Racing is a very unique sport because there are many factors that are out of the control of the team and the driver. This weekend was an epiphany of constant misfortune that heavily affected our results. Going into this weekend with an 18-point lead my goal was to maintain an aggressive approach, but do my best to finish the races to gain valuable points.
Friday was the first day on track, but there were only two practices on the schedule: in the morning at 10:00AM and in the evening at 5:30PM. The morning practice we started off very quick out of the gate, missing the fastest time by 0.001 seconds. The track felt very low grip since we were one of the first cars on track that day, so we knew there was still work to be done on set up before the next practice later that evening. So we made some adjustments to our car and decided to remain on the same tires we used in the first practice to have an extra set for one of the races. In the final practice some teams decided to use sticker tires, so our final standings before qualifying weren’t indicative of our true pace for qualifying. So going into Saturday morning I had a lot of confidence with the team and our car set up.
Our qualifying was bright and early at 8:00AM Saturday morning and the temperature was very cold, which plays a huge factor on the rate at which the tires gain grip on track. The first few laps the tires struggled getting up to temp. But with the sun out the track quickly started to heat up and the tires began reaching their peak. After our first sticker tire run we were toward top of the charts, but with different teams running different strategies other cars used more sets of stickers during the session than we did. So toward the middle of the session we were sitting in the pits waiting for a good time slot to put our lap in while other teams were already on their second set, so we had a good idea of the time we needed to do before going out. Once we decided to go out, I found a decent gap behind a couple of cars but with time running out there wasn’t a chance to look for a better gap on track. On my fastest lap, the car in front of me decided to back off of the car in front of them, which interfered with my fastest lap. Due to the place on track the interference took place it altered my next lap because I was slowed up right before the time line. After losing the peak of the tire, I couldn’t get down to a competitive time to improve my starting position. This was the beginning of the bad luck we experienced for the rest of the weekend.
The first race was at noon on Saturday and we were starting 8th, so with the championship in mind I intended on
doing my best to stay out of trouble and get a solid point finish. I didn’t get the best start and found myself lose two spots after the first couple corners, but due to attrition up front I made up the two spots from other cars going off, so I was still in 8th after the first lap. With more cars battling I had moved up to 5th and settled in around halfway. With about 9 laps to go, my engine entered “Limp Mode” in the middle of turn 5 because I had been losing oil throughout the race. This ended my race early, meaning we would finish 15th.
The second race was the same time on Sunday and I was starting 7th due to the second best qualifying time. I had learned from the first race and got a much better start and was up to 5th after the first couple corners, but ended up in 6th after more battling on the opening lap. The majority of this race was pressuring the car in front of me and conserving the tires for later on to make a move. On the last lap I made an attempt to pass for 5th in the last corner, but couldn’t pull it off without collecting both of us, so I backed out before the exit and brought the car home in 6th.
In the end the weekend had much of bad luck, but the team worked extremely hard to get my car ready for the race on Sunday and we collected valuable points to keep us in the championship fight going into the next race weekend. We lost the championship lead for now, but we’re only 6 points behind the leader and 8 points ahead of the driver behind us. The next race weekend it will be important to set up a fast car in qualifying so we can continue to get good results and get back on top of the championship.