HINDMAN: Still Wearing a Timex

Here we are. The 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona has already passed us by and the start of IMSA’s 50th season is underway.

As quickly as it had arrived, the Rolex 24 is done and dusted for another 365 days, which seems like awhile from where we’re all sitting right now, but guaranteed that by this time in 2020 I’ll be saying the exact same thing.

Hopefully with a new watch…

Starting from the top, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot going on since the last time I reported to you all way back in November.

In this two-month span (feels much longer than that, I must say), I’ve been brought back onboard with VOLT Racing and Alan Brynjolfsson for the newly rebranded Michelin Pilot Challenge, except this time in a partnership with Park Place Motorsports in a beautiful new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.

I’m happy to be back with Alan and VOLT with the addition of Park Place for the entire 2019 championship.

This is the kicker, and I still have a hard time believing it, but I’m proud to be back with Mike Shank and the Meyer Shank Racing team in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 Evo with Mario Farnbacher for the full 2019 WeatherTech GTD championship!

Six years of scrapping in IMSA’s support categories to finally be in the “big show” full time and I couldn’t be happier and more grateful for the opportunity.

However, the real work only begins now. Getting there is one thing, staying is a whole different story… and we’re here to not only stay, but also conquer.

Fast forwarding through the Roar, to my surprise (or horror, depending on your perspective), we ended the three day test at Daytona the quickest in both GS and GTD, proving the quality of new machinery as well as the effective, high level team work being portrayed by VOLT Racing and Meyer Shank.

The MSR team is largely unchanged although joining Mario and me in the No. 86 for the Rolex 24 would be the man, the myth, the legend himself; The Dinger, and Justin Marks who will join us for the remaining Michelin Endurance Cup events as well.

Before we even arrived at Daytona for the Rolex 24, the idea of winning ourselves a new watch was a shared thought between all of us at MSR, but ultimately not spoken about until we started with driver change practice on Wednesday afternoon.

At that point, the gravity of this event really started to take hold. Even despite not being THE fastest car in free practice, we were close enough to the mark where the thought of a new watch was not far fetched.

Although, we know there were 23 other GTD teams thinking exactly the same as us; so what did we have to do in order to set ourselves apart from them? Simple. Pay closer attention to detail – and we did just that.

The very same principle was applicable for Alan, the VOLT/Park Place team, and me for our four hour event on Friday.

This became even more apparent after qualifying on Thursday evening, where we would start 5th on the grid as the highest placed Cayman GT4. This race would have to be won on cunning strategy.

It was four hours of straight warfare on Friday with the VOLT Racing Cayman GT4.

I had run the starting stint where we maintained P3, Alan hopped in after me and had an extraordinary run with all of the other pro’s ending his stint in 8th, then it was again my turn to bring it home to the finish.

A unique strategy, to put it lightly, meant driving through the field on a few different occasions but the VOLT/Park Place Cayman was killer in traffic and we had no issues clawing our way back into contention.

Unfortunately, I was awarded a drive through penalty with 50 minutes remaining due to a jumped restart. It’s 100 percent on me, and took us out of 2nd position and ultimately a shot at victory.

The final run from 19th to 7th was a hell of a lot of fun, although disappointing in the end since we had the potential for a podium finish.

Whenever I’m home, I’m fortunate to train with some special people, and in the world of combat sports a phrase I often hear from these folks states “we don’t lose, we learn.”

So with no time to dwell on Friday’s mistakes, it was time to learn from them and move on.

I would be rolling off the grid for the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the 3rd position and an opportunity to win which I did not want to squander.

I’m starting to realize how much the Rolex 24 can affect one’s sanity. For awhile there, I think the entire MSR squad could almost feel the cold steel of a new Rolex on their wrists, especially when we held the lead at various points throughout the night into the early hours of Sunday morning.

However, Mother Nature had other ideas and we took a pretty huge strategic gamble following the first weather stoppage which ultimately did not work out as hoped.

When the race restarted, to our surprise, we knew that only luck could get us a watch, which was a harsh reality to accept after almost 20 straight hours of competition.

There’s absolutely nothing more this team could have done. It was a damn near perfect race up to that point.

When looking at final results, a 7th place finish in GS and a 5th place finish in GTD may not necessarily scream promise or progress but it does give both these teams an excellent starting position in a very long championship season.

We also need to be reminded of the underlying story and circumstances that played into these final results. We know we have great cars, great teams around us, and plenty of speed. Our wins will come this year.

