After a hard weekend in Long Beach, my girlfriend and I were happy to spend 2 days in California. We had some rest and it was important to help forget the bad race. The atmosphere in the paddock and in the team was not great when we arrived in Alabama. There was a lot of tension between the drivers/teams against the officials which apply a lot of penalties and some more accurate than others. But the track walk, which we made on Wednesday, brought back a huge smile on my face as I love the track ;-)
We had a great day of testing Thursday, the two sessions went perfectly. Me learning the track and setting up the car. Friday’s official test was a bit more difficult in terms of lap time as we couldn’t find a clear lap on new tires and our car didn’t suit the track as much as the day before with higher temperatures.
The conditions from Saturday’s qualifying weren’t optimum. We started on rain tires on a damp track and the car was not as great as it used to be in the rain. I think that we did not have the perfect tire pressure for the conditions. I was still running P7 when half of the field decided to go for slicks. It was a hard decision at that point as some drivers were still improving on wets so we decided to stay on rain tires. After getting some temps in the slicks, some guys improved in the last 2 laps and I ended up P13.
The start of the 1st race was a rolling start. I had a good start and was able to pass 3 cars in the 1st lap. It took me 1 more lap to overtake the Bentley in Turn 2 and I caught a Mercedes at the end of the lap. I overtook the Mercedes in Turn 2 a lap later and was then all over the Eversley’s Acura. I was quite a lot faster but Barber is not an easy track to overtake and Eversley was doing a good job keeping me behind and staying fair. I finally overtook him in Turn 5 on braking but on the exit I suddenly lost power with the feeling of the clutch slipping. We were then 3 wide on the way to the narrow chicane 7/8 with the Mercedes on the left and me in the middle. At that point I didn’t want to loose all the hard work from the last 3 laps so I decided to brake later than them and came into the chicane side ways. I had to go in the grass in 8 but made the move and got my positions back… (Video on my Instagram: kevinestre) unfortunately after that the clutch kept slipping and I had to stop on track. So unfortunately no points for us in this race and my fastest lap being removed by overtaking the Bentley, which made me start P6 for race 2.
I started P5 as Davison lost his victory from Race 1 and therefore his fastest lap because of an overboost. I had a rocket start on this standing start and was able to be P2 on the braking from Turn 1. Then a double yellow appears because of a stalled car during the start. From that moment on it started a great battle with my teammate Thorne who started from the pole. It was not easy to overtake as he was really strong on braking and not doing too many mistakes. We had no team order other than having no contact! After a great Exit from Turn 2/3 I could attack him on braking from T5 and got the lead. After 2 laps I had a bit of a gap but a yellow came out for the next 20 min as the Cadillac from O’Connell was on fire. I had a great restart and pulled a 2 second gap on the 1st lap finishing with a 4 second gap on the other K-PAX of Robert.
Great 1-2 for the team which had a tough weekend and happy for Robert who finally got a race without trouble. Our McLaren 650S was outstanding during the race and I love Barber. The good news is that the next race is in Mosport and it’s one of my favorite tracks!