Andy Wallace’s 2004

dailysportscar.comA year ago we didn’t complete Andy’s review of his 2003, but a relative pause between the Daytona Test Days and the race has allowed us to get together and do the job properly this time.

There were stories that we’ve had to miss out for the sake of public decency and good taste, but with some funnies left in, here is Andy’s view of his 2004. We didn’t have time to mention every race – just the most significant North American ones. We've covered his two races in Europe (Monza and Le Mans, in the Zytek) already. His season was 23 races long…

Crawford Debut at Daytona – So Near
We arrived at Daytona for race week last year with a Crawford that was effectively brand new: we hadn’t had the time to even think about a 24 hour test, so the Rolex 24 was going to be just that. We’d run quite quickly in testing at Homestead before Christmas, so there I was racing with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and all the publicity that comes with partners of that calibre.

dailysportscar.comBoth of them were excellent team mates and did a fine job. They are also very nice guys, and racers at heart. Can you imagine them doing 32 plus races a year at their day job…? And then race in the Rolex 24 on one of their weekends off! As I said, they are racers.

I qualified the Andy Scriven-designed Howard-Boss Motorsports CITGO Crawford in fourth place, six-tenths away from pole – but had a bit of a fright on the formation lap. There are no morning warm-ups in the Grand-Am series, which I personally like, as only bad things can happen in the warm-up. There’s nothing to be learnt at 8AM except just how slippery the track is at that time of the morning. So off we went on the formation lap. I needed to get some heat into the tyres ready for the start, so I did the normal things. Except that I slightly underestimated the low down torque of the Pontiac V8 about halfway around the International Hairpin – and spun like a top! I got going again without losing any places, but it did catch my attention for the next few minutes!

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During the opening stint, I was able to stay right with the leaders, nose to tail, and was third at the first stops. When it started to rain, we found that Max (Crawford) had sealed the car really well – we didn’t have to drive sitting in a pool of water, as in many a closed racing car.

Neither of my team-mates had driven the car in the wet, so they were quite rightly very careful at first. With all his experience in so many different types of car, Tony was in his element.

We all kept plugging away, and were leading for a long, long time. With all the bad weather it was extremely treacherous for much of the time. With so much traffic and cars spinning everywhere, it would have been easy to dump the car in the wall – but somehow we didn’t.

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I even had a rear wheel come loose on the banking… I had felt the car wriggling about, but put it down to the slippery track surface, until I saw the wheel pass me! I managed to get back to the pits unscathed, and was soon underway again.

I had a lot of near misses, as I’m sure my team mates did. Dale had one amazing incident accelerating out of Turn 1: he spun just before the kink but somehow managed to reverse the car all the way through the right/left, which is lined with guard rail, and then out of harm’s way. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done that! I wouldn’t want to try it either.

dailysportscar.comIn some ways the constant rain and red flag periods helped us with our new car – in fact, the reduced loadings on the car and engine probably helped most teams. As we were getting close to the end of the race, we had a rear suspension failure - first on one side, which the hard working team managed to “repair” in a fashion, then with just 20 minutes remaining the other side let go. That pitched Tony into the wall and out of the race. So near yet… The one that got away…

Max was heartbroken, but pleased too – he knew he had a fast car, and he knew he could make it stronger.

The worst thing about a 24 hour race is that there is only one overall winner: but it’s fair to say that whoever wins it deserves it. No matter what happens during the race, you must be there at the finish – and this time we weren’t. But it was still a great start for the Howard-Boss team, and we received masses of publicity.

Max’s temporary solution to the suspension problem was a beefing up job: the rocker posts on the bellhousing had broken, and for short races, the temporary fix was fine. Later in the year came a new bellhousing – a lovely piece of work, and much stronger.

One of the great things about the team is that they are open to ideas. If you have something constructive to say, the team members will always listen. After the Rolex 24, I gave Max a list of items that I thought required attention. I had meant these items to be addressed during the season, when time permitted. He gave me the list back before Homestead with everything ticked off. I was staggered. The amount of work they get through at Crawford Race Cars and Howard-Boss Motorsports is amazing.

Winning At Homestead 1 – (Warfare)
OK, so we were a little bit fortunate – but you’ve got to be in a position to profit from a situation if something happens. I was in the right position – in third place, two yellows from the end.

The background here is that until later in the season, we had an aero instability at the back of the Crawford. All the Daytona Prototypes have it to some extent: the large cockpit area and relatively small rear wing reduce the amount of rear downforce you can generate, and this makes the cars move around at the back quite a bit. We made some improvements from late July onwards, but this race was early in the season, and the car demanded full attention…

Anyway, I was still right with Max Papis and Jan Magnussen – and their ‘war’ began with Magnussen diving up the inside at turn 3. Papis closed the door, and they touched for the first time. On the next straight, Papis stayed on the right of the track, to keep the inside for the following right hander: Magnussen took a better line, and came out faster, and was in a position to challenge at the next left hand corner, the one that leads onto the banking.

