Marc Miller joined Gradient Racing for the first time this year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and promptly scored a Pro-Am class win in his first race of the season with the operation.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Miller fills us in on watching the opening rounds from afar, the development of his co-driver Till Bechtolsheimer, the start to his Trans-Am campaign, and more.
What was the significance of earning a class win in your first race of the season with Gradient Racing at CTMP?
“For me the win at CTMP was huge. I had been out of a GT3 car for nearly an entire year, and there was no real test day. But I believe in myself and the entire Gradient Racing team.
“I also feel my teammate, Till, made it much easier for me. He truly has continually improved since I have started working with him in 2015 and while I had to be rock steady and mentally strong during my stint, without his performance we would not have been in a position to pull it off.”
Although you could not contest the first few races with the team, how much did their success mean to you watching from afar?
“It honestly made me genuinely happy yet jealous at the same time. Many of the people at Gradient Racing have been like family since 2011. I more than anything love to see them succeed with or without me.
“I was extremely happy that my good friend Ryan Eversley was in the seat as well. He and I go way back as well and I knew he would be a great fit with Till and the team.
“I watched most of the races and sessions live from other events and was cheering them on!”
You have been associated with the team in various forms for several years, how much of the crew remains the same? How important is that consistency?
“A very large portion of the team remains the same. Team Principal, Andris Laivins, has been at the helm from the beginning, building the first Mazda MX-5 cars we campaigned in Grand-Am, then IMSA competition and quickly became team manager and lead engineer.
“Our PR staff is the same and Declan Brennan and I have become great friends over the years. We have many people that had been with Speed Source and some directly out of an Atlanta technical college like Brendan and Zac.
“Rick Curtin, my car chief, has been there since nearly the beginning with the ST program as well. All of these people and more have gone through all the ups and downs and have been a core component of Gradient Racing.
“While it is a somewhat new name, the soul of the program is quite longstanding.”
How would you describe the level at which your co-driver Till Bechtolsheimer is driving this season?
Quite simply, he has been a standout superstar as an Am rated driver. Till punches far above his weight class yet still drives very little.
“I believe he has plenty of raw talent and if he gave up his professional business life and focused 100% on racing, he’d probably improve to be Pro-rated quickly! Sadly, he would then be broke and not having quite as much fun.”
How much fun are you having with your Trans-Am ride? How much fun are those cars to drive?
“Trans-Am has been a riot! The cars are more raw, less refined. They are light, have good grip, good power, good torque and do everything well but nothing great, which means you really have to drive them.
“No ABS, no traction control, and lots of top speed make them challenging. I am lucky to be with another great team in Trans am with Stevens-Miller Racing who believe in me and have created a great friendship with.
“We are currently leading the championship standings in that series. It makes it so that no matter what race series is on my schedule, having a family environment with each team and series is really important to me.”