News

Bonilla tests with Sam Schmidt Motorsports

One of the secrets I had been keeping lately was an invitation to do a single day of testing with powerhouse Sam Schmidt Motorsports in one of their Indy Pro Series cars.  This is the team that has won multiple Indy Pro Series championships, including this year with standout Alex Lloyd.  The invitation was the product of a little relationship building.  In short, I had a terrific experience.


I drove the car for only about 45 laps on a short version of Sebring International Raceway (turns 3 through 13 for those of you who have driven it).  It was my first time in this car, and while it was not at all what I had expected, it was a sweet ride.  The car is on the heavy side, so you have to be real patient with it as you enter the corners, giving it time to build grip.  Also because of the relative weight, it doesn't accelerate as you might expect for a formula car with 450 hp.  The seating position, the view, the steering effort, all of it was just not at all what I expected.  The view makes you feel as if you're sitting close to the front bumper.  The steering effort is very light.  The brakes require incredible leg effort.  


But seriously, this was all incredibly fun!  With all the new characteristics to learn, I had to blend the new environment with a new driving style.  The car's character requires earlier brake releases, patience back to power, slower hands, and a keen awareness of the tire grip and the attitude of the car in the turns.  It is a serious thinking car.  Learning all this was a blast.  It must be an amazing car on an oval.  


Working with Sam Schmidt's team was also very special.  These guys are professionals of a very high caliber.  They have years of experience at this level, and it oozes out of them.  They have fun like anyone else would, but they get their work done with efficiency and accuracy.  Setting up the belts and pedals took mere minutes, not hours.  The procedures for starting the car, exiting the pits, being called back into the pits, getting in the car, its all the exact same thing every time.  It might sound silly to be so anal about everything, but in racing, when races are won and lost by as little as 0.0005 of a second, all these attentions make a difference.  It's no wonder they are champions so often.  


I wish to thank Sam Schmidt, Daryl Bear, Tim Neff, Chris Griffis, Lawrence, Chad, and the rest of the SSM team for giving a few of us hopeful drivers an opportunity to audition with the best team in the Indy Pro Series.  I also appreciate Butch Meyer and Mike Collier of the Indy Racing League for their professionalism.


I hope to participate with Sam Schmidt's team again in the future, but it must be under the right circumstances.  There are other great opportunities knocking at the moment, so we'll see how things shake up in the next few weeks.  


Thanks for your support.


Gerardo Bonilla

Bonilla Wins 2007 IMSA Lites Championship!

We've reached the goal line, and we are smiling.  After years of development, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, pledges made, wrenches turned, slides caught, laps led, data reviewed, notes written, savvy advice given and taken, friendships made and nurtured, carbon fiber molded, engines tuned, and the final drop of the checker flag, our B-K Motorsports team emerged as winners of Round 12 of the 2007 IMSA Lites Series at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, and winners of the IMSA Lites Team and Driver Championships.  


Sunday morning we were greeted with very cold ambient temperatures.  Our engineer Rick Cameron had a few ideas about how to make the car work in the cold.  But the job at hand was to secure the championship.  I started 2nd alongside Joel Feinberg, with Jay Cochran (2nd in points) starting 3rd.  At the green, WHAM WHAM!!!  What the !#@$%, are you kidding me??!!!  Feinberg had slammed his car into mine, not once, but twice as we cleared the start finish stand.  The crew saw it, Jay Cochran's in-car camera saw it, and of course I saw it.  Funny enough, Feinberg had the balls to say in my face at the podium after the race that I turned into him.  The attitude was deafening.  On to much more worthy issues.


Thus, with such a threat on track to our championship, I did not choose to challenge for the lead into the first turn.  Later that lap, going into turn four I made a huge error, hitting the apex curb hard with my right front.  It was time to calm down.  I let Jay by and settled into 3rd place.  As the tires warmed up, Jay Cochran passed Feinberg for the lead.  A couple laps later Feinberg made an error and I was easily by.  For the next fifteen minutes I chased down Cochran.  During the chase, we turned the fastest lap of the race, assuring Pole for Race 2.  Just as I caught Cochran, a full-course yellow came out.  It lasted until the checker.  We were P2 for this race, but we had clinched the Championship.  A job well done by all on the B-K Motorsports Team.



