To say that we are into the backend of the season is an understatement. Both the Top couple of positions in both LMDh and GT3 are almost a certainty, but that’s not to say there’s plenty of action to come in the last 3 rounds of the championship, each requiring laser focus, and providing next to no room for error.
We start at Road Atlanta. I had the opportunity to drive this track in a golf cart in 2016, and even though I got a ticking off from the clerk of the course, it was still a barrel of laughs. One thing you notice on a track walk / cart run is just how narrow the track is, and how you really need to know how to maneuverer yourself over the kerbs at certain parts of the track, avoiding them like cheap hotel scrambled eggs at others.
Concentration and patience are the two most important things to think about today, and after round after round of Race Control having to give penalties to drivers for what could have been avoidable incidents, one would hope that by now, Round 8 of the championship, those and others have learned their lesson. This is one place where being overly aggressive will get you nowhere. Yes, you may be able to sling one up the inside at T1 if you are an LMDh driver on the odd occasion and get away with it, but the GT3 traffic today, perhaps more than ever this season will be hoping for a race without constantly being divebombed or forced to the edge of the racetrack.
Afterall, this is one race where it’s unlikely they will get a single clear lap after about lap 10, so they will be constantly forced to look forwards as well as backwards, and with the GT3 field much tighter in the mid-pack compared to the LMDh field, a bad race here could be the difference between being in the Top 12 positions for a cash prize at the end of the season, and being on the outside looking in.
For the LMDh drivers, it is so easy to lose a second, a second and a half, or even two seconds in sector 1 alone, dependent on traffic. Just like in the iRacing Petit Le Mans a week ago, team managers, and teammates need to keep reminding the driver behind the cockpit that whilst it can be disheartening, this track gives lap time and takes it away at will. There will be certain parts of the race where this can hurt more than others, but that’s not to say that only one / two teams will be affected; barring a miracle, all will at some point feel the hammer of the track through Sector 1.
Race Control will be worked hard today, and will need to be firm and resolute in their decision making from lap 1 onwards. It’s likely that there will be plenty of appeals, and plenty of decisions that may have to be reviewed post race; that’s the nature of this track. Teams and drivers will certainly be worked hard, and those calling the race? I sure hope they have a notebook ready to go, as this is one track where it is really needed!
Whilst this may come across as a rather grim prediction of things to come over the next few hours, that’s not to say that it will be a bad race; Road Atlanta almost never provides a bad, nay even dull race. There will be bucketloads of action, excitement and drama, and we can’t wait to take it all in.
Let’s go racing folks!