It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. One year ago, at this same race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the guys at Magnus Racing played a great strategy to take third, which meant for three years straight we were able to finish on the podium.
This past Sunday in Monterey, things didn’t quite go our way with strategy and we finished sixth… but the fact that we were able to have a decent finish was a victory in itself, I don’t think we would have been as happy last year.
Everyone at Magnus has had a tough go of the season so far. Even before we had our famous “opossum” incident at Daytona, we’d been having a rough weekend, starting with a gearbox problem on Friday that followed us into the race.
Sebring wasn’t much better with a race incident, so the fact that we were able to have a “smooth” weekend at Laguna Seca at least showed things are back on track.
Before we get into the TUDOR race, however, it was sort of a momentous weekend for me with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Without a full-time ride, I was able to try my hand as a broadcaster! I was fortunate enough to have both the folks at FOX Sports and IMSA.com invite me to comment on television and radio during the race, and it was a great opportunity and one that I enjoyed.
IMSA.com’s radio feed is currently managed by the folks that most of us know through Radio LeMans, and their producer, Eve Hewitt, was kind enough to let me sit in with my old friends Jeremy Shaw and Greg Creamer.
I think (or hope!) it went smoothly, and afterward everyone said good things to me, I was pretty happy… and I didn’t curse once! What I didn’t realize was that they also do the commentary over the track PA, so all of the fans, as well as folks in the media center, could hear me… I hope I didn’t say anything horrible.
Halfway through the race I moved over to the television booth where I joined Bob Varsha, Calvin Fish, and Justin Bell. I’d be lying if I said joining them wasn’t a little intimidating.
The folks at FOX Sports have some great producers, but their jobs are made a little easier by the fact that the three of them have a great chemistry and don’t need much direction, so trying to interject and mix in with them had me a little nervous.
Once I sat down and jumped in, however, I was right at home, and I have to thank everyone for being so welcoming. Bob, Calvin and Justin were very open and inclusive, Brian Till and Jamie Howe helped me quite a bit from pit lane, and producers Greg Oldham, Jackson Gardner and Rick Ratajczak did a great job of getting me comfortable before I ever went on.
It’s a great team there, and while I hope to be back behind the wheel, having more opportunities with them wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
You can judge for yourself next Monday, May 11, at 10AM EDT on FOX Sports 1.
Back to Magnus, there’s actually not much to say. There were a few changes to the Porsche with the BoP and some new developments on the car, but we were lucky to test them a few weeks ago in Utah and we unloaded pretty fast.
During the first session we had an excellent car, and the preparation was clear as we were the quickest during the opening practice. However, as the sessions wore on, we progressively fell down but always within reach of the leaders.
The qualifying rules changed for 2015 with the opening driver having to qualify the car, which in our case meant John Potter. Even though the rules have been this way all year, this was John’s first qualifying attempt for the season, as usually I start the race during endurance runs.
John did an excellent job to put the car in fifth for the race, and quietly knew we had a good chance if things fell our way.
Once the race started, John did his usual excellent job of staying out of trouble and holding pace. We had a yellow about 20 minutes in that created an interesting strategic decision.
John had to do a minimum of 60 minutes in the car so we knew we wouldn’t be doing a driver change, but was it still worth bringing him in for fuel and tires?
Ultimately our engineer, Lars Giersing, decided the advantages of pitting under yellow outweighed the disadvantages, and John was serviced and on his way. Forty minutes later he was in again for a driver change, which is where the strategy game was really put into play.
At that point in the race we knew I’d have to make one more stop, but we had plenty of fuel for this which meant I could run flat out.
Most of the cars in front of me, however, stayed out with the gamble that they’d make their stop in a few laps and then try and go the distance, meaning they’d have to be super conservative with fuel.
If we’d had a yellow that would mean I could catch them, and with no worries on fuel, hopefully be able to get by. Laguna Seca notoriously has a lot of yellows so we were hopeful, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We never received the yellow we were after, and ultimately I would end up sixth. Not bad, but not great either.
Overall I’m happy with the weekend, and if nothing else we’ve proven that we’re back on track. See you at Detroit!