Not too long ago was round eight for the Mercedes-AMG in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, and round five for the Ligier in the IMSA Prototype Challenge. It was our first race representing High Point University which is just down the road from VIR in High Point, NC. It was, yet, another crazy weekend with rain off and on. Both races were on Saturday, the Mercedes first, then the Ligier.
In the High Point University Mercedes, qualifying was cancelled due to severe thunderstorms in the area, so we started by points. Which for us was 6th place. My co-driver, Jim Cox, started the race on dry Michelin tires in dry conditions. Not too long into the race, it started to rain very hard on the back straight, so we had to pit to get rain tires on. Jim stayed in the car after that. When he went back out, it was wet for a few more minutes, and then dried up again. A little over half way through the race, we came back in to do a driver change, dry tires, and fuel. We pitted just in time to be able to barely make the rest of the race without pitting. About 20 minutes to go, I was sitting top 10. A caution bunched us back up. During that caution, it started to rain again. On the restart another car and I battling for 6th got into each other and we both ended up spinning. I was able to get back going, but by that point, it was too late in the race to make up the spots lost. We ended up finishing 11th. Tough race, knowing that we had a very fast car with Riley Motorsports, but the racing luck didn’t play out.
Only a short time after, I had to clear my mind and look ahead to the Prototype Challenge race. My co-driver, Skylar Robinson, qualified 9th in the rain. The race started out somewhat wet, but quickly dried up. Skylar worked his way up to 3rd on the start. We came in to pit with about 50 minutes to go, and Skylar handed over the car to me in 4th. Yet again… the rain came back only a short time after I got in the car. This time, it came very suddenly with no warning. I was the second car to go through T10 after it started raining. I, along with several other cars, went off on the exit. One of the cars came inches from hitting me in the grass as what seemed like half the field was spinning out of control. We made it back out on track without any harm. There was a caution. The rain never made its way to the North half of the track, so it was pouring on the south half, while bone dry on the front straight. I was able to stay in top 5, and on the last few laps moved back up to 4th, where we finished. We had a very strong MLT Motorsports car, but crazy conditions were just so unpredictable.
This has possibly been the craziest racing season that I’ve ever been in. Seven out of my past nine races have been raining, and for most of the rain races, it has only been on half the track, or off and on. It is definitely a great learning experience having to adapt to new conditions very quickly, but quite honestly, I’m ready for a purely dry race (haha), which hopefully the next race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will bring. It is California, but with me bringing rain with me wherever I go, you just never know.
After this weekend, I am now 4th in points in IMSA Prototype Challenge, only 6 points behind 2nd, and one race left. Considering we did not do the first race of the season, I am pretty happy where we are sitting in points. Jim and I still hold 6th in points in Michelin Pilot Challenge.