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Gerardo wins second IMSA Lites race

I am delirious.  It's been one of the most satisfying weeks of my life.  Today we scored another win in the 2007 IMSA Lites championship.  The B-K Motorsports Elan DP-02 I drove today was such a pleasure.  After yesterday's difficult win, today was a new opportunity thanks to a long rain storm.  You know how I love the rain, but I had never driven this car in the rain.  What would it be like?


At the start I was right next to Tonis Kasmets.  The series officials had us start the race single file, a smart strategy to keep the start safer for the entire field.  Tonis was a little wide in Turn 1, but very fast and held the lead.  He then crushed me in the brake zones at Turn 3 and Turn 7.  Wow, I had no idea these Hankook rain tires were so good!  Tonis has plenty of experience on this type of tire, and I didn't!  He broke later and more efficiently, making me look like a slow turd.  


But one thing I would suspect Tonis wasn't expecting was how quickly I learn.  In two laps, he showed me how late I could brake if I really wanted to.  Fortunately for me, just then a full-course yellow came out for a crash in Turn 1.  Now right behind Kasmets, we restarted a couple of laps later. 


On the restart I was able to time my launch perfectly.  Tonis didn't make it easy on me, staying tight to the left approaching Turn 1, but I explained to him I would not be intimidated by moving my car less than an inch from the side of his.  The two of us went side-by-side into Turn 1, still inches apart, and finally, he slid a bit wide at the exit allowing me to take the lead.  In that next moment, I used that awesome brake point he showed me for two laps in Turn 3 and Turn 7.  He was still a little better than me there, but I put my head down and beat him soundly from turn 10 to Turn 17.  



Photo by Todd McCall / OnTrack Promotions


After a couple of laps another full-course caution for another crash at Turn 1.  To my complete disbelief, the Checker Flag was waving the next time by with the Pace Car ahead of us.  Wow, we won our second race!  


Again, big thanks to Bob Bach, Steve Levinsohn, and Thomas Unger for allowing me to drive one of their race cars.  It was too bad my teammates had much worse luck.  Mishael Abbott's race ended with broken parts at Turn 7.  Kurt Roehrig ended with broken parts at Turn 1 after contacting the wall after hitting a deep puddle.  Neither one had a great day, but perhaps we'll see Kurt again, and for sure we'll see Mishael the rest of the season.


Thanks to my family, several of whom were at the track today take in the race in person.  So cool.  Thanks as well to my investors and sponsors.  Thanks for believing in me.


Our next two IMSA Lites races will be May 18-19, 2007 at the Miller Motorsports Park in Toelle, Utah near Salt Lake City.  Should be fun!


Gerardo

Gerardo wins first IMSA Lites race of 2007

As one of my friends said to me today, I should relish the moment.  My team, B-K Motorsports, gave me a great car that I found a way to win today's IMSA Lites race at Sebring International Raceway.  I'll tell you what, though, it wasn't easy.


It was my third day in this race car, although perhaps my 150th day driving on this fantastic track.  I had plenty of experience knowing how the track's grip might change as the day rolls along.  Our race was at 2:35 PM, right at the peak of the "greasy asphalt" afternoon.  


The warmup lap behind the pace car was going well.  We formed neatly into two rows of sports racers and took the green.  My car was great into Turn 1, playing it safe, yet getting about a 3-car length gap.  As we approached the Turn 7 hairpin, I broke conservatively, knowing it would be okay to give up a little here to make sure I didn't muck up the corner.  It worked.  P2 and P3 fought into the corner, giving me a 10-car length gap exiting the hairpin.  I then just had some fun building the gap.  


The gap had actually stabilized.  Tonis Kasmets (another driver with plenty of experience) was keeping pace.  In fact, he set the fastest lap of the race by 0.1 second.  Then, it all went to hell.  Something changed with the cloud/sun mixture and the track temperature changed.  Because it happened at the peak greasy time of the day, it was like someone flipped a switch and sprayed the track with water.  All of a sudden, my car was incredibly difficult to drive around the track.  I had seen this racetrack change in the past, but never this much, never this quickly.



Photo by Todd McCall / OnTrack Promotions


I thought the car was broken in the rear the way it snapped into oversteer entering the turns.  I thought the steering was broken the way it just didn't turn exiting the turns.  I kept wondering, is my car broken?  A quick check in the mirror showed Kasmets was also having trouble, but he was closing.  I knew I could control the race and allow him to catch a little, I could always push a bit to increase the gap.  Ah, but then going into Turn 3, thinking I could brake later, I locked a tire so easily and had to slow way down to stay on the track, allowing Kasmets to close.  I drove carefully and held a safe gap.  


A crash in Turn 17 brought out a full-course yellow.  Once it was cleaned up we restarted.  This single lap was the most difficult of the race.  I knew Kasmets was driving well, but I just had to get a new gap.  I got that gap, but it was by surviving a very tough mental challenge, making the car go as quick as it could under terrible grip conditions.  It was literally like someone randomly threw oil on the track, and I had no idea where to expect the car to slip on it.  Very tough.  


