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.

HINDMAN: When Life Gives You… Limes?

There’s gotta be some sort of relationship between the fact that we were at Lime Rock and it was once again a pretty sour weekend for the VOLT Racing team.

To be honest, it’s getting pretty difficult to write these columns now since we’re constantly finding ourselves in the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” type of situations.

I’m sure you’re all just as tired of reading about it as we on the team are also tired of the constant poor luck we’ve been having. But hey, we’ll keep on truckin’.

I love seeing the twisted facial expression people give me when I tell them that Lime Rock is one of my favorites, as I see that they’re trying their absolute damnedest to avoid making some sort of snide comment.

Fine by me – it doesn’t change the fact that this is a proper, old school cool racetrack where average lap speed is pretty high and the walls are close.

And oh, by the way, no worry of track limits BS here since there’s this fantastic new track limits marker called grass.

Either way, this tends to be our shortest race weekend of the year; in and out literally within 48 hours.

Two full practice sessions and a qualifying to get your stuff sorted for the race. Basically, if you don’t roll off the trailer well, you’re kind of screwed.

Luckily, we at VOLT Racing did roll off the trailer well! We opened the weekend P2 by only a few hundredths of a second in Practice 1, and despite the Ford’s taking a little bit of a BoP hit, we knew we had more to extract within ourselves which was all very encouraging.

As we continued running throughout the day with increasing ambient temperatures and a degrading track condition, we found that we were not as strong over a full stint as we felt we needed to be.

I think everybody between both GS and GTD were finding tire degradation to be very high, which is typical for Lime Rock.

However, one thing that did stick out to me during the track walk was the fact that the surface is much more abrasive than years past. That certainly played a roll into the fast drop off in tire performance, especially for the heavier cars in either category.

Alan had qualified 14th and ran in that position for most of his stint, which was solid enough as we were one of the few cars left with a clean nose in the first stint. But of course, here’s where the “unfortunately” starts to take its hold.

Roughly 40 minutes into the race, and about 10 minutes out from our full-service pit stop and driver change, Alan reported a flat right rear tire.

He was off pace coming into pit lane, the VOLT crew threw the thing up on the air jacks, and low and behold we have a broken right rear wheel hub with a few missing wheel studs as well.

That’s it really. Twenty-five laps later we found ourselves back on track just to finish the race and collect points.

We did our best to stay out of the battles for position that were happening around us, and disappointingly found that we had really good pace on old tires at the end of the race. Just a real shame.

We move forward to Road America with the same expectation to perform and try to snag a win or two before the end of 2018.

I think we can, as Alan and the VOLT crew are more than capable, but it’s just a matter of having things actually go our way for once.

Of course, the lack of results in the CTSC is disappointing and I really feel for those who continue to support us – VOLT Lighting, Trim-Tex… everybody.

We’ll take it on the chin like champions and keep pushing forward.

HINDMAN: Canada Dry

No, I’m not referring to the beverage. As a matter of fact, I’m referring to the dry spell from the podium that I’ve experienced in my entire time going north of the border in my sports car racing career.

Never have I encountered a track that I’ve loved so much, yet just cannot seem to pull through and get the job done.

If you read my last blog about VOLT Racing’s run in the CTSC four hour endurance event at Watkins Glen just a week ago, you understood some of the challenges and head scratching we had experienced throughout that weekend.

Now with two races back-to-back on consecutive weekends, there was certainly some level of apprehension heading up to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this year.

Again, this had been a track that treated me very well in my days driving single seaters along with speaking in terms of raw speed over the last few years, so expectations to capitalize on that speed were pretty high.

Steady improvements made to the car throughout testing and practice showed some gains on the time sheet, but unfortunately not the wholesale jump that we were looking for.

With that in mind, I turned my focus away from raw car performance and tried to figure out the best way Alan and I could adapt to the car we had underneath us with some changes in driving style.

This, in general, is not the most ideal route but it could lead to quick, short term gains in outright speed, although a little bit more risky.

Then again, the car is a calculator and the input you provide determines what you get out. Wrong input = wrong answer; I’ve bombed plenty of algebra tests in my day, I’ll put it to you that way.

Come race day, life was pretty hectic as Practice 3 and qualifying were only about four hours before the start of the race itself.

Making any more adjustments before and heading into the race essentially blind would not just risk performance but also take the team’s focus away from the immediate task at hand.

We wanted to put together a smart, strategic, and most importantly, clean race to achieve the best result possible.

