The WEC season just restarted after a 2.5 month break in Sao Paulo, Brazil this past weekend. I traveled to Brazil with great enthusiasm and excitement knowing we had a good test in Vallelunga in our new Ferrari 458 at the end of July after the unfortunate incident we where faced with in Le Mans.
We had a very good and fast race car in Sao Paulo last year, so we had taken that into consideration on our setup going there this year.
Of course there been some changes in the regulations from last year’s cars, such a bigger front tires, a new higher downforce package , some positive engine modifications, etc., but this should just make it better rather than worse from 2012.
The first practice session was a very good start to the weekend for us with good, solid lap times. We tried different tire compounds to see what would give us the best longevity and balance of the car.
We struggled a little to make the car as stable as we liked on shorter runs , but we thought it’s more important to have a good balanced car for the race than for just a few qualifying laps, so we decided to not worry to much about qualifying and worked on a good balance for the race.
As always you never have enough time in practice to do everything you like, especially having three drivers that have to get a chance to drive the car. Therefore you have to try to compromise the time in the car versus ultimate setup. Our focus is always to try to get a very secure car to drive rather than get the last five-tenths of a second out of the car.
With so many different classes and speed difference between the classes you can’t have a car that’s hard to drive if you need to give room and or get squeezed out of the line. You have to be able to manage those situations in endurance racing and this is easier with a more compliant and easy car to drive.
Another factor in this is the three drivers all have a different driving style and preference of set-up, so it’s important to find a middle-of-the-road type of set up that every one can drive comfortably.
After qualifying, we found a ticking noise in our engine that made the engine builder very uncomfortable and worried for the race, so the decision was made late Saturday afternoon to change it for the race. We could not take a chance on the engine not making it the race distance.
The engine change was made and we were ready to go racing. Sunday morning came around and we were on the grid waiting in the sun for the race start. The cars got going on the parade lap and we took the green flag. As soon as we came around the first time we got the black flag.
Although we started at the back of the grid, we also received a three minute stop-and-hold penalty for the engine change as soon as we took the green flag in the race. This was unexpected and obviously devastating as we understood that the chances to a podium/victory was impossible after losing almost three laps serving this penalty.
The rest of the race was to make sure we would finish and bring the car home in one piece. With some other cars having issues through out the duration of the race, we were able to gain three positions back and finish in fifth place, but that was a big disappointment to us. It looked like we had the pace for a top-3 finish this time.
The next round of the WEC is at our home turf in Austin, Texas in the middle of this month. We are very excited and can’t wait to get that race under its way. We have big hopes and believes for a very good result this time around.
Please stay safe and take care of each other. Hope to see you in Austin!