Instructors

Instructors racing – Tony Brakohiapa – Pikes Peak 2016

Simraceway Performance Driving Center Instructor Tony Brakohiapa gives us  his Pikes Peak post race update:

 

First thing is first, I made it to the summit safe and sound! My crew guys (Mark Misegadis, Bob Campbell, Mark Pawlowski, Austin from Pikes Peak Racing) were great prepping the car and everything seemed ready to attack the mountain. The weather was also epic!

 

(Now comes the “could a’, should a’, would a’ part! ?). Little did we know the weather was maybe too good as the asphalt was getting hot at over 115 degrees when I took my run up the mountain (around 12-12:30pm I think). Using tires warmers before any run was status quo, however it turned out my tires were too hot (relative to the ambient and road temp) as I was sliding more then I ever had from previous practices. Granted it was the hottest day we had all week, no one thought it would be that “bad”. Other drivers, and riders experienced some of the same issues.

 

I had to dial my aggressiveness back a bit during my run as I managed grip right from the start. As I push my car harder, I keep an eye on engine temp. It’s climbing (as expected). However, it climbs more then I expect. Temps are cresting 240, 250, 260+ degrees by half way through the middle section. Car begins to loose a majority of its power as the water is spewing out of the cap in the engine bay and I begin to seriously nurse the car to the finish. Come hell or high water (or low water in this case, lol) I was determined to make the summit! I kept an eye on oil pressure to make sure I wasn’t loosing oil (especially on track) but have to bring my speed waaaay down to maybe 50mph for something like the last 3-4miles. After looking at in-car footage (which I will post) I was at least 45 seconds slower then my practice time for the upper section and at least 15 seconds slower in my middle section.

 

My final time to my amazement was still an 11:02! I honestly figured a 12-13 min time as completing the run felt like days! Safe to say my pace was deep into a low 10 min run if not a high 9 min time. 10:00 min flat was the winning time this year (David Donner: Pirelli WC Porsche GT3R) for Time Attack 1, so a win if not at least a podium for my first full run up the mountain was very likely!, but as they say “it is what it is”. The problems we need to fix are easy to resolve and should give me what I need to take another fast run up the mountain next year!

 

We never get a full run up to the summit during normal practice so it was hard to determine if we would have cooling issues on race day. Though we only run sections in practice, we never had issues with cooling. I am exhausted to say the least (just got home after a 27hr straight drive back) after long days and nights during the race week. Pikes Peak always seems to find a way to get you to come back for more! I will be doing that very thing! Already got the list of changes to the car in front of me!

 

The return trip down the mountain was one to remember as it started to snow!! We all
had to tip-toe our way down on ice cold slick tires. It was looking like the trip down the mountain was going to be more death defying then the race up it! See pics…pretty amazing as I never though my race car would have snow on it! ?

 

Thanks to all my amazing sponsors, friends and family for your support and sending all the good vibes! Until next year!…

 

Paul Whiting: Simraceway Student to Instructor/Pro Racer

Born under the hot sun of Las Vegas, Paul Whiting started his driving career in karts and sports cars in his late teens. Even though racing was a childhood dream for him, driving competitively began as a hobby and passion. Throughout his early 20’s, Paul progressed from track days to club racing and shifter kart racing. In 2012 Paul completed all three levels of Simraceway’s Formula 3 School of Racing programs as well as competing in the Simraceway F3 race series. He showed great promise and this training gave him the skills and motivation to concentrate solely on his motorsports dream.

 

After a few busy years of hopping from track to track, Paul worked his way into private driver coaching and in 2015 was asked to “come home” and join Simraceway Performance Driving Center’s all-star cast of professional racers as one of its instructors for Formula 3, Audi & performance driving classes. As well as his duties as an instructor, Paul also races in the ultra-competitive Pirelli World Challenge series driving a Honda in the TCA category, currently holding 6th place in the driver’s championship. We wish him all the best and please feel free to say hi to this personable young racer if you see him at the track or at our school.

 

Be sure to visit his website and stay up to date with the latest news: http://paulwhitingracing.com/

Simraceway at Sebring

March saw the IMSA racing season take on Sebring International Raceway, a track that started as a US Army Air Force base during the second world war and moved on to host the first ever F1 US Grand Prix — but it’s mostly known for holding one of the top endurance races in the world.

 

The 12 hours of Sebring has been running since 1952 and is a top stop for any endurance racer. This challenging 17-turn track has it all — from punishing bumps and high speed sweepers to tight hairpins and perilous sections when the rain hits. Simraceway was well represented in the weekend with Michael Wheldon making his debut in the IMSA Pro Lites series, Matt Bell once again behind the wheel of the Stevenson Audi in GTD, as well as several drivers in the Continental Tire Series.

 

Here’s some updates on how the weekend went for them.

 

Matt Bell- Stevenson Racing Audi R8 LMS

Matt Bell

Matt Bell, teamed with Lawson Aschenbach and Dion von Moltke in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS for the 12 hour race.