Luckily the choice to focus more on race strategy and quality pit stops really paid off for us, since when it was time for Alan to pit for full service and driver change, we gained a significant amount of time on pit road, which was a huge boost for everybody.

From then on it was a very complicated race, as full course yellows were burning up time on the clock and the call was made that we were going to attempt to save fuel and not make a second run down pit lane.

Great strategic call, although it always seems to happen when you have a huge fight on your hands to try and gain or defend positions on track.

Hanging on to third position by a thread with two laps remaining, low fuel alarms were now pretty constant on the dash but despite that, I was still pretty hell bent on bringing it home to VOLT Racing’s first CTSC podium.

As quickly as I thought of that, it was snatched right out of my hands as a Mercedes and I made hard wheel-to-wheel contact at the apex of Turn 10 and it tore up my right front pretty badly with one lap remaining.

Fair game – I would’ve done the same thing if I was being held up for that long too. We limped across the line in fourth.

Not bad by any means, but disappointing to me since that dry spell from a podium finish in the CTSC now continues.

That being said, I also want to give a shout out to my former co-driver and great friend Cameron Cassels for allowing me to continue my streak of driving multiple cars per weekend and running in the Prototype Challenge LMP3 category with him.

I’ve got limited experience at best behind the wheel of prototypes, so this was a pretty massive learning curve for me… especially when having to jump out of a Mustang and hop into one of those things all in the same weekend!

I’d love to have a few more outings in the LMP3 car, as I feel that there’s some unfinished business there from my end.

Three consecutive weeks at the track with the VOLT Racing crew and this is really just the beginning of the “summer swing”.

The guys really worked their asses off these past two weeks in some pretty extreme heat to give Alan and me something to fight with – they’re the real MVPs.

Also, a big thanks to Alan, VOLT Lighting, and Trim-Tex, as well as Cameron and the Performance Tech team for a great weekend at CTMP.

We now have a full week to re-prep and re-focus for the lovely bull ring also known as Lime Rock, where I feel our chances at a win are stronger than ever.

HINDMAN: The Boiling Point

 

Unfortunately for you, if you enjoy my monthly rants, this one is bound to disappoint since there honestly isn’t too much to say. It was a pretty taxing weekend at Watkins Glen at best, both physically and mentally.

With no test day and Thursday being a total washout, Friday morning’s Practice 2 and 3 were our only real opportunities to get dialed in.

Within a few laps on new tires in Practice 2, it became pretty clear to me that we had a ton of work to do to the VOLT Mustang GT4. Changes made for the twenty-minute Practice 3 that was a few hours later showed only marginal improvement, so qualifying was pretty much a Hail Mary at that point in time.

Since our Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race was our second four-hour long enduro of the year, it was decided that I would qualify and start, Alan would run the middle stint and then I’d hop back in for the finish.

When this plan was initially dreamed up, I was pretty confident in our ability to take pole position… I was now second guessing that. Never a fun place to be heading into qualifying.

Of course our qualifying session was red-flagged before we were ever able to put a lap in, I mean, we at least want to make this as nerve-racking as possible, right?

So being released back on track with five minutes to go in qualifying meant that it was 100 percent maximum attack.

That paid off to a fifth-place spot on the grid. Not bad for only having a matter of hours to get our car somewhat balanced but there was still more work to be done.

 

At the drop of the green on Saturday afternoon, ambient temperature was well over 90 degrees with our in-car temperature being much higher; partly due to the actual weather conditions but mostly due to the fact that I was moving backward in a hurry and trying desperately to, at the very least, maintain position.

That was not the case and it quickly became clear to me that we were in trouble. This was going to be a long one.

And a long one it was, as our lack of speed just lead to bad luck and falling even further behind the leaders.

I think we managed to stay on the lead lap by a thread, but there was no silver lining to the result since we had some pretty high hopes heading into this one.

I was beyond frustrated but I’m just flat-out bummed for Alan and the entire VOLT crew. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort. Our shot at redemption is luckily only a few days away at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

 

Speaking of redemption, the Prestige Performance and Wayne Taylor Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo squad were certainly looking for some following two very bizarre races at Mid-Ohio.

With not much running at all over the last six weeks, along with all of our practice being in the rain, qualifying was pretty much the first time we could even evaluate what we had shown up to the Glen with.

Jonathan and I qualified second for both Races 1 and 2, but we were quite a way off from where we needed to be.

