Hi everyone. I'm looking forward to writing a blog once again this year for RACER.com and sharing some insight into my season with all of you.
As you may know, we had another big change over the off-season at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. For the third time in our short history we have entered the American Le Mans Series season with a new car. However, unlike the last two times with the Porsche RS Spyder and the Aston, this year our HPD ARX-03a is a brand-new car built to the latest prototype regulations. It's quite a big change for us. Also, for the first time, we've entered a long-term partnership with Honda Performance Development and it's something we're really excited about.
With all the changes going on, the one thing that we did not want to alter is our relationship with Michelin. We've been with them since our return to the ALMS in 2009 and we wouldn't want to be working with any other tire supplier! They do such a fantastic job.
Additionally, the team has entered a Prototype Challenge car into the ALMS for Memo Gidley and Mike Guasch this season. While we had an IMSA GT3 Cup car for Mark Bullitt last year, having two prototypes – even if one is a PC car – has certainly increased the workload quite a bit for some of the crewmembers. We've of course brought on some new personnel not just for the PC car but for the program as a whole.
Pickett Racing has definitely been expanding its presence in the motorsports world over the last couple of years and it's great to see and be a part of. We owe it all to Greg Pickett. It's thanks to him that everyone on the team gets to do what we love.
That said, while we all love what we do, it's definitely been a lot of work for everyone! The crew received the car in mid-January and our goal was to make the Sebring Winter Test at the beginning of February. We did it, and that in itself was quite an accomplishment for the guys. They had 22 days to build up the car and get ready to go on track at the test. We pushed really hard to make it and in hindsight it was probably the best thing we could've done.
If we would've given up and said, ‘Let's forget about test,' like other teams did, we never would have made as much progress because the time just goes by and all of a sudden your entering the first race of the season and you haven't even been on track yet.
Our performance at the 12 Hours of Sebring certainly proved that we did the right thing. I feel that we were the best-prepared HPD team. We were quick and the only ones who were able to challenge the Audis a little bit.
We kept them on their toes for about 11.5 hours, until we had the fueling problem. That was quite the heartbreak, and to be honest, I'm still not completely over it. I don't know that anyone on the team really is. We pushed so hard to be prepared for that race, we performed extremely well and it was very satisfying for the crew and they didn't make any mistakes throughout the race. So, to have to retire with about 20 minutes to go, it's brutal, to say the least.
The only bright side was that we scored points at Sebring this year. That makes for a big difference compared to 2011, when we didn't score any and had a 30-point deficit after one race.
After our disappointment in Sebring we were able to win the next two races at Long Beach and Laguna Seca and take over the championship lead. We're pretty happy with our performances and with our HPD/Michelin package, it looks like we made the right choice. From the first time I took the Muscle Milk P1 HPD car on track, I knew we were going to have fun this season, and I wasn't even driving it at full speed yet!
We know the HPD ARX-03a has a lot of potential. We like it in terms of its driveability and in terms of the setup work we can do. We're still learning a lot, even after three races, and there is still so much room for improvement, it's really encouraging as we move ahead into the remainder of the season. It should be a good one!
Now we have our annual “Le Mans break” in the ALMS. I'm looking forward to going back to Le Mans, if only as a spectator this year. It's one of the biggest races in the world, so even if you're not racing, it's one that's hard to stay away from. Not having any ALMS races for six weeks doesn't mean I'll be on vacation, though!
I did the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, on the Nordschleife, with Rowe Racing a couple of weeks ago, aboard their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. We did a lot of testing prior to the 24-hour race as well as some VLN races.
We felt that we were extremely well prepared. Even if there were other favorites, we felt that with the team and crew we have and everybody involved we had a very good legit chance to do exceedingly well and be on the podium. It turned out that in a very competitive field, we were able to run top-three most of the race, which was very satisfying for us.
The conditions, as is the case most of the time at the Nurburgring, were quite difficult during the night and early morning. Despite those tough conditions, we were able to actually take the lead and build a gap of three minutes over the entire field. We were looking pretty good to win the race actually… unfortunately we had a mechanical failure after 19 hours and had to call it quits.
For me the heartbreak wasn't as bad as Sebring, but we were really hoping to make it all the way. Still, that's a 24-hour race. When you look at it, chances are higher that you don't finish in a 24-hour race, but we had a strong showing. The team is still very young with a talented group of people. For me personally, it was very good as I was able to get in the lead and pull away from the whole field, so it was very satisfying.
I won't have any other races during this midseason break for he ALMS, but it will still be quite busy with my work at CytoSport, spending time with the family, a couple of days of testing with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing at the beginning of June as well as my visit to Le Mans.
I don't mind it at all – being busy makes the time go by faster, which means we'll be back in action at Lime Rock in no time!
Thanks for reading.