Gerardo’s Mid-Season Update

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It's been too long since my last update to you.  I apologize.  I am also regretful to some extent that the nature of my notes have been a little too corporate.  Please forgive me.  As my new role with Mazda and B-K Motorsports involves many new responsibilities, I had to take less risk.

Enough apologies.  It's time to bring back a little risk and a little emotional sharing that you've been missing this year. 

Lime Rock was our final race weekend on Yokohama tires.  We really wanted to make the partnership work, but Yokohama decided to go into a testing phase on their LMP product, while we would use a more stable and known quantity with Dunlop.  I was given the thrill of qualifying on those final sets of Yokohamas, and had the time of my life pushing the car to unreasonable speeds, but we just didn't have the pace.  In the race, after losing a few laps, the gearbox blew up at half distance.  At least we gave the fans a great show up to that point, catching lurid slides at the new and often dusty chicane at West Bend.  

Mid-Ohio was our first event on Dunlop tires.  Despite the high hopes, one bit of bad luck followed another, with issues under the carbon fiber bonnet eliminating 2/3rds of our practice time, and erasing all our qualifying time.  Ben Devlin would start the car dead last, costing us huge track position.  As such we lost a lap, but thanks to Ben's driving and hard work by our team, we made it back on the lead lap later in the race.  When it was my turn to drive, the refueling vent valve stuck open during the pit stop.  Imagine if you were my pit crew.  In that instant, gas was pouring all over the side of our car.  In that same instant, the poor guys at de Ferran Motorsports two pit stalls ahead of us in an unrelated but similar incident were trying to put out one of the biggest fuel fires I've seen in pit lane that sadly injured their fueler Keith Jones.  We did not catch fire, but we lost 12 laps repairing the valve.  When I made it on track, we turned lap times competitive to the lead LMP2 cars and solemnly finished knowing we might have been 5th in class, 7th overall.

Joel Miller (left) and Connor de Phillippi (right) join me for group photos at Road America.  All three of us are products of the Mazda Ladder and the Skip Barber National series.  Photo by Craig de Phillippi.

Road America finally came this past weekend.  Under perfect weather we once again had to manage some bad luck in practice, be it red flags or electrical gremlins, that limited our practice time.  We had to qualify the car with problems that could not be quickly solved, but at least Ben's qualifying lap put us in a better position than starting at the back like we did at Mid-Ohio.  

The race was a dream.  Ben started and ran his two hours with emotion and verve.  We watched with joy and measured excitement as Ben diced with Penske, Dyson, and the Acura teams.  He didn't always win those dices, but the point is we had battles!  The year up to this point was fraught with mediocrity.  We won't accept that, and we didn't.  Alas, an electrical gremlin bit, and Ben lost a lap with an extra pit stop to fix it.  At half distance it was my turn to drive.  Immediately, I too had an electrical gremlin (I swear I didn't swallow a battery) and lost another lap.  But, I drove like I was possessed.  What I put in my mind was that the other LMP2 teams were right there with us on the same lap.  I raced them.  Our car was the car that could.  My body was alive with the realization that I was finally, finally racing and beating the Dyson Porsche on raw speed.  I could stay ahead of the Penskes if traffic was involved, but they were still a little better than us on raw speed.  The Acuras were bullets.  It didn't matter.  We had a car that could compete, and pardon the cliche, but there I was, finally enjoying a 2-hour drive piloting one of the best cars in the world against some of the best drivers and best cars in the world.  

After the checker I didn't want it to end.  I slowed down to maybe 15 miles per hour, just to make sure I could wave to every fan and let them know how much we appreciate them.  I almost called the team on the radio to say, "Awe... couldn't they have let the race go another 30 minutes?"  I have never felt this good about being a race driver.  I've talked about relishing the responsibilities, the lessons, being thankful to BP, Mazda, B-K Motorsports for the opportunity.  But today, I relish the pure raw and unedited feeling of driving the race car equivalent of a fighter jet with my Mazda team against childhood heros like Penske, Dyson, Andretti, de Ferran, and Fernandez.  

I hope you'll be able to see it.  



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Road America Race Results

Mid-Ohio Race Results

Lime Rock Race Results

© Gerardo Bonilla 2015