HINDMAN: The Ups and Downs of Sebring

I think those of you who read these debriefs probably have an idea by now that I can ramble on for quite a long time… Normally, it’s all in an effort to give a behind the scenes look at how success was achieved on a given weekend.

This time, which might be the first, I’m actually left pretty speechless.

Going into a race weekend, I’ll generally have a pretty solid idea of how it will go. However, last week I was torn.

One side of me was saying that it was going to be a successful week, and the other side could not visualize or foresee a desired race result being achieved. That had me somewhat worried.

Following a very encouraging test in February with the VOLT Racing Mustang GT4 as well as the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, I was pretty confident that we were going to hit the ground running in both GS and GTD.

I’ve been to the Twelve Hours of Sebring in some form since my first ever Skip Barber National Series event here in 2011. The last three years I’ve watched from the sidelines, wishing I was in the show. Luckily that has since changed.

We had a very, very strong two days of testing here with the VOLT Racing Mustang and that immediately showed in Practice 1 Thursday morning when we ran below the previous GS lap record and three-quarters of a second quicker than anybody else at a 2:11.5.

Not that winning practice is anything to be proud of, but it certainly gave us the confidence moving forward that we had a good, consistent car and hopefully a shot at victory on Friday.

For the rest of the day we focused on our speed over the long runs in the hot, greasy track conditions as well as getting Alan [Brynjolfsson] acclimated to the car and track.

He’s proved to be very good at Sebring and it was my job to make sure he could take advantage of the pace he had going into the race.

Despite our speed in practice, I still was unsure of how we would ultimately run come race day. I know the entire team was confident in the speed of the car and in themselves when it would be time to go over the wall and service the car, but I just wanted to get to through that first stop in one piece and go from there.

Unfortunately, the race unraveled in pretty dramatic fashion on Lap 5. While having a very strong run in the top ten, Alan muttered the words “broken half shaft” on the radio coming out of turn 7. That was it.

I knew our shot at capitalizing on our speed and bringing home a win was gone and I just couldn’t believe it.

The VOLT Racing crew managed to get the car back to the paddock and got to work on replacing both half shafts, but, despite their phenomenal effort, our day was done.

I was fortunate enough to have another opportunity to race during the weekend. I’m even more fortunate that it would be in one of the most difficult yet prestigious endurance races in the world.

Following the disappointment that was our CTSC race on Friday afternoon, I knew I had to immediately get over it and focus on the next task at hand, which would be an attempt at winning the 12 Hours of Sebring with the MSR team.

Michael Shank Racing’s run in the Twelve Hours of Sebring was nothing short of eventful either, with our sister car, the 93, ending up hard into the T13 barrier during Thursday practice.

Luckily Justin [Marks] was ok, but watching the MSR crew pull together to A) not only support the 86 in our efforts to develop a potential race-winning car, but also B) essentially re-clip the entire front end of the 93 in about 36 hours time was pretty unreal.

Alvaro [Parente], Katherine [Legge], and I, along with our teammates in the 93, ran up towards the pointy end of the GTD pack until about Hour 11, when the final full course yellow packed the field together and we slipped back to P8.

Our NSX GT3 was strong for the entire day but not quite strong enough to push forward in heavy traffic, and in a field as competitive as GTD, that’s a death sentence.

Still, with all of that said, I was honored to simply be a member of such a great team and actually be in contention for a class victory in my first ever 12 Hours of Sebring. Hopefully we’ll have more opportunities to get it done in the future.

And that’s that. A pretty bittersweet ending to what was shaping up to be a successful weekend in terms of final race results, but unfortunately it was not to be.

Massive thanks to Alan and the VOLT Racing team, Mike [Shank] and the MSR crew, as well as my friends at Trim-Tex for making all of this happen. The goddess of motorsport can be a real cruel bitch at times, but it’s nothing that will deter me from coming back and trying again.