Dan's Diary: Laguna Seca, Monterey, California, USA -- Round 11 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship, 14 October 2001 -- Going back to Laguna Seca was great! The track is fantastic to drive around and the atmosphere is electric; very similar...
Laguna Seca, Monterey, California, USA -- Round 11 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship,
14 October 2001 -- Going back to Laguna Seca was great! The track is fantastic to drive around and the atmosphere is electric; very similar to Long Beach. It must be a Californian thing! The only downside was that our weekend didn't go as planned and, to be honest, it cost us an outside shot at the Championship.
I didn't run in the Friday morning practice session, so the first time on track for me was the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon.
Qualifying went well, and we ended the session fourth quickest. You might be thinking fourth isn't that good. However, every other driver in the field had used two sets of tyres, and we had only used one set, which left us with two sets to use in second qualifying the next day.On Saturday, we started off the day very well. For most of the first practice session we were on the top of the time sheets, and not just by a small margin. It was reasonably comfortable -- you can never be too comfortable in motor racing though. In spite of this, just at the end of the session we were knocked off the top spot and finished second. We had a good idea why, and we were looking forward to second qualifying.
Second qualifying turned out to be very disappointing; we finished fifth and, therefore, did not make the most out of our strategy for saving two sets of new tyres. The balance of the car seemed to change a great deal when we put on our first set of new tyres and, by the time we got out on our second set, we were only able to do three laps before the session was stopped early because a car had stopped on track. It is very hard to pass around this track, so starting at the front is very, very important.
Sunday morning and I was quickest in the warm-up session again, by a comfortable margin. It seemed that every session that wasn't important, we were quickest or very close to being quickest but, unfortunately, for the session that counted the most, we weren't!
Then came the start of the race and, to avoid running into the back of another car at the first corner, I unfortunately dropped all the way back to eighth position. From this point on, it was a case of moving to the front as quickly as possible. I managed to get back into fifth position, but my progress was stalled, as I started to struggle with the balance of my car when I ran closely to the cars in front of me. Fifth position was where I ended up finishing the race. Regrettably, I had one the fastest cars on the track, when I was able to run in clean air, so it was very disappointing not to be able to finish the race any better than where I had started. Normally, overtaking is one of my fortes, so this was even more disappointing for me.
I have time off now, before the last race at Fontana in California on 4 November. I was planning on going to Surfer's Paradise in Australia, for the Champ Car race, but I have decided it is best to stay home and train. That way, if I do get to test in a Champ Car, I will be in the best shape physically and mentally! As far as the Indy Lights Championship is concerned, I can no longer win the Championship, but I would like to go out on a high note, by winning the last CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship race -- ever! This would also help my cause in securing second in the overall Championship and winning the Rookie of the Year title.