If You’re Not Winning, You’re Learning
After making lots of improvements at Willow Springs I had my hopes set high for this weekend at Buttonwillow. It’s a circuit we were strong at in April and unlike Willow Springs, it is extremely technical with 21 corners making up a lap. However, this weekend was just as challenging.
Friday’s running went really well with the car feeling good straight out of the box. We got in a ton of laps including a 1-hour session covering one and a half times the normal race.
On Saturday reality hit us, I qualified P8 despite feeling decent with the car and getting lots of clean laps during the qualifying session. There was no way of getting around the problem, we were slow. I ended up finishing Race 1 P7, a very disappointing day.
On Sunday our pace remained the same. During the Qualifying Race, I finished P8. In addition, we ran into an issue with 3rd gear. The car would not upshift from 2nd to 3rd gear when cornering which was causing me to lose around a second per lap in Sector 1 and exiting the Star Mazda turn another few tenths. In addition, the car struggled to downshift from 4th to 3rd.
Between the Qualifying Race and Race 2 on Sunday fellow competitor Sophia Storey drove my car in one of the Time Trial sessions to help shake down my car so we could find out how much of the problems were driver vs car. Sophia went a second faster than me which suggested that there was some pace in the car, however, it wasn’t enough to reach the front of the field. In addition, she noted the 3rd gear problem as well. Following this we also made a change to reduce the oversteer on exits of corners.
All or Nothing
Entering Race 2 I knew the reality of the situation. It was a matter of just making the most of what I had available. The car felt better in corners but I still had my work cut out for me with the gearbox issue. I ended up having the best battle of my career with Brett Becker. For the entire race we kept going wheel to wheel neither of us wanting to give up position. Amazingly, we made zero contact.
I managed to pass him on the last lap but my gearbox would not downshift from 4th to 3rd resulting in me going off track on the last corner. It was painful to see all of my hard work undone by a mechanical problem, but I didn’t feel bad looking back on it. Because what could I have done differently? I gave it my absolute everything out there, but it just wasn’t enough. And sometimes that’s how a weekend goes. As my team boss Dave told me, “If you’re not winning, you're learning.” This weekend we learned, we learned about the car, we learned about me, and I learned about the brutal reality of this sport.
Jun 26, 2023
June 9-11, 2023