 

A disappointing qualifying session saw the No. 9 machine start from 11th.To top that off, they also had to replace the gearbox the night before the race.

 

Race day for the 64th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida dawned bright and clear. Unfortunately, the weather did not hold and made way for an uncharacteristically wet race day providing a unique challenge for the entire paddock, but one for which the Stevenson Audis were more than prepared.

 

Although the second round of IMSA WeatherTech Championship competition marked just the second outing for Stevenson in their new Audi machines, the 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship winning team proved its mettle as they fought through the changing conditions and sailed through a deluge with No. 9 Audi machine running in the top-10 as track conditions deteriorated to the point that IMSA red flagged the race for over two hours.

 

They showed strong pace early in the race and remained in podium contention for a majority of the endurance classic. Despite an afternoon deluge, all three drivers fought through it all and at a couple of points in the race led the field. Unfortunately, an engine issue with just under 3 hours remaining in the race forced the No. 9 machine back to the garage where the condition was diagnosed to be race-ending and the crew had to accept a 16th place finish.

 

Matt Bell said of his race – “Obviously this was not the night we were really hoping for. I was kind of still getting up to speed; I wasn’t as used to the track in the dry on the bumpy track. I was driving along and I got doored by a Lamborghini and got caught in some traffic and I was really on my own then. So I was driving through Turn 13 and everything was fine. Then I entered Turn 14 and the car went down on power. When I backed out of it, I looked in the rear-view camera and there was a huge flame coming out of the back pipe. It didn’t look like a big air-fueled fire so I knew the bodywork wasn’t on fire. I figured it was coming out of the exhaust, so I backed off a little bit, but I didn’t want to let the engine stall because I figured I was running on one bank. So I drove it back to the pits on one bank and tried to keep the speed up so the bodywork wouldn’t catch fire and brought it into the pit and they diagnosed it as a stuck injector which blew out the left side catalytic converter. So it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. It’s a long race and we are still working out this car. The car was doing great in the wet. Honestly it’s odd that I was more comfortable in the wet than in the dry. So a bit of a disappointing day, but we will collect ourselves and head on to the next race.”

 

Michael Wheldon- Mazda Prototype Lites

Michael Wheldon

“We just finished rounds 1 & 2 of the Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tire championship at Sebring International Raceway.  This was my first time in the Elan DP-02 with the Mazda MZR 2.0.  I have raced Pro Mazda before which is the same tub as the DP-02, but that’s where the similarities end.  The DP-02 has a wider track, and larger front tires.  The car also has a full tunnel design underneath which creates double the down-force.  All I can say is the car is an absolute blast to drive.

 

These first rounds were also my first time racing at Sebring.  Most told me it was bumpy, and the track definitely delivered.  I ran with World Speed Motorsports and we showed up last second to the race do to finalizing my funding.  We were behind the eight ball when we showed up.  Thankfully the team did an excellent job and we slowly found our pace and set up as we did testing.  A small gearbox problem ended our test day early, but we knew where we could find speed.  The next day was just practice, and we made more changed to the car and continued to find more pace.  Then came qualifying and we thought we had a good shot at a top five, however, a shortened qualifying do to a accident put us P9.  I knew it was going to be a good race though, as I was up 1.7 seconds when the red flags came up.  We defiantly had the pace of the front runners, just needed some track time.

 

Round 1 started and I passed three cars in the opening corners.  I then passed another a couple laps later, at this point I had some real estate to reel the top four in.  I put in the second fastest lap of the race here, and with three to go made a move for P4.  We were super happy with a P4, and even more exuberant with a front row start for round 2.  Round 2 has a 45 minute four car race for the lead.  After a couple of late yellows I took home P3 and my first podium in the series.  Such an incredible weekend to show up with no knowledge of the car or track and end up with a podium.”

 

Nick Galante with Spencer Pumpelly – Porsche Cayman Continental Challenge

Nick GalanteNick & Spencer were ready to capitalize on a runner-up finish at Daytona with another strong performance at Sebring. Hopes were high after practice where the No. 17 Legistics/RS1/RickieFowler.com Porsche Cayman seemed to handle the Florida heat better than the other ST entrants.

 

Nick Galante qualified the Cayman in seventh and was doing well at the start of the two-hour race when he reported trouble with the handling of the car. The crew determined that a slight bit of contact with another car had broken the Cayman’s sway bar drop link. This resulted in a large amount of oversteer.

 

Galante held on and brought the car in for its scheduled pit stop and driver change to Pumpelly. Not long after taking the reins, Pumpelly was going head-to-head with another Cayman when he suddenly lost the ABS.

 

“As a driver, when you assume you have ABS, you’re hitting the brake pedal pretty hard,” Pumpelly said. “In the Cayman, without ABS, all the brake bias goes to the rear. As I was trying to recycle the ignition and the master to get the ABS back, I got the car to shut off. It took me awhile to get the car going again; I was doing my best PC car impression out there. In the process, we lost a couple spots, but I nursed it home.”

 

Pumpelly crossed the line in 10th, taking home valuable championship points to bank with the team’s Daytona performance.

