While packing the race gear that I needed for the weekend, I did my usual last minute check of the weather to see if the forecasts had changed.
Nope. It still appeared to be a pretty nasty Fourth of July weekend… lots of rain everyday, even strong thunderstorms being predicted.
For most, that was the last piece of information they wanted, especially when heading to the racetrack for a weekend of competition. For me, however, it was exactly what I wanted to hear (aside from the prediction of thunderstorms, of course).
There are not many other things I enjoy more in this world than racing in the rain.
A situation that I used to loathe more than anything else, at some point in my karting career I found that if I ever wanted to become competitive and win races in adverse weather conditions, I must learn to love it, and I did.
So, what does any of that have to do with driving a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport GS in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, you may ask?
The possibility of a wet race gave me the utmost confidence that we had more than a solid shot at victory and a race where the Bodymotion Racing team, Cameron Cassels, and I could really do some damage in the GS championship and extend our points lead.
Unfortunately it didn’t all go down the way I had hoped, actually very much the opposite, but nonetheless it was still a positive event for us.
Working hard on our car all throughout practice and qualifying, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Cam and I were pleased with what we had underneath us.
Although we did not lead any practice session, we knew we were very strong in the areas that we could directly control, so you really cannot ask for much more than that.
Some minor set up changes had helped, but for the most part we rolled off the truck in fairly decent shape, which is always confidence inspiring, especially on these race weekends where you really do not have much time for tuning your equipment.
In one of the strangest qualifying sessions I’ve seen in quite some time with some ST cars that unfortunately found the infamous “blue bushes” on their in-laps along with a drying racetrack and a fundamental misunderstanding of the rule book by the GS field under red flag conditions, it had made the last ditch qualifying lap put in by Cameron just that much more important. We would roll off the grid in 10th for Saturday’s two hour race.
Seeing some of the intense rain storms just passing the Watkins Glen International circuit to the north and a steady line of dark clouds following, this is where I was really hoping that, for once, the Weather Channel was correct in their predictions for sustained rain.
Our race was off to a very clean start with Cam netting one or two extra positions at turn one and he was immediately taking off, trying to catch the next pack of cars ahead. Approaching the 45 minute mark, the rain started coming down. Hard.
I loved what I was seeing since I knew this was our legitimate shot at a victory. Unfortunately as soon as that storm had rolled in, it was right back out with only a stretch of cloudless blue sky following. Damn.
Whatever, I was still confident in the car that I had underneath me to be able to take advantage of the restart following a lengthy red flag for weather and push to the front, but that did not happen.
I found myself outgunned pretty quickly and all I could do was defend as hard as possible and minimize the loss of ground in the championship.
We finished P4; a gift if you ask me since our pace was not very close to that position. That one was hard fought to say the least, and with the efforts by Cam and the Bodymotion team, we head to CTMP with our GS championship lead in tact.
With some frustration following the CTSC race, I was forced to quickly let go of it and move on, as I had to be ready to fight for a victory in Lamborghini Super Trofeo race two with Riccardo Agostini and the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team.
The pressure was on since Ricky put together one hell of a qualifying lap and put the No. 1 car on the pole! The guy went on to lead every single lap of his stint, without too much pressure from behind, and I was fortunate enough to hop in and do the very same.
For me, it came right down to the finish line but a win is a win and I sure was glad to be leaving my favorite track in the world on a high note.
Once again I thank the entire Bodymotion Racing team, Trim Tex, Prestige Performance, Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Squadra Corse, Cameron, and Ricky for making it possible for me to run, with success, in two very competitive championships.
I’m incredibly lucky to work with such phenomenal groups of people. CTMP is a little more relaxed in terms of scheduling but the intensity will very much be the same as Cam and I continue our fight for the GS championship.
FOR THE 2017 EDITION OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS PROGRAM
The Young Drivers Program, established in 2014, was the first of the four talent programs created by Lamborghini Squadra Corse to give young drivers the opportunity to build a career in Motorsport. Now in its fourth edition, the Young Drivers Program is the “scholarship” for drivers (aged 17-26) already racing in the Super Trofeo one-make series in Europe, Asia and North America.
After examining the potential members to be included in the 2017 program during winter tests and the first races of the three continental series of the Super Trofeo, Lamborghini Squadra Corse has selected the 23 participants who will take part in the 2017 edition. Some drivers of the past edition have been reconfirmed, such as Ben Gersekowski, Loris Spinelli, Nicolas Costa, Bar Baruch and Rik Breukers.
