Following our best weekend yet finishing P2 in both races at Buttonwillow I entered Round 5 at Willow Springs feeling more confident than ever. At Buttonwillow my confidence kept getting better as the weekend went on, but this round was my first roller coaster weekend of the year. But most importantly, I learned that the finishing position does not always accurately reflect how a weekend went.
Friday consisted of a practice day which I missed half of due to a school event in the morning. I only ran two sessions that day but felt very comfortable in the car despite a couple of off track excursions.
Feeling Not So Good
Despite making no changes to the car overnight I felt terrible on Saturday during the first practice session. I went off track again and was a mess. This was an experience that confused me, how did I go from feeling great on Friday to feeling awful on Saturday?
Qualifying wasn’t much better. I went off track once again and was P6. My session got cut short as I had to come in to clear all the grass off the front grille to prevent the car from overheating. That was a new lesson.
In the race, I struggled for pace compared to my competitors and had to manage the car in order to prevent it from overheating. Once again another P6 finish.
New Day, New Opportunity
With the worst result of the year over, I hoped to turn things around for Sunday. However, the car felt the same and once again I wasn’t feeling 100% confident. During the qualifying race, I went off track which put me a lap down, another disaster of a race.
With only 1 session being left for the weekend I spent a long time talking to my race engineer/ coach James to recalibrate me – not the car. How was I going to get faster? I tried everything possible but nothing was working. For those who don't know me yet, I’m a very analytical person who likes to look at all of the pieces of the puzzle.
So after trying a bunch of pieces and nothing working, I was not only frustrated but confused as well.
After making a minor setup change to the car, James told me, “Just drive.” And that’s what I did. Once again I finished P6. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Part of me felt broken, how did we just have such a tough weekend? But after taking a few days off to review, I actually realized we did in fact improve. My race pace was much stronger than before, I was more consistent, and my tire management was better as well.
As Niki Lauda famously said “I tell you from my own experience, winning is one thing. But out of losing I always learned more for the future.” This weekend we lost. It was our biggest loss of the season. But we also learned more than ever before.
May 23, 2023
May 19–21, 2023