To refer to last weekend’s penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series at Virginia International Raceway as a “bad day at the office” might have seemed a massive understatement on the day but, with the benefit of a couple of days away from the track, I have to accept that sometimes things just don’t go your way. I seemed to be a magnet for everything that could go wrong on track at the fast and narrow Virginian venue, and we now have to accept that our championship hopes for have gone away.
After our disastrous race two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas in Texas, when our No. 4 Corvette didn’t finish the ALMS race due to a gearbox issue, we knew we needed nothing less than a GT win in order to have a shot at keeping us in the game for the Drivers’ title chase. Unfortunately we came away with sixth.
It never seemed to go right for us at VIR, starting with qualifying. It was Tommy Milner’s turn and he’d just started a hot lap when the Risi Ferrari went off track, damaging the floor and rupturing an oil line or something. Tommy was the first on the scene to hit the oil and he skittered off into the barriers, damaging the front left side of the car nothing the boys couldn’t easily handle but enough to stop us taking any further part in the session and ninth on the grid.
We knew we’d have our work cut out but we seem to have had a better race pace recently than qualifying pace, so felt that we had all to play for. I started but, as I said earlier, I seemed to be a magnet for all sorts of contact and had a rough-and-tumble two hours. Every way I seemed to turn, there was contact or people hitting me. The track is so narrow and slick at times with the different amounts of dust and rubber on it; it makes for a very tricky surface to race on. Also, we had decided to go a particular route with the harder tire for my stints, a gamble which didn’t pay off as we couldn’t get the heat or bite into the tire we thought we should have done.
The first stop was a great job by the guys to get us from almost last to almost first. But after that, something silly would always happen, culminating in me having a contact with a slower GTC car which slowed dramatically on both apexes of the last corner before pit entry. We both ended up spinning, I fell back, and then had to serve a minute penalty. It was super-frustrating.
The VIR owners announced during the weekend that they were planning various changes to the circuit before next year, including widening the track at certain places and changing the pit lane exit. After the race, I talked to various other drivers from different classes about their views on the corner before the pit entry due to what happened to me there and they were all in agreement that this was one area we’d definitely like the owners to consider looking at. We are going to put our thoughts down in writing and pass them on.
Tommy did a great job in the car for the final part of the race, and was chomping at the bit to go chase after some guys. He was quick and making good progress towards a podium but got badly blocked by one of the BMWs, which meant we had to settle for sixth. The only bright side was our teammates’ third-place finish was enough to secure the Manufacturers’ title for Chevrolet and Teams title for Corvette Racing. With Petit Le Mans being a 1000-mile or 10-hour race, offering more points, there is always an outside chance that luck might favor us in some way for second place in the championship, but it’s going to be tough.