HINDMAN: Dropping the Hammer

It still hasn’t sunk in yet. Over three weeks later, I’m still finding it hard to believe that the 2019 season is already behind us and, on top of it all, produced a championship winning effort.

In the immediate moment after walking off the stage to accept our trophies, there was kind of an awkward silence since neither Mario or I knew what to say to one another.

How do you describe not only a season, but the culmination of years and years of hard work by so many people in one sentence?

I didn’t have the answer. So, partially joking but mostly serious, I turned to Mario and blurted “How the hell did a couple of idiots like us pull this off?”

Well, with three weeks to think about the answer to my own question, it’s pretty obvious.

WE, as in Mario, Justin, AJ, and me, we’re just the lucky ones who got to strap ourselves into an exquisitely prepared rocket ship. This championship was won by the incredibly talented team of people around us.

For this most recent edition of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, GTD seemed to be extraordinarily volatile.

If you closely followed along with our season, the second half of our year was a much tougher scrap than the first for various reasons.

For example, Petit Le Mans was shaping up to be a great day for us. Running inside the top three cars for the better part of five hours until, almost exactly mid-way into the race, we ended up with a punctured radiator, overheated engine, and a DNF.

Thank God taking the green was our only obligation of the day in order to wrap up the driver’s and team’s championships, as it would’ve been an insurmountable level of heartbreak if it were to happen any other way.

This was a lot to take in for my first full season in GTD, but nonetheless an excellent education and a reminder of how important it is to be surrounded by people who are better than you.

The entire Meyer Shank Racing crew, the team at Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development, and of course Mike, are all the real reasons behind the success.

To be a member of the team that brought Mike his first ever championship, as well as the first for the Acura NSX GT3 Evo, creates a special bond between everyone that worked towards this achievement.

The post-title celebration was short, as it was off to Las Vegas for the SRO season finale and the final race of the year with Alan Brynjolfsson and Park Place Motorsports to try and score some much needed points for the 2019 Porsche Cup.

Alan’s got a shot at being the first American in 12 years to claim the top spot of privateer Porsche drivers worldwide.

This has been a year long pursuit and one that we anxiously await the final results of, but the efforts put forth by a first year Park Place Motorsports/VOLT GT4 team is nothing short of exceptional.

It’s already been well covered that the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX Evo will feature a new driver line-up for 2020. I want to wish Matt and Mario the best of luck together in that car.

Despite my limited encounters with Matt, I get the impression that he’s a great guy for the job and will fit in well with Mario and the MSR team.

What’s next for me is still something of an unknown quantity. I will say that I’m extremely fortunate to have developed close relationships with folks I’ve worked with, both past and present, and they have all been incredibly helpful in finding and planning for the next opportunity.

Mike, for one, has been awesome with his guidance towards what I need to do to secure a future in this sport and his advice has not been taken lightly. I look forward to being able to share what’s coming for me in the near future.

“Sleep when you’re dead” reigns true here, since post championship festivities have long been over, so now it’s right back to work.

Whether that be in a car, back in the gym, or scheming a plan for 2020, the motorsport world moves too quickly to stay stagnant for more than a few days.

Many thanks again to my teams, both Meyer Shank Racing and Park Place Motorsports, Mike, Alan, Mario, all of our supporters at VOLT Lighting, Trim-Tex, Sirius XM, Autonation, Acura, HPD, and of course all you guys for following along with our amazing season.

HINDMAN: The Gut Check

Luckily, it’s been one of the busiest summers on record for me personally, both on and off the track, and I’ve been loving every second of it. The good, the bad, the ugly; all of it. There’s been a pretty strong mix of everything, hence why it’s a gut check.

Watkins Glen was really the start of the “summer swing” as we in IMSA have all come to know and love, and that was the highest of highs with a win at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

More recently, the lowest of lows became reality when the Park Place Motorsports/VOLT team put me in a phenomenal position to win the Michelin Pilot Challenge race at VIR, only for me to squander the opportunity and experience the most disappointing victory lap of my life.

