Highs and Lows from the Kia 200

Coming into Homestead things were looking good for the BWR ST # 81 car. Prior to this the Exclusive Management team made a trip to Homestead to test with Skip Barber. Skip Barber feels like home to me because they taught me how to race. CEO Michael Duncalfe and Co-driver Gregory Liefooghe were there and we were teaming up to find the speed on the course. Greg had been to the track the year before with the CTSCC, so having him there to help me learn the track was awesome and extremely helpful. Also having my manager, Michael doing lead/follows was a very cool experience. With my two coaches, and the experienced staff of Skip Barber, I was bound to learn as much as possible. I also owe a special thanks to Thomas McGregor and Shelby Blackstock for running back to back lead/follows. Running laps is one thing, but to have two awesome teammates pushing you is another.
The time had come and once again I found myself in Florida walking through the Homestead paddock. Accompanied by my co-driver, we quickly got registered and made our way to the trailer, put our bags down, said hello to our team, and then we went to greet our chariot.
Before I knew it I was in the car about to roll out of pit lane for the promoter test day. The sessions went well but we knew we had some changes to make. With Greg and David Wagner hard at work, we were on our way to getting the setups dialed in.
For qualifying, we knew that we needed to be in a place with just enough of a gap that we could close in the draft with no traffic hold ups. We set out as a team with the sister car ST #80 piloted by Bill Heumann right behind me. We found the gap we needed but were unable to secure a time within the top ten.
Starting fourteenth was not what we planned, but now we had to stay focused and get the car in the top five. My job was to keep the car out of trouble and hand it off to Greg so he had a chance at the top five. The race started, or so I thought, but in reality it was a demolition derby. Cars were scattered all over the track and we had full course cautions one after another. During the race, we had a few little encounters ourselves but nothing serious, for the most part all the incidents seemed to be behind us. Slowly but surely I made my way up through the pack and found myself in the top ten, catching a car about every other lap.

In every sport luck plays a part and things were looking good for us. I was catching the Porsche Boxster in front of me and we had the fastest lap of the race up until our luck ran out. The car shut down on the way to turn 8 and I rolled off into the grass. Doing everything I could that was in my power, I kept trying to restart the car. Our race was over and my fastest lap was taken from me as well.
Shortly after being towed back to the paddock I was met by my co-driver Greg. We took some time to ourselves to regroup and rejoined the team in pit lane. We watched the end of the race and then walked with our head mechanic, Ryan Kuhn, to our wounded chariot. He explain to me what happened and showed both Greg and I what went wrong and that it was not our fault, just one of those misfortunes that happen. At first it was hard to grasp, but now it is what makes me motivated to show everyone at Barber that we are one of the best teams. We will review data and video and prepare for our next race. Looking forward to Barber. Thanks everyone for reading.

Barber 200

Barber was looking like a promising weekend. We had a rough race at Homestead and now needed to redeem ourselves. Once we arrived in Alabama we got straight to work talking about what we could do better to improve our chances of getting to the podium. The night before the promoter test day I sat in bed watching the Homestead videos over and over trying to find things that I could fix. My main goal was to minimize any mistakes I had been making inside the car; missed shifts and basic race craft.

Once at the track I was quickly getting back into the rhythm of a race weekend. Greg and I checked the car to confirm our seat had not moved; even though it's bolted in and we are the only ones that drive the car. Then we talked to our engineer to see what the new changes were for Barber. Before I knew it I found myself standing in pit lane waiting for my turn to hop in.

Shortly into our test day we found that something wasn't right with the car and same with the sister 80 ST car. We went back to the paddock before I even had a chance to do a single lap, but the BimmerWorld crew quickly got to work on putting the car back together knowing that ever bit of track time was extremely important. It was my first time at Barber and I needed the seat time.

With 15 minutes left in the second session the BimmerWorld crew got us back out there. Greg quickly did a couple laps then brought the car in for a driver change. Once in the car I felt awesome about the weekend and had a good feeling that we would do well at Barber. After testing was done we started fine tuning our set up so that we could prepare ourselves for the race.
Once qualifying rolled around we felt pretty good about where we were at with the set up. The last practice session before qualifying was cute short about five minutes in when a Camaro slammed into the guardrail. Even though we didn't have the time we need we somehow pulled it together. We sat in the pits and let everyone by so that we could get ourselves a nice gap with no slow traffic. Once it was clear I blasted out onto the track with my head down looking for that top 5 time. We didn't quite get there but got close enough with a P6 starting position, only .01 off P5. This was my best qualifying position yet, so I was very happy with the results considering it was a track I had never been to. Once back at the trailer I found my self surprised as the BimmerWorld crew, my mother and girlfriend were there to surprise me with a birthday cake for my birthday the day before. Thank you guys it was very cool!
Race day rolled around and I found my self on the outside lane waiting for the action to start. I knew that I had to get a good start so that I wouldn't get pushed out of turn one. We got the start we were looking for and quickly started making our way toward the front. Before I knew it we had made it to 4th and where right behind the Freedom Autosport Mx5 of Derek Whitis. We had a good battle going on and then I saw my chance to pass in turn 11. Very carefully we snuck by and made it to P3. Everything was looking good, there had only been one yellow and I had about ten to twenty mins left on my stint. Then in the same place where I had passed Whitis I was hit by the GS 50 of Rob Finlay, who I had watched coming up in the rearview feeling comfortable his experience would tell him there was no way to make the pass given his position - wrong. I spun out and landed in a gravel pit and now had to watch all the cars go by as I sat helplessly. This brought out another yellow and we were towed out. Finlay served a black flag for the incident but our race was now ruined - no real justice in racing.

After the incident Greg was out on track a lap down when more trouble struck. The car died on track due to a gremlin caused by the previous contact, bringing out another yellow and us getting towed back to the paddock where the crew quickly fixed the car and sent Greg back out. Once Greg was able to go back out he passed the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place car to get a lap back. This just goes to show that we had all the right ingredients but no luck! We finished the race in 23rd. We felt heart broken as we watched our chances to a championship get slimmer.

I just want to say that as a driver there is always something you can do better to be successful. I reviewed in car video a day or two after the race from Seth Thomas's car. I could have gotten out of the GS cars way and maybe lost one position, but he also could have not hit me. All I know is it would have been one heck of a show if the didn't happen. I'm looking forward to VIR, this is the BimmerWorld home track and the place I got my first track record at Skip Barber's MazdaSpeed challenge. Thanks for reading, Until next time John Henry Capestro-Du Bets.