Long Beach marks the return of the Pirelli World Challenge after a three-week break following our back-to-back weekends at Circuit of The Americas and St. Pete.
I can’t speak for all drivers, however, long breaks in the schedule can be tough and feel like the next race can’t come soon enough.
As much as I love training and going to coffee shops to study data and work on sponsorship, being in the race car is substantially better.
The race at Long Beach isn’t just three days of track action. Formula E and drifting are on track weeks before and most of Southern California car culture seems to come out of the woodwork around the event.
Race week kicked off the Sunday before with an awesome event by fellow competitor Pat Long.
Though not an event about Bentley’s, the Luftgekuhlt show was out of this world. 450 air-cooled Porsches, thousands of people and many World Challenge, IMSA, and IndyCar competitors kicked off race week the right way.
Long Beach is an event with limited track time and a lot of waiting. It’s a home race for me so I was able to drive down Thursday afternoon in time for the official track walk.
Because we are in California, column readers may notice a break in the trend of going to the gun range with the crew as pre-race prep. Texas and Florida seem to enjoy the right to bear arms a bit more than the sunny state of California.
While on the track walk we noticed significant changes to the track since the last time I drove it in 2014.
The Turn 5 curbing had been changed and Turn 8 no longer had curbing. Street circuits often require a bit of experimenting on driving line and curbs in order to be quick, however, we only had one 50 minute practice session.
Before on track action commenced, we participated in the annual Thunder on Pine. Its pretty cool to see so many fans come out and hear their reactions to meeting the drivers and seeing the cars. The most rewarding experience is meeting the young kids who tell you they want to do what you do someday.
Friday was our first day on track late in the afternoon. Luckily we weren’t the first series on track so we didn’t have to do the dirty work of cleaning of the track and laying some rubber down.
In the first and only practice, the Bentley Continental GT3 was immediately in the game. On old tires we sat P3 and later on new tires P9.
The most common question I get everywhere I go is if the weight of the car hurts our performance. However, our weight is just the same as almost all the other GT3 cars in the field. We are a bigger car but not a heavier one.
Saturday was our shortest day. Qualifying got underway just before 9 a.m. and was a 15 minute session. We were able to find the pace for eighth place and have a car fully intact for the race.
The best thing about a home race (besides the short trip home) is that friends and family get to come and see what I do when I’m away. I was able to bring out friends from my college days, close family, and people who I’ve met here in LA.
In the race, Bentley gave me car that was awesome to drive. I was able to get good starts and restarts and by halfway I was sitting in a solid fourth place.
We knew the Bentley would thrive at big, fast, and flowing tracks, so to be running P4 was a huge accomplishment for us.
Unfortunately a car leaking oil stayed out on track and leaked fluid between Turns 4 and 5. The Cadillac in front of me hit it and hit the wall and immediately after I hit it and nudged into the tires.
I was able to regain in ninth for the GT class. We haven’t been able to have luck fall on our side this season but we have consistently been in the hunt for podiums late in the race.
I’m pretty excited to head to Barber as it was where I got my first win in World Challenge back in 2014. Lets see if we can start a win streak and begin finishing up front where we have worked to be!