Robby Foley and Michael Dinan teamed to win the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Pro-Am title in 2020 and the pairing will be stepping up into the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS this season with Turner Motorsport.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Foley discusses his role as co-driver and coach, how the new program came to be, his expectations for the season, and more.
How much of a role did you play in guiding Michael Dinan to Turner and getting this program started?
“There were a few factors that played into the decision. One was timeline, simply because the season ended pretty late.
“We were evaluating a few options with different cars and different teams and this was the easiest option for a lot of reasons.
“The team already had a car, we could test it right away, I was already working with the team and knew the car really well, so a lot of easy buttons that made things easier with the timeline that we had.
“Michael and I tested the car late last year at VIR and he liked it and did well. We were still evaluating different options, but basically one option was the Turner car and the other option the timeline didn’t work for acquiring another car so everything fell into place pretty well.
“I’ve developed a great relationship with Will and everyone there at Turner. He runs a great program and a lot of really big names have come through his program.
“He’s done a really good job over the years of helping to develop talent and it’s a great fit for Michael.”
What have you seen in your role as a coach that tells you Michael is ready for the step into GT3?
“I think a lot of it was just his maturity and improvement in 2020. 2019 was really the first year he had properly raced and there was a lot of learning going on.
“He’s always showed a lot of natural talent but in 2020 he really accomplished more or less what he wanted to in GT4.
“It was the logical step in a progression to make the move to GT3. If he did another year in GT4 there was nothing really left for him to accomplish personally.
“Given his aspirations in racing and where he wants to be it was the logical step.”
What are those aspirations?
“Just to keep moving up and he wants to run at all the big endurance races in the world and explore different options in racing.
“What’s cool about him is he’s always trying to improve and he always holds himself to a high standard. He wants to be better, he wants to keep improving, and the only way to do that is to keep challenging yourself.
“This will be a fresh new challenge. He had two years of GT4 and he was ready to make the move to the next step.”
What will your coaching points be in helping the transition to GT3 from GT4?
“I think there are a few things that are key. The cars are fairly different to drive purely based on the fact that the GT3 car is about 10 seconds quicker over a lap. That creates a lot of different, new challenges.
“He can drive a GT4 car all day, but a GT3 car wears you out a little bit quicker. He’s a very young, in-shape guy so it’s just stepping up the off-season training.
“Mentally, things happen a lot faster so as physically challenging as it’s going to be it’s also more mentally challenging just to keep up with the speeds.
“Beyond that, his fundamental driving talent and technique is very good. It’s just going to be about applying it to a faster car with more downforce.
“The big thing to include in that is he’s getting experience with more aero than he ever has and following cars, losing downforce when you’re following somebody.
“It’s not as easy to follow really close as it is in GT4. All these little tiny things will be somewhat eye opening initially but something he can definitely handle.
“I think you’ll see a lot of progression and improvement from him, not necessarily in his speed because I think he’s going to be quick, but just in his race craft.”
What are your expectations for this season?
“It looks like a bunch of really established teams that have been running in GT3 for a long time, K-PAX, DXDT, all these teams that have been here for quite a few years with really stout lineups.
“We’re not sure what class we’re going to be in, we think Pro-Am but it could be Pro. For Michael it’s a learning year and it’s going to be a year of being a sponge.
“I think we want to finish the best we can overall no matter what class we’re in, and he can get some experience racing against some experienced drivers in GT3 cars.”
You are racing in three different series with Turner Motorsport this year. Could you have imagined what this partnership would evolve into back when it began?
“Honestly, no. It’s really been quite easy and it’s worked out well. Things have just fallen together.
“I’ve had an amazing opportunity to advance my career and grab some major sports car wins in North America, drive with a legend like Bill Auberlen; that’s been a dream scenario for me.
“To see that mature to a point where we’ve had all this success as a team and to have the opportunity to try and expand on that with SRO with Michael is amazing.
“I think the team is going to get along great with Michael and he’s going to fit right in. We all like to have a good time but we’re serious about what we do as well.
“This isn’t something we ever planned on but it ticked all the right boxes.”