Driver Spotlight: Liam Dwyer
Driver, No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 (CTSC)
You’re returning to Lime Rock, the site of your first IMSA win. What stands out most to you about that day?
“Obviously winning was the high point. Coming out of Mazda Raceway three weeks prior, I just totaled the car and was really doubting myself and I knew people were doubting me. Then qualifying got rained out so I couldn’t show people I could go out and put down a lap so it was do or die in the race. I started last and picked off 10 or 12 positions in the race and was running decent lap times before I turned it over to Tom Long. I wish I could have been in the car longer but I understand why we did the driver change, because of strategy and it worked out for the win.
“The last 15 minutes of the race I stopped watching the monitor. We didn’t know if we were going to make it on fuel so I didn’t start celebrating until Tom actually took the checkered flag. I wasn’t just happy for myself, I was happy for the whole team and Mazda and Freedom Autosport and the guys that put these cars together.”
As the current ST points leader, what do you need to do to solidify a championship?
“The only track that we’re going to that I’ve never been to before is Road America. I’ve been to COTA and made some laps but I’ve never driven it. What we need to keep doing as a team, and what I need to keep doing, is the same thing we’ve doing all season long. We don’t need to change anything. It’s not broken, what we’re doing is successful.
“You try to improve upon it but you don’t try something different in order to win a championship, you can’t put that pressure on yourself. We really don’t talk about it amongst ourselves here. It’s just, get the car together, get Liam comfortable in the car, Andrew (Carbonell, co-driver) is happy with the setup, get Liam the track time so he can hopefully be top-15 before handing the car over to Andrew.”
Why is the Mazda MX-5 the car to beat this year?
“I think you’re still looking at this super early in the season. At Daytona we finished ninth and the rest of the Mazda’s were 13th, 14th, it’s not a strong track for us. We got a top-10 due to attrition. Sebring is a good Mazda track and Mazda Raceway, if anything other than a Mazda wins there, something is wrong.
“Watkins Glen is a very flowing track that seems to suit us on long runs, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park seems to be a good track. Lime Rock is obviously a good Mazda track. We’re not the fastest in a straight line. We’re good in the corners and we’re fairly good in the brakes. We also have really, really good drivers. Look at my lap times. I’m two seconds off Andrew and I’m still running middle of the pack. It’s good cars with great drivers.”
Take us for a lap around Lime Rock.
“The best passing opportunity is Turn 1. Out-brake someone in Turn 1, it’s a long corner and you can stick someone on the outside there. You have to make sure you can clear the person exiting and you have position. The fast way around the track is to late-apex the left-hander so you can get the run. A lot of people have a tendency to turn in early there to protect the inside and if you do that, you get murdered the back-half of the track there.
“Uphill is a tricky corner. Turn early, let the car scrub speed then once you get up the hill you can put in a little more steering. The key corner there at Lime Rock is the downhill, it leads onto the front straight and your best passing opportunity. The Mazdas do so well through the downhill there, the way the suspension is on the car. You can really harness speed through there. The Caymans can’t quite make up the power there that we can.”
What are you doing now that you’ve retired from the military?
“I moved to Florida two weeks after I retired so I’ve been trying to get myself settled there. Unfortunately it was right at the beginning of our busy season. Between race weekends and a quick vacation, I’ve spent more time in hotels than I have in my own bed. With the move I don’t have my sim with me so I can’t practice. Fortunately, Andrew lives close by so I’ll be going down there to practice Road America and COTA. Right now, just focused on racing.”