What a difference a year can make. This time last year, we felt on top of the world after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year, we leave disappointed, but motivated.
We went into the weekend with some confidence. Corvette Racing was coming off back-to-back wins at the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring. We were the defending GTE-Pro winners. And lastly, we were quickest on the test day with our updated Corvette C7.R.
We were hit with a small BoP change heading into race week, getting a slightly smaller restrictor, but from looking at where we were at the test day, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world.
Le Mans is always a long week. Getting in on Sunday, we go through scrutineering, photo shoots, media events, and team meetings before we finally get on track for the first time Wednesday afternoon.
You get caught up in everything else that you can almost forget that you’re there to actually drive a race car. It seems like a media tour instead.
It only took about 10 minutes into the first practice that we saw what a tough weekend it was going to be. We were right where we thought we would be, lap time wise.
The only problem was that the Ferrari and Ford went much faster than we all expected.
The weather through practice and qualifying was pretty bad. Rain on and off which caused lots of red flags. The in between conditions make things difficult in the race, but for practice, it’s almost useless track time where you won’t learn anything.
So for most of those rainy sessions, we sat and waited for either fully dry conditions or fully wet conditions where we could use the rain tires.
This meant very limited track time. By the time the race came, I had four full laps in the dry and about six in the wet. Not ideal.
We went into the race knowing what we had. The only thing we could do was focus on ourselves and run our own race.
As the opening ceremonies ended and the cars were gridded up, the skies opened and the rain started coming down in buckets.
It looked like we were going to have a very wet start to the race. They started the race under yellow behind the safety car, but left the safety car out there for so long that by the time they went green it was almost already time to go to slicks.
It made the first stint tricky for Olly to try and make the rain tires last, and tough for the engineers to make the right call when to go to slicks.
Olly and Tommy had flawless first stints and then I was in just before sunset. Sunset is always cool around Le Mans.
As you go down to Indianapolis, the sun sets directly in your face. It’s one of the worst spots it could be, as you are flat out going through very narrow kinks.
I even had a P2 car in front of me slam on the brakes at about 160 mph because he couldn’t see where he was going. It was a near disaster.
But there are so many moments like that in these races that you’ll never hear about. They just happen and you move on. Sometimes you just forget about them.
It’s always fun after a 24-hour to sit with your teammates and talk about all the crazy little things that happen throughout a race.
Our race was completely clean through the night. We were only doing fuel, tires, and driver during the pit stops. By the time morning came we were already 2-3 laps down to the leaders.
We decided to trim out a little more, even though our wing already looked like we were trying to qualify for Indy.
Tommy went out in the morning and hit the bump in Turn 1 just wrong, and with the car being trimmed, it made it impossible to catch. Thankfully Tommy was OK, but we were out of the race.
The other car with Ricky, Jan, and Antonio finished the race flawlessly. They ended up 7th, I believe four laps down.
Needless to say, it was a frustrating weekend, but we fought all the way through. We’ll be back next year, more motivated than ever.
Next up for me is Watkins Glen. I’m really looking to getting back there and racing on the new pavement.
We tested there a few weeks ago and it was incredibly fast. We head there with the points lead after our win in Detroit, so hopefully we can keep that momentum going.