Thank you Alan Brynjolfsson, VOLT Lighting, Park Place Motorsports, Trim-Tex as well as Mike and the Meyer Shank Racing team, Acura, Honda HPD, La Salle Solutions, and my extraordinary co-drivers AJ, Mario, and Justin for their efforts all month.

It’s only the start of a great year with these two teams.

Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher Set for Full IMSA Campaign with Meyer Shank Racing

Pataskala, Ohio (11 December 2018) – Preparing for its 16th season of IMSA competition, Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) will have a two-car campaign in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the GT-Daytona class with the Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher will pair for the full season effort in the No. 86 MSR Acura NSX GT3 Evo, with Justin Marks slotted for the four Michelin Endurance Cup rounds along with the return of AJ Allmendinger for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The No. 86 entry will be joined by MSR’s all-female line up of Jackie Heinricher, Katherine Legge, Bia Figueiredo (Ana Beatriz) and Simona De Silvestro for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

The team closed out the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as runner up in the GTD class after scoring wins in Detroit and at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Both Hindman and Farnbacher will move from their 2018 endurance duties with MSR to full season teammates this coming season.

Farnbacher joined MSR for five races in 2018 and drove to victory with Legge in Detroit for the team’s first win of the season. Farnbacher also scored another podium finish alongside Legge at VIRginia International Raceway. The German ace is eager to begin his season with MSR paired with Hindman.

“I am super happy to be back with MSR and then to drive the full season is a mega bonus,” said Farnbacher. “I am so happy and thankful for this opportunity. The Acura NSX GT3 is a great platform, and I am convinced the Evo will be a really competitive ride for 2019. I will definitely do my best, like I always do, to be successful in 2019 with MSR and my teammates and I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Relishing in his first ever full season IMSA ride at the WeatherTech level, Hindman also enjoyed success with MSR last year as he was an integral factor in the team’s Rolex 24 At Daytona second place finish along with its second place finish at the IMSA finale event, Petit Le Mans. Hindman’s aggressive yet calculated driving style will be an asset to MSR this year.

“It’s been five years of scrapping in GS, Super Trofeo, and various other categories to finally be in a position to run in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship full time,” said Hindman. “This is absolutely a dream come true and I owe the world to Mike (Shank) and the entire Meyer Shank Racing team for the opportunity of a lifetime. This is a team that I’ve come to grow very close with in my role in the endurance races in 2018. Now, seeing where we will be in 2019, makes me even more grateful to be working with this group. I am honored and I am thankful to be driving an MSR prepared Acura NSX GT3 Evo for 2019 in phenomenal company.”

Also making his return to the MSR squad, Marks will take on Michelin Endurance Cup duties in the No. 86 entry alongside Hindman and Farnbacher. With a 2017 season that saw several setbacks, Marks is now hoping to push forward this year at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans.

“I’m thrilled to return to MSR in 2019 for the Michelin Endurance Cup races,” said Marks. “The team has done a wonderful job improving the NSX GT3 and with the Evo updates I think we’ll be very competitive. I feel like there’s some unfinished business after a difficult 2018 and I’m looking forward to wiping the slate clean and having another go at it.”

Would it be a Rolex 24 At Daytona without AJ Allmendinger in an MSR car? The team is eager to welcome back Allmendinger for his 13th Rolex 24 At Daytona entry with MSR. Allmendinger made history for the team, scoring its first Rolex 24 victory with a 2012 win in the Prototype field. 2018 was Allmendinger’s first year competing amongst the GTD category at Daytona and he netted a second place finish with teammates, Legge, Hindman and Alvaro Parente. Allmendinger has led every Rolex 24 At Daytona that he has run, having first competed in the event with MSR in 2006 with a run to second.

“This race will always be more special than most,” said Allmendinger. “The prestige of the Rolex 24 hour race doesn’t compare to anything else – Daytona, all the great drivers that have raced in it and won, past and present. To have my name a part of that list is a great honor to me, but what truly will always make it more special is racing with MSR and Mike (Shank) himself. I’m pumped to give it a go with him again to try and get our second Rolex victory.”

Seeing the team grow and create a competitive edge with a near championship win the excitement for 2019 is at an all-time high for Mike Shank.

