Watkins Glen drew a huge crowd this weekend as the NASCAR series combined with the Grand AM series for another great race event. Adam Christodoulou - Grand-Am Rolex Series My team mate, John Edwards, managed to take our ...
Watkins Glen drew a huge crowd this weekend as the NASCAR series combined with the Grand AM series for another great race event.
Adam Christodoulou - Grand-Am Rolex Series
My team mate, John Edwards, managed to take our #68 MazdaSpeed Motorsports Development Mazda RX-8 into 5th during qualification, and the start of our race went well.
John quickly found himself in 4th, then 3rd, before winding up hot on the tail of the second place #57 car. Although he had the run into penultimate corner, there wasn't enough time to pull off the overtake, however it wasn't long before opportunity struck again, and as #57 moved over to the left and onto the racing line, he made contact with a Prototype car in the final corner, and this allowed John to overtake into turn one. Unfortunately for us, the officials ruled it as a contact advantage and we were penalised with a drive through, which dropped us back to 8th or 9th. From what I witnessed, I felt it was a little harsh, but the officials decision was final and we had to get on with our race.
Just as we passed the 45 minute mark, John handed the car over to me. Our the pitstop was seriously quick, and with no faults or delays, I had a set of fresh tyres and immediately felt confident with our setup and race pace. It took a few laps to warm the tyres but I was able to hold position.
Once the tyres had some heat in them, the car was on rails. I was chipping my way through the grid and gaining positions. Halfway through my stint I collected the fastest lap of the race, and as I started to catch up with the leaders, cars started pitting for fuel and tyres. I was now in the top three when the team radioed-in telling me to pit on my next lap when suddenly the safety car was deployed half way around the lap.
It had happened again! The safety timing of the safety car had taken away our advantage and we had to change our race strategy. Half a lap ahead and I would have been able to pit before the safety car and consolidate my top three position, but unfortunately the events meant our only choice now was to come in the pits at after the safety car period, fuel for the end of the race and ultimately that meant we'd lose position. The net result was that we dropped back to near 10th place.
With just 20 minutes to go, our prospects looked tough. On the restart after the safety car, there was a crash between two Prototype cars, which immediately caused another safety car, and frustrated our progress further as it ate the little time I had left for overtaking. The track was cleared up with 5 minutes to go and I was fighting battles left, right and centre for positions.
I was side by side with another Mazda going into the bus stop but wasn't able to pull off the move, which slowed my mid-corner speed down. Suddenly the #07 car gave me a bump from behind and it allowed him past. I eventually made my way into 7th by the time we reached the last lap. I had the run on #40 car going into NASCAR corner, pulled out to the inside and braked half a car length later, putting me into 6th - but his left front wheel clipped my right rear tyre going into the left hander and it bounced me up into the air and gave me a puncture. I was put into a spin. I completed a full 360 degrees on the run off tarmac, dropped it down a gear and aided the car around the last corner and over the finish line, luckily retaining our 6th position.
I couldn't believe our general poor luck this weekend. We had a strong car, team and super fast pit stops, but the appearances of the safety car destroyed our original strategy. But such is racing. Half a lap would have made a whole lot of difference.
Even so, we can leave knowing it was a good race for our points tally, and it leaves us only 6 points behind the 4th team in the team rankings, and similarly, just 6 points behind 6th place in the drivers' championship. It's going to be tight with just two events to go, and I'm now focusing our next race which is in Canada, at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.