Photography by Scott James


In the second race, it was a real treat to start from Pole.  Local hot shoe and Laguna specialist Matt Downs started second.  I got a clean start and made my push.  I wanted to enjoy this one.  I wanted to learn this track at a new level.  Thanks to the push of Matt Downs, we left Jay Cochran behind, out of sight in the mirrors.  Each time Matt pushed harder, I raised my game.  The race went on and on, no cautions.  I kept finding new ways to go faster.  My body just relaxed.  Every time my crew chief Thomas Unger would tell me on the radio that Matt had gained two tenths on us, I'd push more, and gain those two tenths back with another faster lap.  Our Hankook tires were now three sessions old, and we were now going faster than we had all weekend.  There it was, a lap time 1.6 seconds faster than our official qualifying lap, ON THE SAME TIRES, now a day and two more sessions later.  It was like a dream.  I could have driven like this for hours.  


Caution came out with only a few minutes left in the race, so it would end behind the pace car.  Wow.  What a way to finish a racing season!  Fast, calm, with joy.  A great sense of accomplishment.




There are so many people to be thankful to.  In recent weeks I had the opportunity to thank people who made a race series possible at the Skip Barber National Banquet.  Continuing that theme, in Sunday's awards ceremony I gave thanks to many of the unsung helpers, people who manage food catering, ticket sales, track maintenance, event marketing, medical services, so many others in addition to the usual contributors like flaggers, team crew, sponsors, officials who are the most direct workers to putting on these events.  When you think about it, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who make it possible for us to experience car racing.


As the 2007 season closes, I wish to thank again everyone who helped me become this race car driver, this person who I am.  Each of the names below gave me education, training, heartfelt advice or other motivation for me to work hard.  They taught me to trust hard work, to trust others, to give to others, to never quit.  They gave me the tools so long as I promised to do the right thing.  There are many others not listed, but these are some of the big ones.  They are (in mostly alphabetical order):


Mom, Dad, my brothers, their kids, and the rest of the Bonilla and Roure families.


Ben Devlin

Bob Nisbet

Cecile Boudon

Christian Boudon

Craig Duerson

Dan Andersen

David Moxlow

Dick Lippert

Divina Galica

Doug Harrison

Formula BMW USA

George Hopkins

George McArthur

Harsha Sen

Jane and Leland Englebardt


Jean-Claude Travers

Jep Thornton

Jim Desautel

Jim Lowe

John and Rem Mayes

John and Revere Greist

John Doonan

John Pew

Kasey Kuhlman

Ken Burris

King Canada

Larry Reveir

Louise Mackay

Lynn Pestle

Marc Dana

Mark Patterson

Matt Ferratusco

Matt Franc

Mazda

Michael Auriemma

Michele Kish

Michelle Henn

Mike Marino

Mike Reggio

Murray and Michele Marden

Nick Spencer

Quentin Wahl

Quinn Meyers

Randy Buck

Randy Pobst

Remi Lanteigne

Rick Balsley

Rick Ratajczak

Rick Roso

Robert Bach

Sam Dorio

Sid Brenner

Skip Barber Racing School

Steve Levinsohn

Susan Addison

Terry Earwood

Thomas Unger

Vincenzo Tota

Virtual GT


Nobody can be a race car driver alone.  Come to think of it, you can't be much of anything alone.  Not a doctor, not a teacher, not a politician, engineer, artist, designer, musician, whatever.  All of this is about getting up and going to work every day.  It's about taking care of others.  It's about enjoying life.  


Thanks for joining me for the ride.


Stay tuned.  Big announcements are coming...


Gerardo

IMSA Lites Qualifying at Mazda Raceway

This weekend is the final IMSA Lites race weekend of the 2007 season.  The year with B-K Motorsports has been like a dream.  We've seen plenty of good times and, of course, a few difficult moments.  But its all part of a great learning experience with some great people.


This past Thursday our weekend began with several practice sessions.  While I love driving this track, Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA is still a track I do not have a lot of experience with.  It showed in the early practices, with some stinky driving results on my part.  The track was so slippery, our normal car settings also had a hard time, making things extra tough.  But, hard work prevails.  After lots of work by our crew, Thomas, Andrew, Steve, and Clint, and the wizardry of race engineer Rick Cameron, we slogged our way to quickest time in the Saturday morning Practice earlier today.  Things were looking real good for Qualifying.


