HINDMAN: Good to the Last Drop
To be honest with you, I was preparing myself for this column to once again be about another unfortunate turn of events that would ultimately take us out of snatching a good result.
I cannot begin to describe to you how happy I am that I’m 100 percent wrong.
This season has been nothing but horrible, horrible luck for the VOLT Racing team but the crew just kept pushing forward. Finally. We finally got it done in probably just about the most dramatic way possible. Whatever, we’ll take it anyway we can get it.
I’ll dive a bit deeper into why I was mentally preparing myself for yet another tough race, as the reasons behind that thought process are quite plentiful yet justified.
Road America is not supposed to be a “Mustang” track, especially following recent performance changes. We more or less knew that and were expecting an uphill battle going into the weekend.
Along with this, Road America historically turns into a fuel mileage race due to the track being so long in terms of distance as well as the high speed nature of the circuit leading to extremely high fuel consumption.
I’d say the high fuel consumption is really what changes the dynamic of these races and nobody really sees a naturally aspirated, 5.2 liter DOHC V8 monster of a power plant as “fuel efficient”. Definitely not the first term that pops into my mind.
Testing, official practice, and qualifying showed that we were one of the quickest cars, as well as being one of the leading Ford’s over one lap.
However, similar to CTMP and Lime Rock we found ourselves in a scenario where our tire degradation was pretty extreme, even compared to the other Mustangs. This was a pretty major concern for the race, but unfortunately we ran out of practice time before we really had it sorted.
Alan’s opening stint saw him move from 14th to 11th, but it was one marred by lengthy full course cautions, the worst being an extremely significant impact in the Kink.
Nice to hear that the drivers involved are ok, but that’s absolutely the last thing you want to see happen before you get in the car. Such is life though, and the task at hand takes immediate priority.
Since that full course yellow was so long, it began before the driver change window opened and only ended with an hour and five minutes left on the clock.
Well short of a full fuel stint, but since we are so far out of the championship fight, Mike Johnson and the crew figured we go all in and give fuel saving to the end a shot.
We restarted the race P3 after an incredible stop by the VOLT Racing crew and started saving right from that moment on to the end of the race.
Constant communication with Mike, along with a ton of number crunching by our engineers Dave Bascombe and Chris Vallee, lead to a very low per lap fuel consumption number that needed to be achieved in order to make this work.
They had a rough idea of what others were running for strategy but it could not allow us to change our own. Making it to the end was priority No. 1, and if other cars were passing us left and right, so be it.
I had more and more confidence in the plan the deeper we went into the race. Watching other cars go around us, pull a gap, then only starting their attempts at saving fuel told me that we were on the right path.
I swear that those last three laps were the slowest of my life in a race. The fuel consumption target was getting more and more absurd, but whatever action that needed to be taken in order to achieve the target was done without hesitation.
That involved driving down those long, high speed straights known only to Road America at half throttle. Coming out of Turn 14 the final time, I knew we had enough to make it up the hill to start/finish, but I still had my foot over the clutch ready to kick it and coast if necessary.
Luckily that wasn’t the case, we were good to the last drop, and sweet, sweet victory was ours.
Back to running two championships this weekend, the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing’s runs in both Lamborghini Super Trofeo races were not quite as exciting, but equally as stressful.
We rolled off the truck with a very strong car and only made minor changes from there. One small error from me in qualifying cost us enough to be P2 on the grid for Race 1 by only four hundredths of a second.
This turned out to be a pretty significant factor for Jonathan and me in both races this weekend, as the ability to follow other cars closely with this new aero package at a high speed track such as Road America becomes a very complicated task.
Moving forward, it will definitely take some adjusting between the driving and set-up in order to work through traffic efficiently, but this is the way learning an extensively updated car goes.
We ended our weekend with very strong runs in both races; 2nd in Race 1 and 3rd in Race 2. I find solace in the fact that we know we can make strong improvements moving forward to VIR.
You know it was a good weekend when you find yourself on all three steps of the podium at some point, and that would not be possible without the effort and support of both VOLT Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing.
Thank you to Alan, VOLT Lighting, Trim-Tex, Prestige Performance, and finally the crews that really bust their asses in order to make it all happen. It’s always nice to repay their efforts with some hardware.