If you read my last blog post regarding my first outing with BimmerWorld Racing and driving the new 328i at Daytona during the Roar Before the 24, it was pretty obvious that there was a lot of excitement in anticipation for our first race of the season.
I flew back to Daytona for the first IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race, eager to get behind the wheel of the #81 car again. I had picked up so much speed from the beginning of the testing until we had packed up. As such, I was anxious to keep the momentum flowing through three practice sessions before qualifying.
Judging from the results at the Roar, I felt pretty strongly that Tyler Cooke, my co-driver and I had a good chance to qualify well and possibly even fight for some serious points in our first race together. I believed that I could still go faster and that there was also some speed left in the car as well. The only thing I wasn’t entirely sure of was how it would be to dive head first into the deep end of a pool packed with talented, hungry pro racers. Well, I was about to find out, or was I?
Our practice sessions were full of frustration and concern with nothing but trouble with every outing. The team worked so diligently to repair the car and target the issues so that Tyler and I could at least set a few laps. However, by the time that qualifying had come about, I had only completed one full flying lap.
The culprit was a bit of a surprising one. The team identified that there was a problem with the fuel rail, as it had broke, spraying fuel everywhere. Once they team had replaced the perceived faulty fuel rail, the vibration and added stress appeared to then trigger a coil failure. Once the coil was repaired, it was now time to qualify. I was sent back out for qualifying, only to encounter another broken fuel rail.
After further inspection, the team discovered that a missing seal on one of the injectors was the culprit, which caused the misalignment and unnecessary tension on the fuel rail. The added stress and vibration caused it to fail.
It was pretty disheartening to not qualify for my first race, especially when our sister car, the #84, qualified right outside pole position. It would have been great to have qualified at the front of the grid with our teammates, however Tyler and I were determined to fight our way up from the back of the pack. If anything, it would make for an interesting story!
On the morning of race day, the #81 BimmerWorld 328i was ready to take to the track for the fourth and final practice session before the race. Tyler took the car out first and then I jumped in after a quick 10-minute stint by Tyler. On my first lap out, the car overheated, so I dove back into the pit. This time the team discovered that the engine had suffered a blown head gasket.
With only minimal time before the start of the race, the clock had worked against us. We couldn’t swap a new engine in time and we couldn’t jeopardize the season by entering the car into the race, given its current condition. Thus, we were forced to withdraw from the race.
Obviously, it’s a big disappointment for my team and my sponsors Supertech Performance, Performance Technic, QuickJack and Speed SF. It’s especially tough knowing that we walk away from the first race without any points. Results like these can haunt an otherwise stellar season later on, and may put significant dent to my aspiration of winning the championship. In the end though, this is racing after all. These things happen. We will have an uphill battle from now on and we cannot afford any setbacks.
My feeling with the team is positive and I am confident that we can bounce back. Sebring is one of the toughest tracks to learn, however, with more than a month break, you can count on the fact that I will use that time to train myself thoroughly.
The next time around, I’m sure that I’ll be writing a much more entertaining and exciting article!