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VAN DER ZANDE: Monterey Debrief

Renger van der Zande files his first Sportscar365 column…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Laguna Seca was a very sweet weekend. My first outing in the U.S. was there in 2013. I love that racetrack and to win at such a historic circuit in the Martini liveried car which just screams motorsport heritage, was really special for both me, Mirco and the team.

Racing in the U.S. has been “awesome” as you guys would say!

The atmosphere suits me with that mix of relaxed and professional at the same time. The racing on track is at a high level and we are racing with some great and fast drivers.

Over the winter I was very pleased to be signed by Peter Baron for the whole season. In Mirco Schultis, I have a great teammate and friend. Together we want to try and create more great moments throughout the season.

And here, I will to give you a little insight into how we got to victory lane in Monterey.

Since Daytona, The Starworks team had found a good setup on the car and we didn’t really need to play around with it too much. Our base setup is good and with little tweaks, we are able make it fast and suit the characteristics of each track.

We are especially happy with our race pace which has been phenomenal, with fastest laps at both Daytona and Sebring.

We have had a lot of technical issues this year with the car and all of them have just been “bad luck” issues. But with the speed we’ve had, it was simply a matter of time that we would have a trouble-free weekend and that’s exactly what happened in Laguna.

We used the practice sessions with 50+ cars on track to get everything up to speed with the drivers, the crew and to get a feel of how the car was behaving – you know pretty quickly if it’s going to be your friend for the weekend!

Qualifying was the first proper run and I was really happy that my lap came together and was fastest to qualify 2nd. I’m not bragging but you know when you’ve done a good lap so Bruno Junqueira must have had a mega lap on pole!

Mirco started the car and was doing a great job but then annoyingly he got hit from behind and spun into the gravel at the Corkscrew. That was a tricky moment and we were lucky that amazingly, the car had just a little damage.

I jumped in under the yellow and as the race got back to green on my out lap I had some tricky moments on cold tires. I managed to overtake two cars on the restart which was crucial.

From P4, I managed to overtake another car on track and then, during the pitstop, the team made a smart move by only changing the right side tires. This saved us 10 seconds and after a solid stint cutting my way through traffic and the Starworks car being fastest on track, it got me in the lead.

For sure the last laps were not the easiest on the older tires but it was an enjoyable ride to the finish and when you’re winning you don’t care how the car feels at the end, so long as it gets you there first!

It’s fair to say we had a good celebration on Sunday night in San Francisco but on Tuesday I was back in Holland and straight into the office to run Gullwing Racing Insurance. I have had worse starts of a week!

Renger van der Zande (@Rengervdz) is a Dutch sports car racing star, driving for Wayne Taylor Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and DragonSpeed in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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