It seems that every story I hear about New Orleans is a wild one. Plans always seem to change, and the ordinary is anything but. This would stay true for the third and fourth rounds of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, as we joined the Verizon IndyCar Series for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.
This would be my first trip to Louisiana, and I knew I wanted it to be a memorable one. I was able to sleep a bit better on the plane as I was not jumping into the total unknown as last month at Sebring.
But I had never been to NOLA, and it is currently not on any simulators. Track time over the weekend was not abundant, either, so it would be crucial to learn the circuit quickly!
This event did not have a promoter test day, so we would only see the track twice before qualifying. I have picked up a few tips and tricks from learning tracks previously and put them to work early on.
It did take a couple laps, as NOLA is a pretty unique circuit in America. Sportscar365 reporter Tony DiZinno had asked earlier if any tracks in America are comparable to it, and I did not have an answer for him.
This made learning the track a bit more interesting, as I could not compare corners to on other circuits. Needless to say, after 30 minutes of exploring on older Yokohama rubber from Sebring, the lap times were solid. Practice two would follow the same plan, and I was feeling ready for qualifying after another 30 minutes on track.
Waking up Saturday morning to the sound of rain brought a nervous smile to my face. I really enjoy driving in low grip conditions, but this was completely new to me with a Porsche.
When it was time to qualify, the rain had stopped, but the track was still wet. I had to serve a penalty at the start of qualifying due to an infraction in practice, leaving me with 15 minutes to explore and set some times.
Before the session, I watched some footage of Sean Edwards racing in the rain, trying to learn from his style. As I left the pits, it was time to put those tips to work. After a couple very slippy and sideways laps, I had the No. 14 Wright Motorsports Porsche on the Platinum Cup and overall pole by about a second. Thank you for the help, Sean.
The first race was set for mid-afternoon that same day. The clouds were dark but had not opened up for some time. The race was declared dry by control, and we went out to the start.
I managed a solid start and kept the car up front, narrowly missing being collected in a scuffle between my championship rival Jesse Lazare and Wright Motorsports teammate Michael Schein.
The race soon went yellow for a separate incident, and we were left with a 30-minute sprint. After keeping the lead at the restart, I just settled into a groove and managed the gap to Andrew Longe behind.
As the timer and laps wound down to zero, I crossed the line to win my first race in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama – my first win in a Porsche!
As earlier stated, no plans ever seem to go swimmingly in New Orleans. Our second race of the weekend was scheduled for early afternoon Sunday, but a torrential downpour all through the morning made it impossible for that race to happen.
As much as I am a racer and wish to compete no matter the condition, that was the correct call. NOLA can have pools of standing water, and IMSA made the safe call to avoid a possible major accident.
I was not overly sad about the decision, as I then knew I would be going into the two-month break as the points leader, something that was a goal and possibility going into the weekend.
The moment crossing the line in the lead was something I have been looking toward for a long time.
I have grown up wanting to race Porsches. Watching RSRs fly down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans on my TV made quite the impression on me as a little boy, so to win a race of this caliber was another checked box in the quest to be those drivers that I watched as a boy.
It has been a journey to get to both compete and win in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and there are a lot of people I need to thank along the way. To those who have been a part of my last 15 years, thank you.
Now let’s start the prep for Watkins Glen in two months, as the season really kicks into gear!