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New Look for GerardoBonilla.com!

August 26, 2015

Welcome to the new GerardoBonilla.com!

We have simplified the look and content to make your visit more effective and efficient.  

This site chronicles my racing history and outlines our coaching programs.  

Please note, you will notice a large time gap in the blog / news entries from 2012-2014.  This is not a website error, but rather a break we took from writing over that period while focusing on coaching programs.  

If you have any questions or comments, please send us an email.

We hope you enjoy looking around!

Night Before the 500 - USF2000 National Championship at Lucas Oil Raceway, Indianapolis, Indiana

May 29, 2011

Indianapolis, IN - The Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda series completed its third round of the 2011 season with a 70-lap oval race at Lucas Oil Speedway, just outside Indianapolis.  Gerardo Bonilla served again as driver mentor to the 15 drivers entered.

The 70-lap feature was won by Petri Suvanto, driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.  Suvanto first had to fend off an incredible start by Andretti Autosport driver Spencer Pigot, who jumped nearly into the lead by Turn 3 on the opening lap from his 6th place starting position.  Pigot then fell to 3rd behind his Andretti Autosport teammate and 2nd place starter Zach Veach. 

Suvanto and Veach battled for the lead, while sleeper Luke Ellery driving for JDC Motorsports mounted his charge to the front after falling as far back as 8th.  Before the leaders knew it, Veach had been demoted to 3rd by Ellery.  In a classic short oval traffic play, Ellery used his momentum to blast into the lead as Suvanto slowed for a lapped car in Turn 1.

Luke Ellery would continue to lead ahead of Suvanto and Veach, until Rodin Younessi, driving for Pabst Racing Services, spun in Turn 3, collecting the race leading Ellery.  “I thought (Younessi) would lock up the brakes or drive it down low.  I was already high, so I stayed high, and he slid up the track.  I had no where to go.” recounted a disappointed Ellery. 

Petri Suvanto timed his restart well and continued to hold off a hard charging Zach Veach until the finish.  Juan Piedrahita, driving for JDC Motorsports, would finish third, ahead of Spencer Pigot and Wayne Boyd. 

As a driver mentor to all the drivers, Gerardo Bonilla’s night was equally exciting from his perspective in the control tower.  “I was on pins and needles the entire race.  Are you sure it was only thirty minutes?  I want all the drivers to do well, so every time they were close, which was every lap, I was nervous as heck up in race control.  I had Johnny Unser up there with me to help evaluate the drivers, making my job a lot easier!  Those guys put on a hell of a show.  Only one caution, and lots of awesome racing.  The fans should feel great about what they saw.” related Bonilla. 


Bonilla testing for Skip Barber Race Series

Watkins Glen, NY - Gerardo Bonilla has added more work to his 2011 professional driving repertoire in the form of test driver duties for the Skip Barber Race Series. 

Most recently, Bonilla tested the Skip Barber Formula 2000 cars at Watkins Glen International for Skip’s Regional Summer Series, in addition to his duties as a data analyst for drivers who add that service to their weekend.  “Greg Strelzoff was our only customer for the intensive data day on Thursday, so the staff asked if I would spend time on test driver duty to help with car equalizations and fixes.  It’s a great job to have by any driver’s standard, so I couldn’t pass it up,” related Bonilla.

Bonilla also tested for Skip Barber at the recent Skip Barber National races at Virginia International Raceway in late April.  At that event, the cars were fitted with the latest specification BFGoodrich R1 competition slicks.  Bonilla likes to point out how much the slicks change the character of the Skip Barber Formula cars.  “It basically makes the car a lot like other much faster, and much more expensive formula cars like the Star Mazda and Atlantic cars.  You get the satisfaction of driving into the corners with ridiculous amounts of entry speed, then carefully decelerate the car with just the right amount of brake release.  It’s really awesome, frankly!” commented Bonilla.

This coming weekend Bonilla puts on his coach’s hat for driver mentor duties for the USF2000 National Championship presented by Mazda at the Night Before the 500 race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.  Bonilla added, “The USF2000 kids are pretty awesome.  Lots of fast drivers and really strong teams.  What a cool series Dan Andersen has put together, and a real treat to be asked to coach for all the drivers.  It’s like Skip Barber on steroids.  It’s really cool.” 


