Petit Le Mans. 16 years ago, Ricky and I were playing around on our Razor scooters on top of the hill. This year, we were standing next to each other on top of the podium.
How times can change…
I remember the Razor scooter that well because we made a track outside the team hospitality to race around. I tried carrying a little too much speed through one of the corners, and went down pretty hard. I still have the scar on my arm to this day.
Petit Le Mans has been a special race for our family. My Dad won the inaugural running of the race back in 1998. He’s always held that win in high regard, ranking it right alongside with his wins at Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans.
We came into the weekend with one goal, win the race. Our chances of the championship were gone after COTA, so all we wanted to do was finished the season strong, and maintain second place in the championship.
We rolled off the truck really well. We were quickest in the first session, but realized during that session that this race was going to be down to traffic, and not necessarily having the fastest car.
The car was probably the best we’ve had it all year. We figured some things out at COTA, where we were really strong, and that carried over to Road Atlanta.
Ricky started the race for us after qualifying the car on the front row. He made quick work of the 5 car and pulled a pretty good gap in the first two hours of the race. I got in and did just over two hours in the car. We led for pretty much the entire time and were in control of the race.
Max was back with us for this race; he did all of the Tequila Patron events. You wouldn’t have even known that he was out of the car for a few months, he was right back up to speed.
With about four hours to go a yellow came out and we got in the pits. I don’t know exactly how it all happened, but we ended up going a lap down to the 5. The guys did some strategy to get us back on the lead lap with three hours to go, but that meant we were also pretty far behind the lead.
Ricky closed in on Fittipaldi, bringing the gap down from about fifteen seconds to within five. I got in the car with about an hour and a half to go. When I got in we slightly short-filled the car (didn’t put a full tank of fuel), to try and jump the 5 and get track position. We knew we all had two more stops, so short-filling wasn’t too big of a deal.
We came out right in front, but since he was on hot tires, he just blew by me. The only way for our short-fill to work was for us to have a small gap on the 5, because on the next stop, they would have a faster fill time. So basically we had to get back by him, and gap him.
We came out of Turn 5 with a few GT cars in front, he went left, I went right, and thankfully the door was wide open for me to go through and take the lead. From there we pulled out about a 30 second lead, which was more than enough to be safe to maintain the lead on the next fuel stop. The rest was history; we pretty much cruised from there until the checkered flag.
It was a huge win for us. It was great to be back on the podium with Ricky and Max, and to re-create my Dad’s 1998 win.
Our Konica Minolta guys were fantastic all year. We had two wins, six podiums, and ended up second in the championship. So all in all, I think we can all be proud of the job we did. It was a huge under-taking for all the guys at the shop this year.
Basically having to build a new car with all the new updates and go straight into two huge races, Daytona and Sebring, and to come out with basically zero mechanical issues, it’s pretty incredible.
I wouldn’t want anybody else by my side heading into 2015. It’s easy for a driver to get in and go, those guys deserve all the praise after a year like this.
We’ll be more than ready come Daytona 2015.