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VAN DER ZANDE: Road America Debrief

Renger van der Zande files his latest Sportscar365 column following victory…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

We had a great win at Road America last weekend but it was far from a smooth weekend to get to that top step.

After the Thursday test session the car was not the best and we had to make a lot on the setup changes to the car.

The next two sessions were slightly better so we had to compromise qualifying and use that as sort of another test session.

We could not make changes in the session per qualifying rules, but we went into the session with big changes from the last session that was a bit of a risk.

In PC we are searching for a car setup which is, I would say, sharp enough for myself to win a race with, but it still needs to be drivable for my teammate Mirco to be consistent and predictable to drive.

Many times you can make a fast car, but it is not a easy car to drive. Every practice session I will normally start driving and make the changes I want and then Mirco can double check if he can still keep that same car on track.

Sometimes we have to make concessions and compromise speed for an easier to drive car. The good thing about this year is that Mirco seems to be on top of his game more and more. He knows some of the tracks from last year and has done better at these tracks.

We raced last year at Road America, and he was immediately comfortable and it showed. In the race he was fighting with the other top Silver drivers in the field, which was really cool to see.

After good results at the beginning of this season and a win in Laguna, we have had two weekends of bad luck.

In Watkins Glen I drove all the way through the field to 3rd before a braking issue sent us into the wall. And at Indianapolis the engine belt went off after half an hour.

In Road America we seemed to be peaking on the right moment and it was a real team effort with that amazingly fast pitstop and the right strategies.

On my side I could force my way up to the front of the field and once we were leading I could control the race nicely. I tried to manage the gap to the car behind me and keep the car about 1 second behind.

With all the restarts, it was better not to use up the tires to get away from the competition only to have a lead evaporate with the next caution period.

Perhaps the gap got a little closer that I like on the end of the last lap, but I was still able to lead the most important lap, the last!

The weekend was not easy until Sunday somewhere halfway the race, but we peaked on the right moment after that. That is what I personally like a lot about U.S. racing, even from last position you can still win races on strategy, staying out of trouble and taking calculated risks in the moves on track.

Next up race is Virginia. Personally I don’t like the format where the two drivers have their own race of 45 minutes. It has nothing to do with endurance racing.

Anyway we will race hard to get maximum points. We are second in the standings at the moment, so we have work to do!

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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