 

Tyler McQuarrie – Porsche Cayman GT4  Continental Challenge

Tyler McQuarrie

Tyler took a week off from jumping trucks in the Robby Gordon Stadium Truck Series to compete in his first Continental Tire series race of 2016 with the CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 alongside teammate Till Bechtolscheimer. After Till started a fine 6th place, Tyler took over for the closing stint & was involved in a tight battle for 3rd but wasn’t able to make a move in the last laps and had to settle for 5th place in the end.

 

 

Greg Liefooghe – Porsche Cayman Continental Challenge

Greg Liefooghe“Our race went well with a P8. We got a lot of points to currently hold 4th in the standings and it sets us up for a good start of the championship. My co-driver, Ari, is making big strides every race in his first pro season and having only started racing a little over a year ago. He drove from P17 to P13 which is very good and proves our progression is on target. The guys at Next Level European did a great pit stop and I got out in 11th. From there it was a survival race with the track being as hot and greasy as it had been all week. Up next is our home race at Laguna, we know the MX5s will be out of touch but we’ll shoot for a win in the Non-mx5 class.”

 

Nico Rondet / Jim McGuire- Audi S3 Continental Challenge

Nico Rondet

“We had high hopes to return to Sebring with a much improved Audi S3… and it was, but we still were having some minor transmission issues, and the biggest problem, is that right now, our Audi is just too slow. The closest to the front we could get was about 2.5 seconds.

 

Then in Qualifying, Jim was surprised by one of the Mazdas’ which was off in turn 1, as he tried to avoid it, he lost the car, and ended up hitting the wall, hard enough that we could not take the start the next day. Jim was a little bit sore, but mostly fine. He did succeed in avoiding the stranded Justin Piccitel who he would have T-boned!

 

 

Not what we were hoping for, but we will fight another day!”

A Lap Around Sebring with Matt Bell

Sebring 12hrs – A Lap Around Sebring with Matt Bell!

March 19th sees the 64th running of 12 hour of Sebring, one of the top classic sports car endurance races of the year and we asked one of our top instructors, Matt Bell, driver of the No.9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS which runs in the IMSA GTD class car, to take us for a lap around this amazing and storied track.

 

The first thing anyone will tell you about Sebring is going to have something to do with the atrocious surface quality. The second thing they’ll tell you is the history behind the famous race track. The two facts are linked, however. While the track is slated to finally be repaved this year, the last time serious machinery has worked on the surface of the track was sometime in the 1950s. It was originally a B17 training station through 1946, and by late 1950 it was holding motorsport events. The track has only degraded since then. While the bumps, grooves, filled sections, and temperature-dependent friction sound like blemishes on an international raceway, the track will likely lose some of its charm once repaved. As it was a former air base, it is very flat. It has been joked for years that if one measures all the peaks and valleys of the cracks and bumps around Sebring, it will add up to more elevation change than Laguna Seca. While I’m not sure this is true, it does paint a picture of the sandpaper-wrapped washboard surface that makes up Sebring International Raceway. Between missing fillings from the bumpiest surface in sports car racing, missed reference points due to zero topographical change, ever-changing traction levels, and the constant possibility for a burning school bus someplace in the infield, Sebring can be a challenging, yet very exciting race track.

 

Setting up cars for Sebring has become very difficult over the years. Without considering the ever-changing surface of the track, sports cars are generating more and more downforce, requiring 004accuracy of ride height only possible with very firm spring rates. Accurately placing the car’s aerodynamic features while heaving over all the bumps and jumps around Sebring can be jarring to car and driver. With jumps in Turn 1 and T17, a softer setup would make it easier to keep tires on the ground, but more often today, the aerodynamic benefit of rolling higher speed through these corners than keeping the car attached to planet Earth.

 

Turn 1: This is a very high speed corner with few reference points. It is smooth on the way in, but gets very bumpy on exit. Most people gauge their braking and turn-in points based on proximity to the foot bridge overhead. This is not a great reference point since it is so far ahead of the corner. Turn 1 is not a heavy braking corner. Most, if any braking is done merely to take a few mile per hour off and place some weight on the nose. Many drivers will tend to initiate braking while the car is straight, then bend the car in since it can be difficult to slow the car at such high speeds. It is often unwise to place the car to the extreme right against the pit wall. Debris, water, and dirt gets trapped against the wall and can quickly ruin a weekend. Turn-in should be smooth, but requires some command over the front tire. Most cars, if they go off, do so with too much understeer. This push often begins with an improper turn-in, either too late or without enough braking. The goal should be to roll as much speed in to the corner as possible and get close to the inside wall. The fast drivers will often feel like they could brush the wall with their mirror– better said than actually done. As soon as the car is set on this path, someplace between turn-in and apex, the exit should be easier to spot, and eyes should be pointed to the section of track just past track-out. The bumps from apex to exit are very aggressive and can be jarring. A focal point to close to the nose of the car can disorientate the driver which the car crosses these bumps. With a distant focal point, it will be easier for the driver to throttle their car to the exit, accurately rolling to peak acceleration while placing the car against the track-out curb. This curb is not used heavily, most times just half a tire placed on it.