“We are happy to continue with the Acura program and the new Evo improvements have shown well at our tests,” said Shank. “There’s a sense of ease having both of our cars go full season from the start. Both Mario (Farnbacher) and Trent (Hindman) really impressed me last year. Being a third driver is a difficult thing and they both knocked it out of the park so I’m happy to have them come back for the full season. It’s also great to have Justin (Marks) back for the endurance races and of course I am always honored to have AJ (Allmendinger) race in my cars. He’s part of the MSR family and we will always have a seat ready for him.”

The season will kick off with the annual Roar Before the 24 weekend on January 4-6 followed by the Rolex 24 At Daytona later in the month on January 24-27.

HINDMAN: Taming a Raging Bull

In my third year of running the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final, I think it’s safe to admit that the event as a whole has become one of my favorites to compete in.

Each one of my three experiences at this race have been wildly different; receiving a healthy ass-whooping in 2016, winning overall with Riccardo Agostini in 2017, and scrapping for a top five result this year.

There is one thing in common among all three and that’s the constant beckoning of a return the following season.

Once again I find myself in a position where all I want to do is go back and have another run at it. Although this event doesn’t get the love it deserves, I feel it is certainly on it’s way to being one of the more prestigious events in sports car racing.

The Pro category, for example, is full of absolute killers behind the wheel and I think it’s the challenge of competing against ultra-quick, highly underrated drivers that makes me want to keep coming back for more.

Following the success of 2017 both domestically and overseas at the World Final in Imola, this year’s edition of both Lamborghini Super Trofeo competition in North America as well as our annual European trip, this time to Vallelunga, definitely was not a cinderella story.

In a season marred by incredibly poor luck, Jonathan Cecotto, the Prestige/WTR team, and I were more or less out of the North American title hunt from the start.

However, it was not necessarily a tough pill to swallow, as running the World Final presents a second opportunity to win a championship in sort of a winner take all fashion, so our year was spent in preparation for this event.

Both our final North American rounds, which took place on Friday prior to the World Final, were some of the more successful outings of the year for us.

Pole in Race 1 and good pace through the opening stint gave the impression that it was going to be a straightforward race for us, but alas, lady luck decided that wouldn’t be the case.

A slow pit stop to make a repair to the left rear saw Jonathan leave pit lane in P3, which is ultimately where we ended up. Some of that luck finally fell our direction for once in Race 2, where a pit lane infraction incurred onto the race leader required me to finish no further than three tenths of a second behind if I could not make the pass on track.

We finished just over a tenth of a second behind and got the win… too close for my liking.

Throughout testing and official practice, it was clear that more had to be found in order to compete with the top Pro and Pro Am cars from Europe. That gap was closing heading into our World Final qualifying rounds.

Expectations were reasonable but as soon as we saw some of the times being thrown down in qualifying, we knew it was going to be difficult to recreate last year’s success.

We knew we had a great car over a full race distance, but observing prior races throughout the weekend proved that running in traffic and passing around Vallelunga is difficult to say the least.

World Final Race 1 was one of those “what if” races that we’ve experienced far too often this year.

Receiving a drive-through penalty after being too far under the minimum pit stop time took Jonathan and me out of the running for a podium finish and ultimately the World Final victory as well.

After some investigating post-race, we were not the only team to have received this type of penalty. Cars and teams that were equal to or even stronger than us had also received drive-throughs. These are teams who have been on point all year long and now, the most important event of the year, they miss the pit lane delta by so much? It made very little sense.

Either way, without the drive-through we believe we could have finished inside the top-five purely through attrition and mistakes made by other drivers ahead of us.

Race 2 was once again the redeeming round of the weekend as our strong pace over the course of a stint proved to be most effective here and the car really came alive in the final 20 minutes.

Right on the final lap I had caught P3, made the pass, but after a good fight, we ended up P4.

By our calculations, a P4 result in Race 1 and P3 in Race 2 would’ve made Wayne Taylor Racing back-to-back champions. It’s easy to envision a winning result but that’s not the way it went down. Finishing inside the top five overall despite a turbulent season is certainly nothing for us to be ashamed of.

That beckoning to return to the World Final is heavily influenced by the people who I’m so fortunate to share garage space with.

All three times I’ve run the Super Trofeo World Final has been with a largely unchanged crew at Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing. It’s a mutually supportive environment, of course, but I say that since we’ve all become much closer teammates and friends alike through the highs and lows this event has thrown at us each year.

The education for myself as a driver at this race is on a pretty steep curve every year; having to learn a new circuit, new set-up philosophy with the car (quite a bit different from the way we normally run the cars in North America), and ultimately learning new and ever improving levels of competition.

