I am really unsure of what time zone I'm in at the moment. The last however-many days I've been traveling (about three weeks, I think?) have gone by really fast. It seems like yesterday I was preparing to go to Barber for my second Firestone Indy Lights race.
Barber was a bit of a messy weekend that didn't go so well. We were pretty quick in practice and in qualifying I just couldn't get the right space on track to get a lap. I won't spend much time on this subject of Barber just because there was nothing really special about the weekend. I was pretty pumped for the race, though, because I was going to be carrying the on-board camera for the Versus TV broadcast! Sure enough during the race there was action happening all around me. Some of my competitors were involved in a crash right next to me on the first lap into Turn 5 and I had to go way out into the grass to avoid them. In fact, during the first two laps of the race I may have spent more time out in the grass avoiding things than I did on the racetrack. Never a good thing.
As I tried to work my way up front there was another incident as I was battling for third, which resulted in me having to pit for a new nose and right-front tire. That basically ended my race. However, I went out of the pits behind first and second ( I was a lap down) and was able to catch them, run with them, back off and then catch them again so it definitely showed we had the pace once again to run at the front.
Literally once I jumped out of the car, I had to sprint to the airport. It wasn't like St. Pete where we had a few hours to get to the airport – this time we really had to hit the road. I shed all my sweaty driver gear so my mom could bring it home and wash it before Long Beach (my mom is an incredible woman!) and jumped into the rental car with Dad so I could get on a plane! This time I was headed to Barcelona, Spain.
The final three days of preseason testing for GP3 were taking place at the Circuit de Catalunya. I couldn't wait to get back to Europe, considering I had a bad weekend in Alabama. Luckily I slept a little on the flight over to Spain. Things continued to go badly for me, however, because my luggage never made it to Spain… Another travel nightmare was taking place! All I had left in the Carlin team's trailer was my helmet, shoes and gloves. So I was missing a few key items. These things happen, though, so we had to make the best of it! Luckily the team had a spare HANS device and we were able to borrow a suit from another team.
I got to the track and was pretty blown away by the size of the facility. It was so awesome, I had seen it on TV and in video games and I couldn't believe I was actually there! Unfortunately, the track didn't let us walk the circuit until 7 p.m. that Monday night and we were on track Tuesday morning. After walking the track, driving to the hotel, having dinner, it was almost 11 p.m.! I fell asleep really fast and couldn't wait to get going the next morning.
The first day of testing, I will tell you right now, did not go well… I was coming to grips with the track in the morning when the worst possible thing happened. I had a BIG crash.
I had only done about 15 laps on track when the crash happened. It was in the flat-out Turn 3. It's a very high-speed corner and as soon as I turned in, the car got very loose. I caught it but by the time I caught it and tried to get it out of the gravel I was very close to the wall. So I was slowly drifting toward the wall. I guess I was going pretty fast but things seemed to be happening in slow motion for me.
I almost had the car saved when I literally just clipped the wall with my left-rear tire and that immediately ripped the gearbox open and flung the left front of the car into the wall as well. I got out and could see the gears and the gearbox had ripped in half, which left the entire rear of the car at a 45-degree angle… I felt really bad for my Carlin guys because I knew it was going to be a long day of repairs.
I couldn't believe what I had done. It was not a very good feeling, especially after having such a bad weekend at Barber. That was the first time I had actually crashed by myself in several years. I was very disappointed in myself, but these things do happen in racing. I had to use the rest of the day to learn as much as possible from my teammates and try and help them by going out around the track to watch and maybe help them by watching what other drivers were doing. The Carlin guys did an amazing job getting the car fixed for me to go out in the afternoon session with about five minutes left just to make sure everything was running right so we'd be ready for the next morning.
It was unfortunate to be a day behind but I had to make the best of it. We tried to work very hard on me getting used to the track and figuring out the best way to bring in the Pirelli tires on this particular track. The tires seemed to come to temperature a lot differently at Barcelona than any other track we had tested on. After discovering another way to bring in the tires we were able to use them more efficiently. The temperatures were quite a bit warmer than any of the other previous tests so maybe that was a key contributing fact to the differences in the tire.
The final two days of testing were a real eye-opener for me because we didn't work on the setup of the car much. I had to personally change my driving style to suit the car better to find more speed. It was like nothing I'd ever done in my career so far. I had to go out and just change the way I drive. I was braking too hard initially and upsetting the car in the brake zone which translated to some instability turning into the corner. I really had to go out and work on my brake zones and almost drive the car easier to get more time out of it.
Immediately I was able to change what I was doing and it seemed to help a lot. For the final day, I just worked on fine-tuning what I had changed in my driving style and it seemed to continue to work better. By the end of the third day, we had made a lot of progress and I was really happy with the test. Next up for GP3 is our first race in Turkey – but I was already in race mode because I had to catch the earliest flight out of Barcelona to make it back to Long Beach!