HOUSTON, THANKFULLY WE HAD NO PROBLEM The second round of the American Le Mans Series was at a venue new to all, a 1.7-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit around the streets of Houston, Texas. We knew it was going to be quite challenging because of...
HOUSTON, THANKFULLY WE HAD NO PROBLEM
The second round of the American Le Mans Series was at a venue new to all, a 1.7-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit around the streets of Houston, Texas. We knew it was going to be quite challenging because of the layout of the track, and also because of the weight and restrictor penalties we were carrying, but in the end we couldn't have had a better result.
It was Olivier's turn to qualify in our No. 4 Corvette, and to start the race, and he put us 2nd in class just .055 seconds behind Ron who was on top form all weekend. The computer simulation work the engineers did before the race, and the adjustments the crew made in the setup at the track, produced a fantastic win on a circuit we'd never seen before. We were carrying a 176-pound handicap, and it was hard, hard work.
Olivier and I had struggled a bit with understeer during the practice sessions but we found something in qualifying which, although it didn't give us quite as much front grip as we wanted, put us into the ballpark. As Olivier said after qualifying, "On this kind of track, you need to start with a car that you can really trust and have confidence in." The Corvette was very good, but on a street circuit you can't afford to put a wheel wrong.
It was very bumpy in Houston and it's quite a fast track; a mad track really. But in a way that's what made it fun. It was wide and narrow in different places and you have to be really careful in certain areas. It was a mad race and full on the whole time. With such a short track, there was no chance to rest at all during a lap and it was very physical. I followed Johnny for 1hour 15 minutes out of my time in the car (98 minutes) and was almost mesmerised sitting behind him. He was driving brilliantly in the No. 3 car, and he didn't make a mistake, not one inch. It couldn't have been any closer between us and the Aston Martins
In the second half of my first stint in the car, Stephane Sarrazin in the 009 Aston was catching us and was driving really well but, just before the last stop, Sarrazin spun and lost some time. It had been shaping up to be a grandstand finish and we thought he would be racing us for the class win.
It all got a bit confusing towards the end, with the Aston losing ground and the yellow flags. The way we work it at Corvette Racing is that the car in second place [of our two] always stops first. This time, because the flags came out just after my pit stop, I think it had a big effect. I managed to get us in front due to a good in-lap and an even better out-lap from the pit stop. My engineers told me after the race that my out-lap made all the difference. I knew it was going to be critical and I pushed like mad, nearly crashing about three times! It was one of those laps where you've really got to go for it and it worked in our favour as we were leading the GT1 class by the time the track went green again. I saw an Aston in front of me and got even more confused as I thought it was Sarrazin ahead of us in class. It was actually Tomas Enge, with 3 lights on the side of his car (denoting that he was in 3rd place in class) and he was a lap down on us.
As Doug Fehan says, you have to be really, really good to beat us or really lucky. Today really shows the strength of the Corvette, even with the added weight. We had problems with brakes, tyres and overheating but, every single time there seems to be a hurdle, our team jumps over it. A fantastic result.