Talented Teen Helps Prep Rand Racing's Lolas for Sebring as Part of Unique Driver Development Program OVALO, Texas, March 14 - Even before he has a driver's license for the streets so he can legally go 55 miles per hour, 15-year-old Colin Braun...
Talented Teen Helps Prep Rand Racing's Lolas for Sebring as Part of Unique Driver Development Program
OVALO, Texas, March 14 - Even before he has a driver's license for the streets so he can legally go 55 miles per hour, 15-year-old Colin Braun of Ovalo, Texas has been named as a test driver for a professional American Le Mans Series (ALMS) racing team and has tested one of its Lolas that can go 170 mph.
What's more, the car he drove is one that is expected to be going for the P2 class victory this coming Saturday, March 20, at the prestigious Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla.
Braun, the 2003 Fran Am 1600 pro champion and Rookie of the Year, got his first chance to drive one of Rand Racing's Lolas late last month at Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah, Ga., under the team's new driver development program.
Think of it as a high-speed internship.
Team owner Bill Rand started the program to help young American racers hone their skills, allowing them to drive his cars at private tests the team holds as it prepares for various ALMS races. The first driver Rand chose for the new program was Braun, who will also perform other duties with the team this year as his schedule permits. The team anticipates conducting four or five tests this year, where Braun will get invaluable seat time while he helps the team conducts tests of various set-ups, engine mapping settings, tire compounds, brakes and the like.
Unfortunately Braun won't be able to be with the team at Sebring this coming weekend because he's still too young to get a pit pass for an ALMS race. Instead, he'll be keeping up with the team's standings via live coverage on the SPEED Channel and the Internet while he tests a new Pro Mazda formula car at another track.
The test at Roebling Road was Braun's first opportunity to drive a 400-horsepower race car, which is quite a thrill for anyone let alone one so young. The car generates close to 2,000 pounds of downforce at 150 mph, which is about 10 times more than the Formula Renault Braun is driving this year in the Formula TR pro series.
The car that Braun drove at the test is one of two Lola Nissans that the Tucker, Ga.-based team has entered in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Rand Racing's #7 will be driven by Mike Fitzgerald, James Gue and Rand in the ALMS season opener, with Andy Lally, Marino Franchitti and Derek Hill in the #8.
Braun tested the #8.
"I spent some time with him, and he did a really good job," said Lally, who could have been out of a ride at Sebring if Braun would have crashed his car. "He showed a lot of maturity in the way he learned the track and the car, and how he built up his speed."
Braun did some tire testing for Yokohama as part of his duties at Roebling Road. He did a 360-degree, Danny Sullivan-type spin in the rain once during the three-day test, but he was consistently clocked within 3 seconds of the some of the team's pro drivers' times.
"I learned a lot," Braun said. "Being with the pro drivers and getting to drive a P2 car was a dream come true."
Braun began racing at age 5 in quarter midgets and then advanced to karting, winning numerous national championships. His first real car race was just last year at the age of 14 when he entered the Fran Am 1600 pro series, and he became the youngest American driver to ever win a pro open-wheel race when he took the checkered in one of those events at Willow Springs, Calif., last May. That was the first of eight victories he had last year, earning him not only the series' Rookie of the Year honors but also the series' championship.
In addition to the testing program, Braun is competing in the Formula TR pro series for two-liter Formula Renaults this year. March 6-7 at California Speedway in Fontana he won his first two Formula TR races by default, since no other drivers had their cars ready for the event. He ran with the 10-car 1600 class and earned some easy points, but five or six more two-liter competitors are expected to enter the next event at Buttonwillow, Calif., April 2-4.
Braun's primary sponsor is Speed Secrets, a series of books and a high-level race car driving school created by Ross Bentley. Additional support comes from Latus Motors, Stand 21, Bell Helmets and Silkolene Oil.
For more information see www.tracc5.com.