Andy Lally says it’s been the attention to detail that’s helped deliver a recent turnaround in fortunes for Michael Shank Racing and Acura in its first season of GT Daytona competition.
Lally and co-driver Katherine Legge head into this afternoon’s Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park seeking their third consecutive class win, after a dominant start to the “summer swing” of races that has suited their Acura NSX GT3 after a challenging start to its campaign.
Tough breaks at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring were followed up by a seventh place class finish at Long Beach, and and a 15th at Circuit of The Americas, after an ill-timed pit stop dropped them out of contention.
One race later, however, the duo were in victory lane, giving the Acura its maiden win in global competition at Detroit, backed up by a commanding class victory in last weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Lally credits the tenacity of the Ohio-based team, along with engineering gains from HPD, for being able to make the step forward in a relatively short period of time.
“I’d say attention to detail [was key to this turnaround],” Lally told Sportscar365. “We’ve got a really thorough crew and we learned a lot from the races that we didn’t do well at.
“We learned from our mistakes and we learned from things that we tried that didn’t work.
“The engineers paid attention to those trends and we found a little something in testing, and then we evolved that right in the middle of the weekend at Detroit.
“We found some of the front grip that we needed and a sweet spot with the car that seemed to work in most places.”
While the results on the track may have looked like flipping a switch, Lally said the progress have been gradual over the course of the season, with some of the early season results unrepresentative of the car’s full potential.
He also feels the recent tracks such as Watkins Glen, as well as CTMP have better suited the American-built mid-engined sports car.
“We were making a couple of hundredths every day to the point that we’ve closed the delta down, which was monstrous at Daytona and Sebring, now to the point that we can fight with these guys,” Lally said.
“This ‘summer swing’ is actually tracks that will help us and after the summer I think we’re going to get to places where we’re going to struggle a little bit more, and we’re going to see some of the marques that were really fast at the beginning of the year be on top of the timing sheets at the end of the year.
“Some people are going to point fingers at BoP on that, but sometimes people that have done this long enough can look at those tracks and say ‘that makes sense’. I think we’re going to see that.”
With their win at The Glen, Lally and Legge have moved into third place in the GTD title race, and have suddenly become championship contenders, albeit it still 26 points adrift from leaders Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, who have yet to win a race this year.
Lally admitted that he didn’t even look at the points standings until after their breakthrough win at Detroit, but has not changed their outlook for the remainder of the year.
“We had such a bad Daytona and such a bad Sebring, and a mediocre Long Beach, I didn’t care,” he said. “I knew we were a million points out and I never even looked.
“Then we won Detroit, and we jumped from 11th to [sixth], and then we win Watkins Glen and now we’re in third.
“All of a sudden… I have to think about a championship!
“In reality, first and second are so far out, that they have to make a mistake for us to do anything.
“I was having a lot of fun only going to try and get this car its first podium.
“Now that we’ve got a win, I honestly would like to keep that same exact mentality, of a ‘checkers or wreckers’ thing and see how everything plays out.
“To be honest, because it’s that far out, the pressure’s not on me yet. We’re still going to go for wins, and that’s it.”
While looking to become the first driver pairing to claim three consecutive wins in GTD competition in the post-merger era, Lally said he feels hon0red just to be part of the Michael Shank Acura program, having already made history along the way.
“It’s been extremely gratifying to go through a program that is so important to a manufacturer like this, and so pivotal in its timing to potentially finding customers for 2018, to do the work and get that project going to the point where it’s fighting for victories and getting victories,” he said.
“That’s been amazing, to be honest. I’ve been in programs like this before where we start with something brand new and it’s not to your liking and they make it to your liking.
“Those sort of things are some of the most gratifying projects you can work on in motorsport.”