Hunt: "Green, Green, Green!" "Green, Green, Green" blasts over the radio as I exit the Downhill turn at Lime Rock Park onto the front straight. I am surrounded by a swarm of hungry machines that are all jockeying for position and scrapping for...
Hunt: "Green, Green, Green!"
"Green, Green, Green" blasts over the radio as I exit the Downhill turn at Lime Rock Park onto the front straight. I am surrounded by a swarm of hungry machines that are all jockeying for position and scrapping for every inch of asphalt. All hurtling towards turn one thinking the same thing, "get out of my way".
Every neuron in my brain is working overtime as my level of focus and attention to my surroundings goes into hyper drive. I manage to out-brake two cars and get inside which sets me up nicely to survive the all important first lap...
Sorry, I seem to be getting ahead of myself just thinking about my recent week at Lime Rock Park. Let's pause here and rewind. On Monday, I flew into Harford, CT to begin an awesome week of race preparation.
Tuesday was a blitzkrieg media bash that lasted all day. Times are changing. Don't think for a minute that an aspiring professional driver can just show up at the track, hop in the car, race his heart out and just fly home. Believe me; it doesn't work that way anymore. It's a business. To make it as a professional driver you have to self promote like there is no tomorrow.
My media day involved two live radio interviews with Connecticut's biggest Rock stations, as well as three TV interviews with Fox61, NBC30 and CBS3. It was a long day; but incredibly valuable for promoting myself as a driver, my new team (APR Motorsport), the Grand Am Series, my business partners and Lime Rock Park. I would like to send out a very special thank you to the Marketing/ PR staff at Lime Rock Park for helping to make the media day possible; you guys rock!
Wednesday and Thursday were business related/ setup days. On Wednesday, I picked up my new James Hunt Racing T-shirts and Hats, which look great by the way, and will be up for sale shortly via my website (www.jameshuntracing.com). Thursday, I headed up to the track to help the team setup shop.
Thanks to some rain early on Thursday setup was a little tricky. Our rig got stuck in the upper parking area. This made for a pretty funny scene for 10-15 heavily inebriated race fans who cheered us on as we attempted to free our race cars from what could have become a 1974 Watkins Glen Bog-like situation.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with "The Bog" at the Glen, picture this: 12 stolen vehicles all ablaze (including a Greyhound bus!!) and a MASSIVE mob of drunken race fans worshiping the random destruction of property. Sounds pretty fun, right? While our situation was far from the 74' Bog party at the Glen, the thought did make me want to free our machines ASAP.
Most people think that because Lime Rock is such a short track, 1.53 miles, it's easy to learn. WRONG. Coming from someone who has never raced there those 7 turns are technical and require a substantial amount of intestinal fortitude.
I took the morning practice session and my co-driver, Mike Sweeney, took the afternoon session. Both practice sessions were clean. The team, as well as Mike and I, learned a lot of valuable information on Friday that carried over into some positive setup changes for qualifying and the race Saturday.
Saturday was game day. The team decided to have me qualify the car and start the race. Luckily, we drew in the top 5 so we had "relatively" clear track for qualifying, as there were 48 cars in the field and the qualifying session was only 15 minutes. You read that correctly, 48 cars on a 1.53 mile course: it was controlled chaos. Lap 4 was my flying lap, my tires were perfect and I felt good as I had a great run out of the Downhill turn onto the front straight.
But, for the first time in my life my height (6'4") hurt me. Entering turn one my knee hit a tag on the ignition key and shut the car off- completely off. That means: no gas, no power and, most importantly, instantaneous loss of our Anti- lock braking system.
Under Grand Am rules, our cars have to run stock exhaust. As a result, you can't really hear the car. Nevertheless, I learned quickly that the car was off because in the middle of my breaking zone ABS stopped working, without any hint it was coming. At that point I was along for the ride. This was not your typical Six Flags ride either; instead of riding the Ferris wheel and watching people below, there was a lot of tire smoke and a couple "Please God don't hit anything"! Needless to say, my qualifying position was not the best. I ended up qualifying 34th.
Thankfully, APR Motorsport is remarkable at building and preparing race cars. They were able to make quick adjustments prior to the race starting that created ample room for my lovely "giraffe legs". As a result, my gangly limbs will never be an issue again in the APR Motorsport GTI.
Bringing my focus back and getting my head in the right place, it was time to strap in for the fun part: the race. I am proud to say that my co-driver and I kept the car clean for the entire 2 ½ hours. I ran almost exactly half the race distance and Mike finished strong! Despite starting in 34th, we worked our way up to finish in 18th out of a 48 car field! Not bad considering neither Mike nor I had ever driven Lime Rock or raced the car.
Kudos to Mike for doing such a remarkable job in his first professional race! I'm lucky to have him as a co-driver and teammate.
For a 1st year team, APR Motorsport really stacked the deck with talent. It helps when you have the likes of Randy Pobst and TC Kline in your corner to share data with and discuss setup changes. Plus, when you add the talent and experience of the rest of the team, it leaves me humbled and grateful for the opportunity to participate. I could not have asked for a better team to grow my professional driving career with! The truly exciting and impressive thing is that every time the APR Motorsport VW GTIs arrive at the track they are better balanced, faster, more fun to drive and more competitive. Combining all these things, really speak volumes about the team's ability and dedication to building a successful race team.
I would like to thank APR Motorsport again for giving me the opportunity to race and work with them; it's going to be a GREAT season!
That being said, now what? My next race with the team is at Watkins Glen on July 5th: which just so happens to be my birthday. I can't think of a better birthday present then bringing home another strong finish for APR Motorsport.
Between now and then there is a lot of work to get done on the "other" side of the business: off-track. As I continue to attack professional driving head on, the off-track side of the business demands more and more of my time. Thankfully, my experience in the business world is coming in handy. I am currently working to finalize a deal with Team Janica Racing. Team Janica Racing is a unique driving school that strives to train and educate Motorsports enthusiasts through class room and on-track instruction to become safer, more knowledgeable drivers. They sponsor the likes of Randy Pobst, Sarah Fischer, Mark White and Ian Baas to name a few.
Staying busy has never been this easy; but I wouldn't have it any other way. Although my dream is getting closer there is still a LONG way to go. The closer it gets, the harder I work, and the harder I work the more obsessed I become. I'm having a blast!