It was an amazing weekend for us out in California. We made it two in a row on the streets of Long Beach.
It’s always cool to win races back to back, but to win it on such a historic track makes it that much more special.
I still watch the old onboards from the Formula 1 days, when they used to go jumping up and down the streets. I always enjoyed Patrick Depailler’s in particular with the opposite lock coming down the hill.
Three years ago we announced our partnership with Konica Minolta during the Long Beach weekend.
In those three years, we’ve now had a second and two wins. Needless to say, it’s been a great event for us, especially with all the Konica Minolta guests there to enjoy and celebrate with us.
We’ve always come to Long Beach with a strong car. We started off the weekend on the right foot. We were second in the first practice and quickest in the session leading into qualifying.
Ricky had qualifying duties this weekend and was trying to repeat as the pole winner from last year. He was on a lap that was good enough for pole when he clipped the wall in Turn 8. It hurt the car a decent amount, but he still managed to man-handle the car around to get it into P2.
He was pretty upset with himself for making the mistake, because he knew he could have been on the pole.
His anger made me excited, because an angry Ricky, is a very fast and determined Ricky. I told a few people that night that he would be leading by the end of the first lap of the race.
On the start, the 5 car went way earlier than what was asked for in the drivers meeting, and the start was single file and all strung out.
Ricky came on the radio and said, ‘He went way early.’ Hearing the irritation in his voice and seeing that he was about five car lengths behind the 5 car into Turn 1, I knew we were either going to come out of Turn 1 in the lead, or we weren’t coming out at all.
When I saw him make the move, I knew at that moment, we were not making it out of Turn 1. Somehow, he got it slowed down and made the move of the race.
That move set us up for the rest of the race. Track position on a street course is crucial.
It’s very hard to pass without the help of traffic or a big mistake. He managed to keep a good gap for his entire stint until it was time for the one pit stop we had this race.
The pit stop was very clean and we were able to maintain the lead that we had. The 5 and 31 reeled me in during the first part of my stint, but I wasn’t too worried.
I was getting a lot of pressure from the 5, but I felt pretty confident in holding him off. It was all about timing the traffic right and backing him up when I needed to.
He was able to get pretty close a few times into Turn 1 when we would catch a PC or GTLM car in the hairpin.
One nice thing about Long Beach is that they have lots of big screens around the track for the fans. One of those screens is nicely placed on the front straight, aiming towards the track.
I was able to get a quick glimpse every lap to get a better idea of how close the 5 was heading into Turn 1, and I would know if I needed to defend or not.
We had a yellow come out with about 30 minutes to go and restarted with 20 to go. With how small the lap time delta was between the classes, that meant that we would probably have clear track for the rest of the race. It would be a classic street fight.
Once we went green, I was able to build a small gap over the first few laps. Once I got a couple seconds out in front, I was able to get into my own rhythm. I think having the 31 filling the mirrors of the 5 helped keep him a little distracted as well.
Thankfully no other drama occurred for us, and we were able to get our second consecutive win at Long Beach. We made a big climb in the points after a tough race at Sebring.
Street course races are always won or lost on team execution. It is such a sprint, that everything has to go perfectly. From the driving, to the strategy, to that one crucial pit stop.
There is absolutely no room for mistakes. Our success on the street courses is proof of our team’s ability to execute.
We’re heading to Laguna in just two weeks, where we’ve had some good history as well, with a win and two seconds in the past three years. Hopefully we can keep our momentum going. See you then.