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VEACH: Florida Heat & Bumps

Racers Edge Motorsports’ Zach Veach files his latest Sportscar365 column following Sebring…

Photo: Racers Edge Motorsports

Rounds 3 and 4 of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS championship saw us heading to sunny Florida for the one and only historic Sebring International Raceway.

Sebring has always been a special trip for me, it was where I captured my first open wheel victory back in 2010 and the history of both aviation and motorsports over the last 80 years will awe any race fan and historian.

Plus, how many race tracks in America have an active airport with its own café right beside the track? Pretty sure we ate lunch there four out of the five days we were in town. Can’t recommend it enough.

Our weekend started on Wednesday with a track walk and prep. After so little track time at Sonoma, I was relieved to find out that Sebring started with a test day before our official practice on Friday.

With two 75-minute sessions at our disposal, we knew we wanted to get up to speed as quickly as possible. We also added some driver aids to help us both get more comfortable in the car.

There’s about a foot difference in height between Luca and I, so we switched to a slightly bigger seat for him, and a different seat insert and sliding pedal system for me which allows us to move the pedals closer or further away depending on which driver is in the car. It’s a big help for the fine-tuning fit between two drivers.

Photo: Racers Edge Motorsports

All of those changes are a hefty amount of work, and the Racers Edge Motorsports crew was all hands-on deck to make it happen. I had no doubt we’d be ready to roll when the track sessions went green, and we were.

We made a lot of progress on No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 Thursday, particularly in the balance over the notorious bumps around the 3.7 mile track. We still had about half a second to find that wasn’t coming so easily, especially when trying to push on new tires.

We strategized with data and information overnight and came up with a plan. By the end of the second session on Friday, I found myself P3 overall and fairly happy with the car.

There’s always room for improvement but felt we just needed to execute in qualifying Saturday morning.

Qualifying started off strong; Luca put the Acura machine P3 overall for Saturday’s race, lining up P2 in our class. In my qualifying session, I was happy to see the pace we had during my first timed lap, seven-tenths up on my previous fastest lap at turn 15.

Suddenly, I had a weird and unexpected moment out of the rear entering turn 16.  After that, the NSX just felt off pace. Turns out the weird and unexpected moment was a combination of the tire slightly debeading from the wheel under the load and my left rear tire lost significant air pressure.

Tire pressure a huge key to speed, and the rest of my run was significantly slower. A puzzling development, to be sure, but our engineer found the answer in the data. We ended up with a P9 starting spot for Sunday.

Luca started race one for us and settled into P3 in class after the green flag. As he got deeper into the stint and tire deg started to play a factor, Luca stayed glued to our competition in P2 and just kept pushing.

Photo: Fabian Lagunas/SRO

As he pitted the Acura NSX, we were still in P3 in class, and our crew executed perfectly on the pit stop. I rejoined in P4, and immediately started pushing to close the gap and capitalize on fresher tires. Our biggest issue was primarily getting the car to handle the bumps a bit better, but that’s why Sebring isn’t easy.

In the 90+ degree Florida heat, my stint in behind the wheel was grueling. Florida is never cool, and the NSX engine generates a lot of heat in the cockpit. The whole team fought as hard as we could with what we had; we took the checker P4 in class.

Starting ninth on the grid Sunday in the Acura NSX GT3 Evo22, I knew we had our work cut out for us. I passed a competitor at the green flag lap into Turn 5 and settled back into P4 in class. The team made some setup changes over night to strengthen our pace which translated to some improvement on track.

My stint was fairly uneventful, other than pushing through that heat over those bumps! Luca jumped into the Acura at the halfway mark, after a solid pit stop, and he started chasing the other silvers and Am drivers. He did a great job to get us a couple overall spots, but we still came home P4 in class at the checkered.

All in all, it wasn’t the weekend we had hoped for on the timing charts, but we made more progress with a new-to-us-team-and-driver-combo.

I can’t thank Racers Edge Motorsports enough for all their hard work and my friends at 3I Enterprises and Social Spark for being on this journey with me.

Luckily, it’s a short wait for rounds 5 and 6 at Circuit of The Americas. We know we’ll have to hit the ground running on such a technical track, but those Stars and Stripes are waiting for us, and we’re up for the challenge!

Zach Veach is a former open-wheel ace turned sports car racing driver, competing in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS in the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 alongside Luca Mars.

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