Online previews for Skip Barber drivers for Sebring, VIR

Gerardo Bonilla will be hosting several online previews for Skip Barber National and Regional drivers participating in upcoming race events at Sebring and Virginia International Raceway in mid and late April, 2011.

Online previews are private or small group coaching sessions reviewing in-car video, track maps, and the finer details of the Skip Barber Formula 2000 car at these tracks.  These sessions will help you get your head in the game for your upcoming race weekend.

Sessions are available by appointment.   Please email Gerardo at info@gerardobonilla.com to make a reservation or to test your computer system in advance.

More information on the Coaching page.

Gerardo renews coaching programs with USF2000 National Championship and Performance Tech for ALMS - LMPC / Prototype Lites for 2011

Gerardo renews coaching programs with USF2000 National Championship and Performance Tech for ALMS - LMPC / Prototype Lites for 2011

Sebring, FL - Gerardo Bonilla announced today he has renewed coaching programs with the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda series and with Performance Tech, a leading Florida based team fielding cars in the American LeMans Series LMPC category and in the feeder Cooper Tires Prototype Lites championship. 

Bonilla continues relationships with both organizations that go back several years.  Bonilla explains, “The USF2000 series is Dan Andersen’s baby.  I drove for Dan in the Star Mazda series in 2006, and since then, have coached for his Star Mazda and Indy Lights drivers from time to time.  Last year he asked me to join him as a mentor/coach for the USF2000 series.  It’s a great championship with some top caliber drivers and teams, like Andretti Autosport, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, JDC MotorSports, and other top teams.”

“My relationship with Performance Tech also goes back a few years, beginning with driver Anthony Nicolosi who back then was driving in the IMSA Lites series (now Prototype Lites).  Today he’s moved up to LMPC with this team.  Performance Tech is no stranger to ALMS, having previously fielded the LMPC for several races last year including where I drove for them at Long Beach, and a GT class Dodge VIPER in previous years.  Team owner Brent ONeill has done a great job finding the right people, not just mechanics and engineers, but also drivers who all get along great.  It’s a really fun tent to work under!”

Bonilla will also be coaching drivers in the Skip Barber National and Regional series all year long, conducting test driver duties for both series as well as video and data coaching services both in person and online. 

On the driving side, Bonilla continues to pursue business partners who could help get him back in the seat of a car.  “I’m no different than any other driver this stage of my career.  If it doesn’t make good business sense, there’s no sense in taking the risk of driving.  When the right opportunity comes, it will be a wonderful moment to drive for a team again, or start my own.  I miss the professional and technical parts a driver works on each race weekend.  I still get to do some testing, but nothing beats a green flag,” related Bonilla. 

Look for Bonilla at the USF2000 hospitality tent or at Performance Tech in the ALMS paddock this weekend, March 14-19, 2011 at Sebring International Raceway!


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Racing and Coaching for 2011

Orlando, FL - Gerardo Bonilla has been busy making plans for a diversified season of racing, testing, and coaching for 2011. 

“You could say, I just can’t get enough of this sport.  I miss driving full-time pretty badly, like anyone else who has tasted the elixir like I have, but I’ve also greatly enjoyed the coaching side of racing.  I’m incredibly grateful to Mazda, Skip Barber, and the teams I’ve raced with over the years, like Performance Tech, Andersen Racing, and B-K Motorsports.  I can’t wait to see what’s next!” said Bonilla.

In addition to searching for a drive, Bonilla has been in talks with several teams and drivers for coaching services in 2011.  In 2010 Gerardo worked as a driver mentor to the USF2000 National Championship, as a team coach for Performance Tech in the Prototype Lites series, as a private coach to several drivers in Skip Barber, and as a test driver and data instructor for the Skip Barber Race Series. 

“I speak with teams every week.  The market is really tough right now, but I have faith.  I wouldn’t have gotten this far without it.” 

Bonilla also hosts online coaching sessions for drivers needing a pre-race orientation, or a post race analysis of their performance using data and in-car video tools.

Stay tuned for coming announcements. 


