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LALLY: Road America Debrief

Andy Lally files his latest Sportscar365 column after Road America…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

So one of the greatest challenges in writing a race-by-race column is, what do you write about when absolutely nothing happened? Because that’s what Road America was.

It wasn’t a great weekend, it wasn’t a bad weekend, it was average at best, and that’s sort of that. Our highlight was repeatedly being the fastest car in practice. With that in mind, here ‘goes…

I’ve never won at Road America. When you think of all the major road courses in the U.S., I’ve been fortunate to have won at just about all of them: Sebring, Daytona, Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, etc.

For some reason, however, Road America has never come together. It’s weird because I’ve always gone well there. Fast corners, hard braking, all things that suit me, but for this reason or that we’ve always come up short. For example, in 2012 we were in a really good position before my engine blew, last year we were taken out in an early incident, and so on…

It’s obviously a very cool place to be. The village of Elkhart Lake is unlike any other, and the rolling hillsides of Wisconsin are a slice of America that time has almost forgotten, which is pretty cool to see.

We’ve been doing a lot of testing recently, and I do believe we have a really fast Porsche. The guys have been putting a lot of time in all summer to figure out the little nuances that can gain us an advantage, and considering how competitive the GTD field has become, especially among Porsche teams, we should be able to mix it up with anyone.

Friday was a wash with constant rain, but Saturday morning’s practice told me everything I needed to know about the car we had. We were fastest for just about the whole session. Good balance, excellent pace, and walking away from that morning we knew we were the team to beat. Awesome.

Unfortunately that was where the highlights stopped.

Without getting in to details, based on what we learned on Saturday morning, we took a setup decision for John during that afternoon’s qualifying session that I thought would work out, but what it resulted in was a car that didn’t have the pace we thought it would, and John struggled as he tried to set fastest time.

He did an excellent job through qualifying and gave it his best, but we just missed it. It meant an eighth-place start, and also meant we’d likely be in the mid-pack throughout the beginning of the race.

When Sunday came, the nice weather actually threw us for a loop. All weekend long, it had been predicted that Sunday’s race would face mixed conditions, which was a big reason for us putting in a good effort during Friday’s rain-filled practice sessions.

However, when lunch-time hit on Sunday, it was the hottest it had been all weekend. With the speed and old surface at Road America, heat can play a major role, and none of us were expecting that, so it meant we had to be ready for a car that wasn’t setup for those conditions.

By time the race hit, all focus was on gaining ground in front of us. John started the race and was pretty flawless.

A caution period at 20-minutes in was what would change the whole event for everyone. The Turner BMW went off, and since all of the silver-rated drivers had to a minimum of 50 minutes in the car, it seemed obvious we’d need to stay out and wait for John to do his minimum before stopping.

However the Aston Martin and Paul Miller Racing Audi opted to come in for fuel and tires, which meant (I guess) that they were banking on a lot of yellows to do the race in just one more stop despite well over two hours remaining.

This meant you never really knew where you were in the race because of all the different pit strategies, so we just stuck to our gameplan. The race went green and we brought John in when his time came up, and then it was up to me to go from there. I will say, as always, we had a really quick pit stop.

The problem was, by this point we were pretty far back from the field in front of us, and everyone had a similar pace so it was tough to make big gains. If we had a yellow, I’d be right back in the thick of it all. However, that yellow never came.

We drove the rest of the race knowing we had one more stop, and after we made that it was just a game of wait-and-see to figure out where were. I was able to catch the No. 23 Porsche and make a pass on the outside of Turn Five, and then again on the No. 48 Audi toward the end, who was presumably managing his fuel to the end. That was about my only excitement.

That’s kind of all I got. The one cool thing is somehow we’re still in the title chase, which is crazy. It’s definitely a long shot, but if the last three races go really well, you never know.

However, I WILL be returning to Road America in three weeks for the NASCAR Xfinity round! It should be exciting, and we have a great program lining up, more to come on that later.

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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