Kevin Estre: Road America
Our last race weekend in the Pirelli World Challenge was at Detroit but the second race was canceled due to bad weather so we had the make up race in Road America. It means 3 races during the weekend so a really important one.
The practice session went ok for us with some fine tuning as our car had too much oversteer in the slow corners when we arrived. I finally did the fastest lap during the last practice which brought us a bit more confidence even if we didn’t know how fast our competitors could go. We knew that we were really down on power and that Road America has a ton of straight line but we were happy with our performance.
In qualifying the car was great on the peak from the tire and I could turn down a lap 0.7s quicker than in practice in the same condition. I was quite happy until my engineer told me on the radio that we were 1.8s off the pole and P11! After that I tried to push for another lap but the peak of the tires wer gone and I couldn’t improve.
So I started P10 in the 1st race which was the make up race from Detroit. Our standing start was not great so Ilost a position but overtook 4 drivers on the 1st restart. Then I was in a solid 8th place when I got a rear left puncture 10min before the checkered. I came in to change the tire and the crew did a super job on that as I didn’t lose a lap and could score some points. We don’t know what happened to the tire because there was nothing left when I got to the pits, but I knew that I was pushing hard at the beginning of the race and maybe had too much over the curbs. We saw a few punctures on other cars during practices and race 1 but hard to know why.
We started P11 in the Saturday race and I was really focused on staying off the curbs, as much as possible, to avoid any risks. I gained a position at the start and just like the 1st race, I gained some more during the restart one lap later as I timed it perfectly. Unfortunately after that, 3 cars passed me back on the straight line and I couldn’t do anything about it. We had a great car but the characteristic from this track plus the BOP(Balance of performance) adjustment that we received since the beginning of the year brings our straight line speed so low that the Bentley or the Nissan were 6-7 cars length faster than us in each straight. I was still fighting to get some important points when I got another rear puncture, which appears under full course yellow. Our strategy was then different than the day before as my fastest lap of the race would qualify me P12 for Sunday’s race. The crew decided to give me 4 brand new tires to try to turn a faster lap and get a better starting position. I did my best and it was the 4th fastest lap.
I started Race 3 on the 4th row and did not have a great start as I lost a position. We had a full course yellow as my team mate stalled and another competitor couldn’t avoid him. The restart was given 3 laps later and I made another great restart getting back my 4th position. On the way to turn 5 the Bentley in front of me created some gap and Skeen was really close to me. I hit the brakes as hard and late as I could to protect my position and unfortunately, the 3 cars in front of me slowed down a little more than normal and I touched the Bentley and spun him around. Instantly I got quite a big hit in the rear which destroyed my rear fence, bumper, diffuser and therefore the tire! I had to pit to replace the rear left tire( again this one!) and tape the rear of the car to be able to continue. The stewards gave me a drive through for avoidable contact, so at that point I just finished the race to get some really small points.
That’s been my worse race weekend since a really long time and I hope to get back some luck in the next event in Mid Ohio. The track should suit our McLaren better there and I hope that the series will make some BOP adjustment to slow down some TOO fast cars!