I felt pretty sharp this morning, despite getting disturbed last night around 2am. My personal sponsor agent, Allen Jay, had been held at customs on his way here, because he was bringing a bunch of Monster t-shirts for me, a few pairs of Oakley shades – they’re another of my sponsors – and I guess the customs officials wanted to know what the hell he was doing with that many. “Are they for resale?” and so on. So anyway, AJay missed his flight.
Then the hotel was booked, so he texted me to ask if he could crash on my floor. I agreed, and so he rolled in around 2am. By then he was pretty grateful for anywhere, I guess. [Editor’s note: What P.T. fails to mention is the terms and conditions for that arrangement. After Allen begged the floor space, he received the charming text message from Paul: “U snore I kill you”].
But thankfully Patty’s now arrived, so that’s a lot better room mate.
Anyhow, back to the track. We looked pretty good from the get-go. Okay, so 10th
quick doesn’t look so hot, but let me explain the circumstances. Right at the end we made a shock and spring change, as we were switching to new tires, and it just didn’t work and we didn’t have time to change it back. It put the car out of balance, and I made a mistake on both laps when the tires were at their best. I think my fastest time came on my ninth lap on a set of tires – and I even made a mistake on that lap too.
The car was pretty quick on old tires in both sessions, so I think we have got ourselves a good race setup. But like I said the other day, we really want to be well into the top 10 in qualifying so it’s up to us and up to me to make sure that happens. We have the potential, I reckon, to be eighth quick. I think the Firestone Fast Six is still out of reach, especially when there are three Penskes here, but best of the rest is a good possibility.
The bumps are worse this year compared to last year, but the answer isn’t to soften the car up, because then you’re just driving a big floppy old Oldsmobile. You have to keep the car stiff and just ride the bumps, catch the slides and keep your foot on the gas. And if you end up with bruised and bloodied-up elbows, well…that’s just the way it is. You can’t bitch about it because it’s the same for everyone.
We need to get the balance right and dial out the understeer for qualifying. I mean, this is supposed to be physically demanding track, but because of our understeer, the steering isn’t too heavy. I’d rather have that stronger front grip though, and make the bigger steering effort. We’ve seen in the past that this track rubbers up a lot, but today we just gained rear grip, and so that means understeer.
We were second quickest to Will Power in the first session, we were second or third quick in the second session, and then for most of the third session, we were top three, but just as others were putting new tires on, so did we…but with that setup change that didn’t work.
Well, at least we learned what not to do for Saturday. We just have to make the right moves at the right time, or to use the words of my engineer John Dick, pull the trigger at the right time and really lay down a good one. I feel good on old tires, but I need to keep it on the gray stuff when my new tires are at their best. It’s easy to be slightly wild on an airport course and try to carry too much speed into corners. So keeping the discipline, not trying to bite off more than the car or tire can manage is important, I recognize that. Even with the car’s balance out of whack, my mistakes probably left half a second on the table.
The Helio thing is still rumbling, but the guy’s definitely apologetic. If I was cynical I’d say it was because he didn’t want a bunch of Canadian beer cans hitting him on the head, but he’s doing something good for my sponsor, WoundedWarriors.ca. We’re signing one of the WoundedWarriors t-shirts and auctioning it off with the money going toward the charity. So I can’t knock him for that.
Right, I’m off to bed. And I hope to report back with some signs of real progress tomorrow. Not another freakin’ P15 starting spot.
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