the track would come to us as conditions deteriorated throughout the race.
Luckily, it did to an extent, but being ultra assertive in traffic was the only way that we would be able to make up ground while also holding other cars at bay.
The final stint of the race was plagued by time behind the safety car and that’s absolutely what we did not need.
Constantly bunching the field back up made for some real chaos at each restart and the term “cautions breed cautions” could not have been more true, especially with lapped traffic in between the leaders on the restarts.
Fortunately for us, the final sprint to the finish was uninterrupted and we were able to finish P2 and grab our first podium since COTA in May… a long time coming.
Normally I hate finishing second more than anything else because we all know that as second place, you’re the first loser. This time I wasn’t so PO’ed.
This was really more than the maximum possible result for the Bodymotion Racing team and it’s exactly what we needed at such a crucial moment in the GS championship race.
We did not have nearly the outright speed of our direct competition but what we had was a killer strategy, great pit stops, and just an overall smart race that allowed us to take advantage of mistakes made by others.
Cameron and I now head to Road Atlanta sixteen points out of the championship, making it a must-win situation for us, but anything is possible around that track.
In between all of the madness that came with GS, I was glad to be back with the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team this weekend in Lamborghini Super Trofeo competition.
Facing similar challenges in Super Trofeo as we did with the GS car, it was crucial to make the car perform with minimal degradation at the end of a flat out 50 minute sprint race.
We achieved our fifth pole position of the year for Race 1 and had an almost perfect race going, leading every lap aside from the only one that truly matters.
Brake failure for Riccardo going into Turn 1 on the final lap was a real heartbreaking moment after such a good race up to that point. It is what it is.
Race 2 was my turn to finish and this time we only were able to bring home a P2. Riccardo, the Prestige Performance/WTR team, and I are only two points away from locking up the Super Trofeo North America Pro Championship, which is most important.
All focus is now on getting prepped for the Super Trofeo North America and World final event in Imola, Italy at the end of November.
As always, a very big thank you to all who made this possible; Cameron, Riccardo, Bodymotion Racing, Trim-Tex, Prestige Performance, Lamborghini Paramus, and Wayne Taylor Racing.
Petit Le Mans is only a week away, so it’s an incredibly hectic turn around for teams and drivers. I can’t wait to get there, not only to compete for and hopefully finish the GS championship on top, but also because I have an awesome opportunity to run the 20th Anniversary Motul Petit Le Mans.
Hopefully the next debrief from me will be a good one!