What a Rookie Season!
A Tough Start
This was my first time driving Chuckwalla going Counter Clockwise and it really pushed me to my limits during Friday’s running. I could not get to grip with the tightening corners and constant understeer I was having in the car.
Friday night I got 11 hours of sleep. I wanted to make sure that we did not carry Friday’s bad energy into Saturday. After many discussions with the team, we made some setup changes in the car and I adjusted my driving to compensate. Little did I expect it to dramatically change the course of the weekend.
A Slight Hiccup
Practice 1 only lasted two laps for me as the left rear driveshaft failed which caused one of the rear brake pads to shoot out of the car. However, despite the incident, those two laps felt much better compared to what I experienced on Friday.
At The Front
I struggled for track position in qualifying, but my one flying lap was good enough to put me P2 on the grid for the race. This was my first time having back-to-back front row starts all season long.
Back On The Podium
Race 1 was pretty uneventful. I got a decent start but could not keep up with my teammate who was in first. With such a large gap in front and behind me, it felt like I had the whole track to myself. I put in 17 qualifying laps to come home P2. My first overall podium since April.
A Costly Mistake
I lined up P2 for the Qualifying Race on Sunday based on my fastest lap from Race 1 on Saturday. After getting a clean start I held second place. But on lap 2 with pressure from cars behind I made a mistake that sent me off track causing me to fall back to P5. Despite the mistake, I wasn't super frustrated because I knew I had the pace to catch right back up. I ended up finishing the Qualifying Race P3.
A Race of Strategy
I lined up P3 for Race 2 and knew I had to get a good start if I wanted a chance of being on the podium again. I ended up getting a decent start battling for 3rd but the key part was I didn't lose too much time to the cars ahead. A couple of laps later I made the overtake for 2nd and held a consistent gap behind 1st. However, halfway through the race, I dipped a wheel off track which ended up bending it. Driving on a bent wheel was far from ideal as I had to deal with a massive vibration. Despite the vibration my pace wasn't affected much at all. But out of caution, I brought the car home at 80% to make sure I secured the podium and most importantly a chance at 3rd in the championship. Which is exactly what we did.
P3 in the Championship
P3 in Teen Mazda Challenge
Despite missing the first two rounds of the season, one of those being a double points race, I finished 3rd in the championship. In addition, I came in 3rd for the Teen Mazda Challenge sub-category. Plus I was the highest finishing rookie in the field. 2023 was certainly a year of learning, but I’m happy that we managed to end the year on such a high. I can't wait to see what 2024 brings.
Nov 8, 2023
October 27-29, 2023