 

Turn 2, 3, 4: The complex from Turn 2 through the apex of Turn 5 is a gradually slowing section coming off the front straight. It is not often the key to a fast lap time, but has the ability to really hurt one with a few small mistakes. Turn 2 is a mild bend to the right before the braking zone for Turn 3. Because of this, the car has the be pulled, at least partially, back to the left to setup for braking for Turn 3 after exiting Turn 1. The braking zone for Turn 3 is one of the smoothest sections of track, offering good bite to slow the car down. That said, the common mistake to make is almost always going a bit too deep on brakes and turning in too late, making the corner more of a diamond shape than it needs to be. The way to solve this, or at least correct mid-corner, is to spot the apex of Turn 4 as early as possible. This apex also serves as the track-out point for Turn 3, so accurately calculating distance to it is key in timing turn-in and carrying as much speed as possible through the corner complex. The curbing through this section is very aggressive and not often used. Some very tall, soft sports cars can sometimes take advantage of hopping the apex curbs, but for the most part, the straighter line is at a cost to a settled platform and intact bodywork. Turn 4, similar to Turn 2, is just a kink back to the right. It is often temping to roll on heavy throttle before braking for Turn 5, but this often creates a dramatic pitch when braking for Turn 5. The best plan is a smooth roll to throttle from Turn 4, and an early roll out to calm the entry to Turn 5. While this doesn’t feel aggressive, which many drivers translate into speed, the increased stability can be very rewarding.

 

Turn 5: Turn 5, on the map, doesn’t look too important. However, it leads onto a short straightaway that is capped by the very sharp Turn 7 “Hairpin”. It is important to maximize the top speed down this straight both for lap time and to gain an advantage in braking for the Turn 7. The braking zone for Turn 5, which occurs very shortly after the brief exit of Turn 4, can be very slippery, especially late in the day. If a car enters the Turn 5 braking zone with any instability (see above regarding a big pitch exiting Turn 4) it will likely be very sideways by the apex. The grip is better closer to the apex, as there is a large amount of sealer in the middle of the track. It is very common to see heavier sedans keep almost to the extreme inside the whole way around Turn 5 to avoid the darker asphalt. The line to the apex depends heavily on car type and limitations there within. It is rare that a car takes a very wide entry and truly late apex. The apex is very soft for such a short corner and the exit is bending right, making an apparent early apex the correct line. The difference between a slightly early apex and one that appears suicidal comes down to how well a car can roll apex speed or apply max power. Cars that benefit from a more “park it and power it” strategy will do better with an over-slowing of the apex, clipping it a touch earlier, and applying maximum power as early as possible. Cars that can roll speed across the apex will see better times by turning in very gradually, possibly even from mid-track, apexing early, and getting a head start on reaching top speed down the short straight away. The exit curb seems to have been set on top of quick sand, and has sunken into the Earth at different rates along its length. Due to this, it can be very unsettling to a car that is applying big power. Lighter, apex-speed cars can often use the curb, keeping in mind that it is not straight, and it is easy to drop a wheel. A wheel that falls off the outside of this curb too many times per outing will soon resemble a square more than a circle. Conservatism on curb usage can be rewarding in lap-to-lap consistency.

 

Turn 7: The “Hairpin” is one of the more iconic corners at Sebring. It is, essentially, a very tight, bumpy, rubbered-up chicane lead to and leading to two competitive straights. The key to Turn 7 is the drive out, not as much the braking in. The braking zone is very bumpy. Years of sealer and tar have created a mix of surface types against the left side of the track. Late in the day, it is not uncommon to see drivers braking right in the middle of the track to avoid the very slick patches. Turn in is late but not aggressive. Heavier cars will like more time to change direction after heavy braking, so a more gradual turn-in is often beneficial. Managing the quick brake release on turn-in and balancing weight on the nose of the car is the big challenge on entry. It is very easy to over- or under-load the front tires and miss the apex. The curbs are perfectly flat, if a bit slippery at times. They are fair game even for the lowest of race cars. Power should happen early, and as “all at once” as possible. Rotation doesn’t occur very early in the corner, since the corner is very short. This means some rotation needs to happen at or after the apex. It can be difficult to balance rotation with wheelspin. Any of the latter will result in drastically increased lap times. The exit is very tight since the track bends back to the right slightly at the track-out curb. Tires can land on the left side curb, but the dirt directly to the outside is slick at best, and often has been replaced with a wheel-shaped hole. Accuracy in car placement is very important.

 

Turn 8, 9: The Fangio Straight as many people will call Turn 8 and Turn 9, as the name implies, is treated less like a series of corners than most track maps seem to show. Only in the wet, or with 1000hp, does Turn 8 start to feel like an actual corner, for most drivers. The line can be straightened out, and the bend in the track does mean that passing cars can be made to work for their position trying to sneak alongside by Turn 10.

