March 15, 2012

2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Season Starts Today!

Photo: Danny Sullivan

The 2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama season starts today. Sophomore year for the Axis GT3 cup with Carlos Gomez moving to a new support team, NGT and building on his rookie year efforts.

Carlos is coming from his first Daytona 24 hour race and before he dives into the Porsche cup season I asked him a few questions about his experience at that other Florida classic.

The first IMSA GT3 Cup race will be green at 4:10 PM today, Thursday.  Carlos will start P10.
Race 2 is Friday at 4:45 PM.  Live timing is available HERE

Photo: James Kirkland

Axis: Daytona was your first 24 hour race, give us your impressions.

Carlos Gomez: Amazing race, and the 50th edition was the most competitive ever in the GT class. 50+ cars and 7 manufacturers with 4 real (non tube) cars . Every well known world class endurance GT racer was there. Cool to go to the Rookie Driver's meeting with Emanuele Pirro sitting right next asking questions!
It was all and a lot more than what I had anticipated

Axis: What did you do to prepare for the race?

CG: First, you have to get the fitness not be an issue, so you can easily do a double or triple stint and still be 100% fresh and concentrated by the end of the last stint. Being and avid cyclist and training for my 1st ironman this year (Ironman NYC 2012) takes care of that. So being low on body fat helps with the heat and being in shape makes the effort uneventful. Then you can race.
After that, you have to really know the track and be VERY comfortable with the car setup. not only the "right" fast racing line, but he line you will be forced to take while passing or being passed by the faster DP cars. You have to be able to back off from your ultimate pace and get to a point where you feel you are almost 100% you are not going to have any "events" on track. Shaving 2-5 tenths of a lap time is irrelevant if you spin once in a 25 lap stint. Once you loose 25 seconds recovering from a mistake you would have been better off going slower by a full comfortable second.
The rule is DON'T MAKE MISTAKES!!. You have to prepare mentally for that and driving at such pace (a lot different mentality than Sprint racing)

Also critical is to learn and master the complexity of the yellow flag procedures by Grand Am. You can make more time by acing the right free passes than by driving faster on track.
Very complicated execution on the track and you are NEVER told what to do. Its always up to you to decide to go for a wave by or the lucky dog pass.

Photo:James Boone
Axis: How does the Grand Am spec GT3 differ from your Porsche Cup car?

Free flow (faster) exhaust
more aggressive ECU mapping (more power)
bigger brakes
slightly better aero
Daytona specific gears
Cockpit adjustable swaybars
AND CRAPPY TALL and bouncy rear tires!!!

All in is 2 seconds faster a lap than a standard GT3 Cup

Axis: Talk a little about the setup compromises needed for a 24 hour race.

CG: The car has to be easy to drive for ALL drivers, and comfortable during a FULL stint with new and old tires. So although you have adjustable swaybars the balance of the 911 Cup is towards understeer. Therefore, trail braking is mandatory and critical for good lap times. Car feels slow in the infield as you have to be a lot more patient with the throttle to avoid understeer, but it pays off in lowering risk of mistakes and saving the rear tires.
If I were going for a Quali setup I would have made the car "looser" and more reactive on the front end.

Photo: James Kirkland

Axis: There was a new spec tire for the race, discuss the differences between the Continental and the Yokohama (and Michelin) slicks

CG: Michelin: Best tire and custom made to match the Cup Car
Yokohama: almost as fast as the Michelin but the feel is not as good (more movement, less confidence)
Grand Am tire: SUCKS!!! but its consistently a sucker through its wear on the car, so that makes it good for endurance racing (doesn't slow down too much towards the end of its life)

Axis: Night driving....discuss!

CG: Not an issue at all in Daytona. Only hard thing about is to gage the distance of cars coming from behind, but that's what spotters are there for.

Axis: what lessons did you learn at the 24 that you will take to the upcoming IMSA Challenge season

CG: Don't crash the car before qualifying? LOL!!
I actually feel that I need to forget a lot of stuff that's critical for a 24 hr race where you share the car with team mates, through it out the window, so I can be 110% on the aggression scale for IMSA GT3 sprint races.

Axis: Will you do it again?

CG: Yes, definitively, but 1st I have to do the "other" iconic 24hr races before repeating Daytona.

1 comment:

  1. Got to the last pic, forgot everything I had just read above it.


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