I was coming to Detroit with some nice memories from last year’s experience in GTD. I’ve heard a lot of drivers saying that they don’t like the layout but I like it quite a lot. It has some big brakes, good combinations of corners and no problem of track limits ;-)
The practice 1 went well, but being the 1st on track, there was not a lot of grip and the lap times kept improving lap after lap. The car had too much understeer in the middle of the corners but we still got the fastest lap. We did quite a lot of changes for practice 2 but unfortunately we couldn’t really feel it as I did 2 warmup laps and a practice launch and then came a red flag which ended the session. So we went a bit blind into qualifying knowing that the track could have improve a lot and our set up might be too aggressive for the rear tires. After qualifying we didn’t know more, as a Porsche crashed in turn 2 as I was finishing my 1st time lap. Boom, red flag and I didn’t have any laptime!! Half of the field completed one lap but without pushing it for most of the drivers. It took really long to evacuate the car and the parts from the track so the session never restarted as the schedule was really tight with Indy Car and Tudor United Sports Car.
At that point all the amateur drivers were in front of the pro’s due to the split from qualifying in 2 groups and the pro’s having done no substantial lap time. The Series made the decision to grid the cars based on points for the 1st race as it would have been a big risk to let all the pro’s at the end of the field with the knife between the teeth on a street circuit! So I started P2 as Ryan Dalziel was in Le Mans for the official test Day. It was a rolling start and everything went well for the whole field. I stayed P2 behind Beretta for 2 laps and then he made a small mistake in T8 which brought him out of line for the next 2 corners and I could cross him on the exit of 11 to be in the inside for 12. Everything went perfectly as the Ferrari pushed me a bit right to protect his position but left me enough room to make my pass without having contact.
After that I built up a comfortable 5 second lead in the next 10 laps and I controlled the gap until the end.
I tried to push hard in the last 3 laps to get back the fastest lap and start on pole for the next race but it didn’t work out, as I picked up too much understeer through the race and couldn’t carry the speed I wanted at the apex from the corners. I was super happy to win this “no caution” race as it brought us closer to the lead in the driver championship and extended our 1st place in the manufacturer.
On Sunday we had the warmup at 8am and it was raining for 10 hours at that point. The track had a lot of water and with our McLaren it was impossible to stay flat in the back straight. We had massive aquaplaning at 100 miles/h and without having to push I almost lost the car 15 times in 10 min. I finally stopped in pit lane on the call from my engineer Steeve Conover, which made the right decision as it was getting dangerous. Our race was scheduled at 12:10 and the organization decided to cancel it at 11am as the radar was showing more rain and the spray from 35GT on a really wet street circuit would have made the racing impossible. I think that it was the right decision as I know that being under pressure from a result, all the drivers would have pushed hard and there would have been more yellows than green.
At the moment the Organization took the decision to double the points from our next race in Road America which is going to be, a really important one for the championship!!!