Strategy doesn't go Dion von Moltke's way at Road America

Dion von Moltke finished sixth at Road America

Racing is a naturally very unpredictable sport; with that in mind all of us in the sport are control freaks. Road America, a 4-mile flowing circuit is one that really challenges teams in terms of strategy and setup.

For a fast lap around here, you need a car that is slippery through the air so it can be fast on the long straights, but there are also some extremely quick corners where you need good downforce. One of the biggest challenges of endurance racing around this track is also the length of it. With lap times over 2 minutes long in our Audi R8 LMS, it can take a long time and a lot of fuel to do just one lap here.  It seems that each and every year at Road America the topic of fuel conservation vs. running flat out is the most talked about subject; and this year was no different.

Pit stop at Audi dealership

Our weekend started out at a great Audi dealership event in Milwaukee. If you follow me on Periscope, you got to see our beautiful #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 next to an old Audi R8 prototype, as well as an Audi R18 prototype at this event.

Not a bad way at all to start off a race week!  The first day of practice was a very wet one.  At that point it looked like we may have a wet race so we decided to do some laps. Chris did the majority of the running while I only did about 2 laps in the first session. The car felt good in the wet and we had good speed, but as the day went on the weather report for race day looked drier and drier. On Saturday the weather was overcast but dry, we only had one session before qualifying. Chris did the majority of that session as well, I got 2 flying laps before the end of the session and then I had to get ready to qualify. We really struggled on pace so in between practice and qualifying we made a rare team decision to make quite a few changes.  

Overall the car felt great in qualifying and I set the fastest lap an Audi has ever done at Road America, but that was only good enough for fourth.  Not a bad starting position for the race but not what we wanted either.  

Moving forward after slow start

At the start of the race I fell back to fifth but was able to get past the Ferrari and back into fourth just before an oddly timed full course caution.  At this point we all had a decision to make, to stop or not? We decided to stop, get new tires and fill our fuel tank, and try to go longer into the race for our second stop. 

Mid way through my next stint I worked my way up to second place. That is when we decided as a team to start saving fuel. We knew everyone else would have to stop twice, and if we were able to save enough we could do it on one more stop.  Saving fuel as a driver is actually a very challenging thing, you are still driving on the edge but have to adapt to a different technique.

Apart from shifting at lower RPM’s going into brake zones you have to lift off the throttle and coast into the corner, but to still be as quick as possible you can’t just brake at your normal point.  You have to brake as deep as possible, sometimes even 100 feet deeper than before to try and match your entry speeds.  Finding this spot is what makes drivers able to hit their fuel conservation numbers while still remaining fast.  It can be extremely mentally taxing, especially with the traffic of other classes.

Strategy doesn't go our way

We pitted again with just over an hour to go and Chris hopped in the car; here is where the unpredictability of racing came in. If you looked at the race last year there were quite a few full course cautions near the end of the race. So with this in mind we gambled and decided to try and make it to the end.  We had Chris start to save fuel, and hoped with a caution we would be able to save enough fuel to have him start to push at the end.  

Unfortunately the gamble didn’t go our way, no full course yellow came out and Chris had to save fuel all the way to the end. We did not need to stop again but we could not run fast enough to stay in front of the competition. He did a great job managing a very difficult stint but we finished in a disappointing 6th place.   While the finish was not what we wanted, it is still decent points and we will be looking to get back to the top end of the grid for the next race at Virginia International Raceway August 23rd. We all win and lose as a team, and I was proud of our team coming together this weekend.  

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About this article
Series IMSA
Drivers Dion von Moltke
Article type Special feature