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NEGRI: Detroit Debrief

Ozz Negri files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Detroit is one of the places that I really like. It is tight, bumpy, narrow and very challenging.

With the experience we gained at Long Beach in April, plus all of the hard work from our Michael Shank Racing engineers we knew early on in the weekend that our Acura NSX GT3 was going to be competitive.

During the first practice of the weekend, I found more than just the bumps on the race track and crashed the car heavily going into Turn 1, hitting the wall and making a mess on the rear of the car.

I was on my sixth or seventh lap and I had just crossed the start finish line with a good lap time knowing that I could go quicker in a few places. I left my braking a little later going into Turn 1 right over the bump that had just taken out the Alegra Porsche a few laps earlier.

The car hit the bump and snapped around – going backwards into the wall.

The damage was pretty bad and we missed Practice 2 while the Michael Shank Racing guys worked to make repairs.

I was feeling horrible about it because we needed the track time – especially on a weekend where our track time was already pretty limited.

The team worked their butts off to get the car ready for qualifying but after our first lap during the qualifying session we had to bring it to pit lane.

We removed the engine cover and unfortunately, per an IMSA rule, our times were disallowed for working on the car during the session and we were only able to utilize the remainder of the session as a shake down.

At this time between Jeff (Segal, co-driver) and I we had only done about seven or eight laps each in the car and we were starting dead last. So we knew we had to execute everything perfectly.

We studied a lot of videos and data from our sister car that by the way was starting second on the grid – credit to a mega lap by Katherine (Legge) and a good car from our Michael Shank Racing engineers.

The morning warm up on Saturday was an exercise in regaining our confidence, plus finding our marks and making a plan for the race. The car felt fine, well balanced and we had a good plan.

At the start, I was able to gain a few spots and run close to the pack. The GTD class is by far one of the most competitive classes and it’s so hard to make a pass. I saw an opportunity and went by one of the Lexus cars – our Acura was very strong and I was quicker than the cars ahead, I just couldn’t find a way around them without taking a risky move.

A full course yellow came at a perfect time and with a mega quick driver change plus super fast work by the Michael Shank Racing crew, I’m sure Jeff was smiling in his helmet as he went by a bunch of cars still being serviced on pit lane. We gained six spots with that pit stop!

We opted not to take tires and Jeff was driving a mega race, hanging on in a line of cars with fresher Continental tires. It looked like it would be a double Michael Shank Racing podium until two laps to go when we got shoved off wide at the braking zone of Turn 7 by the 48 Lambo. Not good, that moved us to P5.

At the end of the day it was still a good result and a great recovery by the team but we wanted more, we wanted a big party at the podium with our teammates Kat and Andy who won the race.

We are coming strong. On to the Glen!

Ozz Negri (@OzzNegri) is the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona race winner, driving for Michael Shank Racing and Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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