We are at the halfway point in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series: three down; three to go. Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most well-landscaped racetracks in North America and with fast flowing corners it always makes for some great racing.
Heading into this weekend, with a record number of cars entered, we knew qualifying was going to be critical to have a solid track position for the start of the race.
However, switching mindsets to race setups can sometimes be rather difficult. Our P1 Motorsports team had done a private test with our sister cars which was very successful. Matt [Dicken] and I knew we would have a solid baseline to start out the weekend.
The opening rounds of practice went very well for us and we were quickly coming to grips with the car after not being in the driver’s seat since Sebring.
After each round of practice we would head back to the hauler and make minor changes to the car for the next session.
Matt and I noticed in second practice that the steering became very notchy under heavy load, mainly in the right-handed corners.
Our P1 Motorsports crew jumped right on the possible problem and diagnosed the power steering pump and the actual steering rack within our race car. But, after checking everything, it came back looking perfectly normal and the car was ready to head out for qualifying that afternoon.
As the Alabama sun was starting to set on Friday afternoon it was time for Matt to strap in and get focused on qualifying.
Only having a 15-minute session to get a flyer in, Matt knew that finding some clear track was a necessity. During the early minutes of the session one of the competitors found themselves in the sand trap causing a red flag with the time clock still counting down the session.
Going back to green with just three minutes to go, Matt timed his space between the traffic ahead and was able to post his fastest lap ever at this circuit and the best starting position for the season, putting himself 8th for Saturday’s race.
Since our race on Saturday was not till late in the afternoon, Matt, his wife Colleen, their therapy dog Tony and I headed to the Birmingham Zoo to burn a couple of hours until we needed to be at the race track.
I had not been to the zoo in quite some time and because Tony with us I was looking forward to seeing how he would react to some of his four-legged friends.
Everywhere we went Tony showed little interest in the animals until we reached the spider monkeys. This in itself was the highlight of our visit to the zoo to see the excitement and curiosity of these monkeys to Tony’s presence.
After burning a few hours at the zoo, it was time focus in on our race and head to the track.
I’m not sure if it’s us race car drivers, but once we arrived at the track and went through our series drivers meeting, that two-hour period of downtime before the race seemed to take forever.
Matt and I were itching to get this race started. As time ticked away and our team strategy meeting over, it was finally time to get suited and head to the pre-race grid.
After two pace laps were complete, the green flag flew for 1 hour and 40-minute race.
Matt had gotten off on a solid start maintaining his position. Just a few minutes into the race we had a series of yellows that allowed the field to bunch up to allowing Matt to push ahead into 7th just before the pit window opened.
Now with an hour to go in the race I jumped in the car while the crew did a perfect pitstop with tires and fuel. Throughout this final stint of the race I knew that tire degradation would be an issue. I focused in on trying to conserve the tire life.
With the race quickly coming to an end, I was hoping for a full course caution to bunch the field back together, but unfortunately the racing gods did not allow this to happen.
I was starting to rapidly close in on the fifth-placed car, but ran out of time to complete the pass. Matt and I would take home a sixth-placed result for our Strategic Wealth Designers, P1 Motorsports LMP3 car.
Overall, this was a very good weekend with a ton of positives to take away.
I can’t thank P1 Motorsports team for all their effort this past weekend and Strategic Wealth Designers for their support! Now our focus is shifting on to Mosport. I know that Matt and I are looking forward to those fast flowing corners north of the border!