It’s a grueling sport in so many ways, but there’s always good to come out of all these various situations. Arguably even more so in the less than ideal scenarios.

The very same weekend at VIR, I went from the ”outhouse to the penthouse” with Meyer Shank Racing, although in this case we were improving every step of the way.

Case in point; Friday practice at VIR was looking somewhat alright but nether Mario, the MSR team, or myself really knew where we stood. It wasn’t until Practice 3 Saturday morning in the rain did we realize how we were…

Five seconds off.

This was all about three hours before qualifying, no less. Now at this point, we were feeling pretty desperate. We always want to have a shot at victory, but knowing a championship is on the line if we didn’t get this turned around added a level of pressure that is incomprehensible.

But this is where a clear perspective switch can help, and it’s down to our engineering team at MSR. While Mario and I were gravely concerned, our team immediately knew the problem, its solution, and got right to work.

That is why this team is in a position to win a championship.

Going from being P-Last in Practice 3 to being disappointed about missing out on a fourth pole position of the year by noon in the same day showed our tremendous improvement.

It speaks volumes about what the occasional “gut check” can do for a solid reset, refocus, and attacking from a different angle. In essence, sometimes the occasional ass-whooping is necessary.

The No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing team would go on to finish second come race day and score some very much needed championship points heading to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The opportunity to not only exercise some of these lessons learned, but also continue the never-ending process of improving the craft came this past weekend in Watkins Glen with the Park Place/VOLT team and Alan Brynjolfsson.

I find for me that a large majority of these lessons that I normally learn myself, the hard way, sink even deeper when professing it to someone else. So any opportunity I get to share a new idea with Alan, it helps both him and me at the same time.

Solid set-up work with the VOLT Cayman GT4, a good lesson in tire management, and getting back to base on driving disciplined races were all positives to come out of running this weekend.

I also really can’t think of a better way of spending Labor Day Weekend racing cars with a team whom I’ve grown very close with throughout the year.

Looking ahead to the final week of preparation until WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, it’s no secret that the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing team finds themselves in a favorable championship position.

Every single member of Meyer Shank Racing has performed flawlessly time and time again under intense pressure and I look forward to nothing more than getting back to work in that very same environment, chasing another win.

It’s a fun and addicting prospect. In no circumstance will this team cruise and take the easy road (if there ever is one?).

All year, both the VOLT/Park Place team and MSR have shown promise. I look forward to working towards getting both teams their second wins of the year at the penultimate round of the season.

HINDMAN: Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

I’m trying my best not to think about it, but following the last race weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, we’re now exactly halfway through the 2019 IMSA season.

There are a few reasons for not wanting to quantify how far in we are/how much longer we have to go.

Personally, I find that it really does not have much to do with the pressure that builds as you get closer to Road Atlanta, especially if you start to consider championship implications.

For me, I just don’t want it to end! I’m so damn fortunate to be working with two excellent teams this year. I’m enjoying the time with my teammates in both programs, the people who support us, the results we’re achieving, and the challenges that we’re facing along the way.

The usual, hectic rhythm of the summer historically does not begin for me until Watkins Glen; from then on it’s five races in the following nine weeks.

Basically, if you start the summer poorly, there’s rarely a chance of recovering and any potential run at a championship you may have had prior to Watkins essentially goes right out the window.

This year, however, that rhythm was broken up in a pretty big way as I had my first ever visit to Detroit’s Belle Isle with the Meyer Shank Racing team and the Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

Last time I drove on a street circuit prior to this event was back in my single seater days; USF2000 in 2012 at the streets of St. Petersburg.

I more or less kept that fact on the DL going into Detroit since I figured Mike, Mario, and the rest of the team didn’t need any more to worry about.

To make a long story short, that was a pretty tough 48 hours for the #86 MSR team.

We generally struggled to find balance in the car during practice and qualifying, although we did run inside the top three cars for the first stint of the race. Following a slow stop due to a wheel gun failure, the day just went from bad to worse when Mario experienced a failure in the left rear of the car whilst catching the pack for a restart in the high speed turn 13 section of the track.

