Sebring… what an up and down weekend.
Our week started out almost identical to Daytona. In Daytona, we struggled with a wheel speed sensor issue through practice and qualifying (forcing us to do all the work with no traction control). We only found and fixed the problem after the first stop in the race.
In Sebring, we had braking issues, an even bigger problem. Instead of having a problem accelerating, we had trouble stopping!
Ricky and Max did the first practice. I went to watch the session in Turn 17. There’s a great viewing tower on the inside of the corner that gives you a good view of the brake zone and entry to the corner. It’s one of the toughest and most intimidating corners on our calendar, and probably the world. You can gain or lose a lot of time here.
IMSA sends out sector times after each session, so if someone was much quicker than us, I would be able to bring some info back to the guys to see what we can do differently. Maybe the other cars are doing something different from a driving point of view, or more car setup related. The more info we have, the better.
We knew straight away we had an issue with the brakes. Ricky and Max were struggling with locking tires and inconsistency through the brake zone. Carbon brakes are very temperature sensitive; they have an operating window that you have to be in for them to work properly. The problem that we had was that different corners of the car were at different temperatures, some in the window, and some not. Every time you jumped on the brakes, you didn’t know what you were going to get.
All through practice and qualifying we had this issue. We changed the whole brake package two or three times, rebuilding the whole brake system. We were going into the race knowing that we had this problem, and each stop we were going to have to make a change to try and fix it.
Ricky had an awesome start, going from seventh to fourth in the first corner. About five laps into the race we saw that the temps were all splitting up again, so Ricky had to start conserving the brakes. We basically had to use about half of our normal amount of brake pressure through a brake zone.
About two hours into the race, a yellow came out and Ricky was coming in to hand the car over to me under caution. Coming through Turn 17 and into the pits, Ricky got hit really hard in the side-pod. It actually got into our crash-box (attenuator), and broke the sidepod, floor, and diffuser. Ricky said it was the biggest hit he’s had in a DP, and actually came limping out of the car.
So now we had a damaged car with braking issues. It was going to be a long day. I did a double-stint and when I handed the car over to Max, the guys made one last change to the brake system, and miraculously fixed the problem. Unfortunately we lost a lap, but we still had seven hours of racing.
We slowly clawed positions back throughout the race, and with about two hours to go we were on the same lap as second and third place. On our second to last stop when we put Ricky in for the final two stints, we jumped the 01 and 90 during the pit stop. From there, Ricky was able to stretch a decent gap on them and secure second place.
I think we all left the track pretty happy with that result, considering how it all started. Our guys never gave up and we kept fighting all the way to the finish.
We’re off for a few weeks now until Long Beach. Nothing exciting planned, just settling in for some one on one time with my fluffy little friend, Fonzie.