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LALLY: Monterey Debrief

Andy Lally writes his first Sportscar365 column following victory in Monterey…

Photo: Regis Lefebure/Magnus Racing

Photo: Regis Lefebure/Magnus Racing

I’d like to start by saying it is great to be a contributor to this site. The guys at Sportscar365 eat, sleep, and dream sports car racing around the world. This site has the potential to be a key source of news delivery for fans around the globe, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Sunday’s race was a wild day.

We won Laguna Seca!

The best part is that every single member of Magnus Racing had a part in this win. If every member of our team wasn’t flawless, we would never have had a chance at victory. This is a true team sport, and of the hundreds of sports car races I have done over the last 20 years, this was probably the most perfect of them all.

If you collected every bit of data that you could collect for this track to try and predict who would win this race, you would not have put your money on Porsche. None of the Porsches were fast in practice, and the Ferrari has shown very good speed here the last two years.

We knew the Ferrari would be strong and hard to get to if they were out front, and that proved to be true as they took the lead at the 30-minute mark and held on until their second pit stop.

Track position is key at Laguna. At some tracks, a late-race stop for tires in an attempt to come back through the field can work. However, not at Laguna Seca, so getting yourself to the front is important.

This is where our teamwork came in to play.

John Potter has been getting faster and faster, but better yet he has been getting smarter about his races. He’s very detail oriented and his race savvy showed well on Sunday.

John had a good start and a great stint, picked off a couple of guys in the race to move up, never dropped a wheel, and made a great pit entry to complete one of his best stints of the year… all under the pressure of trying to win a championship.

Our first stop and driver change was another awesome job by our guys. We picked up four spots in the pits and came out in second place.

This is where the real strategy started.

Surprisingly, we were able to hold onto the leading Ferrari and even challenge for the lead, but shortly into our run our team engineer Lars Giersing told me to start conserving fuel.

We had a chance to make this on just one pit stop, and that if others were not doing the same they would surely need two. We were borderline, but in order to win we thought we were going to need to do something that no other team did.

The timing was good because we were second at the time, and had a good view of what was going on. We were able to hold second for the entire first stint, even when saving fuel. We had a good balance on the car, and although we were not the fastest on the track, we were very good on the long run.

Since we went another four laps on our tires, the guys that pitted earlier had the advantage of faster lap times on new tires to close their gap. New tires were worth over a second a lap, and when combining that with us slowing to save gas, we dropped to fifth… but with the leaders needing to pit again. This put us back into a nice lead with about 30 minutes to go.

Then the yellow came out.

I was cruising, doing all the things that a driver needs to do to save fuel.

Even if we were eight tenths slower a lap they would not have had time to catch us if it stayed green… but it didn’t. Now the pressure was on to get a good restart. The yellow flag put us comfortably in the window to make it home on fuel, but I now had to deal with a bunch of drivers breathing down my neck hunting for a win.

I was able to get a good restart and thankfully second and third place were fighting pretty hard, which let me gain a comfortable gap. I could focus on my line and not worry about defending a dive-bomb here or there.

Then another yellow.

This time with 10 minutes left in the race. This all but killed me inside as I flashed back to this very same track just four months earlier.

In May, we had an ALMS win in the bag until a late race caution set up a one-lap dash to the checker in what was probably the silliest restart I had ever seen. I got shoved off the track in turn four by a prototype only a mile from the checker. That had been eating at my guts for months.

As a driver, the only thing you live for is to have the pressure of winning a race on your shoulders and delivering. When it is in your grasp and the win gets pulled away from you it is crushing.

Yet here I was four months later in the exact same situation with a chance to redeem myself or come away mentally slammed. I needed a good clean restart and I made one, the competition was close but we were able to open up just enough of a gap that I could look out the front windshield, instead of in my mirrors, and we were able to take the win.

With it came the championship lead going into the final race of the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season.

Like I said at the top, this took the entire team to pull off.

Our crew at Magnus is awesome and every single one of them is equally responsible for this win.

On to Lime Rock we go! A fourth place finish locks up the championship for us. That weekend can’t get here soon enough!

Andy Lally (@AndyLally) is a three-time GRAND-AM champion and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year, currently driving for Magnus Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.


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