Round 5 of the American Le Mans Series took place in Connecticut at Lime Rock Park. This race is one of the most historical races on our schedule. Lime Rock has been around for a long time and has had all of the best drivers compete here. Lime Rock is always great to attend because rain or shine the fans pour into the bull ring to watch us compete!
Lime Rock is a short weekend; the Lakeville area is an extremely religious part of the country which meant that we are not able to race on Sunday. This is usually a good thing from a drivers perspective because there is nothing better than a “show and go” weekend. However, one thing that can change that is the weather.
And the one thing that could change the outcome of the weekend certainly did. When I woke up Friday morning and stepped outside, I realized it was going to be a long and very wet day.
When I saw the amount of rain we were getting I have to be honest when I say I was pretty excited. We have had very little opportunity to run in the rain with our Falken Tires, but the opportunities we had proved to be very successful. Needless to say as a team and a company we were confident and all ready to go.
Before the session started, we sat down as a team and discussed how far towards a rain setup we would like to go. One of the decision making factors was what the weather was going to look like on Saturday's race day. The current forecast was dry, so we decided to make only small tweaks.
During the first session of the weekend, our Falken rain tires would not disappoint. Wolf was the first one in the car for the weekend and right out of the box was able to put the car second quickest on the time sheets, this was a boost that the team needed.
Even though the car was fast we still had a lot of development that needed to be done with the car and tires due to the fact that this was truly our second time ever on rain tires. We went to work tuning the car going through bar and shock changes to try and find more grip and traction out of the car. Wolf was able to close the gap between him and the lead Ferrari to just under 2/10ths of a second!
Now it was my turn to take my stint behind the wheel for the remainder of the practice session. We had two agendas to run through: tire pressure sweeps and longevity runs. We were able to find some more speed out of the car and felt pretty comfortable with our position.
During the end of the session, the rain picked up and we were able to run towards the top of the time sheets on old rains, making us feel more and more excited about what the weekend was going to offer.
During the second session, everything would remain pretty much status quo, which was a good thing. There is always debate when it rains about whether qualifying will occur or whether we would start off of practice times, we were going to leave nothing to chance. Because it was Wolf’s weekend to qualify I started the session on old tires and was able to move the car to fourth on the grid. After some tuning and a red flag, it was Wolf's turn to get back in. The team had run the car low on fuel and put on sticker tires for a mock qualifying run. He was able to put the car to second.
At the end of the session we got word that qualifying would occur. For the first time since Long Beach we had a chance at the pole! After putting a little fuel in the car and sticker tires on we were ready to go. Wolf did a great job and was able to give us a second place starting position for the race on Saturday which was looking like it was going to be dry.
When I woke up Saturday morning, the picture outside was so much different. Instead of the cold and rain, it was hot, humid, and dry as could be!
As a team, our biggest fears on the track drying out for the race. We had no previous setups to use for dry conditions at Lime Rock because it was our first trip to the track.
We sat down prior to the morning warm-up to discuss our plans for the day and what setup we should use for the warm-up. We decided as a group that we should stick with something that we were fairly knowledgeable about. We finally came to the conclusion that we should just use our setup from Salt Lake City.
After the morning warm-up, I have to say we were fairly disappointed with our run. We were only able to manage eighth on the grid with a car that did not seem to have a good race balance. Our excitement from the day prior had now turned into a little bit of fear to what the race would bring.
Back at the truck after the session, we decided to make some massive changes to the car to try and correct the balance issues that we were dealing with. This is always an easy decision for the drivers to make because we aren’t the ones that have to bust ass to make the changes. For this I have to give al the credit to the team. Once again, they were able to make changes that would usually take well over an hour in just under 45 minutes and get us prepped for the race.
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s two weeks straight that my guys had put in a huge effort to get the car ready to go for the race in tough conditions.
With the race right around the corner, it was time for any last minute prep work. The race tires we wanted to use had to be selected, practice pit stops needed to be completed and the driver autograph session needed to take place.
During the autograph session, the realization of how long the day was going to be hit me. While Wolf and I were signing the heat continued to increase and we knew it was going to be a long and hot day. The long days I don’t mind at all but the hot ones I can do without!
After all the prep work and autograph sessions, the car was wheeled to pre grid for the start of the race. The amount of people that showed up for the event was unbelievable. I love racing but I am not sure if I would have been there in 101-degree weather to watch.
After some last minute meetings and last minute hydration it was time to get things rolling. We had a good starting position and high hopes for the day.
The first 20 minutes of the race could not have ran more flawlessly than what they did. Wolf was able to keep the car running in second. Although we were not the fastest car, it seemed that we were going to be able to hold off the competition for a while and possibly fight for a podium. Lime Rock is one of the hardest tracks to pass on so as long as you can start out front there is always a chance of finishing there.
The first yellow came out at roughly 20 minutes and this was a great time for us to stop and refuel the car. We made the decision to do what the leaders were going to do for strategy, we had dropped to third and were waiting too see what the Risi Ferrari and the Flying Lizards Porsche were going to do. They pitted and we followed suit, the only mistake we made was assuming because of the hot temperatures that everyone would take tires, we were wrong. We took tires and along with the tires an extra nine seconds in the pit stop that dropped us to the end of the pace car line.
From then on, our day was, unfortunately, about playing catch up. Wolf drove another 45 minutes in the car bouncing around in the top five to the top seven. He drove his heart out but our overall pace was just not quite good enough to move forward.
When I got in the car we were in seventh place. Our goal now was try and keep running as quick as possible and hope to take advantage of other mistakes that may occur in what had already been a very dirty race.
My stint was honestly pretty un-eventful. We were on a lap of our own and had really no one to race.
Traffic was crazy through the race. There were tons of cars that everybody had to navigate through. But I have to say everyone did a great job. Towards the end of stint we had a small issue that required us to pit and dropped us from seventh to eighth in the standings.
All and all Lime Rock ended up far different from where we had originally hoped. Everyone was pretty disappointed with our final result but at the end of the day it is important for us to remember we are making progress as a team and the day everything clicks it will result in a win!