 

Turn 10: This is a very slippery, very misleading corner. The braking zone has a couple notable ridges in it, that can hurt late braking. The turn-in point is closer than it seems, and this corner can be treated more like an apex-speed turn. Many drivers will try to park at the apex and roll to power, which isn’t wrong. However, drive from Turn 10 through Turn 11 can be poor, so a better strategy is often carrying speed through. As with many corners around Sebring, Turn 10 exits into the apex of another corner. This edge of the track that juts out into the exit path is the true limiting factor. Pushing a little too hard out to the truncated track-out point can require a very aggressive toss of the wheel to get the car pointed in for Turn 11. Care should be taken to avoid inducing a flick to oversteer, especially with high-powered, heavy cars.

 

Turn 11: Essentially a double-apex corner, the goal here is usually minimizing distance while holding full power, or as close to it as possible. The car is leaned over the entire duration of the corner, so the outside rear tire is always the one to lose. To open up the corner a bit, increase the radius, but also increase track distance, there is a very wide patch of concrete to the outside which can be used. Use of this extra track width is made difficult only by a need to pull the car back to the left to setup for Turn 12 and Turn 13.

 

Turn 12, 13: This complex has some of the only real elevation change around the track– and it is only a foot or two. The entry to Turn 12 can be tricky, especially for cars that need to brake early enough that the chassis is still recovering from exiting Turn 11. The track falls away in two directions toward the end of the braking zone and just after turn-in for Turn 13. It drops off slightly downhill and de-cambers. This camber change in the road is worse further out from the apex. This presents a reason to turn in a bit earlier and keep the car from venturing out onto the worse parts of the track. Turn 13 is something between an apex-speed and a park-and-power-out corner. All cars will benefit from both carrying speed in by braking late and around the bend in Turn 12, and all cars will benefit from being nice and stable to roll to good power off. The balance is up to the driver. The exit can be challenging. The exit curb is wider than most around the course, but is bumpy and doesn’t have a lot of traction. The dirt past the curb is both slippery and prone to turning into a large hole. The best, safest bet is to avoid placing more than half a tire on the curb. While it can get lost on a track map, this corner is definitely a key to unlocking lap time.

 

Turn 14: Another iconic corner of Sebring, Turn 14 is a very fast, balls to the wall, flat (if at all possible), double apex corner. There are no arguments about it among the racing community, this is an apex-speed corner. The only tricky part is settling the car before braking for Turn 15. Because of this, the first apex is taken flat out, after which the car is usually let to slide a bit wide, toward the middle of the track or even further. The second apex, however, is taken relatively late, so that the car can be as straight as possible before the brakes are applied. The curbing through Turn 14 is usually flat enough that most cars can handle jumping them. That said, cars that are more reliant on downforce are going to avoid them more to keep the splitter or front wing as level as possible. If any corner benefits aero advantage, it is Turn 14.

 

Turn 15: Another one of the few corners with much of any elevation change. Just after braking and turn-in, the track has a small rise in it. Because it is following such a high-speed corner, the braking force is relatively high. This rubbers the track substantially, offering very little grip in higher temperatures and late in the day. The crest of the small hill is about at the apex. Power-down too early will often result in understeer, followed by oversteer once the front tires catch up. Many drivers get tricked into pushing all the way to the outside curb at exit. This is temping, but often makes it difficult to get the car pointed back to the left to properly setup for Turn 16.

 

Turn 16: This can be one of the most important corners on the race track, and a big way to improve lap time. The setup, the sacrifice of Turn 15, is a prime way to better the time through Turn 16. Similar to Turn 11, the trade off is between track distance and radius. Throw away the exit of Turn 15, get the car extreme left of the track, and point it early back to the right, carry massive speed through the corner. Keep it tight, power through Turn 15 a bit more aggressively, begin rotation early, but following a tighter curve, park it, power out. The choice is up the driver and will be based on where the car has an advantage. This section of track is back on the old runway of the air field, is very bumpy, and is old concrete. Traction is very low. The apex curb is surprisingly steep, but can be used. Drivers should be careful, however, of falling off the inside of the curb, as it is a steep drop and can both unsettle and damage a car. Fast drivers, comfortable drivers, spot the exit point early. The Turn 16 exit curb is the widest on the track, and all of it is usable. If spotted early, a car can be accurately driven from the apex curb to the very edge of the exit curb. The mistake to make, here, is over-driving the car at the apex. As the track is low on grip, any understeer felt at the apex will certainly be there at the apex, unless it has swapped to power-oversteer. Driving under the limit at the apex can improve sector times dramatically, especially if it translates to a stable power-down and better exit speed.

