|Dane in traffic during the early stages of the race. Here he runs second in the PC class, with third through sixth right on his tail.|
Finally, race day rolled around. The green flag wasn't scheduled to drop until 10:30 AM, but the 8:00 AM morning warm up meant another early alarm. Warm up itself went smoothly; each of us did a couple of laps, careful laps, to have a look at the track before hitting it in anger during the race. Following warm up the entire field streams out of pit lane to get the cars to their places on the grid, at which point the gates to the front straight are opened to the fans for the pre-race grid walk! The ALMS grid walk is always one of the highlights of the weekend, as thousands upon thousands of fans get up close and personal with the cars and drivers, while sponsors and guests make the most of the atmosphere for photos and networking. If you are at an ALMS race and have not done the grid walk before, I highly recommend it! Eventually, everyone is herded off the racetrack and it's time for the national anthem(s), and then, finally, time for the starting drivers to buckle in and roll out for the pace laps.
|I get into the car after Henri pulled off a double-stint early in the race. While a crew guy helps me get belted in, Henri pulls out his drink bottle and installs mine, which I carried over the wall.|
As for the race itself, as previously noted, we did not get the finish we hoped for, or, indeed, a finish of any sort. Dane drove a great opening stint, working himself up to the lead once Junqueira ducked in for an early fuel stop under yellow. Following Dane's double stint to begin the race, Henri drove a double of his own, then I got my chance. Unfortunately, during the middle of my first fuel stint, I clipped the turn 3 apex curb with my left rear tire, throwing the car into a quick spin. I'd love to say that I got turned down on by a GT car, or punted by one of the Audis, but it was a simple mistake of my own, no two ways about it. I managed to spin the car around facing the right direction, just barely touching the tires outside turn 4 (no damage, I swear!), but when I went to the starter button to refire the car, I got nothing. The starter was responding, but the V8 would not get moving, despite trying every trick I could from the cockpit. So the yellows go out, and the safety team tows me back to our pit box, where the crew dives on the car, but it is quickly apparent that things are not as they should be, and we head back to the paddock for some electrical surgery. The guys replace the battery, some relays in the dash, and more I could not catch (I could see the shirt of the mechanic laying sideways across the cockpit, working on the wiring next to me, but that's pretty much it), and we were once again ready to go. The car is now running ok, albeit now without a working radio, but when I dive back in for fuel under our next yellow the car once again fails to refire. Back we go to the paddock, the starter is replaced, more surgery performed, and we were once again back ready to go. Since we are well down the order, out of the top 5, we decided to put Henri back in to get his minimum drive time for points taken care of first, and try to just make laps while others (hopefully) come back to us with troubles of their own.
|Dealing with other prototype classes can be difficult, but it's part of what you have to deal with in a 12 hour race.|
Everything was going according to our new plan and we were back into the top 5, when Henri had his big one following a restart. In the brake zone for turn 10, which takes us from 6th, around maybe 150 mph, down to 2nd, around maybe 45 or 55 mph, Henri cut back to the left, onto the normal braking line, before he was fully clear of another PC car, rotating the car directly left, into the guardrail. He was going 115 mph when he hit the wall and went up in the air, but Henri was, thankfully, completely unhurt. The car actually faired pretty well itself and suffered no tub damage, but the bodywork and suspension damage was sufficient to sink any chance of our getting it repaired in time to do the minimum race distance in order to score points, so our day was done.
|It wasn't the result we wanted, but there were a lot of positives to come out of Sebring for the Dempsey / Silicon Tech Racing team. Next up – the Long Beach Grand Prix!|