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UDELL: Lime Rock Debrief

Alec Udell files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Porsche Cars North America

Back-to-back race weekends are always draining. On Sunday night I flew out from Toronto to Los Angeles for a day with Jeff Zwart and his 1971 Factory Porsche 911 Rally car – the very car that ran the East Africa Safari!

That was a treat but made for a tight turn-around: Toronto to LA to Connecticut for the Lime Rock rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX Championship.

If that wasn’t tight enough, due to noise restrictions at Lime Rock that prevent Thursday running, our test day was on Tuesday! I flew overnight from LAX to Newark Airport, landed at 5 a.m., rented a car and drove 2 hours up to Lime Rock Park for our test day.

The Tuesday test day went well for me and Preston [Calvert]. We took time getting used to the race track and trying to optimize the setup as much as possible.

Since Lime Rock is all right hand turns, save two – although the chicane uphill left doesn’t really count – the setup here is a little different than the at other tracks we run.

You have to think about maximizing the car in the right hand corners and staggering the setup to accommodate that. The problem with a Tuesday test day is since we wouldn’t be on track again till Friday, the conditions could change drastically.

So, while keeping in mind what we did Tuesday, we had to be prepared to make additional changes once race day came.

For our two-day hiatus I went back to New York City and spent some time there. I caught a show (Hamilton) and had some great food. Thursday midday we headed back down to Lime Rock, rested and readied for race day on Friday.

Friday we had practice, qualifying and Race 1. Early in the week the weather report suggested it would be raining all of Friday, so I was excited to drive in it, considering our previous rain race had been cancelled.

However, Friday morning for practice the rain held out! The track was damp in a few places still from the previous night’s showers, but we were able to run slicks and get close to practice times from Tuesday.

Initially I posted the third quickest time; happy with the car I jumped out in order to give Preston time before qualifying. At the close of the session we had fallen back to eighth overall, with a light drizzle coming back just in time for qualifying.

The in between conditions are tough, you’ve got to decide between rain tires and slicks. If it’s too dry, rain tires will get burnt up and turn greasy.

On the other hand, if it’s too wet for slicks you won’t get enough temperature in the tire for it to work properly.

Friday’s race went pretty uneventful for the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche, Preston put in a great drive bringing us in eighth in Pro-Am class where I held us till the finish.

For Saturday, we qualified fourth in Pro-Am based off Friday’s fastest race lap time. I had a great start, but some others were not so fortunate.

As the group checked up in front of me for the No. 58 Porsche coming across the track, I made contact with the No. 93 Acura, taking away a bit of our front aero for the race. I then narrowly missed the No. 58 as it ended up outside of Turn 1 due to contact sustained right after the green flag dropped.

After checking up to avoid contact a second time I lost three spots that I had gained from a great launch, still fourth in Pro-Am. After clearing the incident, the rest of my race went pretty smoothly.

Due to the upset balance from my contact, I had to work on driving the car differently.

With decreased front aero grip on a very aero-dependent track, I had to focus on getting quickly into the corner, rotating the car while still on the brake, then immediately back to power to maximize drive off the corner.

In spite of the damage and running third in line of a group of cars, we still ran competitive lap times and I was able to run in fourth-place until passing the car off to Preston.

Preston once again put a very consistent stint to bring us to another top ten finish, seventh.

The back-to-back weekends are tough, it takes a lot of dedication for the crew to spend two weeks away from home, waking up early and going to bed late. I’m very grateful to the guys at GMG for sticking through the tough weather and conditions we had the past two weeks.

Preston and I had a very successful weekend of racing and are looking forward to the next PWC SprintX rounds.

Thanks again to Preston Calvert, Stefan Pfieffer, Nev Agass, James Sofronas, and the GMG crew for the huge dedication over the past two weeks.

Up next is the PWC Sprint series at Road America at the end of June where I will return to the Blue and Orange Euroworld Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. See you then!

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