ABOUT TO SUMMIT
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be just a few feet from summiting Mount Everest. Or what it would be like to be a few miles from circumnavigating the world.
I think I now know. It feels relieving (because most of the hard work is behind you), pleasing (because you’re on the cusp of achieving a big hairy goal) and finally within reach, when at all times prior it was distant. For the last four years, I’ve poured everything into becoming a racer and breaking the youngest driver record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It has been no simple task.
Basically, I go to school, I work out and I race, a lot. During the last 2.5 years I’ve done 60+ car races, 20,000+ miles of seat time and racked up about 175,000 miles on airplanes. A whirlwind tour for sure! After round 2 of the European Le Mans Series, where we finished 4th overall for the second straight race, I earned an invitation from the Dyson Racing Junior Development Program and Greaves Motorsports to drive at Le Mans June 14-15.
I’ll be 16 years and 202 days old then, and if all goes to plan, I’ll break Ricardo Rodriguez’s 1959 record of 17 years and 126 days old. I still have to pass the mandatory simulator training at AO Tech in Paris on May 28. It is required of all new Le Mans drivers. There’s the test day on June 1, too. But, both seem well in hand. I’ll write about these experiences in future posts, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Imola. I just returned from Italy Monday (and had sophomore final exams the next day). We’re fourth in the points, just three points out of second place and definitely in championship contention. As is the theme of my blog, here are my observations of the weekend:
01. First Triple
Most racing for people my age is in a sprint format. Before racing in ELMS, my longest single period racing a car was 45 minutes. I did a double stint at Silverstone in Round 1 in April, and at Imola the team challenged me again, not only with a triple stint (2 hours, 23 minutes), but a triple on one set of Dunlop tires (more on that later)!
02. Race Strategy
In sprint races, it’s just balls to the wall. Fast guy wins. There isn’t much strategy. At Imola, I learned that good strategy can prevail. Our pace was off in qualifying; 7th overall. So, the team decided to go with harder compounds and a fuel conservation map in the race. The goal was to gain time with fewer, shorter pit stops. For the longest time we were stuck in 7th, but in the final hour it all paid off.
03. Patience and No Mistakes
This is always important, but it’s especially important when you’re gambling on race strategy. As it turns out, the qualifying issue was spark plug related. But that wasn’t unearthed until after the race. With only 6 of 8 cylinders working at full force, we were down on power from the start, and being mistake free was our only chance. As others tryied to succeed on outright pace made contact, ran off the track, stumbled on fuel … we ran clean. And the strategy worked. We had the least stops (4) and spent the least amount of time (5:12) in pit lane.
04. Nice View
Imola reminded me of a famous Canadian race venue and a famous U.S. baseball park. The grounds of Imola are beautiful, wooded and park-like, similar to one of my favorite tracks Mont Tremblant. But, the circuit is right in the city, which is really unusual and so there are apartments overlooking it, just like Wrigley Field.
05. Motorhead Mecca
We usually arrive for Euro events two days early to get time zone adjusted (+9 hours from Phoenix), and we venture out if we’re up to it. Within an hour of Imola, there are Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ducati and Pagani facilities. Talk about a difficult choice! We visited the Lamborghini Museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, and were joined by Greaves public relations manager and resident historian John Brooks. I didn’t realize Lambo was involved in F1 with Minardi and made marine engines, too. The highlight, though, was the one-off 2014 Egoista. Want!