Some others have been promoted and have gained access to the upper level, the GT3 Junior Program, starting from the 2016 Super Trofeo world champion, Dennis Lind.
Many, instead, are the new entries who are going to become part of the Lamborghini Squadra Corse family: for example the young drivers who emerged during the winter in the new Super Trofeo Middle East series, such as the champion of the series Axcil Jefferies, the German Carrie Schreiner and her teammates Jack Bartholomew and Richard Goddard, to continue with the promising Jonathan Cecotto, Kikko Galbiati, Mikael Grenier, Jan Kisiel, Christopher Dreyspring and Yuki Nemoto, who are demonstrating their potential in the Super Trofeo Europe. Brandon Gdovic and Trent Hindman are instead standing out in the North American series.
Here is the complete member list of the 2017 Young Drivers Program of Lamborghini Squadra Corse.
Alex Jia Tong Liang
Young Drivers’ activities during the Super Trofeo weekends
Being a member of the Young Drivers Program of Lamborghini Squadra Corse means having access to a wide range of professional growth opportunities. During every round of the Super Trofeo, for example, the young drivers are assisted on track by a new staff specifically set up by Lamborghini Squadra Corse for this season: Raffaele Giammaria, director of the Federal School ACI Sport, is the new supervisor of the youth programs of the Motorsport department. The experienced Italian driver, together with the Federal School instructors, has the task of teaching all the necessary know-how to young drivers. Before each race, drivers receive a dossier specifically prepared to inform them about the sporting regulations and race track. Over the weekend, they attend meetings to discuss the course of free practice and qualifying sessions and another fixture is the track walk, i.e. a walk on track to discover, centimeter by centimeter, all the secrets of the circuit where they are going to race.
After each round, drivers are required to compile a report, identical to that written by the Lamborghini Factory Drivers, in which everyone makes a technical and personal account of the race weekend, to look for any minimum improvement margin for the following races.
Training camp in Imola and Sant’Agata Bolognese
But the most important events are the training camps organized by Lamborghini Squadra Corse throughout the year, namely specific sessions involving both the drivers of the Young Drivers Program and those of the GT3 Junior Program. The sessions take place in Imola and Sant’Agata Bolognese in June and September, with three days of full immersion in the Lamborghini world. In the factory, the drivers have the opportunity to get to know the brand, by visiting the production lines, the museum and the various departments. The Imola circuit is where training takes place: the young drivers have the opportunity to participate in test sessions and in the development of Huracán Super Trofeos and GT3s, together with the engineers of Lamborghini Squadra Corse and Pirelli. By driving cars on track for development purposes and not for competing, drivers can sharpen their sensitivity and learn how to best communicate their sensations to race engineers, which is a crucial aspect in the training of drivers.
Then there is athletic preparation, under the supervision of performance coaches specialized in Motorsport, who have the task of monitoring and improving the drivers’ physical preparation through targeted training sessions. Lastly, there is also theory, with classroom sessions about communication, behavioral notions, racecar engineering and Lamborghini road cars. In this way, drivers can become complete professionals.
Certified Lamborghini Accademia instructors
One of the opportunities offered to youth program drivers is to become instructor drivers of the Lamborghini Accademia, the official driving school open not only to Lamborghini customers but also to all enthusiasts. Those who prove to have the right attitude to carry out this parallel activity are further trained to practice this profession, which is different from being a professional driver. To increase the quality of its services, Lamborghini Squadra Corse obtained the certification of all its Accademia drivers/instructors through a practical and theoretical training course held in Vallelunga at the Federal School ACI Sport last January.
Lamborghini Squadra Corse certified Tüv ISO 9001
Since the beginning of 2017, Lamborghini Squadra Corse, the Motorsport department of Automobili Lamborghini, has been certified ISO 9001. To award this certification, the TÜV Italia team verified the certification, development, manufacturing and assistance processes of race cars as well as the organizational and management aspects of competitions during sporting events on European tracks.
By handing in the certification to Stefano Domenicali, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Automobili Lamborghini, the Managing Director of TÜV Italia, Oliver Jacob, wanted to emphasize how Lamborghini Squadra Corse dealt with the complexity of this certification with a high level of commitment, a characteristic of the sporting tradition of Automobili Lamborghini.
For the last three years that IMSA has made the trip to Circuit of The Americas, it’s conveniently been right at the end of summer and the term “Texas hot” could not become any more applicable.
