What a sweet end to a pretty amazing season! I think that is the best way to describe Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America in 2016 that both Craig and I had experienced this year.
It was a new category for us both and the learning curve was immense, but I am very proud to say that Prestige Performance, Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus, Craig Duerson and I were able to lock up a Pro-Am championship title in our first attempt.
It certainly did not go without a fight… that’s for sure.
Still reminiscing on what could have been done in COTA, I feel that the disappointment of not getting the Pro-Am title locked up in September was what really lit the fire in the whole Prestige Performance team.
Losing our brakes in Race 2 at Watkins Glen, power steering issues at Road America, and finally getting taken out on Lap 1 by another competitor at COTA saw us scrapping for this title for much longer than we would have liked.
Ultimately, we had a lot of confidence in our Prestige Performance/WTR team and going into Valencia we knew that the pressure on us would only motivate the entire team further.
From the time we arrived on Monday, Nov. 27th, all focus was on winning a second driver’s championship for Prestige in 2016.
On my flight to Spain, I dreamt of beautiful sunny skies and decent temperatures but in reality we had the exact opposite for almost the entire week at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Nonetheless it was a massive relief to open up each shipping container, packed and shipped almost two months prior to this event, and find that our cars and equipment had made it overseas safely.
The unloading process was extremely quick and we soon found out that there were another two full days of waiting until we finally would hit the track – a very excruciating experience!
Having the opportunity to walk the track on Wednesday afternoon, I quickly realized that although this place was much different compared to what we are used to here in North America, Circuit Ricardo Tormo would become one of my favorites.
Packed quite cleverly in a relatively small area, the 2.48-mile circuit has a fantastic mix of high and low speed corners, useable curbing, a smooth surface, and camber… oh the camber!
For a racetrack that does not follow the natural terrain of the land it sits on, it proved to have a wonderful feel and rhythm to it, or at least I thought it did.
Testing was, well, testing to say the least. Between the constant changing weather and some strange issues with the car, we lost some quality track time on Thursday; the absolute last thing we needed going to a track and environment that we have never experienced before.
Luckily we did show some speed which was promising, but making that speed last for an entire 50-minute race is always a whole other challenge.
Our qualifying runs for our two North American Championship finale races on Friday were not our best, but with our focus solely set on winning a championship, we did exactly what we needed to do.
Since our approach for our final two races was conservative, I was pushing hard to use these races as test sessions, if you will, to continue making changes and improving our car for the two World Final races on Saturday and Sunday.
Aside from a few close calls and some nail biting, by the end of the day on Friday our initial goal for the season was accomplished and the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team were now Super Trofeo North America Pro, Pro-Am, driver’s, team, and dealership champions!
This was an accomplishment that was much deserved by every single member of this team, as we all worked very hard to make this a reality from day one.
The high of winning a championship did not last long as we now had to prove ourselves against the rest of the world.
Seeing the pace that was being set by the European Pro and Pro-Am teams, I knew that much work had to be done in order for us to even have a chance of competing with those guys.
In comparison to the rest of the North American and Asian series contenders, Craig and I were very strong, but unfortunately there wasn’t much comparison to the European Pro/Pro-Am leaders. We were gearing up for a tough fight.
I have been lucky to spend some time competing in Europe throughout these last few years, and at the start of race one I figured we would encounter some carnage on the first lap being that we were mid-pack.
Luckily we made it through cleanly and began to push our way forward from there. I’m not entirely too sure where we were when I handed the car off to Craig, but I knew it was far from where I would’ve liked to be and I just had to hope for the best.
Race 1 saw a hard-fought 15th place result, which none of us were thrilled about but we still had Sunday and one more race to redeem ourselves.
Waking up to pouring rain on Sunday morning had me thinking that this could potentially be a great thing for us. Craig has tons of experience racing in the wet at places such as Sebring and Mid-Ohio, which are incredibly difficult places to drive in the rain.
Some added confidence and a few changes overnight had all of us feeling that we could make a charge from the back of the pack and go back to the U.S. feeling that we made a good showing.
Unfortunately this was no Cinderella story and we finished Race 2 in 18th position. None of us were proud by any means, and it was an even tougher pill to swallow considering the effort and hard work put in by everybody on the Prestige Performance/WTR team.
I believe this was a necessary experience for all of us, as now we know just how much we need to find in order to be competitive on the world stage.
Nonetheless it was still an excellent weekend as we accomplished our initial goal of winning the Pro-Am title.
This was a scenario where as soon as you get out of the car, you immediately want to get back in and have another crack at it… one of those “if I knew then what I know now” sort of deals, but it is what it is.
It was an incredible learning experience for us all and I would absolutely love to find my way back to Lamborghini Super Trofeo in some way, shape, or form next year.
Super Trofeo is really a championship that is gaining tons of momentum and becoming more prestigious and difficult to win It is a challenge that I certainly do not want to walk away from just yet.
I would like to give one massive thank you to Mark, Chris, and all of the folks from the Prestige Family of Fine Automobiles for giving me the opportunity to drive such a beautiful beast all year long.
Also, a huge thank you to Wayne, Ricky, Jordan, Max, David, and the entire team from Wayne Taylor Racing. It’s no secret that long hours and hard work turns into luck in this industry. These guys and gals created that luck for Craig, Shinya, and me to be successful and bring home championships.
Finally, a big thank you to John Dagys and all of you who spent some time reading these debriefs all year long.
It’s been an absolute pleasure sharing my experiences, and I hope I will be reporting back to you all in 2017. See you in Daytona (hopefully)!