Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, Nick Longhi reflects on his IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship-winning 2013 season and what makes a team succesful.
What memories stand out from your 2013 championship?
“What stands out the most is the team. The group of people, the team that was put together, we had the incredible privilege of being able to work together.
“Guys like Matt Plumb and Joe Varde, Matt truly was the brains of the operation. He really ran that team with Joe in a way that I don’t think people understand.
“It was a dream team of close friends, who were so strong and supportive together that I can’t imagine a better situation to be in.”
How did you assemble so many close friends on the same team?
“Those opportunities don’t come together that often, however it’s what we’re trying to do all the time.
“Hopefully with a little bit of experience in the business of racing, the whole business of it, you understand that all of pieces of the puzzle have to be there.
“You’re pretty much spending all of our time trying to fit those pieces together and they came together basically with [Luis] Bacardi who saw and understood that to be succesful this is what you have to do.
“That’s a pretty rare quality but a quality that real winners have at any level of racing.”
Was there a pivotal moment that year that led to winning the championship?
“The year before, won 50 percent of the races, so knowing the year before that we were so succesful, in 2013 we just tried to keep it together.
“If there was a point that was pivotal to winning the championship, I’d say it was the preparation before the season even started with the key being arriving at the race track ready to win.
“In other words, you don’t show up to the race weekend looking for a setup.”
Who were your closest rivals for the championship that year?
“In 2013 it was the Stevenson team with their Camaro. It was always Stevenson and Roush. I remember those guys being close in points along with a couple of others.
“At that time the series was so strong. It was fantastic. It was a point in time that you would pit out of the lead and come out in 25th, not in fourth.
“You had 10 teams that could win a race any weekend. That’s what was so satisfying.”
What is the legacy of Continental Tire’s time in sports car racing to you?
“The tire itself was perfectly engineered for that category in terms of grip and longevity. The balance of the product itself was so good and so conducive to that level of racing.
“They were always great with that. I don’t ever remember having a problem with a tire in all of the years I raced with them. It was fantastic.
“The second part, from the support and marketing standpoints, they were the most receptive, best run partner of the series that I can remember.
“It had to do with their presence at the race track, the way that they managed and helped all of the podium ceremonies, the prizes, the contingencies.
“It was just a really, really well run project. It’s something that, I’ve been to a lot of racing from club racing to Formula 1 and I’ve seen how that works, and I’d say the people from the marketing to the communications to the engineering really understood the strength that racing has in those partnerships.
“If used correctly, you get a huge impact, and that really helped us. We have fans literally all over the world, and I think Continental was a big part in making that happen.