In the Qualifying session, we all had a feeling it would be marred by another long red flag session stop.  After only a single complete lap, the reds flew for a car off track near Turn 4.  Our only lap was 1.5 seconds ahead of second place.  It was a premonition, but it wasn't going to stand, as it would only take us a few more laps to destroy that time.  After a long delay, the session restarted with 5 minutes to go (it was only a 20 minute session to begin with).  


I left the pits tormented with a decision.  Sit and wait for a gap with only five minutes to go or leave the pits now and work for a gap on track?  In practice, it was easy to find a gap leaving the pits early, so why not now?  If I stayed in the pits with so little time left, a second red flag would ruin us.  I left the pits with the group and immediately found a gap.  The first lap was more than two seconds faster than my previous fastest lap.  With only three minutes to go, I knew I had time for two more laps.  But, crap, what was this?  Traffic??!!!  It was the first time all weekend I had seen the biggest pack of cars just ahead of me.  I fought desperately to pass them all before the end of that lap.  But, it was just too much.  The final lap began and there were still two cars to pass.  I passed, but with the delays could only equal my previous best lap.  We lost the Pole by three tenths of a second.  I'll start 2nd.


Once I had a look at the data, we could see in numbers just how good the car was, and that if traffic hadn't interfered, we'd have won Pole by almost a second.  The speed is there, and we're confident.  Should be a fun couple of races tomorrow!


Stay tuned for race stories and a season recap late tomorrow.


Race #1 (Round 11 of 12 for the season) will be Sunday at 9:30 am Pacific time (12:30 pm Eastern).  Race #2 (Round 12 of 12) will be at 2:00 pm Pacific time (5:00 pm Eastern.  If you'd like to watch Live Timing and Scoring, you can find the link at www.gerardobonilla.com on the home page, or at www.imsaracing.net, also on their home page.  


Thanks for your support,


Gerardo

Bonilla finishes 2nd and 8th on Friday

Friday at Road Atlanta brought my favorite racing weather.  Rain!!   Yet, the heavy challenges were still there.


In the morning IMSA Lites race, starting from 3rd at the green, I had a feeling the front row guys might brake a little early for Turn 1, not having practiced in the rain.  They did, allowing me to pass the leader Kerry Jacobsen, but Joel Feinberg slipped around the outside of both of us to take the lead.  I followed him closely and made a clean pass for the lead going into Turn 6.  After a few laps of exploring the wet line, I couldn't see anyone in my mirrors.  


The clear view to the rear was both a blessing and a curse.  Our radios had failed, so the crew wasn't able to tell me that our top rival Jay Cochran had been on a tear, gaining on us at a rapid pace.  When he did finally get close enough to us, I had been on a set pace, and didn't have the information I needed to instantly increase the speed without adding a ton of risk.  I set upon the research to hold him off, but I had to give up the lead just as a full-course caution came out.  The checker flag was out two laps later, but we finished with a 37 point lead in the standings.  It was still a great day.



Later in the day it was time for my debut race in the SPEED World Challenge series with Autosport Development in their Pontiac GTO.  The team told me to expect chaos at the start and the race delivered.  At the standing start a car two rows ahead failed to start.  Imagine swerving to miss someone on the interstate highway with about a half second of notice.  Unfortunately, my teammate Dane Moxlow was not so fortunate to avoid this stalled car, and crashed heavily into him.  All the while, I'm deep into a chess match with cars everywhere.  I had avoided a spinning car in the Esses, then another in Turn 5.  There was lots of blocking and chopping into Turn 6 to get around, then out of Turn 7, a full-course caution.  The fun was paused.



It was a long wait for a restart.  When it finally came, the skies opened and rain poured all over the race track.  In a matter of seconds, there was a layer of water that didn't get along at all with our tires.  Cars were aquaplaning off the road everywhere.  As I watched in awe at another car pirouetting off the road, my car had begun to levitate.  How was this possible?  I wasn't going that fast?  The speedometer showed 60 mph, but on dry weather race tires, this was too much, and now I was heading for the wall!!!  Nooooo!!!!  There it was, coming closer and closer, now down to 45 mph, how am I going to explain this one to my team owner?  How bad would the car be damaged?  Would we continue in the race?  Just before the wall there was about six feet of grass.  Can you believe, the grass had five times the grip of the wet asphalt, catching the car, and allowing me to drive back onto the track?  I kept it SLOW until I was in the pit lane for a change to rain tires.  That was close!