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Roller Coaster Ride at Long Beach

Holy moly, I almost forgot what a race weekend was like! It's a non-stop series of duties, one after the next, from meetings, to radio fixes, seat fitting and refitting, driver change practice, scale pad time, and of course, practice, qualifying, and the race. I had forgotten how much I miss it all. It's intense, its cool, its a world of its own. And it's completely different from coaching.

I had never driven the LMPC car until Friday morning's practice session. The opening laps were like installing new software on a freshly installed blank computer hard drive. All the lights were blinking away, but somehow, I just knew everything would turn out okay. The car was not at all as heavy as I had predicted. It was even nimble! It had enough power to be exciting, enough grip to keep your attention throughout the cornering process, and enough zoomy features to be a LMP car. The new softer compound Michelin tires did a remarkable job with the Oreca/Courage chassis.

The paddle shift system is still in version 1.0, completing shifts slowly enough to knock my head forward and back as if it was my first time driving a stick shift in a street car on perhaps about 15% of the upshifts. Can you believe the less time I held the upshift paddle, the less time it delayed power? I don't understand why the programming of this car seems so unsorted. "Hey Eric (my engineer)... can we modify the shift timing, throttle modulation in duration and amount?" "No." Huh? The software is locked, no touching allowed. It's a spec category. Hopefully the next software update improves this.

With thirty-six cars on the short Long Beach street circuit, the sessions were always full of action. It was a rare lap to be alone and put in a clean time. My teammate Kyle Marcelli was a quick study of Long Beach having driven the LMPC at the ALMS test in February and the Sebring 12-hours. It's his season, so he qualified us. He was up to P2 in qualifying when during the red-flag period we discovered a piece of Dodge Viper from the World Challenge series stuck deep in our left-rear tire. Qualifying was done for us, so we would start 4th.

I had the pleasure of starting the race. In typical Long Beach fashion, by the time I exited the hairpin Turn 11, the field was already at 100% throttle, so it was just like another race lap. Things were fine until in the traffic jam, a car from behind drilled us in Turn 11. Then on another restart, another car jumped the green and hit the car ahead of me in Turn 11, causing us all to nearly park. Several GT cars slipped up the inside. The GT's have more power than us, so it would take a large portion of the stint to get by some of them. Nevertheless, we were running 3rd in LMPC and around 7th overall.

I finally had a chance to get settled in the car and enjoy a long run. It's interesting how much more of the track you can explore, how many more inches closer to the walls you can allow yourself to drive, how much later you can brake with some repetition. The LMPC car is so much more fun to drive than I had imagined. I made a pass on a Flying Lizard Porsche, then later on a factory Corvette. In 2008, the Lola Mazda could easily get by these guys. But, the LMPC, as I mentioned, has less power than the GT cars, so you have to be driving a perfect lap to be faster.

Just after passing the Corvette, it was full-course yellow, and time to pit. We wanted to get a lap back, so we waited behind the pace car for the wave-bys. Once the pace car passenger started his hand gesture, I drove past and drove into Turn 1. In an instant, I had radio chatter in my ear, cold tires... and why did I look in my mirrors? For some reason I was still mentally considering if that pace car had actually given me a wave-by. As a coach, I often remind my drivers to focus forward and think about what's next. I failed at my own advice, and promptly stuffed the car into the tires at Turn 1. Embarrassing, heart-wrenching, disappointing. The first thing I could think of was how many points I just cost my teammate Kyle Marcelli. The kid had worked so hard to get here, I just wanted to give him a car on the lead lap in good position. We were in 3rd, and the wave-by might have put us up higher. Easily, this day was a podium and a chance at a win. Instead, we finished a few laps down in 5th place.

There were lots of great moments to remember, of course. Being stuffed in the tires was a real test of patience and trust. The safety guys were motivated to get us back in the race once it was clear I was not hurt (not a scratch on me). The fans cheered when I crawled out of the car. Then, once Kyle was in the car, watching him drive even quicker was really special, even with a mirror torn off the car. The team was supportive and consoling. Sure, they were as disappointed as I, but they had big hearts and told me I had done a better job than I gave myself credit for. It's not easy to arrive at a street race with zero testing in a car you've never driven before. I trusted my experience that it was doable, but it is definitely difficult to do well.