 

Turn 17: Arguably the bumpiest corner on the track, it can be either a driver’s favorite turn or absolute nemesis. It caps the longest and highest speed straight on the course, and the braking zone usually occurs after the gradual turn-in. To avoid pitching it into the corner, most drivers keep close to the right side wall, but let the car run wide, but not so far out that lesser-used concrete is under the car. This Kuiper Belt of Turn 17 has nothing but debris and pieces of Porsche left over since the 1960s. It is very good to avoid it. There are two trains of thought as far as the apex of Turn 17 are concerned. Some drivers try to tuck close to the wall, induce some understeer with over-speeding and maybe some throttle, and tackle the very large jump while maintaining a traditional line. Others will avoid the large bump at the apex by staying a car width or so out. The only way to know which way works, is to try both. Regardless of how the bump is tackled, the wheel must be unwinding by the time the car meets it. Post apex is all about confidence. Ideally, the car should free up with maybe very mild oversteer just after the jump at apex. This should make managing distance to the outside wall easier. There are a few more “whoops” before the track-out point, but as long as steering angle is minimized, they are merely and inconvenience. Hammer down, trust it, lose the left side mirror on the incredibly dangerous protruding track-out wall.

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Simraceway Drivers at Daytona Speedweeks 2016!

The end of January heralds the start of the professional racing year as Daytona Speedweeks kicked off with the IMSA Continental Tire Challenge and the Daytona 24 hours. Simraceway Alumni and instructors were well represented and achieved some fantastic results as well as some heartbreaking moments but that, as they say in the biz, is motor racing. Fresh off the plane we gathered together some notes from the drivers about their first races of the season.

 

Matt Bell

  • One of our top instructors driving the #6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3
  • Result: 15th place GTD IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship

MattBell

“It’s always tense for a team going into the 24 Hours of Daytona. It’s not only the longest race of the year, but it’s also the first. The series offers the “Roar Before the 24” sanctioned test a few weeks prior, but there’s always that extra weight on every team member heading into the big event. That weight was a few tons heavier than usual for us at Stevenson Motorsport, as it was our first race back in the main series, and our first event with our new Audi R8 LMS GTD, ‘Claudia.’

 

For me, the event signaled the first time I would be racing closely with Audi Sport, a brand with which I’ve been involved with and a fan of for a very long time. I have worked at the Audi sportscar experience in Sonoma since 2008, my personal car is an Audi, my parents’ personal cars are Audis, and my earliest memory of a sound I truly fell in love with was the bark of an Audi 5-cylinder. I am a huge fan of the company, and I consider it a great honor to be finally working with them at the race track. The new R8 LMS is fantastic.

 

The 2016 Balance of Performance adjustment was such that the R8 LMS was between 7 and 12mph slower than the Lamborghini. A similar deficit was experienced on the oval to the Porsche and Ferrari. We were very good on the infield, despite having very little actual dry practice time to tune and tweak the car, but it was not going to get us within 2 seconds per lap of the fastest cars in our class.

 

With some good strategic calls and lightning quick pit stops, we were briefly leading our class, averaging out top-10 for most of the race through the night. With the exception of a blown tire up against the wall exiting NASCAR Turn 2 — which is exactly as scary as it sounds, by the way — we were inch perfect in operation. By early morning, however, the field had caught up. The Silver-rated drivers had their required time completed and the now pro-driven GTD cars really started to show what they could do. Our consistency was no longer our advantage. The left-right punch that really worked us down the score board was the combination of a left rear wheel that had welded itself to the hub and an impact with the leading prototype car in Turn 5 on the right rear. This sent me back to the garage and the fix involved most of the Audi Sport Customer Racing employees and nearly our entire team. It was the single most impressive thing I have seen done in a Daytona garage. The left rear was being cut off using a Sawzall, the two front brakes were being replaced, and the right rear suspension damage was being mended. The whole job was done in under 10 minutes, and it involved some of the best inter-teamwork I’ve ever experienced. One of the real stars of the show, in my opinion, was one of our German techs, Philip Riedel. He is a bear of a man, and he went “Hulk Smash” on the task of working on all four corners of our Audi. From throwing two halves of a severed wheel the length of the garage, the bare hand spreading of brake calipers, to the lifting and relocating of an armored golf cart, he was truly a key player in getting our car fixed and back on track.

 

By the end of the race, we were down in 15th place, losing our 14th spot to a Lamborghini driven by Townsend Bell, running in the 1:45 range. Our fast lap of the race was a high 1:47. We were outclassed by the other GT3 cars, and the victory had by the Audi R8 LMS of Magnus Racing proved that had we just kept our noses clean and maybe with a little extra luck, we could have taken home some watches. It was a bitter defeat, but we learned invaluable lessons. Magnus and the rest of the field will be strong contenders the rest of the season, but we are very confident on what our team can do given nine more races. This team is a remarkable one. They are incredibly professional, they work both as a team and a family to complete complex tasks, they work off each others’ personalities, and more than anything, they treat every day at the track as a school day. I look forward to Sebring, where Andrew and Robin will be split from Lawson and I as we were last year, to see if we can repeat our collective success we’ve had the last couple years. On to the next one!”

