Marc Goossens co-drives the No. 91 SRT Viper in the American Le Mans Series.
It's time to write the final story in the book of SRT Viper's 2013 season in the American Le Mans Series. That's what we're going to try and do with great success this weekend during Petit Le Mans. We were saying just the other day that compared to the first laps we were running here at Road Atlanta, it looks like we're on a completely different circuit than last year. And the reason we're saying that is obviously a lot of changes have been made to the car over the past 12 months.
We have been building from there on. If you ask me what the big changes are or where the big change came from, it was maybe all the confidence, the comfort zone that we can work from within the car. Our brake package is better, we have better shocks on the car than what we had last year and from that, the car became much easier to drive than what we had before. The team has been working really hard in giving us a better car, a more comfortable car, and at the same time, the whole team has improved the way they analyzed things, the way they engineer the car, the pit stops. A lot has happened since we were here last year!
We keep on working like a real pro team. We've basically come to the point where we've proven a lot of speed is in the car and that we are competitive. We also constantly improved the reliability of the car. We're just fine-tuning all the little details for the simple reason that we don't just want to win a race like we did at Road America, but we want to try and be there constantly. Trying to keep that momentum going is the big key, and momentum comes from speed, reliability and consistency – all three are required.
Now, coming back to Road Atlanta as a bit of a status report from last year is very simple. We rolled off the trailer here and we were very competitive from our first run on Sunday. And that is compared to some of the cars that were here and especially to what we saw here last year. We've been working with that package and I think we've shown in all the sessions that we've had so far that we can be top three most of the time so far. We hopefully can carry that into qualifying and have a good, solid race.
Petit Le Mans is also a time to celebrate the SRT Viper team and to appreciate how far this entire project has come with very little time to mature.
I've run with many different teams and at quite different levels and in different categories that I was in, always with strong teams. And if you look at everything on paper – I looked at the sponsor where the finances were no limitations – and yet we couldn't get it done on-track. I think the SRT group right now is completely different today because we have Bill Riley and his team to rely on, and he's proven that he's very good putting the right people together. There's no individuals that are trying to shine compared to others and we actually work as a group. I can't describe how fantastic that feeling is.
A lot of the credit goes to Bill, but it also goes to the people at SRT. To see somebody like [SRT brand president and CEO] Ralph Gilles or [SRT marketing director] Beth Paretta come in and just throw themselves in the mix with everybody else on the team, I think that's really amazing. And that's something that's been missing in many factory teams today, but SRT has proven that it still can be done that way.
With one final ALMS race to go, it's time to concentrate on our biggest goals. We start every race weekend with the same ambitions and with the same goal – to win – and that's no different than at Sebring or Long Beach or Le Mans for that matter the Petit Le Mans. You can feel that everybody is upbeat and up and fully charged to end the season on a high note.
And once it's over, we won't have very long to relax because there's the new TUDOR United SportsCar series that's going to kick off in January. We finished the year, we get two or three weeks off and then we start the first Balance of Performance testing in November. In a way, that's going to be a tough one, but on the other hand, I think it's good to keep the momentum going.
But, you know what? Before we start talking about that we just have to make it to a nice solid finish here this weekend, stay out of trouble, keep our noses clean and then I think we can go a long way to achieving that goal I mentioned for the race...
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