Continuous grinding over the course of Friday for Race One paid off well with a third-place finish overall, still missing some speed for the win, but much closer than we were earlier on in the day.

Saturday morning presented Race Two and another opportunity to bring home a victory… and that we did!

 

It was gratifying since we won this one on raw speed and sweat equity invested by the entire WTR team for over a month leading up to this event. Jonathan and I are still 13 points outside of the Pro championship lead, but performances like this will continue to bring us closer to the Super Trofeo North America championship hunt.

The real warriors this weekend were the people busting their asses to get the cars prepped in the absurd heat.

They never once got a break in the action and kept their foot on the floor as hard as we did, so for that, a huge thank you is owed to everybody at Trim-Tex, VOLT Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing for making the most of not very ideal situations.

In the meantime, I look forward to celebrating America’s birthday at a Canadian racetrack.

HINDMAN: Sometimes You’re the Bug… or the Windshield!

Remember how in my last column I mentioned that the goddess of motorsport can be a real cruel (ad lib this one as you like) at times?

Well yeah, clearly she didn’t take to that lightly. This past weekend at Mid-Ohio was, let’s call it… character building.

The whole weekend was a challenging one for all teams and drivers, mainly due to the uncooperative weather conditions as well as the fact that IMSA has not run at Mid-Ohio since 2013.

Testing in the rain was high risk and low reward, as weather predictions stated that both Saturday and Sunday should be dry.

So all in all, good track time was scarce and the minuscule number of laps in mixed conditions made for a difficult time in obtaining usable data as well as finding the ideal balance for the car.

Luckily all teams and drivers were in this position, so the playing field was relatively level.

Fortunately enough, the call to run Lamborghini Super Trofeo with Wayne Taylor Racing and Prestige Performance came literally within a week of arriving in Ohio. This was a very welcoming proposition, as any opportunity to gain more time behind the wheel, as well as compete for wins, is one that I will always gladly take.

Between VOLT Racing with Alan Brynjolfsson and Super Trofeo with my new co-driver, Jonathan Cecotto, it was looking like a pretty promising weekend.

As mentioned earlier, quality track time in testing and official practice for both series was limited at best, but both VOLT Racing and WTR were looking strong going into race day on Saturday.

Alan qualified 9th in a very strong group of drivers in our Mustang GT4 for GS, whereas I ended up P2 in Trofeo Qualifying 1 and Jonathan P3 in Qualifying 2.

Fantastic results considering both Alan and Jonathan had never seen Mid-Ohio before. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with being P2 in Trofeo, but of course improvements can always be made.

Alan got off to a great start later on that afternoon in the CTSC race, maintaining position until the first and only full course caution of the day came out at about 20-25 minutes into the two hour long race.

Unfortunately this is where the race unraveled for us, as a series of minor errors during our first pit stop lead to spending almost two minutes on pit lane and receiving a drive through in the process.

The good news: Alan was still on the lead lap even following the drive through penalty.

The bad news: We developed a valve train issue that put us down to seven cylinders and then fell down the order due to the lack of power.

We finished, but not where we would have envisioned only two hours prior. That was a tough pill to swallow especially following VOLT Racing’s run at PWC VIR one week earlier.

It just went from bad to worse for us, as both Super Trofeo races came to a premature end for Jonathan and me with a pretty severe technical issue.

Pretty disappointing since we had good speed and expectations that we could challenge for victory, but alas, this wasn’t meant to be.

The WTR guys were immediately doing everything they could to find a solution to this issue, but it’s something that can only be analyzed once the cars are back at the shop.

I feel for them since they busted their asses this last week getting the No. 1 car ready for Jonathan and me.

There was one big positive to come out of all of this and that was watching my teammates, Alvaro and Katherine, in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 have a mega run for second in GTD, almost winning the damn thing at Acura and Shank’s home race!

I was a little bit worried to watch from the pit box, as I figured whatever black cloud was following me would somehow be passed along to Kat and Alvaro… luckily not the case and we hope this result will get the No. 86 NSX GT3 into the full season fight for the GTD title. That was a fun one to watch.

As usual, none of this could be done without the awesome teams of mechanics and engineers at VOLT Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing, as well as the people who support us most at VOLT landscape lighting, Trim-Tex, and Prestige Performance.

With just over six weeks until The Glen, it’s a long time to be thinking about the “what if” factors, but surely it’s a much needed reset for both teams following a difficult week in Ohio.

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