Our first race of the Michelin Pilot Challenge took place at Daytona with the L.A. Honda World Racing Civic TCRs. The weekend was full of ups and downs, but I’m happy with what we were able to accomplish.
A highlight was having the opportunity to attend the Road Racing Driver’s Club Dinner which took place before the race weekend kicked off. I was fortunate to have been invited to the event as a guest of Jeremy Shaw. The dinner was amazing, with a “who’s who” list of members, including Bobby Rahal who accepted the Phil Hill award that night.
The following morning, we started off our first practice with a brand-new car—the #52 L.A. Honda World Racing Civic had never been on track before. My co-driver, Max Faulkner, was new to the car as well, so we had to work hard to get up to speed quickly.
With the car’s first laps on the track, I was worried we might run into some technical issues, but we didn’t have any problems related to the car all weekend, a testament to the work HPD and Jas did in developing such a great turn-key race car. Our first practices were spent by making some setup adjustments and getting everything as fine-tuned as we could before qualifying. Max ended up putting our car P9 for the race.
Thursday night, I got to spend some time up in the IMSA Radio booth during night practice for the WeatherTech series. It’s always fun to be on the air, plus at a track like Daytona, the view from up top is amazing!
The start of the race was hectic, with the 49-car field all funneling into turn one coming from the banking. Max put in some quick laps in his stint and was able to come into the pits for our driver change around the 2-hour mark in P4. We had a refueling issue which put me down to P10 after we exited the pits, but luckily, I didn’t lose too much ground. I was up to P6 when the next caution came out. We decided to pit in order to top off the fuel levels.
I had a longer period of green-flag running approaching our final pit stop. I was able to stretch our fuel the farthest, leading for a few laps before our stop with about 30-minutes remaining. The L.A. Honda World Racing Team absolutely nailed this stop, and with new front tires on, I came out of the pits right behind 1st and 2nd. I was 2nd when our luck suddenly changed. Some debris caused a puncture in the sidewall of the left-front tire. This broke the bead on the tire when I went to turn, forcing us to retire with approximately 25-minutes remaining. We were able to salvage a 7th place class finish out of the 14 TCRs.
I was disappointed with how our race ended, but it was something out of our control. Considering how hard everyone worked to get us into that position in the first place, it just goes to show what an amazing season is ahead for us. While Max and I didn’t secure an ideal finish, we were thrilled for our teammates in the #37 and #73 cars who were able to secure a 1-2 finish for the team.
Overall, I’m excited to see what this year has in store for us!