Seeing the team grow as much as I have over the last three years leaves me with a great sense of pride in our efforts as a whole.

I owe a huge thank you to our entire team at Wayne Taylor Racing, Prestige Performance, Trim-Tex, and Lamborghini Paramus for their constant effort. I’m grateful to once again have been a member of this team and I look forward to what the future has in store for all of us. See you in Daytona.

HINDMAN: Yeah, No Pressure!

It’s been six long months since the last time I have stepped foot in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3.

Having watched every single GTD race from atop the MSR pit box, the apprehension was building as we drew closer to this year’s edition of Petit Le Mans.

For a team and car that was only meant to run the four NAEC rounds, arriving at Road Atlanta with the prospect of Katherine, Alvaro, and the MSR team winning the GTD title made for just a little bit of pressure on this third wheel’s shoulders. Just a bit.

To me, however, it was business as usual. Luckily, being able to run multiple championships helps with keeping the mind clear of any and all possible scenarios and the paranoia that could ultimately lead to a mistake while in the car.

The physical aspect of trying to be in two paddocks at the same time could be a challenge, but the psychological benefits of “never coming up for air” tends to be pretty underrated.

I’ll fast forward through testing, practice, and qualifying for both the VOLT Racing and MSR programs that I am so fortunate to be a part of.

At this point in the season both teams are operating through habit and muscle memory, despite the adversity that could be thrown their way at any given moment.

Seeing this process unfold with the VOLT Racing camp throughout 2018 gives me great pride in being a part of their growth and progression. Everybody on that team has worked at high levels of motorsport before, but the challenge of getting these individuals to operate as a team makes for a fun yet demanding transition, and one I enjoy participating in.

Alan was on point all weekend. Road Atlanta is his type of track since he more or less has the “send it” attitude.

Bravery and commitment behind the wheel is never doubted with him, which is why this place really suits him well. Qualifying 9th, ahead of even some of NASCAR’s finest young guns, was a huge boost for all of us on the team and a confirmation as to how far he’s come in his second season of racing in CTSC.

Of course in all aspects of motorsport, the highs are so incredibly well balanced with the lows.

The elation following Alan’s qualifying effort was equalled with the gut check that was our race, as it was over within five minutes with an admitted mistake. Apart from the pride hurting a bit, we were all just glad to see that Alan was alright.

Arriving at the track for the final time in 2018 on Saturday morning, I think it was safe to say that the MSR crew had more nerves showing before the morning warm-up than they did on pre-grid before the start of our 10 hour event.

I swear the first ten minutes and the final five minutes of the race seemed to never end. Everything in between absolutely flew on by with no regard. Focused on just one stint, one stop, even one lap at a time was a necessity.

Our race was looking pretty dim about mid-way through my first double stint after contact with a prototype damaged my right rear wheel that thankfully stayed together for me.

Early afternoon saw us have some difficulty finding balance between speed and strategy but the guys on our pit box, Ryan and Jeff, managed to get pretty creative with our position. They threw us back out into the fire, right at the very front of the GTD field with our sole focus at this point directed towards bringing home the win.

The strategy was there, our car was getting faster and faster as the sun went down, and our crew were savages over the wall, but no matter what we did and how strong we looked, we just couldn’t escape the crap.

Blocked in our pit box by a GTLM car, then contact, and ultimately Alvaro getting shoved out the way twice in the final stint was enough to secure a second place result in the race, as well as securing Kat’s position of P2 in the championship.

A great day but one full of “what could have been”. Big congrats to my friends Bryan, Madison, and Corey on a fantastic season.

I find it hard to believe that 2018 has essentially come and gone already.

What’s even more terrifying is the fact that yesterday I read a tweet saying that there’s only 100 days until the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Not 100 days until the Roar, 100 days until the actual 24 itself, and there’s a hell of a lot of work that needs to be done in between.

I’ve had the honor of once again being able to work with some of the very best in the industry across multiple paddocks.

None of this could have happened without Alan and the VOLT Racing team, Mike and the Meyer Shank Racing team, my friends at Trim-Tex, as well as those individuals who continue grinding away and supporting these programs with pure grit at the shop or in paddocks across North America.

They’re the real backbone of the madness and unfortunately it’s often times a thankless job.

