What a weekend! From start to finish it was a whirlwind of emotion.
The weekend started in Detroit, the Motor City. Every year that we come here we know how big of a deal it is for us to win, in General Motor’s backyard.
We have three big races to win during the year, Daytona, Sebring, and Detroit. I had a 100 percent winning rate in Detroit, winning in 2012 in the Camaro in the Grand-Am GT class and then again in 2013 in the Corvette DP overall. So I was going for three in a row.
We decided to mix things up this weekend and change our driver rotation. I had a pretty tough qualifying. I touched the wall about halfway through the session and ended up in fifth. I was pretty disappointed in the run, especially because I knew how tough of race it would be starting that far back.
Detroit is a tough place to pass, just like any street course, so we knew track position was going to be key in the race. I knew my best opportunity to makes some moves would be on the start, and I was highly motivated to make that happen after having a poor qualifying.
Once the green dropped I was able to get down the inside of Yacaman into Turn 1 and then right around the outside of Sharp through Turn 2. So I was pretty pleased to go from fifth to third on the first lap. Once we all settled in I knew it was going to be really difficult to make any sort of move without traffic.
We hit traffic about 10 or 15 minutes into the race, and I knew I needed to stay pretty close to Fittipaldi to make a move if he gets held up at all. He caught a GT car through Turn 2 and I was able to time it well enough to get alongside him and sort of box him in, in the brake zone behind a few GT cars which put us up to second.
Valiante was still pretty close in the lead, and my main goal at this point was to stay within touch for the first pit stop, where I knew our guys could probably jump them in the pits.
A few laps later we hit another pack of GT cars, and it was a really similar situation with Fittipaldi, where he caught a GT car at the exit of Turn 2 and I was able to get a run down the long straight into Turn 3. I knew this was probably going to be my only shot at getting the lead, so as soon as he left the door open I went for the inside. It was a tight squeeze, and he decided to make it even tighter when I was alongside him.
Thankfully we got by with no damage and were able to pull out a few seconds before the yellow came out.
When I got out of the car I knew we didn’t have the quickest car out there, so I knew Ricky was going to have his hands full. He had an awesome restart and was able to pull out a pretty big gap, but with about ten minutes to go he was getting big pressure from the 5 car.
It was probably the most stressful five minutes of my life. I wasn’t watching or listening for the final five minutes until the final lap started. When the 5 went down the inside of Turn 4 and we hit the wall, we were pretty sure that was going to be how the race ended. The whole team went a bit quiet, but as we saw the 5 car’s rear tire explode, the whole team erupted! I’ve never seen such a swing of emotion. And once Ricky crossed the finish line, it was more of a relief that the stress was over!
We won five races and the championship last year, but I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever been that happy and excited after a race win! To do it with your family is something special.
Once the checkered flag dropped, another race started, getting to the airport! Ricky and I were traveling with Richard Westbrook from Detroit to Paris that night to go to Le Mans for the official test day. Our flight was about four hours after the checkered flag.
Thankfully we made the flight. It wasn’t the most comfortable flight; I think Richard and I said we got maybe an hour of sleep, and Ricky got about two hours.
We got into Paris on Sunday morning at 8am, hopped on the train at 9:40, got to Le Mans train station at 11:30, driven to the track, quick lunch at around 12:15, private driver scrutineering at 1:30, private drivers meeting with the race director at 2:15, and then in the car at 3pm!
So between driving the Corvette DP in Detroit on Saturday and driving the Corvette C7.R in Le Mans on Sunday, I had roughly one hour of sleep.
The test itself went quite well, I got about 15 laps in the car. It always nice to do laps in Le Mans, it’s such a unique track and event, that only testing at that track can prepare you for the race. So some people ask why we would make that crazy trip for just 15 laps, but it was well worth it!
The test ended at 6pm, and we were back in the car to the train station at 6:45, got on the train at 7:30, into Paris at 9:30, a quick dinner and in bed, only to wake up a few hours later to board my plane back to America at 10am, making my stay in France roughly 26 hours.
Now I’m home for a few days before flying back to France on Saturday to start the week of Le Mans with Corvette Racing.