The 2018 World Racing League’s “Peachtree Grand Prix” was July 14-15 and marked my second weekend in the WRL series for 2018. Saturday’s race was a nine-hour race while Sunday’s was seven. Our driver lineup was strong with Jason Workman and Alex Ethier sharing the car with me again after a successful Daytona in June.
The green flag flew Saturday with Jason taking the green flag and quickly moving us up the ladder. We were up to third overall at one point! By the end of his stint we had a strong lead in our class (GP3) and that set the tone for the day. Alex got behind the wheel next and ran a good stint before handing it off to me to do a double stint which meant I’d drive around three hours straight.
Upon getting in the car I was ready to put in laps and ensure we remained in the lead. We had fallen back a little but there was plenty of time to climb back up. One of the biggest concerns going into the weekend was the Georgia heat. In the middle of the summer it’s not uncommon to see well over one hundred degrees in the race car. I spent a lot of time training extra hard for these summer races so was ready to put my fitness to the test. Luckily though the weather was strangely nice for July.
My first half of the stint was great and I felt very good in the car. After the first fuel stop in my stint I kept doing what I do and turning laps as quickly as possible without being too rough. Our strategy was to take me out at the end of my double stint and put Jason back in to finish since he only ran a single stint at the start and I’d be getting fatigued by then.
My stint eventually came to an end after three hours or so and I came into the pit lane so we could do a driver change and fuel as well. I was excited to see we were back in the lead and comfortably. This meant Jason just had to take things easy and turn mediocre laps for an hour and a half to take the checkered flag.
That hour and a half came to an end and we finished on the top step of the podium! Not only that but we also had another top ten finish which is massive in such a competitive series with such a wide variety of vehicles. While we were excited to win Saturday we still had a long day on Sunday. The team also had work to do as we decided to do a differential change Saturday night after Jason reported some odd handling problems. For me it was off to a quick dinner then to get some sleep to be ready for Sunday!
We decided to start Alex first on Sunday morning and run him for two hours. I would then do a double-stint and then Jason would take it to the end again. Alex had a smooth start but he was falling back considerably and seconds off Saturday’s pace. As it turned out he radioed in that the car was very hard to drive and handling very badly. The team wasn’t sure why and he couldn’t pin point what the characteristics of the problem were though.
After two hours I got into the car to do my double stint and to give feedback on the car’s issue so that the team owner could decide what needed to be done. The car did indeed handle badly and it was immediately noticeable. In short, the car would not turn well and then lose rear grip causing a very ill-handling car that was a workout to keep on the track. In the end the differential was not working correctly.
The issue continued but I had to focus on driving around the problem. So many drivers focus on the problems versus just dealing with the issue at hand. I kept my head down and I drove as fast as I could with a car that didn’t handle. During my stint I managed to move us back up to second place after we were as far back as seventh. It was a hard three hours but it was a rewarding stint. It was even kind of fun trying to see how I could improve my lap times with the car in that condition. The handling did make for some “hold your breath” moments when passing or being passed by faster cars.
My three hours came to an end and it was time to pass the car off to Jason to take us to the finish. I quickly informed him what the car felt like and then he was on his way. After a couple of hours or so the checkered flag came out to end the weekend. We managed second in class and once again a top-ten overall. Not bad for a car that drove like a dump truck!
It was massively successful weekend
with a win and a second place and that put us in a strong position for championship points. Our next WRL race is not until August at Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham, AL.
I want to give a special thank you to all of my partners and supporters.