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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Matt Travis

This week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass with nolasport driver Matt Travis…

Photo: SRO / Gavin Baker

Matt Travis and his nolasport team kicked off the Pirelli GT4 America season with a pair of class wins and poles at Circuit of The Americas in early March.

This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Travis discusses the decision to make the full time jump into GT4, the strong start to the season, his goals for the year, and more.

After finishing fourth in TC last year, what went into the decision to move to Pirelli GT4 America for 2019?

“Well I certainly didn’t want to keep getting passed on straightaways by the Nissans! Just kidding. Kinda.

“I really enjoyed my time in TC with Classic BMW. Good cars and good people. This year I wanted to explore a season in GT4; less weight and more power is fun!

“I’ve raced a one-off weekend in GT4 each of the last two years with Jason Hart and nolasport, and every race resulted in a win or a podium, so we wanted to keep the streak going.

“I really like the two-driver format as well, so chasing the national SprintX championship is a really great place to be this year, and I’m really glad SRO decided to have a national title in GT4 SprintX.”

What has been the biggest adjustment for you in getting up to speed with the Porsche 718 Cayman GT Clubsport?

“The multiple BOP changes throughout the COTA weekend! By the end of it we had 55kg more than we started with and enough ride height to clear a softball.

“I asked if we could just strap in a passenger instead of the ballast plates, but apparently that’s against the rules.

“The Porsche 718 Cayman is just a little bit better at everything than the prior generation Cayman, which made it a pretty straightforward adjustment process.

“That’s really fantastic for someone like me whose work and family schedule only lets me spend 10 or 12 weekends at the track per year.

“Jason has been my coach since I started racing in 2015, and his gift is being both fast and a great communicator, which has been a real benefit to me as I’m adjusting to the new car.

“Oh, I almost forgot: the new car has a pit speed limiter button, which is way better than the pat-your-head-and-rub-your-stomach cruise control situation the prior generation car had! It’s the little things, right?”

To what to you attribute the quick start to the season with two strong races at COTA right out of the box?

“The nolasport team, no question. Team owner Jon Scheurich runs a great program, with a small but incredibly focused and capable group of guys.

“He also picked the right guy in our engineer Scott Besst, who’s second to none in terms of Porsche setup and strategy.

“I think a huge part of our success at COTA was because we made the best choices (guesses?) in changing conditions and with changing BOP.

“I’d love to claim credit for grabbing pole in the wet conditions, and while I do really love racing in the rain, the truth is that our car was on rails because of the decisions Scott made on setup, and because of the crew’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to implement those setup decisions on really short timelines.

“A huge shout-out to our car chief James who has worked his butt off every day since the new car arrived to be at the top of his game and give us a perfect car every single session.”

What did it mean to have such a strong showing at your home track?

“That was really neat, and an amazing way to start the season. Race 2 in particular was fantastic. Watching Jason and Trent battle (as they seem to do just about every time we race against Trent) through the entire first stint was an absolute thrill to see.

“And as much as I thought I would be bummed to miss the overall win by 0.15 seconds over shorting our pit stop, I have to admit that I’m not bummed at all. I respect the series being fair but firm on this sort of stuff.

“It was a no-fault deal that we all learned from, and it resulted in some of the most memorable laps of my life during my stint.

“As soon as we got the call about the penalty we served it (29-ish seconds feels like an absolute eternity as you transit pit lane serving a drive-through penalty, by the way), then we put the hammer down to earn that time back.

“Full send, no holds barred. There must have been ten times I was sure I was going to spin or crash in those last few laps, but we really wanted to chase that overall win! No regrets and I think it put on a pretty good show.

“It was also really cool to see team run the second car so successfully, and to work together on setup and data. Seeing our friend and frequent co-driver Mike Vess stand on the podium in his class with John Capestro-Dubets was really special.”

Did the start to the season that you had cause you to reset your goals and expectations for the season in any way?

“Our goal coming into the weekend was overall wins, because if you’re not first you’re last, right? Although there are multiple classes, I do think overall wins will continue to be our goal.

“We want to measure ourselves against all of the other pro-am pairings, and we hope to stand on the top step of the podium a couple more times before the season is over.

“In any case, the bottom line is that I’m just happy to be here and to race at a level that I never thought would be possible.

“I always joke that my goal each weekend is to win the “Accountants’ Cup” which obviously doesn’t exist, but I just mean that I want to be the fastest guy who works a desk job for a living.

“That’ll continue to be the goal through the rest of the year, and I think we have the right pieces in place to achieve that goal and have a lot of fun along the way.”

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