This past weekend marked the start of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championship, and no better place to kick off the season than at the Circuit of the Americas circuit in Austin, TX.
I had a good mixture of nerves and excitement going into the weekend with CoTA being a new track, the Honda Civic Si being a new car, and Touring Car A being a new class with new competitors. Even with all of the nerves I was feeling, I was still excited to tackle this new challenge with Compass 360 Racing, a championship winning team I was looking forward to working with.
The promoter test day was really about learning the track, especially with conditions not being ideal. I believe it was below freezing for the first half of the day, and warmer at home in Baltimore than it was in Austin! Even without much quality track time during the test day, I still felt as though I learned a lot with the help of my driver coach, Lawson Aschenbach.
We had official practice Friday morning and qualifying that afternoon. Even after practice and qualifying I knew I still had a lot of work to do in order to be at the front of the field. At this point I was a bit frustrated because it was only a couple corners giving me trouble, but CoTA is a huge track so any little mistake leads to a big loss of time.
The main goal for me in race 1 was to race clean, and make sure I brought the car back to collect points. As expected, everyone is excited with it being the first race of the year, and there were quite a few spins at the start, allowing me to pick up a few positions right away. There is great racing in the TCA class and I had a close battle the last couple laps for p7, but couldn’t make a last lap pass stick and ended up p8.
The start of race 2 was not quite as smooth. There was some confusion at pre grid so it took a bit of time to get that sorted, making the actual gridding process feel a bit rushed. Because of this my heart rate was definitely higher than normal, and I did not get off to a great start. This left me even more rattled and I was definitely over driving the car, which especially slows down a front wheel drive car. My car chief, Mike Pierro, and Lawson were both very calming on the radio, and I was able to settle down a bit and drive my way to a p6 finish.
My favorite race of the weekend was definitely race 3. We knew it was going to be a wet race, and I was nervous for this at the start because I do not have much rain experience. The start was a bit sketchy as all of the spray made visibility difficult, but somehow we all made it through turn 1 cleanly. I settled into a rhythm and was running as high as p4, but I learned that late braking in the rain does not work well, and dropped back to p6. Shea Holbrook and I had a great battle at the end, and I really enjoyed that racing.
Though finishing a few spots higher would have been great, I can’t be terribly disappointed with how the first weekend went. I improved every session, and left CoTA with decent points. I can’t thank the whole Compass 360 crew enough for their hard work all weekend, they’re a great team to work with and give me a great car every session. I also need to thank Lawson Aschenbach for all of his help this weekend; he is as good of a coach as he is
race driver. Finally I need to thank my parents, and my partners; Chesapeake Electrical Systems Inc., and The Jacobs Company Inc., without them this weekend wouldn’t have been possible.
Onto Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May!