A Lap of Watkins Glen on Continental Tires with Scott Pruett
Heading into the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, there is probably no one better to talk about Watkins Glen than Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 01 BMW-Riley driver Scott Pruett, who has six wins in the six hour as the GRAND-AM Rolex Series stages round six of the 2011 season.
“I think all the teams are learning what we can and can’t do with the Continental Tires as we’ve all experienced them at the various tracks. When we ran them at Lime Rock for instance the degradation from the start of a run to the end of a run was probably the least amount that we’ve seen - at least from our team, the least amount we’ve seen all year. We were incredibly fast at that race and even at the end of the run we were still running incredibly fast speeds. That was a real nice thing that we saw.
“We’re in a position as we work our way into the first practice where those are the kind of things we learn. It’s the same for all the teams and we get out there and try to figure out how to take advantage of the tire the best way we can and how we have to set up the car from a start of a run to the end of a run.
“The trick in qualifying is pulling it all together at 100% for one lap on lap two. And that’s it.You can still try to run harder in different places but you’ve left time on the table. It’s very similar to NASCAR where you really have one good lap where you’ll get the absolute most out of the tire and if you miss that lap, you might pick up time somewhere else and create the same lap time but that was just a lap time that you didn’t put together in that one qualifying lap.
“Going down into turn one, there is heavy braking and we’re running speeds of probably 160-165 mph maybe a little bit more. It depends on the run you get before that heavy braking but you shift down all the way down to second gear from fifth and as you get to turn one there is a little bit of a bank so you use a little bit of that banking to kind of hook the car around turn one and get back hard on the gas. Acceleration is huge because that sets you up for top speed down the back straight when you hit 180-185 mph. It’s incredibly critical to get up and off that turn quite quickly.
“It’s hard on the throttle up through the gears as you work your way up, you’ll be flat through what we call turn two and turn three. It’s a fast part as you work your way onto the backstraight. You have to be real precise with the car and you don’t want to screw up any speed if you can, it’s all a matter of how fast can I get down that back straightaway.
“Then as you work your way to the bus stop again you have fairly heavy braking but you need to carry a lot of speed through the bus stop and for that you rely a lot on the car being fairly quick right to left. So as you turn in it’s a bit of a right, immediately back to the left, another left and then back to the right and then to the sweeper. The car has to react real well through there to carry the speed that you need.
“As you exit the bus stop it’s a very fast sweeping right hander and again you have to have a real good balance with the car in order to maintain as much speed - it’s dropping down hill just a bit - so we work our way out of there down into a fairly tight left hander and again it’s very hard braking. We’re going from fifth down to third gear and you get the car down in and precision in the turn is really critical. You have to be right down at the bottom of the turn to get the little bit of extra grip. Then you accelerate hard again and you have to have good traction and good performance up and off that turn.
“Then you work your way up into one of the tighter turns - probably considered the tightest turn on the track - up in the boot. It’s basically a 180 degree right hand turn - fairly slow- second gear. It’s actually going uphill a bit so we’re using the track and then right when you get to the top it crests and goes flat so the car always wants to try and get away from you a little bit there.
“Then we’re hard on the throttle, accelerate up to fourth gear, again very hard braking into another left hander- a 90 degree left hander. It’s a very slow part of the track and then you work your way back toward the pits into another left hander which you kind of go downhill and then back up slightly and then that turn is kind of cresting right in the middle. It’s a funny angle of the track and it’s always a difficult turn to get right. It just peaks right in the middle of the turn so you use it and then when you get to the middle you almost don’t turn the car at all until it starts picking up a little bit of weight again.
“You continue to do your work - turn the car, get on the throttle. Then you come up to a very fast left-right combination and again the car has got to be right. In a perfect world you want to get through there with almost no brake - you let off a little bit and carry a lot of speed. It’s very difficult to get your car to where you can actually use no brakes but that left hander is critical to carry a lot of speed through.
“You work your way into the last turn before the front straightaway and again having a good balance you get the car right down to the bottom just up onto the curb, accelerate hard and use every bit of track on exit as you work your way down to the start/finish.