The 9th round of the championship brought us to California and the legendary Laguna Seca circuit. Sadly, there wasn’t a lot of sunshine and the race would be run at dusk, finishing in the dark. It was also going to be a single 80 minute endurance rather than a pair of sprints.
I’d done a few races and got quite a lot of prep in for this race. Although it’s a track I knew well from GTSport I hadn’t done many laps around it on ACC and my best lap at the start of the week was a scrappy 1:29.8. Throughout the week I worked hard and got that down to a 1:24.5 in a qualifying session. I was also able to lap consistently without falling off although I still had a couple of bogey corners…. mainly Turns 3 and 4.
It quickly became apparent that my pace was deserting me in the qualifying session and rather than start in 10th or 11th I decided to instead stay on the back row where I could (hopefully) avoid any carnage on the first lap and then pick people off throughout the race. I planned a 1 stop strategy about half way through and fuelled up accordingly.
As it turned out, I made up a position immediately after GT_PADDY29 started in the pits and another on the run to the corkscrew when broodjeballahhhh ran off track, finished lap 1 in 13th. I picked of MRC_Dan_Gleeball when he made a mistake at Turn 3 and then had a heart stopping moment myself when I got a wheel on the dirt breaking for the corkscrew and span, taking some light damage to the front and dropping back down to 15th. I’d damaged the car on lap 2, less than 4 minutes in!
From there I set about a recovery drive, passing MrDidus later that lap. I soon caught the drivers in front and made up a position when my championship rival blacky306mi ran off track at Turn 3 and then another place when crashtor_maldona span after hitting a kerb. 10 minutes in to the race and I was back up to 11th.
I set a new fastest race lap of 1:26.604 on lap 9 which compared well with the drivers around me, rising to 10th when ckr_skivit76 made an error and chasing down Mervilde who was 3s in front. He was quicker than me and was pulling away. After I ran wide the following lap at the Andretti hairpin, ckr_skivit76 took 10t place off me – and I took it back on the run to the corkscrew. On lap 17 I took about 0.3s out of my fastest race lap although the fast cars in front of me were continuing to pull away.
I made up another position when Silva_karter87 had an off and was pleased to be able to maintain a gap to him. I made up another position a couple of laps later when broodjeballahhhh came off at the same place. With 46 minutes to go, some of the faster drivers started to pit and I rose as high as 5th until I hit the kerb at Turn 6 which span me into the wall and I damaged the rear of the car. I was planning to pit at the end of that lap anyway and the car was still driveable. I made it back to the pits for a 49s stop which included fuel, tires and repairs.
I rejoined in 10th with a gap of about 20s to ckr_skivit76 and with broodjeballahhhh closing in on me quickly. He was soon on me and rather than fight him I let his past. With 30 minutes remaining I ploughed on, letting the faster drivers through as I was shown blue flags. With the car repaired I was soon back to my race pace of mid 1:26 setting a best of 1:26.013 on lap 34.
With 20 minutes to go I made a couple of errors exiting the Andretti hairpin, the 2nd time damaging the car and having to stop for repairs. After a short 34s stop I got started again and brought the car home in 10th place, absolutely exhausted.
This race was another lesson in consistency. I’d made places while others had fallen off the road and my pace had been consistent for most of the race. I’d only made a couple of mistakes although the 2nd one had cost me a lot of time it hadn’t cost me any positions luckily. I still need to work on driving while under pressure and having confidence in traffic though.
At the end of the race, my SA had risen to 73/9, CN 82/99 and CC 87/99. Both my SA and CC had risen by a couple of points and I’d managed a race without any contact with other cars.
Round 10 of the championship brings us back to Europe with 2 30 minute sprints at Imola which should be a lot of fun, and after having beaten blacky306mi around Laguna Seca I should have a bit of a points cushion over him as we get to the sharp end of the season.