The problem here is that because you’re sitting so low in the car, and the sun is right in your eyes at this point of the race, it’s very hard to pick out the braking boards. You can see them, but you can’t make out what they say. That meant that Papis had to block, because he couldn’t be sure of his exact braking point.

dailysportscar.comI was sitting right behind them thinking that something interesting was about to happen here – and it did. They had a huge skirmish – beginning when Magnussen got the best exit again and Papis had to defend. They touched several times. A few puffs of smoke emerged. I was able to get even closer to the action, but wondered if they could keep this up through the banking turn without going off the road. It was normally just flat on a good lap, but surely they couldn’t both make it around? They touched a few more times before the banking turn, then made it through the corner without touching, but coming out onto the pit straight they started getting friendly again. At this point we are doing 170 mph! Finally the Doran’s suspension cried enough and Mags was a passenger. As we got to turn 1 they both collided and ran off the road.

I couldn’t believe my luck! I ducked up the inside and took the lead. Papis was able to rejoin, but had lost vital time. I was now leading with 11 laps to go. I got my head down and pedalled like a mad man. This one was mine!

So we took our first win in only our second race – which just proves that you never know what’s going to happen next, and you should always push as hard as you can right to the end.

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Mid-Ohio – Snatching Second Through the Dust Cloud
This was our first race with the new aero package, and the car was dynamite to drive, with the extra rear-end stability.

Milka had driven well in her stint, but this was a very competitive race and after the first stop we were a lap down. I had to drive absolutely flat out to make ground. I was really enjoying myself and managed to pass car after car. Twice I passed two cars in one manoeuvre; the car was especially strong in the braking areas.

The team had got me back onto the lead lap with some excellent pit work and strategy. Max had been telling me who was next up ahead, and if I passed that car around the back, I’d shout it over the radio and he’d tell me which car was next, and how far ahead it was. So I managed to drag it up to third place, with 15 minutes to go – and just the Ganassi cars up ahead.

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We were under yellow, and I said to Max over the radio that my one chance to make a place was on the re-start: I warned him that there was a chance that I might drop the car in the process, but he didn’t mind – he wanted me to go for it, he didn’t want to be third.

As we came onto the pit straight for the re-start, as soon as the starter flinched with the flag, Max shouted “GO, GO!” I’d already dropped back slightly to try to get a run on the second place Ganassi Riley. It worked perfectly and I was suddenly alongside him on the run to T1. I was on the inside running through all the dust and rubber that ends up there late in the race. My pit crew was expecting the worst as they saw the field disappear into the corner with dust everywhere…I kept my foot in it and with a just a slight rub I was past into second place. Only Pruett was up ahead.

I didn’t have the speed to get near him on the straight – but really the whole team had done a fantastic job to help get me from a lap down, in something like tenth place, all the way back to second. Pruett had the legs on me though, so three laps from the end, second place was as good as it was going to get. That was our best result since Homestead in February.

Paul Revere – Butch to the Rescue
My partner for this one was Tony Stewart. The Grand-Am race was run on the Thursday night after NASCAR qualifying: he literally jumped out of his Cup car and straight into the Pontiac-Crawford. The start was at almost midnight – and I had to be at Lime Rock the next day for ALMS testing in the Dyson Racing Lola. I ended up leaving Daytona at around 3am, drove to Orlando, had an hour’s sleep at the airport hotel, got up at 5am, had a shower, and caught a flight to Hartford, Connecticut – arriving 20 minutes after the start of the first session. I felt a bit second hand, but a blast around Lime Rock in a modern LMP1 car soon wakes you up!

The Paul Revere race was interesting because of our fuel strategy: it was a 250 mile race, but we felt that we could just about complete the race on one fuel stop. It was going to be tight, but we decided to give it a try. We ran the engine slightly leaner than normal, sacrificing power very slightly. If we could get to lap 35 before stopping we’d be fine.

So Tony started the race, and ran a very strong fourth, right with the leaders. There weren’t any yellows, and everyone stopped at around lap 32. Tony had started on 370 compound Goodyears on the left with 480s on the right. They started to lose performance about halfway through his stint in the (midnight!) Florida heat, but Tony hung on as best he could, and sailed into the lead when the others stopped. He made it to lap 35, I took over, and went for the harder 480s all round. It was a gamble, but we had to try something different to see if we could extend their life.

I was out there in the lead, but it soon became clear that Angelelli and Pruett we both catching me. My plan was to take it easy initially, to look after the tyres, and then go for it at the end in the dash to the finish. Well that didn’t work! The tyres went off anyway, and I was being caught. The harder I pushed to maintain my lead the worse the situation got (of course).

I had hoped the two chasing cars would burn their tyres up in pursuit, but as they were on a two stop strategy, they would need a fuel splash to make it to the end, and could always fire on some fresh rubber at the same time. But they would need a yellow for it to work for them.

