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VAN DER ZANDE: A Weekend of Two Worlds

Renger van der Zande files his latest Sportscar365 column following ‘Super Sebring’…

Photo: MPS Agency

It was a special weekend for me in Sebring. In two days, I got to drive two long endurance races: First the 1000 Miles FIA World Endurance Championship race on Friday followed by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 12 Hours of Sebring the next day.

In many ways, it was a race weekend of two worlds.

Going into the weekend we knew it was going to be a tough few days. Our program in IMSA is run very smoothly by Wayne Taylor Racing; it’s a very good operation.

From the engineering to the teammates, all year long we’re working towards winning races with the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi.

It’s plug-and-play for me. In just a couple of laps I know what needs to be done and they know what they can expect from me, and the work on the set-up begins.

I tremendously enjoy racing in IMSA. It’s an awesome championship where I feel completely at home. It’s the kind of championship where as a racer you can really live out your passion; the American style of racing is so much fun to be a part of.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

The difference from IMSA to the WEC is in how the races are run in terms of strategy and the fewer rules in IMSA, which make the races more open.

If you make a mistake in IMSA, there’s a good chance to recover, making it more exciting at the end of the race.

The WEC is a stricter series. It’s not as relaxed as how the Americans like to run their championships.

This is especially noticeable in the many little rules and all the details that inhabit it. Those rules and details make the WEC a bit stiffer.

Doing double-duty in two championships with the demanding BR Engineering BR1 in the WEC and the Cadillac DPi in IMSA was a great challenge.

Over the last three months I put in a lot of training to be physically well-prepared for Sebring and I’m proud to be very fit and able to compete in both races.

Photo: MPS Agency

People kept asking how I was able to hop from one car to the other over the weekend.

Here’s how it went. Getting into the cockpit of either the LMP1 or DPi was my reference point. Seeing the cockpit was how I remembered the braking and shifting points, where to accelerate, how to drive the car.

They are two different cars and this is how I immediately knew how to drive it.

Qualifying for the WEC was run on Thursday. In my fastest lap I was blocked by Sarrazin, which I didn’t really understand as he was in an out-lap. That said, he agreed afterwards that it wasn’t very nice and not intentional.

Jordan Taylor did the qualification in IMSA the next day where he put the car on 6th place on the grid. However, qualifying isn’t that important either ñ it was more of a set-up check for us.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Our race in the WEC ended prematurely. The car refused to shift properly due to a wiring problem to the gearbox, a problem had to deal with since the start.

The car itself felt very strong until it would hit a bump or refused to shift.

And here at Sebring, there are a lot of bumps! I think we actually have a very good car, so we feel confident for the races at Spa and Le Mans which are much smoother tracks.

What else I was impressed by, was my teammate Henrik Hedman’s performance in the DragonSpeed BR1.

The BR1 is one of the toughest cars I’ve ever raced, especially at Sebring with all the bumps. Not only does he keep the car on track, he is also very fast around here and that’s a really cool sight to behold!

It was unfortunate that our race ended before the checkered flag. We had a nice run where we were second, then third of the non-hybrids. We were going pretty well!

The only upside to the retirement was that I could go to bed early for the IMSA race on Saturday morning.

Photo: Wayne Taylor Racing

In IMSA, we ran another strong race after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, finishing in second place only 1 second behind the winners.

Although the No. 31 was just a tad bit stronger, we were able to fight for the win.

It was amazing to enter both races, I cannot thank DragonSpeed and Wayne Taylor Racing enough for allowing me the opportunity to do this. I’m very grateful to both Wayne Taylor and Elton Julian.

With DragonSpeed we go to Le Mans one more time and in the IMSA championship we have eight races left this year with Wayne Taylor. Getting to combine championships of this level is just fantastic!

Renger van der Zande (@Rengervdz) is a Dutch sports car racing star, driving for Wayne Taylor Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and DragonSpeed in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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