Thanks to Brent, Frankie, and all the Performance Tech / Primetime Race Group guys for working so hard all weekend. Thanks to Kyle Marcelli and his support team for being so supportive. Thanks to Anthony Nicolosi for being such a key player in this team.

Thanks to all of you for your support! You were riding along with me the whole way.

Gerardo returns to ALMS at Long Beach

With school, work, and family time, I've not had time to write a press release or a personal log, so I'll start with this and write more later. 

I've been asked to drive a LMPC prototype at Long Beach this coming weekend. I will drive a car entered by Performance Tech, teaming with the young and fast Kyle Marcelli. 

The LMPC is an Oreca carbon tub, much like a typical LMP car, but with a spec V8 engine and many spec chassis parts, from shocks to springs, gear sets, even the steering wheel is spec. In Europe they are called Formula LeMans. Here, the ALMS has combined LMP1 and LMP2 into one LMP class, and added these new spec cars as LMP Challenge, or LMPC. They are slighly heavier and slightly less powerful than the LMP2 Lola Mazda I drove in 2008, but still a wonderful challenge.

I've been working with this team on a coaching and consulting basis for about the last year or so. For now, this is a one-race deal. Of course I would love to drive more races, but there are always things out of my control. All I can do now is do a good job for the team and help Kyle to learn Long Beach. 

As you know, there is a ton of work behind the scenes to make a race happen.  My good friend Anthony Nicolosi, also one of my drivers in Prototype Lites, has put in a huge effort to make this race possible for our team.  Additionally, team manager Brent ONeill and his crew work as hard as any top team I've been with.

I cannot find the words to describe how happy I am to be back in driver mode! Watching video, studying data and notes, discussing issues with Kyle and the team leadership, planning strategy, thinking about corporate guests and fans, wow, I miss it so much. 

Thanks for letting me share. If you have the time, the race will be on SPEED this Saturday April 17 at 8PM Eastern.

Many thanks to all of you who have supported me over the years.  I could not have done this without you.  And special thanks to my family, who have given me immeasurable support in recent months.

Gerardo


Long Beach Entry List

http://www.imsaracing.net/2010/events/long%20beach/ALMS%20Long%20Beach.pdf

2009 Gerardo Bonilla Season Review

The 2009 racing season has been one of change and wonderful experiences. 

My only professional race of the season was January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona 24-hour race in the Grand-Am Rolex series.  In this race I teamed with owners Joe and Jerome Jacalone, as well as pro drivers Randy Pobst and Shane Lewis.  Together we piloted a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to 10th in GT class, and 18th overall, a fine effort by a small but hard working team.  Many thanks to Joe and Jerome for hiring me for this race.

Shortly after, I drove a vintage Lola T88 in a support race for the 12-Hours of Sebring.  You could say it was a “hot” ride.  Car owner Justin Ellis invited me to share his car in the enduro, but his drive time never came.  Although the car qualified well, during the first lap of the race it erupted in flames, instantly filling the cockpit with a scorching fire I will never forget!  Seven seconds later I was on the ground rolling to put the fire out.  Poor Justin’s car was a hunk of burnt metal afterwards.  Wear your safety gear!!! It works!

The rest of my year has been a full schedule of private coaching work and time with Skip Barber Racing School.  Private coaching drivers included five drivers in Andersen Racing’s Star Mazda team, including Conor Daly, Richard Kent, Denis Navarro, Mikael Grenier, and Joel Miller.  Other work included Andersen’s Indy Lights team for Mid-Ohio, Dan Weyland and Jon Brownson at the Sebring IMSA Lites race, Anthony Nicolosi at the Road America IMSA Lites race, and several Skip Barber National drivers at different points of the season including Sage Karam, Ashley Freiberg, and Kevin Tittle.  Kevin has also been my client for the entire Skip Barber Regional season.  Other Regional drivers I’ve helped this season include Chris Brassard, Ethan Stone, David Libby, and many other great people in Skip Barber.

What’s Next?

It’s hard to say exactly what 2010 will bring.  I have several offers for coaching in a few different series.  Of course, driving comes first, and those efforts have been under way all season.  I’m considering opportunities in Grand-Am as well as American LeMans Series.  Each series has its strengths and great people I look forward to working with.  Stay tuned.

