It has been a while since I got the time to write one of these articles for Sportscar365, but a lot has changed in the past month with me and Tequila Patrón Extreme Speed Motorsports.
As a team we made a difficult decision to withdraw the No. 1 Honda HPD from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and enter into the FIA World Endurance Championship race at Circuit of The Americas.
Texas provided us with an opportunity for us to get our feet wet at an FIA WEC event, in preparation for hopefully going to Le Mans in 2015. It’s something ESM and Tequila Patrón have always wanted to do.
If this were FaceTime you would see a massive smile when I tell you how happy it made me knowing I was getting the opportunity to race in WEC again. I was asked a number of times over the weekend, “Don’t you miss not being the top class?” or “Doesn’t it frustrate you having the P1 cars pass you?”
Are you serious? To me having cars as awesome as the Audis, Porsches and Toyotas flying past me leaves me speechless. I think it’s mega!
Our first practice on Thursday was almost like the first day of school. All we wanted to do was get through the day without being called to the principal’s office. When that first practice was finished and we were P1, we took a deep breath, or maybe a sigh of relief, put our heads back down and focused on the next session.
By qualifying we felt like we had found our stride. We just missed it a little and ended up third. WEC qualifying is very different to TUDOR. Two drivers for each team participate and the average of the best two laps from each driver sets your position.
Race day was great. We had a huge turnout in the grandstands and as an added bonus I had my wife Jessica, my mother-in-law, brother-in-law and his girlfriend all there to cheer me on.
At the race start, I got a good run on the outside into Turn 1 and found myself in second. By mid-stint the Honda was really coming alive on the used Dunlop tires, and with two-thirds of my stint complete, I was leading the class and pulling away after a pretty nice move for the lead, if I do say so myself.
We had a little mishap in the driver change to Scott and came out the pits in third after the first round of pit stops. By the end of his stint it started to rain… and we are talking Scottish rain.
They say everything is bigger in Texas and I would agree on this occasion. We kept Scott in for another stint and pitted him at the perfect time for the Dunlop wets, he was in the lead. As we were in the pits the red flag came out.
The WEC rules state that cars on track have the advantage, so when the race restarted we found ourselves going from the lead, to a lap down and in fourth. Rules are rules, it was just bad luck.
It was unfortunate for us and a number of other cars. That just made us more determined to get back to the front. We’ve already done it twice in the race so far.
Scott had a great start to his stint following the rain, but he was on the full wet tire. Wet tires are designed to race in the wet and not dry, so we were losing valuable lap time and track position.
Since the wet/dry conditions were really tricky and Scott was just about out of fuel, we decided to put me for a double stint. We’d alter the drive order and Ed would finish the race, hopefully in the dry.
We had a problem though, the track was too dry for wet tires, perfect for intermediates and too wet for slicks, but with us out of fuel it was time to gamble, so slicks it was for RazzleDazzle.
I have to admit my first laps out were crazy scary but the team kept encouraging me to keep with it, so I did. And lap after lap it started to come to us. COTA was really dark so it was hard to see the surface of the track and tell the difference between wet, dry and shadows. By about eight laps into the stint everything clicked and I found myself completely in the zone and on a mission to charge to the front.
At one time I was a lap back from the leader. It was hard to really know what was going on because we lost our radio in the rain, but I do remember hearing when they told me I was six seconds a lap faster than the other P2s.
By the end of my stint we were in the lead and I handed off to Ed for the final stint. Unfortunately, my last four or five laps we started to encounter an electrical issue. An open cockpit car and rain don’t mix, so we think the rain might have started to affect the electronics. I was having downshift problems.
Ed took over the car in the lead. The electrical issue and downshifting became more difficult. By the last three laps Ed only had third gear, so he soldiered home for a very well-deserved third-place finish and podium in our debut FIA WEC race.
We opted out of Petit Le Mans to focus on the WEC race in China with two cars. China is a big opportunity for ESM and an even bigger market for Tequila Patrón.
We’re looking forward to taking our two-car team to China and really show them what Extreme Speed Motorsports can do.