Jeff Bader wrapped up his first full season of Pirelli GT4 America competition for his homegrown USRD team alongside team co-owner Casey Dennis, where the duo capped off the season with a pair of SprintX West Am podium finishes.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Bader discusses his racing background, describes the mid-season switch from Ginetta to Audi machinery, and more.
Where did your interest in racing come from?
“I started in go kart racing back in college. A friend of mine got together and we wanted to go and do some racing, but being in college it was hard to afford to go car racing.
“The problem was, I’m a bigger guy, so I was always 100 pounds heavier than everyone else in the go karts. It was hard to be competitive.
“We then switched to Spec Miata racing up in Northern California and did that for a couple of seasons. From there, we got into motorcycle racing through AFM [American Federation of Motorcycles] on a Ducati.
“Thunder Hill Raceway was our home track, Sonoma, Laguna Seca, those were the three tracks we would go to. Then I took a hiatus for about a decade and got back into it with track days.
“I got a hold of [Pirelli GT4 America co-driver] Casey [Dennis] through engine manufacturers.
“I had a BMW and he helped me tune that for racing, and then it slowly evolved over the past several years in terms of going from the BMWs to the Ginettas and now the Audis.”
What made the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX West series attractive?
“We were actually considering running the Pirelli Trophy West series. Between work and logistics, trying to do a national series is a difficult thing to do.
“Once SRO announced that they were going to do the West Coast series, we decided to do that instead.
We had been racing NASA and SCCA, so it was a nice change to be able to come and step up our game and really compete against guys who are at the top of what they’re doing.”
How would you assess your season?
“We did well at the beginning, but Sonoma, unfortunately, we were heading for a podium but I ended up backing another Ginetta that we have into the wall. That ended our weekend there.
“Portland was a disaster for me personally, because we had a brand-new car, hadn’t been to Portland before, and got hit on both sides in terms of trying to figure out how to drive this car and a new track.
“We didn’t do very well. We made the switch from Pro-Am to Am at Las Vegas and earned two class podiums”
What was the reasoning behind switching to the Audi from the Ginetta for Portland?
“It was twofold. One was the BoP challenges with that particular car, with the way the Ginettas are set up. The other issue was getting that car fixed in time for Portland. That was the other contributing factor to it.
“The Audi is a different driving style given the fact that it’s a mid-engined car, so the driving characteristics are significantly different. We’ve been doing some testing and trying to get used to driving this car.
“Casey has driven a lot of Porsches, which are rear-engined cars, so the characteristics are more similar. This is the first time I’ve had a mid-engined car, so trying to work through that and get fast.
What plans do you have for 2020?
“We’re trying to figure that out. We’ll definitely be trying to do some races.
The challenge we have is obviously there is not a west coast series for next year, and so we’re trying to figure out logistics and getting some other seats filled in the other cars that we have to try and get a national effort put together.
“It’s up in the air right now but we’re working through it.”