Driver Profile: Andrew Carbonell
Driver, No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5
How tough is the competition in the ST class and what’s it going to take to win a championship?
“The ST class, and really the entire Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series, is extremely competitive. You have different manufacturers, Pro drivers, Pro-Am drivers, some Pro/Pro teams which makes for a very diverse field. Some tracks suit us like COTA with its turns and technical parts, and then there’s places like Road America where you have a big straightaway that’s not the strong suit of a Mazda.
“The Mazda MX-5 is really a handling car. Anywhere where you have to be heavy on the brakes and using the handling dynamics of the car, is where we can shine. That’s what’s interesting about this class, is there’s never really one standout during the season.”
Take us for a lap around Road America.
“Road America is cool because like Mosport, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, it’s one of those old school tracks that’s built into the countryside. Just really natural beauty. It’s hard to explain, but tracks just aren’t made like that anymore.
“A place like Road America is really fun with its high-speed, long straightaway and big corners. You’ve got the carousel which is probably the longest duration corner that we see all season which then leads into the kink, which is probably the highest speed, scariest corner we see all season where you don’t have much runoff. You’ve got just a little bit of grass before there is wall on the other side.
“That leads into the Canada Corner, which is a great passing zone and a very heavy brake zone. You come from such a high-speed part of the track to one of the slower parts of the track so it’s kind of cool to have to adjust your mind to going from high-speed to low-speed. That’s my favorite section – carousel, kink, Canada.
“Turn 1 is a big high-speed sweeper at the end of a long straightaway, it’s kind of tricky to get your eyes to only look at the track and not the additional pavement on the exit. It’s kind of deceiving on the exit. A good passing zone is into Turn 3 if you get a good run into Turn 1. And then another good passing zone is into Turn 5 which is at the end of a straightaway.
“There’s a bunch of passing zones but they’re all in the middle of heavy braking zones. It’s actually a good track, if you can stay in the draft and get the run, to race and pass. It makes for a lot of passing and position changes.”
How will the Mazda match up to Road America?
“It’s really dependent on track position. The higher you are, within the top-10 cars, you’re dealing with guys who can roll a little more speed through the corner and that’s where the Mazda MX-5 really shines, that mid-corner speed. Where you really get hurt is as you fall back in the pack you start dealing with guys who may not roll that same mid-corner speed, which then leads you onto the straightaway at a lower speed and we can never really make that back.”
What’s been done to optimize the car for Liam (Dwyer, co-driver) and you?
“It’s been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. We both have a similar feel for the car and we’re both comfortable with the same type of setup. Really the only difference is because Liam’s left leg is attached to the clutch, he can’t pump the brakes before brake zones.
“A lot of times in these production-based cars we have what we call “pad knockback” and at the exit of a corner when you run over the rumble strips, or hit some bumps, the rotor might shake or wobble and that pushes the pads back so when you come to your next brake zone, you have more travel in the brake pedal.
“So Liam initially didn’t have the confidence that the brakes were going to be there each time so now with the hand brake that we’ve made for him, he can pump the brake coming into the brake zone and know that the brakes are going to be there. He doesn’t brake with the handbrake, he just uses it to pump the brake going into the corner.”
What are some of your hobbies?
“I’m from Miami, Florida which is a beautiful place and can be distracting at times. I really spend a lot time trying to do as much private coaching as possible along with a few corporate events like ride and drives. I also like to dabble in some SCCA and Spec Miata racing. I try to stay as busy with racing as possible. I’m not home much but I enjoy what Miami has to offer, the beach, great weather, mountain biking and just enjoy the short time I have there with friends I grew up with.”