Also, a quick shoutout to everybody from Continental Tire for their efforts over the last decade in American sports car racing. It was privilege to not only compete in their series, but also drive the “Conti” car at Petit Le Mans last weekend.

We still have one remaining race this year and that’s the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final at Vallelunga, Italy in three weeks time. Wayne Taylor Racing, Prestige Performance, Jonathan Cecotto, and I look to recreate the championship winning success from last year.

The “off season” is a myth and I couldn’t be any more happy about that fact.

HINDMAN: A “Tire-d” Challenge

I miss calling this place Mazda Raceway. Growing up with the Gran Turismo series of games, especially Gran Tursimo 4, the newly dubbed “WeatherTech Raceway” Laguna Seca was always a staple of the series.

Even back then, the colorful blue and orange branding of Mazda and Laguna Seca created a pretty long lasting imprint on the minds of millions of young kids who all dreamed of racing there one day.

So to me, this transition is fantastic for the sport, but I suppose the end of an era. At least the track as we know it remains unchanged.

One aspect of Laguna Seca that many of us drivers, but mainly engineers, find challenging is the rate of tire degradation.

It’s been extreme in recent memory, but this year was an en-tire-ly (punny) new challenge.

The difference between new and old tires at most racetracks, depending on weather and conditions, tends to be right around one second, maybe a bit more if you factor in fuel load, etc.

However, this weekend in direct back-to-back runs, we found literally three full seconds per lap on new tires. That’s pretty insane.

Having decided this would be the main hurdle and deciding factor for a potential race win, the VOLT Racing team focused their efforts on how to manage the loss of time and balance in the car over the course of a full race stint as best we can.

This was proving to be a difficult challenge, as we found ourselves pretty far outside our normal window of setup, but it was a gamble worth taking since it seemed to show some promise throughout practice and qualifying.

After qualifying 12th, Alan had a fantastic start and had made up three positions by the end of lap one by doing nothing more than being smart and keeping the nose clean – exactly what we needed him to do.

From then on, the rest of the stint was pretty straight forward for him, until the battle of attrition with tires began.

At that point in the race, which was only about 40 minutes in, we could tell that almost every car was dropping off quite heavily. Seeing this, along with the first and only full course caution of the race, made for a difficult strategic scenario.

Avoid pitting and run an even longer stint in an effort to one-stop the race, or do we plan on two stops, taking tires on both knowing that may be more conducive to achieving a result over a gain in track position? We decided to go with the latter.

The VOLT team put together two very strong stops, we made good progress in traffic and were gaining significant time per lap on the leaders when, with about 20 minutes to go, we hit that metaphorical wall and started losing time. Fast.

At that point all one can do is hang on and defend.

Losing two positions in the last few minutes of the race, then gaining two on the last lap due to cars ahead of us running short of fuel, meant that we could have had a sure podium finish. Slightly disappointing, since we ended up P4, but overall a strong run for Alan and me.

The challenges presented with tire degradation were the same for everybody in every series across the weekend. There was nowhere to hide… the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team encountered the very same dilemma in Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

We found that we had a very quick car over one lap, but hanging on to that speed was a different story.

Either way, we had gone into Race 1 with plenty of confidence in the tuning path we had chosen. Unfortunately our day ended prematurely when I handed the car over to Jonathan, as we decided not to continue running due to a technical issue.

Obviously that was secondary, as our friend and teammate, Sheena Monk, had a very significant accident in the corkscrew. The details of it and the extent of her injuries have been released. All I can say is that I continue to pray for her full recovery and all of us in the paddock hope she is back with us soon.

Situations like this are tough but it also goes to show the strength of the teams that compete in this sport, since individuals could not do this alone.

We carried on for Race 2 and following a fantastic start from Jonathan, I hopped in the car from the lead with no pressure from behind… until the last three minutes of the race.

Hanging on by a thread, I did my best to defend but alas, it was not enough and we ended up second overall. That’s going to eat at me until Vallelunga.

The challenges were ever present this weekend at Laguna Seca and I just thank those who work through it with us and keep making it happen; Alan, the VOLT Racing team, Trim-Tex, Wayne Taylor Racing, and Prestige Performance.

The year is winding down but this is only the beginning really.

One more opportunity to bring home a GS win with Alan remains, the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final at Vallelunga, Italy beckons, and finally I look forward to making a return with my (recently winning) family at Meyer Shank Racing to close out the IMSA season at Petit Le Mans in that beautiful Acura NSX GT3.