As always, thanks so much for your support. 

Rolex 24 and then some!

Sometimes its the marathon that begs you to become a part of it.  There's no question in racing circles that the Rolex 24 at Daytona is one of racing's most cherished endurance marathons.  A true test of man and machine, the only way to understand it is to be a part of it.  

Forty-nine cars of all shapes and sizes took the green this past Saturday January 24 and competed for 24 hours, taking the checker Sunday afternoon.  Prototypes powered by Porsche, Lexus, Ford, BMW, and Pontiac joined GT sports cars from Porsche, Mazda, Pontiac, Ferrari, Corvette, and Ford.  The race featured great duels, heartbreaking part failures, and a historic win by the Brumos Porsche team, winning overall for the first time in 40 years.

But, this is a story of seven days.  The first four days included the preparations and running of the Rolex 24.  Joe and Jerome Jacalone, owners of Gotham Competition were gracious to hire me to drive with them and two other pros, Randy Pobst and Shane Lewis.  It was my first Rolex 24, and a very special personal milestone.  I first walked the pit lane at age 16, watching Geoff Brabham and Chip Robinson dominate in their Nissan GTP-ZX turbos against the mighty Jaguars, Toyotas, and other contenders.  I dreamed of driving in this race, but never would have thought it would take seventeen years to get here.  

The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup we raced was very entertaining to drive.  It has fantastic power, giving a great thrill through the Daytona banking, which unlike what you see on television, is very bumpy and narrow.  Imagine driving a race car you've never driven before at 170 mph while being thrown around, lap after lap, by the bumps.  Oh, and watch for those prototypes blasting by you on the outside...   Certainly the car is much different from the open wheel cars and prototypes I've raced in recent years, but the real thrill comes when you get to compete.  Our small team did that as a true David and Goliath story.  Against powerhouse teams, we finished 10th in GT, 18th overall.  This race rewards consistency, which is a combination of driving fast, staying out of trouble, and staying focused.  Not easy to do in a 4-hour race, and definitely much harder for 24 hours straight.  Elsewhere down the pit lane my friends from Mazda had early trouble with their super fast RX-8's and were not able to repeat their 2008 victory in GT, the win this time going to the #67 TRG Porsche.  

One very special memory was the midnight to 3am shift I drove.  I normally like to get to bed around 10pm each night.  The team asked me to be available by 11pm for my next stint.  I arrived at 10:45, but did not get into the car until around 12:20am.  Imagine being very tired, already having driven a race distance earlier in the day.  Imagine it being well past your normal sleep time.  Now get in a race car and drive it for two and a half hours.  Amazing how adrenaline works.  When I emerged from the car, I felt a sensation like no other.  Utter exhaustion, but complete happiness.  Few life experiences can offer this kind of satisfaction.  

Those were four days.  My parents drove me home right after the race, I repacked my suitcases with whatever was left in the closet, and drove myself to Sebring.  What was I thinking??!  It wasn't an easy drive, harder than all the race drives, but I made it to the hotel.  Next morning, I woke and went to the track to coach a driver in his IMSA Lites car, followed by two days coaching four drivers who drove for the powerhouse Andersen Racing Team in Star Mazda cars.  I've learned that no matter how tired you are, you really can't get enough of something you love.  I also reaffirmed what I've always believed that coaching and driving are equally satisfying.  Those were a complete, and memorable seven days.

I am finally home and looking forward to spending time with my family, making a home cooked meal, and sleeping in a few times.  Driving and teaching is all-consuming, and I am sorry I have been a little out of touch the last seven days.  

Thanks again to Jerome and Joe Jacalone for allowing me to drive their Porsche race car.  Thanks to Randy Pobst and Shane Lewis for mentoring me in a successful first Rolex 24 drive.  Thanks to all the crew of Gotham Competition for your love of the sport and hard work.  Thanks to the many of you who helped me to become a race driver.  I don't yet know what's the next race I'll do, but I can assure you, it will happen.

Until the next time, drive smart and have fun.

Gerardo


photos by Michael Katterhenry


Rolex 24 at Daytona Official Results

http://www.grand-am.com/assets/RolexRaceResultsofficial.pdf



© Gerardo Bonilla 2015    info@gerardobonilla.com