It’s been a long, cold winter in Michigan. Luckily, we’ve had our track car (with snow tires) to play with up here, but with the race season quickly approaching, the ROUSH Performance road racing team has needed some real track time to shake down the new race cars. So, we joined up with the Chin Motorsports group and ran laps at both Road Atlanta and VIR.
New Season, New Series, New Car
As you may know, we’re changing series this year. Since 2006, I’ve been racing in the (now) IMSA Continental Tire Series — a road racing series with production-based cars (very much like ones you would buy in a dealer showroom). For 2014, we’re shifting to the Pirelli World Challenge. The cars are fairly similar — actually, we’re even racing a chassis that we ran last year. However, there are several things about the cars that are different in this new series. The most noticeable of them are the big wing and big splitter. The hood is also much more aggressive looking with its larger extractors. Of course, the Pirelli P-Zero slicks are yet another. All of these that I’ve mentioned, by the way, add a ton of grip, which means these cars are a bit faster than the what I raced in the past (they can handle more speed without being thrown off the track). And there are many other smaller things about the cars that had to be converted for the new series.
When making a lot of changes to a race car, like we have, it’s always a good idea to test the car at a track. You need to first of all make sure that the car runs ok, but you really need to go much further and get an understanding of how the car wants to be set-up and how it will run over the long-run. I think that we accomplished these goals, or at least got a good start in getting there.
Other than testing the hardware of the car, I was also looking forward to having some time to get comfortable in the car. Driving these cars is definitely different from our previous Continental Tire Series Mustangs. With the greater amount of grip that these cars have, the car will naturally handle differently through braking and turning. In order to drive a car at its limit, you need to know its limits ahead of time. The same goes for how the car responds to inputs (steering, throttle, and brake). Getting this understanding take time, or in this case laps. I feel that I have started getting a good handle on the cars.
The season begins at the end of this month (March) at St. Petersburg, Florida. There will be two races that weekend: one on Saturday, March 29 at 3:25, and the second on that Sunday at 11:25am. Each race will be 1 hour long. Live streaming is available at World-ChallengeTV.com, and the races will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m. (re-air Saturday, April 12 at 12:30 a.m.).