Those walls are pretty unforgiving of course so our day was done. Not the best way to roll into Watkins.

Three weeks between Detroit and Watkins Glen really wasn’t a whole lot considering the rebuild and repair process that needed to take place. Race teams like MSR can pull off miracles when called upon, but nobody is every actively looking to display that attribute in their race team.

Mario, Justin, and I all felt the least we could do is get the team the best result possible at Watkins to shine some light on their efforts since Detroit.

Fortunately that effort paid off well, as we found ourselves in the pole position for the second time in 2019 and a complete front row lockout for MSR and Acura for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

This was not just a pretty big psychological victory for the team as a whole, but also absolutely crucial towards our chances at a race win, as we knew our NSX GT3 would work best in clean air for Sunday’s race.

It’s also important to note that later that day, the (miserable) streak of rain at any/all IMSA events this year remained unbroken, as it threw just a little more chaos in the already borderline medieval contest that was the four hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race.

Watkins Glen was the second of two four hour long endurance events in the Pilot Challenge this year, and frankly, Alan Brynjolfsson, the Park Place Motorsports team, and I were not looking forward to it even after our win at Mid-Ohio.

With the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 being a brand new car for 2019, there are still always going to be some teething issues that come with that. High ambient temperatures and humidity do not suit the car too well, so we ended up with a wonderfully balanced car for an entire stint that struggled to breathe in hot, thick air.

Thanks to the reliability of the Cayman, a perfectly executed strategy by the Park Place team, some absolutely mistake free driving by Alan, and a quick moving downpour in the closing half hour of the race, we found ourselves finishing inside the top five although we had no business being there.

Considering MSR’s qualifying effort, confidence in a result for the Six Hour was quite a lot higher, although that alone does nothing to make it any less difficult.

Personally, this would be my first ever running of this race, so I really had no idea what to expect in terms of rhythm or feel of a six hour event, although as soon as it started, it was clear that the pace of the entire race would be ultra aggressive.

And that’s exactly what we were; aggressive with our pace, strategy, and in traffic. Were we the outright quickest car on the grid? No. But the MSR team, Justin, and Mario had flawless execution and ultimately we got it done. That was my first IMSA WeatherTech win and it sure was a special one.

The common theme of this summer portion of the schedule is the fact that you have zero time to reflect and recover before being thrown right back into the fire. Nothing intensifies this process more than the turn around between Watkins Glen and CTMP.

Last year, CTMP proved to be a difficult track for both the Cayman in GS and the Acura in GTD alike.

The long duration, high speed corners tend to not suit short wheelbase cars well, so expectations across both programs were kept in check.

The biggest goal was to pull a larger gap to the cars behind in the GTD championship and, conversely, close the gap to the cars ahead in the GS championship and that’s exactly what we did.

A solid enough run to eighth in Saturday’s GS race was relatively disappointing, but overreaching for the second week in a row really helped us in terms of the championship.

Alan and I now find ourselves 15 points out of the lead with five rounds remaining. If all of us at Park Place/VOLT continue executing the way we have been, we will be just fine.

Qualifying third with the MSR No. 86 was also not quite where I wanted to be, as CTMP is a track that I’ve come to love since spending most of 2011 up there running around in Formula Fords with Brian Graham – who’s an absolute legend by the way.

The real goal was to stay ahead of our closest championship rivals, and that’s exactly what we did in both qualifying and the race on Sunday, with a nice run to second and another trip to the podium in as many weeks.

With this, Mario and I also extended our championship lead and even more importantly, we helped bring Acura to the top of the manufacturer’s table, which was a great success!

There’s nothing like the high of winning races, so despite thinking long term and championship in both GS and GTD, the push to be aggressive and win races remains strong. It’s worked so far, so why change it now?

As stated much earlier on, spending this hectic portion of the season becomes much more enjoyable with people who want to be there and win as badly as you do.

