Our third race of the season proved to be our toughest yet, this time at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Mid-Ohio has been a significant track for me over the years. Two years ago, I had my first national race in an F4 US Championship one-off weekend. I was able to secure a top-5 finish and was awarded the hard charger award for the weekend. Last year, I made my debut in IMSA with the MINI JCW Team. I only had one practice session to get used to driving a front-wheel-drive hatchback before qualifying, and my co-driver Mark Pombo and I were able to pull off a second-place finish in the race.
Unfortunately, my luck at Mid-Ohio ran out this past weekend.
Thursday practice actually went quite well. We were chasing some electrical issues all day, resulting in a lack of ABS early on, but we made some big setup changes from Sebring which significantly helped the balance of the car in the dry. Sadly, it didn’t stay dry for the rest of the weekend.
We skipped practice one on Friday due to the wet weather since the forecast for the race on Saturday showed not even a hint of rain. The second practice seemed dry, but turn 11 proved to be incredibly slick. I was one of many drivers to get caught out in that section, luckily I only escaped with some minor bodywork damage and a cut tire.
I turned a few laps in practice 3 when the track was slightly damp and was 4th when I pitted in. Max went out for qualifying, but by the time he got the tires warm, it started to rain. We had to settle with a 10th starting position for the race.
Max got a great start and was up to 4th on the first lap, but got caught in GS traffic coming onto the front-straight and lost 3 positions in one corner. A few early yellows led us to pit Max early on for fuel in hopes of shortening our stop later on. We only lost two positions from when we came in, as Max came out of the pits in 11th. As our pit stop window was narrowing, we saw rain in the radar as it started to sprinkle on track.
Max came into the pits right before a full-course caution for our full pit-stop and driver change, but as we were throwing on slick tires we made a last-minute decision to switch to rains. We had a long stop because of this, putting me a lap down out of the pits. We expected to get a pass-around since all of the TCR pack should have pitted under the caution, but two stayed out up front. I didn’t know what position I was in, and my team had timing issues back in the pits. They gave me the order to pass the pace car and rejoin the back of the field. (standard pass-around procedure if the leader is behind you during a yellow) Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. I got a stop-and-hold for 3-minutes penalty on the restart.
I was over two laps down at this point and had to just bring the car home to the end. The track ended up staying dry too, but the Michelin rain tires held up my entire stint regardless. We ended the day in 11th. Although it wasn’t the result we wanted, we hope to learn from our mistakes this weekend and improve for the next. I can’t thank the whole LA Honda Racing team enough for their support this season. They’re like a family and are simply amazing to work with.
Next up is Watkins Glen at the end of June, can’t wait to get back behind the wheel again!