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Navigating Chaos: A Weekend Of Two Halves

A Challenge Lies Ahead

Going into this weekend I knew how tight the top of the field would be. After winning at Willow Springs, I knew there was a target on my back. To remain out front it would be up to me to maximize my performance as much as possible.

Early Troubles

As soon as I left the pit lane for my installation laps on Friday I felt something was wrong with the gearbox. The car was consistently struggling to shift from 3rd to 4th and was costing me seconds per lap. Immediately I brought the car back in to diagnose the issue.

New Gearbox

It takes a village; in addition to our team owner, another team's head came over to help diagnose, (this is the best community!) After running the car through the gears while up in the air, we discovered that the 4th gear synchroniser was not operating normally. This meant we had to change the gearbox. While this was unfortunate, I’m glad we caught it early into the weekend.

Back On Track

Just over an hour later we were back on track. The new gearbox felt great and I was straight up to pace and got the car setup dialed in fast. We ended up doing a successful run in both qualifying and race trim. In addition, I ran some practice starts as race starts have been a weak point for me all year.

Pole Position #3

Qualifying went to plan almost perfectly as I got my 3rd pole of the season. The car was on rails and I knew that we would be strong going into the race.

Grand Slam and Wild Track Conditions

After starting from pole, I got a good reaction off the line and was ahead going into Turn 1. I built a sizable lead and never looked back from there. I ended up getting the fastest lap on my way to the win earning my first career Grand Slam.

While the Grand Slam looked simple on paper, the race's second half was a big challenge due to the arrival of extreme wind. Visibility dropped as dust showered the track and the conditions became very slippery. I managed to keep my cool and remain in the lead.

The Rain Has Arrived

All weekend I knew it was going to rain, the question was when. On Sunday, we got our answer. During Practice 2 it started to rain heavily in the second half while I was out on slicks.

For qualifying the track was fully wet and my windshield began to fog up. By Lap 4 I couldn’t see at all. I missed my turn-in point going into the Phil Hill turn, crossed the slippery rubber line, and went flying off track. I got stuck in 2 feet of mud and my session was over.

A Race of Chaos

I started Race 2 P2. Despite being on the front row I knew that I would have a challenge going into Turn 1 as I was outside on the rubbered in line. I entered Turn 1 side by side with my teammate, my car started to slide as I crossed the rubber line so I backed off to give him room. However, he then lost control of his car and I had no other option but to go off track to avoid him. I ended up getting stuck and fell a lap down.

After being rescued by the marshalls I re-entered the race a lap down. I managed to unlap myself and was 5 seconds faster than the rest of the field. But then the safety car came back out. The safety car came in with 2 laps to go and I began accelerating as soon as I saw the cars ahead of me start to speed up. I instantly passed 4 cars and was excited that I got such a good start. However the green flag had not been waved on the start / finish straight, technically I just passed 4 cars under full safety car conditions. I instantly knew the mistake I made.  I received a 1 lap penalty and was demoted to P4.

Lessons Learned

Every day this past weekend pushed me to new limits. From mechanical problems to extreme track conditions and torrential rain, I truly had to adapt on the fly. Looking back, P1 and P4 aren’t a terrible weekend, especially considering Saturday’s Grand Slam. 4 weeks off until we return to Willow Springs for Round 4. Time to come back even stronger!

📸 Donna Wittlin Studio, Herb Lopez

Apr 22, 2024



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Navigating Chaos: A Weekend Of Two Halves


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