In 2015, for example, while driving the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW E92 M3 GS car, we experienced a race day which saw a high of 105 degrees ambient temperature.
Since that lovely, high revving, S65 V8 sits so low and so far back, with headers that run almost right underneath your feet, it did get quite warm in the cockpit. So hot, in fact, that the bottom of my left shoe heel was no longer attached to my shoe but instead to the floorboard on which it was resting.
I have photos to prove it! Luckily during this trip to COTA, we in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge had really beautiful weather to go racing, with no melting shoes…
With over a month since our last, character-building race at Sebring, Cameron Cassels, the Bodymotion Racing crew, and I needed to have a solid weekend in order to stay in the GS championship hunt. Fortunately for us, we did just that.
COTA has historically been good to me, finishing second in last year’s GS race with Cameron and even winning a crucial nail biter in 2014 with John Edwards.
I have to admit that I was feeling relatively confident, despite being advised that the Porsche may not be competitive at the super technical, 3.427-mile track.
Watching the MotoGP race from a few weeks prior, it appeared that track conditions had seemed to have deteriorated quite drastically compared to the years prior.
As we witnessed the changes first hand during Wednesday afternoon’s track walk, the asphalt itself seemed a lot more weathered compared to September 2016, but more importantly, feeling where significant bumps have developed in key areas of the track made setting up our car a little bit more challenging than normal.
Since our race “weekend” is only two days, it goes by blindingly fast, so during Thursday practice it is just that much more important to make the most of every single lap you are given.
For me, it’s all about getting our car dialed in for the long run as well as making sure Cameron gets enough time to re-acclimate himself to the track.
Small changes between practice one and two on Thursday lead to big gains in lap time heading into Friday’s race, so we were quite happy with the weapon we had brought to play with.
Cameron did his normal rock solid job in qualifying and the opening stint of the race, setting personal best laps along the way, which in turn is always confidence inspiring for me and the Bodymotion crew.
Again, knowing that our Cayman GT4 was not supposed to be the best car at this track, we knew that great pit stops and a modified strategy would be necessary in order to have a shot at victory.
A full course yellow right around the 45 minute mark was exactly what we needed, but now this turned into a fuel mileage race… which is always how it seems to go around COTA.
A fantastic stop by the Bodymotion crew and a great strategic call by engineer extraordinaire Marc Manning moved us up to P5 for the restart, although now it was a test of who could make it to the end of this two hour event with only one stop.
I was most definitely sweating this one out, because not only was it my job to push forward and try to make up positions, but now I also had to try and pass a handful of phenomenal drivers all while saving fuel. Sweet.
Fortunately some patience and a lot of luck put us in the lead… for roughly two corners, and the momentum lost by battling hard with Robin allowed both McLarens to scream on by.
We had great pace though the first half of the racetrack but once we got to the tight, point and shoot sort of corners that we find in sectors two and three around COTA, I just couldn’t get close enough to properly attack.
With about ten minutes to go in the race, our focus shifted back to simply making it to the finish without running out of fuel! Hectic fuel saving and quite the nerve-wracking last lap that felt like it would never end gave us a solid P3 finish.
Of course we are always thinking about how we could have gotten those final two positions for victory, but for now, we were pleased that we had simply survived with a better than expected result.
It was also very encouraging to hear that we would head to Watkins Glen as the GS championship leaders.
Immediately after finishing the GS race, it was a full on sprint back to the support paddock to change driving suits and get ready for Lamborghini Super Trofeo race one.
I know… I have zero right whatsoever to say anything negative about hopping out of one car and getting directly into another, especially when its a Porsche to a Lamborghini!
I would just briefly like to mention that I am very thankful to be back in Super Trofeo this season with the Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing team that I had been so fortunate to have success with last year.
Our weekend went quite well over there, as my new co-driver Riccardo Agostini and I brought home a pair of second place finishes in the Pro category.
After almost three straight weeks on the road concluding with an incredibly busy yet successful three days in Austin, it’s nice to be home for a few days.
As always, a big thank you to Cameron and the Bodymotion Racing team, along with the Prestige Performance crew for their efforts towards some solid results this past weekend.
The Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 had a new look this weekend thanks to Joe Koenig and all of my friends at Trim-Tex! Looking forward to sharing much success together with them as we did just a few years ago.
Hopefully Cam and I will do as John and I did in 2014, grab hold of this GS championship lead and never look back! On to Watkins Glen..