Mike Hedlund believes the experience within RealTime Racing has been a major contributing factor to he and Dane Cameron’s recent streak of success in Blancpain GT World Challenge America competition.
Hedlund and Cameron head into this weekend’s round at Road America on the heels of three Pro-Am class victories in the last four races, since Hedlund’s impromptu arrival into the Peter Cunningham-led team in June.
The Bronze-rated driver was drafted in at the last minute at Sonoma Raceway to replace Bret Curtis, who had a back-related injury and was unable to drive the team’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo for the remainder of the season due to his height.
“It happened so fast, I think it was within 48 hours from when me and Peter talked to when I was at the track getting suited up and driving,” Hedlund told Sportscar365.
“From the moment we unloaded and I jumped in the car, I felt super comfortable.”
Hedlund and Cameron went on to win Race 1 at Sonoma, while claiming a runner-up class finish to the No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of James Sofronas and Dirk Werner in Race 2.
The breakout weekend for the pairing, however, came at Watkins Glen International, which saw the No. 43 Acura sweep the weekend in class and Hedlund lead the race overall for nearly 20 minutes ahead of the championship-leading R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniel Serra.
“It actually happened so fast,” Hedlund said. “I remember before I had my helmet on, I was waiting in the pit lane for him.
“I looked at the timing and scoring just to see where everyone was and I was like, ‘OK, we have a pretty good lead. This should be interesting. We’ll see if we get out in front. That would be a first time.’
“It wasn’t until going down the back straight, tightening my belts that I looked in the mirror and saw the red car. I was like, ‘Ok this is real, let’s go!’
“From that point on, it was just trying not to make any mistakes at all.
“I definitely didn’t want to throw it off but I really wanted to hold the Ferrari off because we do have a straight-line speed advantage and they’re a little bit quicker in the corners and on the brakes.
“Having raced against people like that, it’s really hard to overtake, even if they’re a second a lap faster.
“So I was like, ‘No mistakes Mike and make this a drag race.’ If I could have held on until the last five or 10 minutes, I probably would have started defending.
“It worked out well. It was really fun. Once they got around me, I was a bit disappointed but it was still a good race and our pace was solid for Pro-Am.”
Hedlund has praised Cameron’s ability behind the wheel but also the Wisconsin-based team’s level of professionalism that’s helped get them to this point.
“Clearly Dane’s really good and that’s a huge part of it,” he said.
“Almost no matter what you put him in, he’s going to go really fast. I think a lot of it, for our results, has been from the team’s experience.
“They know I want to do well and they know how to put the stuff around me to do my best. I’m not here for caviar or hospitality; I want to do well.
“They had the program set up and Bret was the same way. I was able to show up, and I didn’t really know them.
“I knew of the team and I knew Peter. When I first started [racing], Johannes van Overbeek has been my coach and he told me to hook up with Peter from Day 1.
“But I never had [interest] in driving front-wheel drive cars and I wasn’t fast enough to be in their GT program because it was always factory supported.
“When this opportunity popped up, I was like, ‘Hell yes, I’m in!’
2020 Return a “Question of Budget”
Hedlund said a return to RealTime for a championship-seeking effort in 2020 comes down to budget, which has played a major factor in the GT World Challenge paddock this year for a number of Bronze or Silver-rated drivers.
“I would love to but it’s just a question of budget,” he said. “It’s so expensive to run the GT3 cars.
“None of the teams are making boatloads of money. It just costs a lot to make the car run around.
“It’s hard to make that work, especially for me as I can’t just write a blank check to go race anywhere. I wish I could, but I can’t.
“Luckily I was able to sneak in here for the end and hopefully we can get some more good results and we’ll see what happens for next year.”