Thank you to my teams at Park Place and Meyer Shank for being just that. Also, as always, thanks to Alan and VOLT, as well as Trim-Tex, Sirius XM, Autonation, Acura, and Honda HPD for the never ending support.

See you in Lime Rock.

HINDMAN: Mud-Ohio

“It was a warm and sunny day.” Actually, well… it wasn’t. The entire weekend saw nothing but rain. I actually chuckled on the pre-grid for the WeatherTech Championship race Sunday afternoon when the crowd, who surprisingly stuck it out for multiple days in absolutely horrible weather, all roared when the sun finally poked through the clouds.

For the fans, it was a fantastic moment. However, for the teams, it became a much different story.

Wildly inconsistent conditions are, by my estimation, universally one of the most hated aspects of racing.

Racing in the rain? Awesome! Racing in the dry? Great! Raining for three days straight and getting your first real dry running of the weekend on race day? I’ll let you answer that one.

The one positive aspect about dealing with variable conditions is the very simple fact that it’s not just affecting you or your team only.

It’s not like Mother Nature decides “yeah, screw this Trent Hindman guy and especially his race team.” No, quite the opposite actually.

In this case at Mid-Ohio last weekend, I feel like the constant changes in weather and track conditions leveled the playing field.

This situation favored the teams that could adapt the best, hence why it wasn’t much of a nuisance since I knew I was secure driving the Park Place Motorsports/VOLT Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport and Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

Quality practice time was probably the most sought-after item on the weekend, as practicing in the wet conditions usually brings some level of unnecessary risk, especially around Mid-Ohio.

The risk was justified since, frankly, nobody had any idea as to what conditions we would be facing in either the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Saturday or WeatherTech on Sunday.

Even our super cool, über accurate radar was giving us a false narrative (this will come into play a little bit later on).

All I know is that each lap turned was increasingly more important towards having a direction to go with both cars when it came to race day.

Before Alan Brynjolfsson and I raced our VOLT Lighting Porsche GT4 on Saturday, it was all about qualifying the MSR Acura.

The black and pink livery with Autonation’s #drvpnk campaign onboard with Mario Farnbacher and me this weekend certainly added a few tenths… that car looked BADASS. Very much like those who are fighting the fight as we speak.

Remember when I mentioned changing conditions are universally hated in the racing world? Well, this was one of those moments.

Unfortunately, calling upon prior experience from earlier in the weekend, the MSR team and I decided that the wet racetrack we saw at the beginning of GTD qualifying would not dry by the end of a 15-minute session.

Unfortunately to our shock and horror, it did, and we were left to try and salvage a decent starting position with wet tires on a dry racetrack.

The very same drying process that took well over an hour the day prior now took less than 10 minutes total. Such is life. Starting P10 for Sunday, we knew it was gonna be elbows out to get the job done.

Luckily there was a chance at redemption later on in the day, as it was time for Alan and me to get after a first win of the season in Pilot Challenge competition.

Alan would be starting from the 11th position after qualifying in the rain around an extraordinarily slippery Mid-Ohio, and with an incoming storm on radar, nobody really knew how this one would go down. An early yellow meant we’d essentially rely on Alan for the first stint and a half of the race, save some fuel, and go for a short stop and driver change with just over 45 minutes to go.

Just past halfway, the drizzle began and most radar monitors saw the large incoming green blob that was about to once again envelop the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

That rain slowly picked up by the final round of pitstops and had a majority of the field, including us, contemplating the gamble to throw on rain tires. Although the rain was falling, the track was still dry, albeit a bit slippery.

We were the ones who gambled and took a scuffed set of dry tires on that final stop. The storm that was moving towards us and just about making contact with the racetrack began to split apart directly over us.

No guarantees, but the deeper we ran into the race, the more likely it looked like the rain wouldn’t arrive. Since a fair number of our competition decided to preemptively pit for wet tires, we had inherited the lead with roughly 45 minutes remaining.