 

Nick Galante

  • Also came through Simraceway’s kart & F3 series, and now an instructor for us. Driving the #17 RS1 Legistics.net Porsche Cayman
  • Result: 2nd Place ST Continental Tire Challenge Series

NickGalante

“I had a fun weekend getting to know the car.  Qualifying was tough for me in a new car in the wet. Basically the first dry laps I drove in that car was when I took the green flag. Half way through my stint I started developing a great relationship with her and was feeling comfortable. I worked my way from starting 14th to running 6th. We had a perfect driver change when we pit halfway through during the caution. We were held up waiting on fuel to finish, not knowing if it was full as the fill light was broken. Spencer Pumpelly (teammate) drove a great last half and pushed toward the front”.

 

Nico Rondet

  • Simraceways F3 Chief Instructor driving with our F3 series driver and Turn 1 Club member Jim McGuire in the Aero Paint Audi S3 Quattro #74 for Compass 360 racing.
  • Result: DNF ST Continental Tire Challenge Series

NicoRondet

“This year, in Daytona, the weather was a pleasant surprise for us. It rained for every session leading into the race, but unfortunately, the race itself was completely dry and all of our speed dried out! We have the dominant car in the wet, but although we have improved quite a bit from last year, we are still lagging a bit in the dry.

Jim did a brilliant job and qualified 3rd for the first Continental Challenge rain qualifying ever. Unfortunately, almost right after the start, the transmission developed a problem and it seems like our clutch started to slip, oddly enough only in the left hand corners. Jim had a hard time to cope with it at first and dropped pretty fast into the rankings. After I got in the car, I had more pace but it was really hard to try to manage that clutch slippage, yet keep pushing hard. Eventually, and unrelated, it seems like we lost a coolant hose and the engine went up in smoke. I hope that I have saved it by stopping as quickly as I could do safely, but we will see.

Obviously not the way we wanted to start the 2016 season, but still, despite the result, our team is working better, our Audi S3 is a better race car, and we will keep pushing forward steadily!”

 

Greg Liefooghe

  • Came through Simraceways kart & F3 series and now an instructor driving the #83 Next Level European Red Line Porsche Cayman
  • Result: 5th place ST Continental Tire Challenge Series

GregLiefooghe

“It was great to be back in the #83 Red Line Oil / Next Level European. Daytona has always been good to me over the years with 4 podiums and 2 top 5’s in the last 6 years, and the trend was kept intact this year as well. We ended 5th after a customary Daytona drafting fight all the way to the checkered flag. It’s always great to race at that track as each and every corner is a passing zone which makes it one of the most fun on the calendar.

I feel good about the rest of the season as well. It was my co-driver’s first ever pro race after only starting racing about a year ago and he did a great job. We will keep improving over the season. I’m looking forward to the next round at Sebring where we won last year!”

 

 

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Geri Amani

Geri’s career in motorsports evolved from her professional experience working in design and marketing. After completing her master’s degree in England and spending over a decade in the publishing industry, she made the transition to the track with a client base of drivers and teams from series such as NASCAR, GRAND-AM, and ALMS.

 

Even before her career change, Geri had spent time racing karts and a variety of sports cars in both sprint and endurance events. She is one of very few women in the industry who regularly works with clients in high performance cars including Audi, BMW, Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari. Geri utilizes her racing experience to assist women who wish to enter the sport, helping them realize their potential by instilling the confidence needed to perform successfully on track.

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Mikel Miller

Mikel Miller has more than 25 years of experience in the industry as a driver, instructor, coach, engineer, and facilitator. For the past several years he has been racing Grand Am, test driving, coaching, and running racing schools while working with manufacturers as a driver, product specialist, and right-seat driver.

 

Mikel’s varied career has included open-wheel, sedan, and endurance racing, prototype, tire, and manufacturer testing, drifting, off-road, stunt, and precision driving, law enforcement and special ops training. When away from the PDC/ASCE, he still actively races sports cars and vintage cars.

 

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Lauchlin O’Sullivan

Lauchlin O’Sullivan has over 20 years of experience in the industry as an instructor, professional racer, and factory driver.  For the last 10 years, he has been involved with product knowledge instruction and training seminars as well as working for a variety of automotive manufacturers as a product specialist and “right-seat driver”.

 

Lauchlin’s wide-ranging instruction background has included ice and winter driving programs, on and off road car courses and law enforcement and special ops training.  He has also spent time in front of the camera as a precision and stunt driver for commercials, film and TV shows. On the track, he claimed the Rally America Super Production National Championship title in 2012.

PDC Rules the Track!

There was a distinctly Simraceway flavor to the weekend’s racing with uber-talented PDC alumni Dane Cameron (TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, GTD class) and Gabby Chaves (Indy Lights Championship) both securing significant victories. The wins leave Cameron tied for the lead in the Drivers’ Championship and hands Chaves his first ever Indy Lights title. Congratulations to them!

 

If that wasn’t enough, the weekend also saw an impressive second-in-class (behind Cameron) for Jeff Westphal and a P3 for Greg Liefooghe (Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, ST class), both from the PDC’s world-class pool of instructors.

 

To follow in the foosteps of Dane and Gabby, check out our current courses and programs now!