After more laps behind the pace car, a red flag was called, and we were in the pits to sit and wait.  Somehow, officials allowed those who had not changed to rain tires to change during the red flag.  Now that's not really fair to those who changed under green flag conditions, don't you think?  Our advantage was wiped out by an official's decision.  Interesting.  


Even with this, it was a time to enjoy.  I was now sitting in 9th place after a 20th place start.  The race was restarted on a wet track, but no longer flooded, and actually drivable.  This was the time of my life.  Andy Pilgrim was just ahead, but not for long.  He passed a Viper that I then battled with.  With only a few laps remaining, I found his weakness in Turn 10, and made a pass on the last lap to get 8th.  To finish here in my first ever sedan race, in a tough series like SPEED World Challenge with so many great drivers, is a great feeling.  It was Autosport Development's first top 10 finish as well, so plenty of reasons to celebrate.


Many thanks to B-K Motorsports and Mazda for their support of the IMSA Lites effort.  Thanks to my team members, Thomas, Silas, Andrew, and Scott, and our owner Bob Bach for the endless hard work.  Thanks to David Moxlow and the rest of the Autosport Development team for giving me a great ride in their GTO.  Thanks again to Skip Barber, Cornerstone Controls, SRS, and the personal investors who sent me to school for this.  I'm having a great time developing this program.  


Stay tuned for the IMSA Lites final two races at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca on October 21st.  Hopefully more good news to share in the weeks to follow.


Gerardo

Gerardo Update - Adversity and Luck!

Thursday at Road Atlanta brought three sessions to our schedule, two in the B-K Motorsports IMSA Lites car (Qualifying and Race 1) and one session in the Autosport Development World Challenge car (Qualifying).  Here is a tale of adversity, more adversity, even more adversity, and then brilliant good luck.  


In the morning IMSA Lites Qualifying, I drove my car beyond rational physics.  And yet, it wasn't meant to be.  We placed 4th.  What happened?  Well, everyone else is getting better, but we also knew we just didn't have the right package for this track.  


A few hours later I strapped into the Pontiac GTO SPEED World Challenge Car at the Autosport Development camp for Qualifying.  Our car had handled so well all week, it was just a matter of putting in six laps.  However, on my first flier I almost flew off the road in Turn 1!  What was going on??!!  I entered the corner slower than I usually did!  Somehow, the track conditions had changed enough that we lost most of our front tire grip, and understeered our way to 20th place in the GT grid.  After running as high as 11th in practice, this was a little downer.  The Autosport Development crew still treated me like a rock star.  Great guys.


Photo by Renee Moxlow


Not twenty minutes later was the start of IMSA Lites Race #1.  This was going to be a real test, get out of a hot sedan style race car and into the driver seat for a race in the Lites car.  But, where was my car?  After the long walk down pit lane, I found the car, still on jackstands, still in the tent.  Oh my, this was not good.  Our slow speeds in Qualifying necessitated an engine change, a usually tricky affair, but well within the ability of my hard working crew.  We just didn't bank on a few things going terribly wrong during the engine swap.


With cars already gridding in the pits for the start of the race, I got into my car, as mechanics flew around, hands moving fast, tools clanking, and orders shouted by my crew chief Thomas Unger.  Even a couple of guys from the LMP2 team got their hands involved.  Two engineers from Elan Motorsports also helped.  It was a surreal moment, sitting in this car, completely relaxed, breathing calm as ever, watching these men full of adrenaline, thrashing as expertly as they could to turn my car into a working racer.  


In seconds, the car was lowered.  But even as it went down, I could hear "GREEN FLAG!!!  THREE WIDE INTO TURN ONE!" over the public address system.  It was as if all the blood in my body left, and I was cold.  But an incredible feeling came to me.  Nothing changed with my crew.  The orders continued, the hands flew, the tools clanked, and seconds later, as another lap went down, one of the LMP2 crewmembers gave me the signal to start the engine, and I was gone.  


It was still surreal.  I left the tent with a powerslide into the walking area, nearly hitting a spectator, but then calming again to maintain a safe speed with all the fans around.  I had to go all the way to the normal pit entry lane, a long 30 second drive!  I got onto the pits, and sure enough, I remembered 60 kilometer (37 MPH) speed limit.  That was forever, another 20 seconds, to pit out.  When I crossed that line, I was gone with a burnout.


