Sometimes, even when you think you have done everything right, when you think you’ve made the right setup calls, the right gear calls, and you’re as ready as possible for all combinations of weather and track conditions… racing turns around and hits you with a variable out of the blue that you never saw coming and you didn’t even have time to duck.
Detroit was one of those weekends. We were strong in practice, even on old tires. We made the right call on gearing, right call on shocks, and I had exactly what I wanted for the new surface.
If you followed practice, we were a clear contender. As I went out we were right around the top three in every session, and even if our times would fall down over the course of a practice, we quietly knew we had one of the best cars out there.
It had been patchy weather throughout Friday’s practice, but in all conditions both John and I were strong.
When the green flag fell for Saturday’s race, we had clear skies but with a weather forecast that rain may fall as the race went on. John drove incredibly well during his opening stint.
With walls on all sides of the track, it’s tough to start the race. Everyone stacks up in to the corners, and one small mistake has big consequences there, and John stayed well clear of that.
Throughout his stint he held a good pace, and when an opportune yellow came out, the entire field came in to stop.
We had an incredible pit stop and a good restart.
And then it happened….
As we were going green it was raining a little in Turn One. Not a big deal, tires were up to pressure, had decent temperature, and with a lot of cars on track all running similar lines we kept the track mostly dry. Grip is not a major issue unless a driver has to go off line.
Well… that’s exactly what happened. I had a prototype in front of me that lost it under braking for Turn One and spun to the inside and across the apex. He was about three car-lengths in front as I entered the corner, and as the prototype was sliding it was slowing a lot faster than I was able to.
I immediately opened up my hands to go around the outside, and as I got off the racing line it was all over. I started a very long, slow understeer because there was so much water off-line on the outside.
The slide seemed like it took 10 seconds to finally tag the outside tire barrier. The slow hit and the several layers of tires in Turn One meant that the car was not badly damaged at all expect for body work. The left front fender took the most damage, and most unfortunately the rear wing endplate caught in the tires and ripped off.
The crew, as usual did an amazing job at fixing the car and had we had a little more time we may have been able to get a few positions back. With a short race, we were only able to manage a seventh place finish.
You are vulnerable many times during a race to the choices of other cars around you, and as a driver you do your best to decrease the amount of times that you inevitably have to be in those positions.
I have replayed this 444 times in my mind and keep trying to come up with a way that I could have seen it coming and done something different. Still workin’ on that.
This is four straight races that Magnus Racing has not been on the podium. I think that is the longest streak of bad results that I have had with the team in the four seasons that I have raced with them.
We head to the best race track on the planet, Watkins Glen at the end of the month in an attempt to get the results we know we can achieve. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.