One phrase that I have been using as a bit of a motto this season is “consistency kills.”
Rounds 11, 12 and … 4 of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama would fall right into this. Virginia International Raceway is a track that rewards precision in every corner, guts in a select few and consistency lap after lap.
I like VIR a lot. I like the old-school flow of the corners, the feeling of being on edge while the corners are consistently coming from every direction.
Practice on Friday went to plan without any major problems. My engineer and I were on the same page throughout the sessions and made some solid progress that we were very happy with.
By the end of the fourth and final practice session of the weekend, I had a grin from ear to ear just from how much fun the Porsche 911 Cup car is around VIR. The two seem to fit each other perfectly. Nothing beats the feeling of a Porsche squatting under hard acceleration out of Oak Tree!
Late that same evening was qualifying. This 20-minute session always brings the risk of an accident, especially at a track like VIR, where a small mistake can lead to a big shunt.
Alongside this possibility is the process to attempt a qualifying lap, which involves at least one or two complete laps of increasing speed before setting a fast lap. This means that a quarter to a third of the session is gone before a proper lap time is set.
As I completed my first hot lap, I backed off the pace on the next lap and cooled the tires for another hot lap. But as I was coming around to start the next hot lap, the red flag was waving for an accident.
The session would not restart, and everyone was left with a single fast lap time, meaning the grid for race two would be set by fastest race time.
The next morning’s race would be nothing short of insanity. Starting from pole, I felt that I made a great start and was comfortably in charge of Turn 1, but before we got there a shunt had taken place involving my teammate Kasey Kuhlman and my championship rival Jesse Lazare.
I was soon informed of a full-course caution and that both of them were out of the race. My race changed, and I needed to bring home points no matter what.
With Jesse out of the race, a finish is the point lead. On the restart, Angel Benitez and I broke away and settled into our own battle.
It now seemed a win or a second-place finish was in my future, but I wanted to take the most of this opportunity and rack up as many points as possible. I want to win.
For the next half-hour, every corner would be compromised as I drove to defensively to try to hold off Angel. But he was not finding a way by, and my chances of holding on were looking better and better.
The last three laps would be some of the most intense this season, both on the limit while trying to win. As we started the last lap, I had led for something like 25 laps. He knew my moves, and I was trying to figure out what he would try. But as we entered Turn 3, I did not see his headlight in my left wing mirror as usual.
I looked up into the center mirror to see him spinning off into the wall. As I completed the lap, I thought about the accomplished mission of maximum points as well as Angel’s status after the hard hit. Luckily he was OK and raced the next day.
I started third in the second race of the weekend. After another chaotic Turn 1, I came out fourth and settled into a groove. Within the next couple laps, I had made my way into second and started chasing down Angel.
After another yellow flag, we would be at it again. He would prove too quick and open up a gap he held to the finish. The second-place finish meant another great points race. Consistency was paying off.
Race three of the weekend was actually Round 4 of the championship, a makeup for the rain at NOLA and then Watkins Glen. I started on pole with what must be the longest provisional pole in IMSA history (qualifying and the race were 132 days apart).
The race would mirror the previous result with a second-place finish. A weekend filled with three podiums and a 22-point swing for the championship hunt. Consistency was starting to really show its value.
I am very happy with the weekend, but even more excited for the next two races. My first races at COTA, my first WEC weekend and my birthday weekend Sept. 16-19 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. I say bring it on!