Jon Mirachi’s Racers Edge Motorsports operation is back in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS with new drivers Taylor Hagler, Jacob Abel, and Dakota Dickerson, all of whom are graduates of the HPD GT3 academy that Racers Edge helped run in 2020.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass Mirachi discusses the different approach to a weekend with three drivers that are new to GT3 racing, his love for facilitating driver development, the health of the series, and more.
How has it been integrating three drivers that are new to GT3 racing into the program this year?
“It’s definitely a change in the mindset on how you approach the season and how we approach each event, which is to say that our job is really more to complete the training and to assist these young drivers with all the additional tools and racecraft we can give them to help them further grow and become fully polished professional drivers.
“That’s what we’re really doing. In the scope of that hopefully we get some really good results and are in the hunt for some part of a championship or at least close to that by the end of the season. That is a change, certainly, in the mindset.”
How would you assess the season to date?
“Sonoma was a tremendous success. Finishing on the podium in both races with both of the young drivers doing perfect execution of the race, pit stops, everything, it was really just executed perfectly.
“We were really, really happy and thrilled with that. I guess in a way we were beyond expectations.
“You feel comfortable that you’ve prepared them and that the team is prepared so you have an expectation for a good, solid result, but I have to be honest that I think third in both was a little beyond what we expected in the first race. Needless to say we were really ecstatic about that.
“Then going to COTA, it was a really weird weekend. The Saturday race was going really well for us but then the rain came and we didn’t quite capitalize on the wet weather running as much as we might have hoped. But it’s a learning process.
“Again, you have drivers in their first rain race in a GT3 car learning the nuances of the traction control and the ABS. And it wasn’t just a rain race, it was a really severe rain race. The Saturday race I think is where some of the inexperience showed but we learned a lot from that.
“Going into the Sunday race we had a mechanical problem which was unfortunate. You hate to admit that those things happen every now and then but they do to everybody.
“We had a little gremlin there at the beginning of the race which we were able to repair but we subsequently lost 10 laps. Then one of the drivers ran wide in one of the corners trying really hard to set a fast lap time and damaged the suspension on one of those apex blocks that they put in in Turn 12.
“Again, a learning error. It’s part of the learning process, but it’s going really well and I’m certainly pleased. We have high expectations for VIR.”
Is aiding young drivers in their development something that you enjoy?
“Oh, for sure! To be honest that’s sort of the niche that we had carved out for the team a long time ago back in the early days of the company.
“Over the years there have been a lot of young drivers that we’ve worked with that we helped bring along: Chris Dyson and Jordan Taylor to name a couple and there have been a few others along the way.
“I do take a lot of pride in that, and beyond that I really enjoy it. It’s exciting in a different way and it’s very rewarding to see the development and the improvement that the drivers have.
“It’s really rewarding in a different way than just having two pros and winning races. Now there’s nothing wrong with that! I enjoy that too. But to be honest it’s been in our DNA since the beginning as a race team and I do take particular pride in that.”
Taylor, Dakota, and Jacob are all graduates of the HPD GT3 Academy you helped run last year. How nice has it been to continue that relationship in a racing environment?
“It’s terrific and it’s a concept we hope to continue on in the future for a couple of reasons. The Academy is terrific and it’s extremely comprehensive and intensive.
“To be able to take the students from that and then put them in a race environment and continue to finalize their development by working with actually race situations is the ultimate completion of the program.
“It’s fantastic and I’d like to be able to continue it so that this coming year’s crop will have the opportunity to do that next year.
“We also discussed this internally: the SRO is the perfect situation to put them in with the race format having two races a weekend and then being 90 minute races with pit stops, all of that fits really well with finishing the development of young drivers.
“It all fits nicely as a puzzle put together. It is important to me that we do this and I pushed really hard to have the students in the car. HPD was of course supportive of the idea but I did push quite hard to make it all work out.”
After a few lean seasons, the car count has been strong through the first two rounds of the year. What is your outlook on the present and future of GT World Challenge America?
“I was a strong advocate for maintaining the race format. I felt from the beginning that the format was genius going back to June of 2018 when they announced it at Portland.
“I really believe in the format and I believe that long term it will lead to success, so I’m not surprised that we’re where we are. You kind of have to throw out last year.
“Let’s face it, people trying to use last year as some sort of a barometer is just foolish. It was an outlier for everyone.
“The growth we’re seeing, for me, is not unexpected. I did expect it and I think going forward we’ll see continuation of the growth.
“From a team’s standpoint I think that Racers Edge will benefit from that as well because we’re stalwarts of what we’re doing, we’re entrenched in this, and that as more drivers come into the series we as a team will see more interest and we can get back to running two cars again.”