Another yellow came out quickly as others failed to adapt to the slick track.  This yellow would last till the checker, and we'd win it while following the pace car.  


Many thanks to Thomas Unger, Steve Levinsohn, and Bob Bach for giving me the tools and great people to work with.  Thanks to my investors for making this possible.


We've got another day of work ahead on Friday.  We will race again, this time at 4:00 PM EST.  Be sure to check www.imsaracing.net and try the Live Timing and Scoring link. 


Big kudos to Dick Lippert for finishing 9th in today's Skip Barber National race out of 25 cars.  Congrats to Timmy Megenbier for winning after spinning out of the lead on Lap 1.  


Gerardo

IMSA Lites - Opening Day at Sebring

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing with you that I had signed to race with B-K Motorsports in the 2007 IMSA Lites Championship.  Over the last few days, we've been in Sebring preparing and practicing for this Thursday and Friday's races.  I wish I could have written you guys over the last two days.  So many stories to tell!  So many crazy, funny, silly, dopey moments on the track already!


Tuesday morning in our first practice session we had to break in the new transmission.  We spent the entire session doing that, so basically no practice.  In Tuesday's second practice, I got my first real attempt at going fast.  I don't think we got a clean lap in, and I was just trying not to crash a car that desperately needed some setup changes, but we ended up P2.  Cool.


This morning we did another practice session.  With a new and much better setup, I could really get to work.  The IMSA Lites car is much different from the Star Mazda I raced last year.  It's running on harder tires, so the handling characteristics have a different character.  Thankfully, its still a huge thrill in Turn 1, and a great challenge in Turn 17.  We ended up P1, fastest by 0.7 seconds ahead of ex-Champ Car driver Tonis Kasmets.  


Finally, it was qualifying time.  I had a lot of confidence going in, but I also knew I had to find even more speed.  I left the pits, warmed up the car, then had a go on the very next lap.  The tires were still too cold, so I could only go about 2:06.4 or so.  On the second lap I didn't start it so fast with a poor run out of Turn 17, but got a nice run in Turn 1.  It was the start of something good.  The track at that point was pretty grippy, allowing me to float more speed in many turns.  That lap was 2:03.6.  Holy crap, we've never gone that fast!  Next lap had traffic, so I came into the pits, desperate to know how we were doing (my radio wasn't receiving).  "P1 by two seconds buddy," my mechanic Thomas Unger tells me.  "Oh, now its four tenths, so you better go back out there."  Fine.


We went back onto the track, but what's this??  There's dirt all over the apex of Turn 7!  And now dirt in Turn 11!  And, WHOA, that was almost a spin in Turn 13!  This track is dirtier than my mechanic after a long night under the tent!  There was no way anyone would go quicker.  After two attempts at a lap, I pulled into the pits again and let the guys know about the slippery conditions.  We waited, and waited, and waited until the checker had flown and all the cars had gone by.  We had done it.  POLE - POLE - POLE!!!!  My first time in the car was only yesterday, and we're on Pole.  It's a good day.


My teammates Mishael Abbott and Kurt Roerhig didn't have it as easy.  Mishael was held up by a deffective tire ended her qualifying early.  P11 for her.  Kurt managed a quick lap for P8 on the grid.  


I can't tell you if Live Timing and Scoring will be active for our races, but if you want to try, go to www.imsaracing.net and click the Live Timing and Scoring link.  We race Thursday at 2:35 PM EST and again on Friday at 4:00 PM EST.


We've also got a huge 24 car field in the Skip Barber National Championship.  Lots of new fast kids there, led by Timmy Megenbier, Ricky Taylor, and others.  Our good friend Dick Lippert at the young age of... er... sixty-ish... placing 7th overall in today's practice.  Way to go Dick!! 


Stay tuned for more from Sebring late tomorrow.


Gerardo

Gerardo Bonilla signs with B-K Motorsports for the 2007 IMSA Lites Championship

Orlando, FL – March 10, 2007 – Gerardo Bonilla, the 2006 Star Mazda Expert Champion, officially announced today he has signed with B-K Motorsports to drive in the 2007 IMSA Lites Championship.  He has also officially announced his newly updated website, www.gerardobonilla.com


B-K Motorsports is based in Saukville, Wisconsin.  The team is fielding a multi-car effort in the 2007 IMSA Lites Championship, and is fielding the factory Lola Mazda LMP2 entry in the full American LeMans Series for 2007, going head to head with the formidable Penske, Dyson, Andretti-Green, Fernandez, and Highcroft teams.


Gerardo Bonilla had finished 2nd to Marco Andretti in the 2004 Skip Barber Championship. In 2005 Gerardo returned to the Skip Barber National Championship and won the title.  In 2006, Gerardo won his debut Star Mazda Series race at Sebring with Andersen Racing and went on to finish 6th overall.