Constantly changing conditions, running lines that made absolutely zero sense to find whatever grip the racetrack offered, and a few tense restarts right at the very end saw a VERY well deserved first Pilot Challenge victory for the Park Place Motorsports/VOLT Lighting team!

This is directly following an extremely rough weekend at VIR, where in four races we experienced four tire failures, a blown engine, and brake failure. To repay Alan and the team for their efforts in getting our car back in working order with a win like that felt pretty damn good.

As always with two races per weekend, there’s never much time for celebration (if you’re fortunate enough) as Sunday brought a whole new set of challenges, especially in this case.

Starting 10th on a dry racetrack that we really had not seen yet during the weekend made for a whole number of unknowns and plenty of opportunity to lose focus.

My only goal was to try and make up as much ground in the first two laps as I possibly could, before the field had a chance to really spread out, and give Mario a car that was in impeccable shape and drivable for the ever-changing track conditions.

The first lap was a complete surprise to me, as we had made it all the way up to P3. Quite a few drivers who had the same intentions as me became overly ambitious in some areas, opening up lanes to pass that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

On lap two we moved into second position, made a pass for the lead shortly thereafter and didn’t look back for the rest of the stint.

Mario hopped in for the final two stints following a flawless full-service stop by the MSR crew and took off from there.

We more or less threw the guy straight out into the deep end, as it was his first time ever at Mid-Ohio and he had an extremely limited amount of running prior to the race. We came home a very strong second with an excellent battle for the win at the end. However, the No. 86 MSR team did gain the lead of the GTD title race.

We were painfully close to pulling off the double win at Mid-Ohio between GS and GTD, but nonetheless we achieved two fantastic results that were much needed heading into the busier parts of the championship season.

Thank you to Mike and the entire Meyer Shank Racing crew, Acura, Honda HPD, and of course, AutoNation, for coming onboard this weekend. Big thanks to Alan, VOLT Lighting, Trim-Tex, Mike Johnson, and the Park Place Motorsports team for staying on the loud pedal all week to get our car ready and in winning shape for Saturday.

To sum up my year so far, and I’m fortunate to be saying this, but “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Not much time at home since mid-February and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, which I’m grateful for. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

HINDMAN: March Madness

 It’s funny, following the monsoon and sailing regatta that broke out in Daytona, I figured there was no possible way we could experience anything worse.

Well, fast forward three months and surprise, we needed to break out the paddles once again. At least this time it was race-able.

For me personally, the Twelve Hours of Sebring was the last of a five-week stint on the road, with only three days total at home between it all.

Those days at home involved laundry, sleep, and some more laundry. Adulting sucks, but traveling around the U.S. getting to drive some bad-fast race cars for a living does not suck. It’s a fair trade.

Throwing it back to one of the first events of this recent stint, Alan Brynjolfsson, the Park Place Motorsports team, and I were at a cold and mostly damp COTA for the first round of Pirelli GT4 America SprintX competition.

On that weekend, we were able to bring home a second place finish overall in Race 1, following a recovery from a nice shove Alan received in turn 1, and a win overall in Race 2.

This was the first victory for Alan as the closing driver, first win for Park Place Motorsports at their home racetrack, and the first win for all of us together with a new car on a new team. Pretty neat stuff and certainly a nice confidence booster heading off to St. Petersburg (Alan ran solo in GT4 competition there) and ultimately Sebring.

Before we even arrived in Sebring, the whole event had a much different feel to it mostly due to the fact that the WEC would be running on the weekend as well.

At least from my perspective, there were a few questions; scheduling (balancing both Pilot Challenge and WeatherTech would be different than 2018), but the main one being track conditions.

How would all of the additional Michelin rubber effect performance throughout each day compared to year’s past?

Sebring is pretty well known to have some massive changes in grip level between morning, afternoon, and evening, and judging by our track walk on Tuesday afternoon, it was bound to be a much wider spectrum than previous races.

The sheer amount of rubber buildup on track was something that I really haven’t seen since my karting days, so preparing for what was to come became a lot more difficult with that in mind.

