“Thanks for your time… now I have to go to class.”
Such is the life of a young racing driver and in this instance, it’s 22-year-old Floridian Cameron Lawrence who headed back to the grind at University of Central Florida.
Class came a mere 48 hours after he scored the GT Daytona class victory in the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the TI Automotive/ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports team.
Lawrence emerged as the unknown addition to the team’s lineup for the month of January, alongside three of the four prior Viper factory aces in Kuno Wittmer, Marc Goossens and Dominik Farnbacher, the 2014 full-season pairing of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating, and additional veterans Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Al Carter.
His racing career, for that matter, is fairly unknown as well. It almost didn’t even happen.
He grew up racing ovals in quarter midgets from age 6 to his teenage years, but dovetailed his driving with a burgeoning baseball career throughout his schooling.
“Most of my friends and from high school about my age don’t really know that much about racing, and they didn’t realize how involved I’ve become now,” Lawrence told Sportscar365.
“I really didn’t start racing after high school. It was the circle-track stuff from age 6 to about 12 to 13.
“I have only been road racing for a few years, starting when I turned 18 and got my SCCA license my freshman year in college.
“I definitely knew about road racing, and the quarter midget stuff laid a good foundation. But where I am now was not really part of a plan when I started any of this.”
While Lawrence was offered a baseball scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast, he shifted from the proverbial stick-and-ball path to a greater racing focus. His road racing introduction dovetailed nicely with a subsequent introduction to the Dodge family.
Once introduced, Lawrence made it into the Trans-Am TA2 class, where he has won the last two class titles in a Dodge Challenger. A further meeting with TI Automotive last October helped develop the relationship.
“Really it kind of started all with Dodge with a somewhat factory-supported ride in TA2, and the big push was with TI Automotive,” Lawrence said. “I met them at Petit Le Mans, and they actually came on board for TA2 in the Daytona championship race.”
Lawrence won his second straight title at Daytona to cap off the Trans-Am season, and then shortly thereafter in November was invited down to test during Riley’s test at Daytona with the Viper.
It proved a nearly seamless transition from the lumbering Challenger to the more svelte Viper GT3-R.
“There’s so much more technology, and it’s easier to drive than a TA2 car, which is quite raw and has less aids for the driver,” he said.
“The Viper has a lot of speed and it was easy to adjust. The team was really impressive. Having won the championship with Bill (Riley) at the top and three of the four ex-factory guys, it was almost seamless.”
He was confirmed in the lineup during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, alongside teammates Farnbacher, Wittmer, Carter and Keating.
The Silver-rated Lawrence will be part of the No. 93 car’s lineup for the three remaining Patron Endurance Cup events, with Carter and a third driver to be determined.
Still, Daytona marked Lawrence’s first ever 24-hour race as well as his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series debut, so he had a big task ahead of him.
Lawrence did three stints, roughly seven hours, of driving in his debut. He did runs in the late afternoon, overnight and mid-morning and took to the car and the team like a duck to water. He also said his teammates gladly took him under his wing.
He watched the finish from the pit wall as Farnbacher brought the No. 93 car home to the checkered flag.
“It started to hit me after I did that last stint when I hopped out with four hours to go,” Lawrence said. “It was tough and emotional. I was done, and had given it my all. I wanted the win so badly.
“But the team really made it easy. It’s really crazy to do it the first time, with no major hiccups. We had a flat tire in one of my stints but that happens. It was almost so easy it didn’t seem real.
“Everyone kind of felt it after the race, and it was crazy to be a part of. The hardest part for me was right after the race. Staying in that moment.
“Hopefully I’ll get to do it again, but I don’t think anything else will match up.”