Gerardo Bonilla spoke highly of B-K Motorsports.  “Bob Bach, Steve Levinsohn, and the rest of the staff are very passionate about racing.  They have the right people and have shown me they are willing to do what it takes to win a championship.  I’m looking forward to working with my new teammates, Mishael Abbott and Kurt Roehrig, and the rest of the B-K Motorsports team.  I owe a lot to Skip Barber and my investors for this fantastic career opportunity.” 


“We wanted to have a driver like Gerardo all along, but it wasn’t until recently we learned he was available for 2007,” commented Steve Levinsohn, Team Manager for the IMSA Lites program at B-K Motorsports.  “Sometimes these things just work out.  Obviously, we’re thrilled to have him.”



Pictured here is the IMSA Lites car driven in 2006 by Adam Pecorari.


The IMSA Lites Championship runs in support of the American LeMans Series.  All IMSA Lites races are run as doubleheaders, with two races per weekend.  The IMSA Lites Championship will run at six tracks, for a total of twelve races.  The series fields three classes of cars, L1, L2, and L3.


The first two races will be held on Thurdsay March 15 and Friday March 16, 2007 at Sebring International Raceway in support of the American LeMans Series Mobil 1 12-Hours of Sebring. 


Gerardo Bonilla poses with B-K Motorsports’ 2006 LMP2 car.  Gerardo’s 2007 IMSA Lites car will have a similar look with white and blue colors.

It’s that most special time of the year

It is finally that happiest time of the year.  It is finally racing season.  And happily, I am fortunate enough to announce that I too get to drive a race car in 2007.  It very nearly didn't happen.  Let's rewind the tape a couple of months.


In late December, the stress monster had me nearly flat on my back, desperate to raise $500k to do a truly proper season of Star Mazda.  Oh, yes, that's a HUGE number, but we did want to win the championship, and doing that is certainly not cheap!  But, stubborn as I am, I was determined to raise it.  In the span of six days I raised $110k.  I was on a roll thanks to some amazing people who believed.  If I had hit $200k, I was going to test at Sebring in January.  


Alas, I hit a plateau at 110k and missed the test.  I had two months to raise the rest.  Heck, the price kept getting better, but I couldn't get it done.  All the effort I could muster wasn't enough.  Andersen Racing filled its last seat a couple of weeks ago.  I was out.  The feeling was one of overwhelming disappointment, a feeling of failure, a feeling of wondering what else I could have done.  I believed I belonged in Star Mazda.  It was my championship to win.  I'll never forget the moment when I was nearly in tears on the phone with Michelle Kish, Andersen Racing's team manager, and her telling me, "Hey Gerardo, it will be okay.  These things happen, and something you don't know will happen, something good."  


Sure enough, the very next day, a jolly Steve Levinsohn, IMSA Lites team manager for B-K Motorsports, gave me a call.  He said, "Hey Gerardo, what are you doing next year?"  It was as if he already knew the answer, as if he already knew what had happened the day prior.  I didn't want to rush in, but in a matter of days I had spoken with all my mentors and sponsors and they all said I should do it.  


A week later I flew to their shop in Wisconsin and signed for the 2007 IMSA Lites Championship.  I'll be driving an Elan DP-02 sports car.  But don't confuse this with a traditional sports car.  This is a formula car type carbon tub with full bodywork.  It will be much like last year's Star Mazda car, but with harder tires and look like a prototype.  It will be absolutely fantastic!!!


It's been a whirlwind since then.  The cars are already in Florida.  In fact, we're displaying them at Classic Mazda on Hwy 436, north of Colonial Drive in Orlando at 5 PM this Sunday March 11.  The LMP2 car will showcase, and our IMSA Lites cars will support.  The drivers will be there as well as Mazda execs.  It's paradise.


Then of course, we are racing.  And twice too.  We'll race at 2:35 PM on Thursday March 15, then again at 4:00 PM on Friday March 16 at Sebring International Raceway.  As if life wasn't challenging enough, I've not even driven this car yet.  I'll have to break it in during the first practice on Tuesday, so no fast laps until second practice.  


Major thanks to Bob Bach for starting his new IMSA Lites program.  Thanks to Steve Levinsohn for asking me to join the team.  My teammate for the season will be Mishael Abbott, a very hard working young woman who has Indy Pro Series experience.  She will be a great member of the team.  


Thanks to my investors, donors, sponsors, mentors, and friends who keep on giving me the strength to do what I do.  Thanks to Skip Barber for giving me a place to give back what I learn to so many.  It's going to be a very busy week.  I'll race the IMSA Lites car, manage the coaching program for the twenty six drivers competing in the Skip Barber National Championship, and coach the five drivers racing at Andersen Racing.  


How could I say no?  It's all family.


See you all next week,


Gerardo

© Gerardo Bonilla 2015    info@gerardobonilla.com