Luckily enough I’d have ample opportunity to see these ever-changing track conditions, as the first morning of official practice alone had two Pilot Challenge sessions split by the first WeatherTech practice, all back to back.

There was some level of concern following Pilot Challenge Practice 1, where Alan and I ended as the quickest Cayman down in P10 and a little less than a second off. Since it was the first run of the weekend, we figured we would continue improving from there but, alas, this was not the case.

It’s always a very challenging situation when you have a car that feels great to drive and is well balanced, but the speed just isn’t showing up. It’s one where you can really throw your engineer and your team for a loop, but we were all in the same boat in this case.

Even through qualifying, Alan’s comments on the car were positive and he was really doing a great job behind the wheel, yet we still found ourselves pretty deep in the pack, which was unexpected to say the least.

Prior to the Pilot Challenge race on Friday afternoon, there was night practice on Thursday evening, my first real runs in the MSR Acura NSX GT3 of the weekend, then Practice 4 and qualifying on Friday morning.

Night practice always ends up being a little bit of a wake up call since, well, it’s Sebring and it’s dark. Very dark.

You get used to it pretty quickly though, and to be honest, it’s one of the more important sessions of the weekend as you get an idea as to what your end of race conditions will potentially be.

At the end of WeatherTech Practice 4 on Friday morning, some debating on the pit box about what direction we should go with the car, extremely fast work by the No. 86 crew, and a decent gamble with our set up saw us finish qualifying with pole position for the Twelve Hours of Sebring!

We ended up as the only GTD car to go sub 2:00.00 all weekend, which was neat.

I was just lucky enough to be the guy behind the wheel at the time, but in reality it was a nice way to repay a very deserving team for their efforts.

For me, there was arguably more running than driving this past weekend since as soon as GTD qualifying concluded, it was off to the races (literally and figuratively) to get back with the Park Place Motorsports team and prepare for our two hour Pilot Challenge race.

Alan and I were both confident in our team. We have some excellent knowledge sitting on our pit box in the form of Mike Johnson and Chris Andrews, and our crew had been strong with practice pitstops all weekend long.

The pace in the car may not have been what we wanted, but we had all of the other ingredients needed to produce a strong result.

It’s a real shame to me that we didn’t even get the opportunity to put our pit work and strategy into play.

A flat right rear tire and badly blistered left rear tire forced us to make an additional, unscheduled pit stop. That alone in such a short, competitive race is a death sentence and we finished pretty deep in the field.

Maximizing bad days like that are often the determining factor behind who is or isn’t a champion at the end of the year, and we’re thinking championship.

With the weather forecast for Saturday looking bleak, as the rain starting falling late Friday night, I knew we were in for something exciting come race day.

I love racing in the rain at Sebring, but that doesn’t make it any less treacherous or chaotic.

…and chaotic it was, at least for the first full green flag stint of the race!

Luckily, starting from pole position gives you the biggest advantage of them all in a rain race – a clear windshield.

hat’s exactly where the Acura NSX GT3 loves to be whether it’s wet or dry conditions.

The No. 86 MSR team lead our fair share of laps; my co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Justin Marks both did a hell of a job. We were leading with roughly two hours to go when it all unraveled with a drive through penalty for a pit infraction.

Nobody’s fault, just some horrible, horrible luck in the way it happened.

Unfortunately that sort of penalty with under two hours to go just kills you, and there’s no way you come back from something like that in a category as competitive as GTD. Everybody is just too damn good.

Such a wild month of racing cannot be done by yourself, so thank you to my extended families between Meyer Shank Racing and Park Place Motorsports, to my teammates Alan Brynjolfsson, Mario, and Justin, and those who support us at Acura, HPD, Porsche Motorsport North America, Trim-Tex, and VOLT Lighting.

I’ll admit, I’m a pretty sore loser. I don’t enjoy watching other people win a race I feel we had a real shot in, but it’s impossible to not respect those folks.

I think it gives us just that much more fuel to get the job done at Mid-Ohio.

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