dailysportscar.com dailysportscar.com

David Warnock – At Road Atlanta For The First Time
dailysportscar.comDavid is a highly experienced GT driver, but much of his racing has taken place in Europe. He’s a multiple British GT Champion, has raced at Le Mans five times (Mustang, 911 GT2 and 911 GT3-RS) and…hasn’t driven that many races this year. Once the Ed. experienced two laps around the swoops and blind brows of Road Atlanta on Friday at Petit Le Mans (in the Medical Car, a Porsche Cayenne), the question became….how does a Road Atlanta virgin cope with THAT? David tells the story of his first Petit Le Mans.

Having never driven in the Petit Le Mans event, nor indeed having raced at Road Atlanta, I was more than ready to “try” the sweeps and undulations of this demanding Georgia track. In preparation, I decided to do the two ALMS races prior to this and ran at Laguna Seca and Miami – with PK Sport.

I would be in the second PK car for these two races, but was “promoted” up to the lead car for the big event, joining Robin Liddell and Alex Caffi – both very experienced pilots, who had driven at Road Atlanta before. I had driven with Robin at Le Mans in 2002 and 2003 (achieving a creditable sixth place in GT this year, with Piers Masarati, despite a number of problems.) In fact I have raced in the last three Le Mans with the team, and the car has improved markedly each year - so much so that I was really looking forward to driving it again. Vic Rice and I had a reasonable showing in Monterey, and things were going “reasonably” in Miami before a wall caused an early retirement…..I wasn’t driving!!

dailysportscar.comMike Pickup and his team have done a great job this season, especially bearing in mind the sheer logistics of an English team running in the premier American series - which spans pretty much the whole of the continent. Some races took over a week to get to – I’ll never complain about having to go from Oulton to Snetterton again!!

The reality was however that there was an enormous learning curve to climb, and all credit to the guys for doing it - but it would be incorrect to say that we could compete on a level playing field with the top machines on the grid.

That would again be the nub of the problem at Atlanta. I obviously had to get some track time to familiarise myself with what is a pretty difficult circuit, but at the same time we needed to dial the car in for the race. It is amazing to see how quickly the sessions “disappear” when you are having problems. On paper it looked like we had plenty of time to fulfil both ambitions, but it was not to be….

dailysportscar.com

My first outing onto the track was an interesting one – trying to learn where to brake on a blind brow with an Audi R8 up your backside……not recommended, I can assure you. I managed five laps before a broken driveshaft curtailed my ambitions. At least I had familiarised myself with turns 7 through to 12 – but the first half of the lap remained a blur.

Checking the data at this point was pretty much irrelevant, but I concurred with my colleagues who tried to assist me with my own learning curve. My next session would be much better, and I went out to spy where everyone else was braking for the notorious turns 2,3 and 4….In fact I managed another four laps before another driveshaft went (on the other side fortunately..) – was it me?

dailysportscar.com

That took us to the night practice – smashing….I had not sorted out where it went in the day yet. Surprisingly I went a little quicker, but was still slower than my colleagues. I needed more time to get closer to them, but they in turn had become less comfortable with the set up on the car. Detailed discussions with George, our engineer, followed and various suspension changes ensued, but no one was entirely happy as we went in to qualifying……no one except Robin, who smiled gleefully when it started to rain.

It wasn’t a downpour, more a light sprinkle, but he knew how good the Pirelli intermediates were, and he very nearly shocked the order by taking pole. We ended up fourth but it was a great effort and higher than we would have been in the dry. Alex Job apparently took note!

dailysportscar.com

Things would not quite be so good come race day however. No rain was forecast and the warm up for us had not gone well. Robin was not happy with the set up and anticipated some problems in the race. He was not wrong – he made it up to an excellent third into the first corner, but gradually went backwards after that as the car began to become more and more difficult to drive. He wanted to race with the Risi Ferrari and the Orbit and Petersen Porsches……

He battled on until an alternator problem cost us a lengthy stop, dropping us to 13th and well away from the leading pack. Alex took over and agreed that the car was not right - before the radio packed up! I knew my stint was going to be difficult, but did not anticipate how difficult.

The guys had pulled us up to tenth by the time I jumped in and made my way out to the circuit. I had a few laps behind the safety car to bed myself in before we went green: that helped, but not much.

dailysportscar.com

dailysportscar.comAs I started to push I began to understand what Robin and Alex had been experiencing. The car was pushing very badly and then “falling over” on the exit of the corner. For me it was the worst of both worlds and I knew the stint would be a struggle. At one point I had all four wheels on the grass at 135 mph…..not recommended! On top of this there was a strange “clunking” noise coming from the front of the car, with a terrible vibration! I was not comfortable!

It turned out we had a broken drop link on the front anti-roll bar. I battled on, but was not unhappy to hand over to Robin – I promise. We were still in tenth, but it is the most uncomfortable I have ever felt in a race car…

But all credit to my driving partners, who brought us up to eighth in GT, which in the circumstances wasn’t bad at all – in that company, with so many top class cars. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to do the race again. It certainly is an impressive place and a huge event, with a large and knowledgeable crowd in attendance, and I’m sure it could be a lot of fun…….

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.