The next 25 minutes were a blur.  Athletes love to talk about being in the zone, and can remember some very special games they played where they were so deep into the zone, they were almost outside themselves.  These 25 minutes were the deepest into the zone that I had been in quite some time.  I could feel no pain, no stress, no fear.  I merged into traffic in the P7 to P8 group, but three laps down.  In two laps I had passed all the way up to 3rd on track, but still 25th overall, three laps down.  The new engine was a turd, and I couldn't move up any further.  All that work was for not, as far as lap time was concerned.  But, it was one of the drives of my life.


Finally the checker flag was waving and the race was over.  I finished 15th in class, 25th overall, three laps down.  My lap time was 3rd overall, which means I'll start 3rd tomorrow at 8:45 AM for Race 2.  


My good friend John Pew told me before the race to do what a champion would do.  When he saw the results online, I feared he would have thought I didn't do my job.  But, I can tell him now, I was in my element, doing my job to the very best of my ability.  It was a great responsibility.  After the race I told my crew what a learning experience this was for our team, and how this would make us stronger and closer.  


The racing gods gave us a gift.  Our main competition in the points, Jay Cochran, broke down after two laps, scoring no points.  Our 15th place finish gave us a single point.  We lead by 41 points now.  


Sometimes you suffer great adversity.  Hopefully you learn from it.  Sometimes you are lucky.  Today, we were all of those.


Very special thanks to my crew, Thomas, Andrew, Silas, and Scott, for getting me back into the race.  Their efforts also gave our weekend teammate John Greene a fantastic 3rd place finish.  Well done!


Gerardo

Road Atlanta IMSA Lites and SPEED GT

The past four days have been a blur of endless work and excitement.  Many race series have made their way to Road Atlanta, and I am privileged to be part of four of them in one way or another.  Let's bring you up to speed.


Over the weekend I spent my time closely observing the B-K Motorsports Lola Mazda LMP2 car and its team of hard working guys and gals.  I spent half of Saturday and all of Sunday with them.  They work even harder than I realized.  At the end of Sunday, the team's owner Bob Bach had tried his best to keep a little promise to me, perhaps something having to do with... well, it didn't quite work out, but I was ever so close to telling you a story of driving the most incredible race car.  Perhaps another day soon.  Thanks to Bob Bach and John Doonan for the special consideration.


Monday was all about preparation for a marathon week.  On Tuesday the marathon began.  I drove in three practice sessions in the B-K Motorsports IMSA Lites car, and three practice sessions in the Autosport Development Pontiac GTO in SPEED World Challenge.  Six sessions in a day is huge fun, but huge work as well!  Okay, it was really great.  But, managing to be in both paddocks on time, writing notes for each car, doing engineering debriefs, watching in-car video, eating food, the walks between paddocks (which involved plenty of elevation change), it was not a simple matter.  Yet, it was an experience like no other, not unlike doing a four mile run, followed by a four hour bike ride, followed by an aerobics class.  It's fun, but definitely a great test!


Today was a slightly scaled down version, with only five sessions spread over three cars.  In the morning Dan Andersen asked if I would drive 15 minutes in one of his Star Mazda cars to do an engine and chassis evaluation.  My arm doesn't have to be twisted far, and it was nice to do the favor for Dan, who has helped me so many times in recent years.  The car was everything I remembered from last year, a real treat.  Pretty cool!




Most of you have read what I've thought of driving the IMSA Lites, but not yet about what the GT car is like.  Well, imagine if your Porsche, Corvette, or GTO in the driveway could do the most insane, mind bending, and amazing speeds around a race track.  Imagine if that car could change direction beyond anything you thought a street car could do, or reach 160 mph without thinking, and still pulling as it reaches the rev limiter in top gear.  It's like that, a super capable car, beyond what you might think is reasonable for a sports car.  


Tomorrow we'll compete in our first IMSA Lites race of the weekend at 2:05 PM Eastern time.  Friday the IMSA Lites second race is at 8:45 AM Eastern time.  Then, to cap off the weekend, the SPEED World Challenge GT race will take place Friday at 4:45 PM Eastern time.  Live Timing for the IMSA Lites races can be found on the home page of www.gerardobonilla.com, or at www.imsaracing.net.  Live Timing for the World Challenge race is found at www.world-challenge.com, with the television broadcast set for Saturday October 13th at 4pm on SPEED Channel.


More news tomorrow.  Thanks again for your support!


Gerardo

© Gerardo Bonilla 2015    info@gerardobonilla.com