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Randal Buck

Randal began his career in 1990 as an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School, where he taught courses and assisted with corporate driving programs. In 2009, he was promoted to Chief Instructor–a responsibility he added to in 2011 when he took on the role of managing the AMG Driving Academy, which Skip Barber ran for Mercedes Benz USA.

 

Away from his training duties, Randal spent more than 15 years in the role of Pit Lane Coordinator for both the Skip Barber National Championship Series and Skip Barber Western Regional Race Series.

 

From 2011, students and guests at the Simraceway Performance Driving Center and Audi sportscar experience have been benefiting from Randal’s 25 years of instructional experience. When away from Sonoma Raceway, he also finds the time to work as a private coach in the Ferrari Challenge Series and various vintage and other amateur championships.

 

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Paul Charsley

Paul has been racing for over 23 years. A natural on the track, he started out by winning his first ever race on the last corner of the final lap. A year later he carried off his first championship, before turning to the pro circuit in IMSA endurance racing. Although primarily a “tin-top” racer, he has driven a variety of car types, including Super Touring sedans, formula cars, and sports car endurance GTs.

 

Alongside his racing, he has made a career of coaching in series events such as Grand Am, ALMS and SCCA, as well as providing incisive insights for the Formula1blog racing website and podcast. After some years on the road helping show off the latest Audi cars in performance events, Paul settled down at Sonoma Raceway in 2009 and has been applying his not-insignificant skill set to helping the Simraceway Performance Driving Center and Audi sportscar experience ever since.

 

PDC’s Matt Bell Wins in Canada

Simraceway Performance Driving Center instructor Matt Bell and his co-driver Andy Lally secured a hard-fought victory in round 7 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Saturday.

 

The pair guided their No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R from third on the grid to an awesome victory which leaves Matt handily-placed in the GS class driver standings as he aims to surpass his 2nd place finishes in 2012 and 2013.

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Jeff Sakowicz

Jeff’s first racing experience came at the age of five on a bicycle, when he competed in Bicycle Moto Cross all over California. At nine, he began racing karts, and his subsequent success saw him switch to SCCA competition for two years in the Formula Ford class. After racing in Formula Continental, he travelled around the country competing in the US Formula Ford 2000 National Championship and notching multiple race wins and podium finishes in the American Continental Championship.

 

Jeff’s passion for passing on his skills was evident from an early age. His teaching career began as a summer job at his local go-kart school when he was aged 13.  He worked at the school sporadically through high school, before committing to it full time. Since 2007, he has continued to hone his craft as a racing instructor, and is now is a lead instructor for the Audi sportscar experience and Simraceway Performance Driving Center.

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Dane Rudolph

Australian Dane Rudolph began karting at 14 years of age, competing in Juniors, Rotax and ICA. Moving into open wheelers, he raced in the Australian Formula Ford Championship and Formula 4000 Series, on top of taking part in a host of Dirt Speedway Midget events in his native country.

 

As well as competing in the Australian National Production Car Championship, Dane has also participated at a number of 24-hour endurance events, including races at Sepang, Dubai and the Nurburgring. In 2008, he moved permanently to the US and began competing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. He is currently a lead instructor with the Audi sportscar experience and Simraceway Performance Driving Center.
 

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Andrew Shoen

Andrew started competing on motocross bikes when he was eight. In the late 80s and early 90s, he attended racing schools in both California and Arizona, successfully competing in SCCA Improved Touring and garnering multiple wins and podium finishes. By 1998 he was running Pro-7 (spec RX-7) and continuing his winning ways.

 

One of our lead instructors, Andrew has been involved in numerous OEM events and tours throughout the years.  He coaches drivers in numerous racing series and helps facilitate manufacturer training events. For more than a decade Andrew has also used his unparalleled experience behind the wheel to help save the lives of America’s youth, contributing to a non-profit teen-driving program.

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Tony Brakohiapa

Tony has been a professional race driver for more than a decade. His wide-ranging experience includes open-wheel, stock car, sportscar, touring car, and kart racing, and he’s also competed in the Formula Drift National Championship. Competition has taken him all over the world, including appearances at the Yas Marina Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi, Qatar’s Al-Anabi racetrack and the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

 

As well as working as a private driving coach for various vintage, Ferrari Challenge, Rolex and American Le Mans Series teams, Tony is also an accomplished film and TV stunt driver. He recently took part in the movies Jack Reacher, which starred Tom Cruise, and Need for Speed.

 

PDC/ASCE Instructors: Jeff Westphal

Audi sportscar experience and Simraceway Performance Driving Center instructor Jeff Westphal is a highly-successful pro driver. He has acquired championships and track records in both open-wheel and sports car disciplines, experiencing the former up to the current Indy Lights car, and the latter up to Rolex GT.

 

Currently racing for Scuderia Corsa in the #63 Ferrari 458 GT, he has run at the front of talented fields for a number of years. On top of Jeff’s speedy ascent within the racing community, he is also a mine of knowledge when it comes to car setup and data acquisition, which makes him an invaluable asset to any team.