Road America is a track with long straigthaways, hard braking zones and fast pace. Finding a good balance on this track is very difficult: on one hand you want the car to be slightly oversteery for early acceleration in fast corners, and on the other hand you want maximum traction out of the slow corners which usually means understeer. Additionally you want minimum drag to get the best top speed to be able to overtake in the straightaways. If the global setup tradeoff is weak in any of these sections, the car is slow.
Road America is not one of my preferred tracks and it shows. Last year my qualification performance was really deceiving, as I was only able to qualify in 24th position. In the race I recovered more or less, finishing in 15th position far from Alex‘s 8th position. My objectives for this season’s race at Road America were mainly to improve my qualification performance and to not crash in the race.
During race preparation I struggled to find the ideal compromise in the setup to achieve good performance, progressivity and consistency. With my fast setup I was not able to run a full stint without crashing out. I finally found the balance I needed only few hours before the race. Additionally, a few hours before the race Alex discovered that a one stopper strategy was only marginally slower and could be a good compromise in case of a bad qualification spot given Road America’s very long pitlane. Being unsure of my qualifying performance, I decided to opt for the one stopper strategy and adjusted my race setup accordingly.
I started my first qualifiying lap trying to be very cautious. It turned out that lap was quite quick except for a mistake in Canada corner where I lost 2 tenth of a second. I then decided to be more aggressive for the second flying lap but it turned out to be an error as I made several mistakes. I ended up 12th on my server with my first laptime and 16th on the grid. Without my silly mistake in Canada corner it would have been a top 10.
As a one stopper, my race was not very fun: 2 stoppers could easily overtake us 1 stoppers in the straights. The only option to overtake 2 stoppers was to wait until they pitted.
The real fight was against the other 1 stoppers: after a good start I soon found myself in 13th position, chasing Ilkka in the draft down the straightaways. I managed to overtake him and was chasing Robin when I saw Olli closing up behind me. I thought Olli was on a 2 stopper, so I decided to let him pass to follow him when he would pass Robin. This turned out to be a bad idea as Olli passed Robin but I could not follow. Even worse: in an attempt to overtake Robin in lap 20 I almost crashed in T2 and lost 3 positions to 1 stoppers. From there my race was doomed to an average result.
I then followed Sebastian into the pitlane for our first and only pitstop. At my surprise I came out of the pits in front of him. As he quickly disappeared from my rearview mirrors, I knew he had some technical problems. I later discovered he had a bent front wing. After all the pitstop were completed I found myself in 12th position, again chasing Robin and Ilkka. I was closing to Ilkka when Joonas catched me with his fresh tyres. My tyres being completely worn out, I was sliding all over the track: I could not resist much and ended my race in 13th position.
I’m happy to have improved my qualifying position as well as my race result at one of my worst tracks. Pace was good: the key to better results is now the position on the grid and driving consistently. Even though I know I have to finish consistently in the top 10 for a good position in the championship, this 13th position finish moves me from 15th to 14th position in the championship. This is my best iWCGPS standing so far.