HINDMAN: COTA Debrief
For the last three years that IMSA has made the trip to Circuit of The Americas, it’s conveniently been right at the end of summer and the term “Texas hot” could not become any more applicable.
In 2015, for example, while driving the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW E92 M3 GS car, we experienced a race day which saw a high of 105 degrees ambient temperature.
Since that lovely, high revving, S65 V8 sits so low and so far back, with headers that run almost right underneath your feet, it did get quite warm in the cockpit. So hot, in fact, that the bottom of my left shoe heel was no longer attached to my shoe but instead to the floorboard on which it was resting.
I have photos to prove it! Luckily during this trip to COTA, we in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge had really beautiful weather to go racing, with no melting shoes…
With over a month since our last, character-building race at Sebring, Cameron Cassels, the Bodymotion Racing crew, and I needed to have a solid weekend in order to stay in the GS championship hunt. Fortunately for us, we did just that.
COTA has historically been good to me, finishing second in last year’s GS race with Cameron and even winning a crucial nail biter in 2014 with John Edwards.
I have to admit that I was feeling relatively confident, despite being advised that the Porsche may not be competitive at the super technical, 3.427-mile track.
Watching the MotoGP race from a few weeks prior, it appeared that track conditions had seemed to have deteriorated quite drastically compared to the years prior.
As we witnessed the changes first hand during Wednesday afternoon’s track walk, the asphalt itself seemed a lot more weathered compared to September 2016, but more importantly, feeling where significant bumps have developed in key areas of the track made setting up our car a little bit more challenging than normal.
Since our race “weekend” is only two days, it goes by blindingly fast, so during Thursday practice it is just that much more important to make the most of every single lap you are given.
For me, it’s all about getting our car dialed in for the long run as well as making sure Cameron gets enough time to re-acclimate himself to the track.
Small changes between practice one and two on Thursday lead to big gains in lap time heading into Friday’s race, so we were quite happy with the weapon we had brought to play with.
Cameron did his normal rock solid job in qualifying and the opening stint of the race, setting personal best laps along the way, which in turn is always confidence inspiring for me and the Bodymotion crew.
Again, knowing that our Cayman GT4 was not supposed to be the best car at this track, we knew that great pit stops and a modified strategy would be necessary in order to have a shot at victory.
A full course yellow right around the 45 minute mark was exactly what we needed, but now this turned into a fuel mileage race… which is always how it seems to go around COTA.
A fantastic stop by the Bodymotion crew and a great strategic call by engineer extraordinaire Marc Manning moved us up to P5 for the restart, although now it was a test of who could make it to the end of this two hour event with only one stop.
I was most definitely sweating this one out, because not only was it my job to push forward and try to make up positions, but now I also had to try and pass a handful of phenomenal drivers all while saving fuel. Sweet.
Fortunately some patience and a lot of luck put us in the lead… for roughly two corners, and the momentum lost by battling hard with Robin allowed both McLarens to scream on by.
We had great pace though the first half of the racetrack but once we got to the tight, point and shoot sort of corners that we find in sectors two and three around COTA, I just couldn’t get close enough to properly attack.
With about ten minutes to go in the race, our focus shifted back to simply making it to the finish without running out of fuel! Hectic fuel saving and quite the nerve-wracking last lap that felt like it would never end gave us a solid P3 finish.
Of course we are always thinking about how we could have gotten those final two positions for victory, but for now, we were pleased that we had simply survived with a better than expected result.
It was also very encouraging to hear that we would head to Watkins Glen as the GS championship leaders.
Immediately after finishing the GS race, it was a full on sprint back to the support paddock to change driving suits and get ready for Lamborghini Super Trofeo race one.
I know… I have zero right whatsoever to say anything negative about hopping out of one car and getting directly into another, especially when its a Porsche to a Lamborghini!
I would just briefly like to mention that I am very thankful to be back in Super Trofeo this season with the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team that I had been so fortunate to have success with last year.
Our weekend went quite well over there, as my new co-driver Riccardo Agostini and I brought home a pair of second place finishes in the Pro category.
After almost three straight weeks on the road concluding with an incredibly busy yet successful three days in Austin, it’s nice to be home for a few days.
As always, a big thank you to Cameron and the Bodymotion Racing team, along with the Prestige Performance crew for their efforts towards some solid results this past weekend.
The Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 had a new look this weekend thanks to Joe Koenig and all of my friends at Trim-Tex! Looking forward to sharing much success together with them as we did just a few years ago.
Hopefully Cam and I will do as John and I did in 2014, grab hold of this GS championship lead and never look back! On to Watkins Glen..