I admit it, I’m a little nervous. When Sportscar365 asked me to contribute a column, I was initially very excited.
Then as I learned I would need to provide one directly after each Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event, truth be told, every neuron was firing for me to “Pump the brakes! This relationship is going too fast!”
It’s not that I’m a “commitment-phobe” (which Google tells me is actually Gamophobia….weird), it’s just I didn’t really know what to write about.
I am not one to just regurgitate what you likely could learn from team press releases, news coverage or may have already seen on the coverage of the race. Watch the race… we qualified second, we had fueling issues, we finished third. All good stuff.
But I do want you to see is what lead to all that. I feel like I owe you an inside look at what a race event is like, before and after that race even.
So that is what these columns will be focused on. I hope you don’t mind.
First off, we had a brand new car for this event. After dabbling in the GS class for two events last season with the formidable Porsche 911 (997), the decision was made to make the leap into GS with the new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport that was available from Porsche Motorsport.
With anything new, there is an adjustment period and the perception may be we took delivery of our new lightning quick steed, slapped a set of Continental Tires on it and went to the track. That is simply not the case.
Our car was delivered and our CJ Wilson Racing team went to work at modifying it to compete in IMSA. This includes different sized tires than the car was delivered on and a change from the non-adjustable shocks and stiffer springs to adjustable shocks with lower spring rates.
We also didn’t quite have the fuel system worked out completely.
While we had a great Roar test and may have shown great speed, we still had no idea how long the car would run on a tank of fuel, how far it may go on reserve and how the changes we did make between the Roar and the race would pan out.
We also had this nagging issue with refueling speed, which is what ultimately put us behind on our pit stops.
Obviously on short runs in the rain, we looked like heroes, but when the track dried out, we had to go to work making adjustments only a few hours before the race.
In one of the few calm moments of the week prior to the fan walk I had a very brief conversation with our team manager, Andris Laivins, talking about what we did know about our fuel issue.
It roughly ended with the comment…. “We need to know what fuel level you are at in the last 15 minutes of a fuel run, so I might ask you a couple times a lap.
“We want to use the reserve, but we don’t want it to stumble because it may quit and you might have to stop, recycle the master to get it to fire again. It’s all fun and games until we are running out of fuel at the end of the race.”
I do feel very fortunate however in the teammate department. I have been pretty blessed with having great teammates over the years.
All of them have become good friends and are talented and fun to be around. Bruce Ledoux, Jonathan Bomarito, Kyle Gimple, Stevan McAleer and Tyler McQuarrie are just some of the drivers that I have shared the car in multiple events with and have created lasting friendships with.
I have that same feeling with my new teammate, Danny Burkett. Not only is he young, enthusiast and very quick, he is also eager to learn about sports car racing after being one of those pesky “open wheel kids,” cutting his teeth in formula car racing before coming to his senses and coming to race sports cars.
Plus he is Canadian, and since I raced for so many years in Canada myself – we already had common ground and mutual friends.
Having a good relationship with your co-driver is extremely important to me. You need to build a mutual respect, yet still be able to push one another to be better than you were in the previous session.
It’s not a competition between each other as much as it is two competitors bringing the best out of one another for the sake of making everyone else look like chumps.
That doesn’t just happen overnight, but we are on our way. The age gap doesn’t help, but it doesn’t hurt either.
He once told me that one of his favorite shows is “Family Guy” and I just laughed. I keep telling him that if we was ten years older, he would like it ten times more since at 20 years old he only actually gets about 20 percent of the jokes on it.
Regardless, I feel like I can teach him a lot – mostly about the “Family Guy” jokes he doesn’t get – and he will keep my competitive spirit motivated on winning races in our new Porsche Cayman GT4 that we have affectionately dubbed “Darth Cayman.”
There you have it. My first column for Sportscar365. I hope you all can continue to follow along on Sportscar365 or catch the coverage on imsa.com or FOX Sports, but as far as this column is concerned, I’m going to stick to stories from the road or the kind of things you might learn if you hung out with us idiots week in and week out.
Maybe, just maybe, my new teammate and I will take this new car and win some races this season against the always tough Grand Sport competition.
That way I won’t feel the need to pepper excuses as to why we didn’t win into each column. Because really…. Who has time for all of that crap?
See you at Sebring! Oh, word to the wise – lock up your golf carts at that place. It might end up as the top candle of a giant cake made of old couches and scaffolding.