Reigning Pirelli World Challenge GTA champion Martin Fuentes is back to defend his title with Squadra Corse Garage Italia.
Already this season the Mexican driver has scored four wins and a thrilling runner-up finish on the streets of Long Beach last weekend.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Fuentes recounts an unforgettable final lap at Long Beach and reflects on his season to date.
How wild was that final lap at Long Beach?
“It was pretty wild. I’m a very comeptitive driver and having the full hour right behind the Lamborghini, it was frustrating because we were lacking the torque that the Lamborghini had.
“I was falling behind the Lamborghini, I would catch up, but it was impossible to get close to him after Turn 11. There was only one spot that I could get close to him and that was Turn 6.
“I decided to take a chance. He closed the door right there, I hit the wall, and barely touched the rear of his car.
“Then Scott Hargrove braked with the rear of my car, breaking my suspension and everything. It was a massive hit. That was unfortunate, but that’s what racing is.
“Yuki was right behind me. I knew it had been my fault, the turn was still his, so I knew I had to let him go. That’s how exciting this weekend’s race was.”
How difficult was that final half lap of the race driving with such a heavily damaged car?
“My engineer was looking at the onboard camera and was like: Martin, I’ve got to give it to you!
“Going 260 kilometers per hour on the back straight with a broken suspension, my hands were completely sideways so I couldn’t turn the car to the right, my left hand was on top of the steering wheel and it was really hard to keep control of the car.
“I knew there were cars behind me and I didn’t want to use more spaces or anything. We’re all fighting for a championship. If you cannot get a good result, you have to try to add some points.”
How do you think the season has gone so far?
“I’m very happy. I won the first four races and this one I could have won, but we needed a little bit more setup work on the car. We tried something from qualifying to the race and it didn’t work.
“Have the little amount of time on track, just one practice and the 15 minute session before qualifying, that was complicated.
“We’re going to come back stronger for VIR and we’re going to try to get back on the top spot on the podium.”
Is VIR a track you look forward to?
“I really like it. It’s a race that I’ve done for the last four or five years. I was there last year with Stefan Johansson in SprintX.
“We had a really good result in Race 1 and then an unfortunate crash in Race 2, but that’s a track that I know very well.
“I feel very comfortable on those highly challenging turns. That’s a very complicated track, and the Ferrari is a very, very good car for that track.”
What drivers did you look up to when you were young?
“I’ve always looked at motorsports and the only names that I can remember always being there and winning are Ayrton Senna in the beginning, and then I followed Michael Schumacher’s career.
“Those are the two names that put a target on my career.
“I was following every little race: NASCAR, Indy when ChampCar was coming to Mexico, I was always targeting it.”