The test day at Circuit of The Americas went well. We showed strong pace and made a lot of good gains and the car is nicely balanced around there. The track is new to me, and I admit that it has more medium- and low-speed corners than I thought, but it's smooth and it has some nice high-speed turns and a good long straightaway.
I'm pleased to say its surface is not too abrasive, either, we had very good tire durability on long runs, and it's actually quite a low-grip track. Having said that, this was the test, and over the course of the day, it gripped up. Once the ALMS cars and the FIA World Endurance Championship cars have been out for several sessions, it should be even more rubbered in, and therefore faster. But whether it picks up a lot of grip or reaches a certain level and then stops, I don't mind: either way, I think it's fair to say we have big hopes for this weekend's race.
Another thing I like about Circuit of The Americas is that there are some wide places where we can lap the GTC cars without losing too much time, and the prototypes can lap us without messing us up. Learning how and where to make passes and allow others to make get through is very much down to experience which drivers gain throughout the year. You have to learn to think ahead and you're very much in control of your own destiny in that regard.
Sometimes it's better to breathe off the throttle on the straightaway so the prototypes pass you sooner and don't put you off-line at corner entry. Other times, it's better to compromise your corner exit by taking a wider line but without lifting off the gas. Sometimes you get lucky and hit the GTC traffic at the right spot where you pass them before a twisty section where the car that's chasing you will get trapped behind. It's a constant cycle of looking in your mirrors or looking way on up the road. The important thing is to stay patient, don't force the issue where you risk damaging the car. A pit stop for repairs is way more expensive, time-wise, than losing two or three seconds behind a slower car.
So we'll head into qualifying in positive frame of mind. Whereas we knew we'd be a little bit off the ultimate GT pace in Baltimore, here at COTA, we're very much of the mindset that, yes, we should be contending for pole, and then it comes down to making the right moves, on track and in pit lane, come the race. If we fulfill our potential, I think we can have both SRT Vipers fighting for the win.
I don't think any of the teams could say, “Our car is the best at this or that,” but I think the breadth of the SRT Viper's ability is a match for any other car. There's not one aspect of a track where we make all of our time up and another where we throw it away. Looking at sector times and from what we can judge while following or leading our rivals, I'm pleased to say that the SRT Viper GTS-R is decent-to-good in all aspects, from acceleration to handling, from top speed to stability under braking. To be able to say that when, as a group, we're all so new together, is a major tribute to the work of Team SRT and Riley Technologies.
The only problem is, our pace doesn't catch our rivals by surprise like it used to. The secret's out!
Thanks for reading!
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