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RAYHALL: Monterey Debrief

8Star’s Sean Rayhall files his first Sportscar365 column following MRLS…

Photo: Brian Cleary/bcpix.com

Photo: Brian Cleary/bcpix.com

It is great to be home from a successful weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It was very exciting on and off the track especially with the addition of our new sponsor, Takis.

It just so happens that I am kind of a spicy food addict it’s one of my favorite snacks. This was pretty cool for me considering we had boxes full of them that I could chow down on all weekend!

Now on to the important stuff… This was my first weekend getting to work with Luis Diaz. I met him for the first time on Friday and what a guy he is. We had a very good relationship from the start with each other and he is just flat out a nice guy with a ton of experience.

It’s great to have him as my teammate because I get to feed off his experience in order for me to not only grow as a driver, but also to learn some tips on dealing with sponsorship endeavors.

Practice was pretty short and sweet. The 8Star Motorsports crew worked very hard with the little time we were given since we had not been there before and they did a fantastic job getting me and Luis a great car for qualifying, as well as, the race.

With the two red flags we ended up with really about an hour and 15 minutes to get comfortable with the car.

Qualifying hasn’t really been a strong point yet as we’ve been trying to still get used to the PC car. We peaked very early going P1 about lap 7, but there wasn’t anymore I could get out of the car after that.

Bruno and Renger found more after that, but in all reality for the extremely limited track time we had that week and the fact we had never been there before with the PC car, the team was very happy about the P3 effort.

So a small twist happened after qualifying. Our team manager, Gary Neal, had an infection in his foot/ankle and had to go to the hospital for the night and have it attended to. My father took him there while the rest of us were just surprised that his limp was that serious. Apparently, he has a high pain tolerance because it was very bad.

We went P1 in the morning warm up which was nice. We saw that the changes [engineer] Yves made after qualifying were wholesale and we had a very good race car now.

Luis started the race and got us into a descent lead that went away as a full course caution fell right at the brim of the minimum drive time.

We pitted and at this point I knew it was truly going to be a shootout for the rest of the race with all of us being bunched up because Bruno and Renger had a good pace. When the race went green, we opened up a decent gap and I was mostly riding about 90 percent, not trying to wear our equipment out because we had a nice lead.

Then pit strategy got us. The Starworks team decided to take two Continental tires instead of four. When I got back on track we were 10 seconds back.

I had to push very hard and I did. Slowly, lap by lap I closed on him until he was very close in my sights and passing two GT cars.

He made a gap of his own to go past them and I made the decision to follow under our situation of playing catch up. The first GT car didn’t see me and squeezed me to the right in the brake zone, causing me to get loose toward the opposite direction.

By the time I gathered it up, it was too late, I was deep into the corner with the second GT car. So I threw it to the inside and hoped to avoid contact with him but it was inevitable at this point. We made slight contact and went spinning.

I did what every racing school teaches you in a spin and put both feet in. I kept the car running and off we were again. Bruno closed in again after this incident so I had to push to get away from him and we did.

It was a high risk vs. high reward situation and I went for it. As drivers we are not paid to give up a corner when it could potentially be for a win, so I pushed as I feel like most of us would and the risk came instead of the reward.

All in all, it was a great debut weekend for the Takis 8Star team my new co-driver Luis Diaz. I can’t thank the team enough for working so hard and such a great effort on the teams part.

It is very special driving for Enzo and this team. It really isn’t a team at all in reality, it’s family.

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