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LALLY: Detroit Debrief

Andy Lally files his latest Sportscar365 column following Detroit…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

As I said on Twitter, some days you’re the windshield….. some days you’re the slow windshield.

I don’t really know what to say about our weekend in Detroit, we just missed it.

The street course in Detroit’s Belle Isle Park is unlike anything else we run at all year. It’s a slick, bumpy circuit that you’re fighting the whole time, and tough to get the right setup.

I had a really busy week coming in to Detroit, but a fun one. The previous weekend I drove for Stevenson Motorsports and their Camaro Z/28.R during the annual Memorial Day weekend race at Lime Rock, where we took third.

As soon as the race was over, I was in my truck headed to Butke, Vermont, a five-hour drive for the next day’s street luge race. I had a great time racing at the Push Culture Family Picnic, and I won!

After that I was off to VIR for a road course test with a NASCAR team. Four different places in five days, with just enough time to get home and do a load of laundry before I was back on a plane to Detroit… what a week!

We arrived in Belle Isle unsure of what to expect. The Audi and Ferrari should be really good over the bumps and in braking, so we knew our work was cut out for us.

It was another two-day show, with two quick practice sessions on Friday before we qualified, and then the race on Saturday, so we had to be on our game and with no time to make mistakes or get in an accident.

I opened up the first practice with what seemed like an OK pace. I was out of the car at the 50-minute mark with the second fastest pace, but as the track rubbered in we just kept getting more and more push (understeer) in the car. John and I were fighting the same thing, and we just weren’t able to gain speed with the track the way others were.

With IMSA rules I’m allowed to qualify the car even if I’m not starting. We knew we wouldn’t have the pace for pole position, but with track position being so important in a 100-minute street race, I was hungry to get the car up as high as we could.

That didn’t work. I put in the best time I could early on, and as the session went on I kept dropping down the order… further, further, until we were dead last. Dead. Friggin’. Last.

It’s frustrating because everyone on this team deserves great results. We’re fortunate to have a crew that puts their heart and soul in to winning, so when we’re so far off the mark everyone feels it. There was nothing we could blame, not an engine misfire, or a blown tire, we just struggled.

During the race, we had a forgettable day. John drove a strong opening stint, gaining five spots in his stint before he was able to hand the car over to me during the first yellow. Then the race took a series of weird turns.

The first restart was crazy, with a bunch of the guys getting together in front of me at the green flag fell. Another yellow would come out several minutes later, and that’s when the race became nuts. The race leader, who hadn’t pitted yet, was behind us when the yellow came out.

This meant our Porsche, along with the rest of the GTD cars in front of me, were between the prototype leader and the GTD leader so we would be given a wave-by to catch the back of the field. When Lars, my engineer, told me to go ahead and wave around NO ONE in front of me was going, which meant I would have passed a ton of cars under yellow.

Usually that’s a sign that something is wrong, so we held our spot. Two laps later, Lars confirmed that it was OK to go, so I started the wave by even though no one in front of me did, and I passed about six guys in the process. Eventually everyone figured it out and joined me.

We re-started in sixth, what a strange way to gain spots.

When the green flag fell, I had contact with the Aston Martin which knocked my side mirror off, and I was fighting hard to keep the No. 94 BMW and the No. 22 Porsche behind me. Our car just didn’t have the speed to keep up. Eventually they got around me, and as soon as it happened I was called in to the pits because the series wouldn’t let me run without a side mirror.

IMSA called me in with six minutes to go, and I’d been running for the last 30 minutes with no mirror. To be clear, visibility on what was behind me was no problem… I had a driver’s side mirror, a rearview camera, and a HUGE rearview mirror that sees better than anything, so it’s no problem knowing what’s behind. I believe it was a silly call, due to contact from someone else, that cost us dearly in the championship.

Looking back, I don’t know what to say. It happened, and sometimes you just get it wrong. The true sign of a championship team, however, is how you handle it and rebound.

The entire Magnus team won’t take it lightly, and I have no doubt that we’ll head to Watkins Glen in a few weeks ready to go for this championship.

Andy Lally (@AndyLally) is a three-time GRAND-AM champion and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year, currently driving for Magnus Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

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