Mid-Ohio has always been a good place for me.
I started my trip to Mid-O early Wednesday morning. After finishing up my internship in California the previous Friday, I hung around a few days to pack up and prepare for the upcoming race week.
We stayed in this wonderful little bed-n-breakfast right in downtown Mansfield. The owner told us about how it dated to the 1800s and had housed inventors from the time, the most memorable being Thomas Edison.
Being the history/engineering geek that I am I thought it was a good sign that some of the brightest minds had stayed in the very house I was.
Thursday’s practices were promising. Out of the two sessions I put the Euroworld Porsche fifth in the morning and first in the afternoon’s semi-wet conditions.
I have a bit of history at Mid-O in the rain. I earned my first PWC pole there in the wet at age 15 running a GTS Camaro. There are some tracks that gel with a driver. Mid-Ohio is one of those for me.
Friday’s warmup was another promising session. I finished fourth in the practice session so I had my confidence high going into qualifying. Conditions drastically changed during our qualifying session though. I struggled to get tire temps and pressures to optimal and had an unfortunate landscaping endeavor at Turn 2.
I had to pit in order to clean the grill, when I got back on track there were only eight-minutes left in the session.
I went quicker every lap and the car kept getting better. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and I had fallen back to 11th, not exactly where our Euroworld Porsche should be.
My whole family is from Pennsylvania, every year my parents have lots of friends and family joins us because of the proximity. The group seems to double in size each year!
It’s always exciting to have a big group of supporters – if you were in Turn 4 I’m sure you heard them yelling – but it can also be a bit stressful. You always want to perform your best, especially so when you’ve got a big group rooting you on.
As a driver you’ve got to put all of this pressure out of your mind when you put your helmet on. All that matters is you and the car.
The guys at GMG made a few setup changes for Saturday’s race. I was able to get a couple positions on the start, then fell in line.
With all the aero on the GT3 cars, running in clean air is extremely important, especially for fast laps, but I ran in dirty air the whole race.
Ultimately, I was able to pull one more position on a restart to finish in eighth-place. Not quite what I had hoped for. However, the best part about these weekends is there’s another chance the next day.
As I said before, running in dirty air isn’t ideal. Because grid positions for Sunday’s race are based upon Saturday’s fastest race lap, getting a clean lap is important. I didn’t do that. I lined up tenth, just two- tenths off the top-five.
GT racing is close! The three cars around me were covered within a tenth of a second for Race Two.
At Mid-O we take the start on the back straight entering Turn 4. If you play your hand right you can run the outside to the advantage going into the turn. I did exactly that.
On the opening lap I was able to pick up five positions to move into fifth-place. Going into Turn 1, Johnny O’Connell and Kyle Marcelli went side by side which slowed their exit speeds, giving me a run on Johnny going into Turn 2.
We unfortunately had a bit of contact right at the big bump in the middle of the turn, I gathered my Porsche up but it unsettled the front of Johnny’s car.
I really did not want to see that, I’ve got a lot of respect for Johnny, but racing incidents happen and it could have easily been the other way around. You take what you can get in the close racing here.
I chased down Kyle going into Turn 4 and noticed his car didn’t seem to be behaving. One of the strengths of the Porsche is that the car comes in very fast if you warm the Pirellis properly.
I took advantage of this to get the inside line going down the hill into Turn 6, taking the third-spot. For about 20 minutes I chased Pat Long in the other GT Porsche but didn’t have anything for him.
Around that time Kyle was able to pull back up to me and ran right on my bumper for the rest of the race. Knowing that clean air is an advantage, I just had to keep calm and run the last half of the race without mistakes.
With heavy pressure from behind I was able to bring my Euroworld Porsche GT3 R home for my first overall podium!
Along with the podium, our performance earned the Optima Batteries Best Start and the VP Fuels Hard Charger awards. Really got to give it to Nev and Stefan and the crew at GMG. They put their heads together after Saturday and we had a fantastic car for Sunday.
Like I said, Mid-Ohio has always been a good place for me. Want to give a big shout-out to all the friends and family that came out! You know who you are, I look forward to coming back next year!