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MANN: Road America Debrief

Pippa Mann files her latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Just over one week before the third round of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North American series at Road America, I thought my season, my opportunity to continue to learn sports car racing, and my fledgling return to road racing was over.

I was ready to resign myself to watching this weekend from the sidelines, and continuing to work way to see whether I could find a way to get back into a car later in the season.

Then, on Monday, everything changed.

Shea Holbrook and I have been friends for years. We both work to raise our own sponsorship, and over the years, we’ve exchanged business and sponsor advice, and helped each other where and whenever we could.

We’ve also talked about trying to find a way to work together on multiple occasions over those years, but it never quite came together.

Then, on Monday, my phone rang, and her number was on the screen.

Forty-eight hours later, I was in my street car, helmet in hand, driving to Wisconsin to team up in the No. 11 Prestige Performance Lamborghini Super Trofeo race car with one of my favorite people for the first time.

We knew odds would be stacked against us – Shea has very limited laps in the car, I had never turned a single lap at Road America, and we knew track time could be limited due to weather, yet I think it’s fair to say we were almost giddy with excitement.

I have an amazing photo of Shea filming her name, and the Bubba Burger decals going on under the Prestige Performance Center – Wayne Taylor Racing tent. Both of us just grinning like the Cheshire cat!

On Thursday, the weather was so bad that the promoter test day we weren’t going to be able to take part in, got rained out, negating a little of the disadvantage we would be facing.

On Friday, however, it was still raining. It was just about dry enough for me to do our install lap on slicks, and by the time the car was checked and I went back out again, I was having serious second thoughts about the tire choice.

More rain continued to fall. I made the decision to pit for wets as a red flag came out. Sitting on pit lane, with no full laps yet on the track, with rain continuing to fall, I realized our session was half-way through.

I unbelted, handed the car over to Shea, and when the session went green, she was able to complete a total of two flying laps in the rain before the track went red again….just what two drivers’, who needed as much seat time as possible, wanted to start their weekend!

For a while we thought the track might dry out for our second session, but the rain returned with a vengeance. Luckily, this time, there were no red flags, and Shea and I were both able to run out first-ever real wet laps in a GT car.

While this was definitely another new learning experience, it didn’t exactly help either of us prepare for qualifying the following morning that would be held under clear blue skies, and the most amazing orange ball of a sun, high in the sky…

Despite the fact I have more laps in the Super Trofeo car than Shea, she had been able to test at Road America the previous week, so we decided Shea should be the one to get the benefit of the new tires and qualify first.

She rose to the challenge and did a great job, improving every single lap, and when I hopped in, I worked hard on trying to get up to speed faster than I have been able to before on a new track in the Lamborghini.

As our first qualifier, Shea also had the responsibility of starting Race 1 for us.

She was doing a great job, and fighting to move forwards in the pack, when a car that had spun decided to re-enter the race track right in front of her. Shea took evasive action to avoid hitting him, but it cost her a lot of time, and positions.

We needed a yellow to haul ourselves back into contention for a podium shot, and despite running our strongest laps of the weekend, lap after lap in both our stints in the race, we never got that helping hand from Lady Luck that we needed. We would have to settle for fourth in class.

That evening, we both poured over the data, and compared ourselves to our Prestige Performance teammates. Acting as our own driver-coaches, we decided what we would have to do on Sunday.

It was my turn to start the Race 2 the next day, and after seven years away from road racing, I was finally happy with my start, my first lap, and how I got up to speed.

However, given I was now running relatively so much quicker than I had been in qualifying, I was being held up by slower cars.

Determined not to make the same mistake as I had in Watkins Glen, I tried hard not to get frustrated at being held up, and I worked hard to find my way past.

Turn 1 quickly became my preferred passing spot, and with two laps left in my stint, I finally cleared the traffic. I set easily my fastest laps of the weekend, and then handed the car back to Shea to close.

She also proceeded to run her best laps of the weekend in her stint, but once again, that podium spot ended up just out of our reach.

Though we are both pleased with our personal improvements, we are frustrated at coming up short for Prestige Performance, Lamborghini Paramus, Bubba Burger, and ourselves two races in a row.

I am so grateful, and indebted to Shea, Bubba Burger, and everyone at the Prestige Performance Center and on the Wayne Taylor Racing team who helped make this opportunity happen this weekend.

As you would expect from a racing driver, I want to do more!

Shea and I are both working hard on potential further opportunities to run in Super Trofeo later this year, and we are both hoping that this first opportunity to work together might be just the beginning of a great partnership…

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