The Visit Sebring 120 at Sebring International Raceway had unique challenges that we were able to overcome and come away with another top ten finish. Jason Hoover and the rest of the #27 TRUMPF, Inc. Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 car's crew made awesome gains on our set up for the race. We tried some new unorthodox changes to improve the handling of our car and Robby Foley and I were happy with our race car throughout our stints. Having new ideas and applying them is always interesting as a driver and making small tweaks to see their advantages and disadvantages is a fantastic learning experience for me personally.
This past weekend we welcomed Cushman & Wakefield to the team as a new partner on the #27 car. I'm extremely proud to be a part of this new and exciting partnership and can not wait to see what we will accomplish together. Cushman & Wakefield is a leading global real estate services firm that helps clients transform the way people work, shop, and live. The firm’s 43,000 employees in more than 60 countries provide deep local and global insights that create significant value for occupiers and investors around the world. To learn more about this fantastic firm, visit cushmanwakefield.com.
During qualifying, Robby was able to lay down a decent lap to start the race in eleventh before the drivetrain incurred a small issue. We knew we could have started in a better position if Robby had more laps but unfortunately it was not in the cards. Luckily his first flier lap was enough to keep us from starting in the back. As I said in Freedom Autosport's post-race interview, it's cliché when drivers talk about the bumps at Sebring. However, it is very much a concern for everyone. Parts and systems that normally hold up during a race seem to fail at this track with the violent nature of racing on seventy year old tarmac, asphalt, and concrete patches at such high speeds. This is what makes Sebring so unique, fun, and challenging all at the same time.
During the race, Robby was able to move up to sixth quickly and raced conservatively knowing that, unfortunately, the lead cars were running a much faster pace than what we could maintain. Once the caution came out around the halfway mark of the two hour race, we performed our pit stop and driver change and I came out of the pits still in the top ten.
During my time in the race, the car felt great and from experience in the past I knew that our race car was going to be fast until the end. About 15 minutes into my stint, "cliché Sebring" struck again and I lost the power steering in the car. This was a new experience for me as I had never raced a car that was designed to utilize power steering and suddenly lose the luxury. Coming from Spec Miata and not having power steering in those cars, this felt similar but with more weight and higher speeds so all the days in the gym came into play big time here. Fighting with the rest of the field with my teammate Andrew Carbonell in the #25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 made for great entertainment for the fans watching and also made for some sore muscles the next morning.
When the checkered flag waved, I crossed the line in eighth and Andrew finished right ahead of me in seventh. Had we had a couple more laps, I can say confidently that we would have passed two more cars. That being said, both the #25 and #27 cars were close to maximizing their potentials in the race. Overall, we learned a lot over the course of the three days on track. Between new approaches to setting up the car, finding speed as drivers through data and video, and learning how much power steering is taken for granted, it's safe to say that the weekend was a success. We didn't have much to offer the top three or four cars this past weekend and we are hoping that six weeks from now at Circuit of the Americas we can push to get top five finishes for all three of the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5's