Well you guessed it… there was one, with maybe 15 laps to go, at which point I still led. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken fresh tyres at this point, but if the yellow was long enough there was a chance I could’ve held on to the end once the tyres had cooled off a bit. As it turned out, on their fresh rubber (370s presumably), they caught me quite easily, and I had no choice but to let them go. Then almost immediately there was another yellow, and I was thinking that this might be my chance to get one of them back – the Ganassi car.

At the restart I was concentrating so hard on it, trying to get the jump, that I completely missed the fact that Darren Law was shaping up to do the same to me! Pruett checked up slightly before the green, and when I looked left, Darren was there!

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He beat me on the run into turn 1, and I was mad with myself for letting it happen. At least James Weaver wasn’t there to witness this. He’s never let me forget the time when I allegedly overtook the two cars behind me one year at Texas!

So now I was on decidedly older rubber than everyone else, and a podium looked unlikely. But… never, ever, give up…

I had Butch right with me, also on fresher rubber, as he’d gone for a two stopper. I was determined to get past Darren in the Brumos Porsche, and was driving like a man possessed. Butch soon realised that that I was on a mission by the way my car was swerving about all over the place. But that Porsche has got a lot of power, and I couldn’t find a way by.

I was quicker than the Fabcar exiting the Bus Stop, but just couldn’t find enough momentum to pass him on the banking. Darren was making his car very wide too, and we nearly touched on several occasions at high speed. But he hadn’t counted on the cavalry, in the form of Butch, who was there to add the missing ingredient.

I dropped back slightly on the last lap for a do or die effort. I knew I had one final chance to make it stick. I got a fantastic sling shot through the Bus Stop. I dropped a couple of wheels in a big hole on the left hand apex on the way out. This launched the car into the air briefly, but I had some real momentum. I kept my foot buried in the throttle (less than a mile to the flag, not time to lift now!) and just hoped the car didn’t break something on landing. Phew! Got away with it.

Butch – an all around good bloke – had been watching all this unfold and knew exactly what to do. I had a real head of steam on and went to go past Darren, who blocked the inside and made me go the long way round. As I started to ease past the Fabcar I gradually began to run out of steam. That Porsche engine really is powerful. I could almost see the flag, but just didn’t have enough speed to get there first…

Then I felt the tap from behind: it was Butch. He’d got a mega tow from the two side by side cars ahead. He kept his foot in, and gave me a shove. The two of us together were more efficient than a lone car. His shove made me faster, and my tow pulled him along too. Was this NASCAR? Suddenly I could see that flag getting nearer, and Darren was no longer ahead. Butch and I together (literally) motored past like a 185 mph freight train. We both passed poor old Darren before the line! What a race.

The team were impressed that I’d taken third, but it was all down to Butch. Anyway, it was my stupid mistake that lost the position in the first place, but I think they’d forgotten that already.

So a podium after all – and this was still before the aerodynamic improvements came on stream.

Winning at Homestead 2 – Hot!
Let’s set the scene: it was early September, about 40 degrees C – and 200% humidity! So it was stinking hot, and as with all oval tracks, the banking retaining walls all the way around the facility seem to keep the warm air in and any wind out. Daytona Prototypes have front water radiators. It’s difficult to pull large quantities of cool air into the cockpit, and the entire glass area and roof are bathed in hot air from the radiator exit. At least the engine is behind you! The air flow that you are able to duct in is speed dependant, and during a yellow there is virtually nothing coming through those pipes. It gets so hot you in there that you get to the point where you almost can’t breathe.

Max had an idea: he bought a couple of miniature fans, and mounted one each in the ‘donkey dick’ air pipes. At least we would have some air coming in during yellows, and through Homestead’s four first gear corners – but would it be enough…

Milka started, and at the first yellow we decided to pit, as we were just inside our fuel window. I jumped in and accelerated back out onto the track. The amount of heat build-up inside the car was incredible. I was cooking in there already! Max asked me if I thought I could do it (take the car to the end of the race). I replied that I wasn’t sure – but I’d give it my best shot.

I was well down the order when I rejoined the race, but the car was handling really well, and I was able to pass cars right, left and centre – despite pacing myself (or trying to!).

At the next yellow I didn’t need fuel so I stayed out. Some drivers (who had not taken the first yellow) pitted and just had to get out because of the crippling heat – they were in real trouble after just half an hour. A few of them went straight to the medical centre for an IV drip. I moved up to about eighth, and got on the radio to ask Max how long there was to go. His reply wasn’t what I wanted to hear – an hour and 40 minutes! I then asked if anyone had any good news. All I got back was “you’re up to eighth place”. Great…

As expected, the heat was worse during the caution periods. The work rate is obviously less, but you start to think about how hot it is. During the next green I worked my way up to just behind Angelelli, so that was second place – with one stop to come, and 40 minutes remaining.

Max was asking about things on the radio: he wanted to know if I could keep going. He was getting worried that I’d virtually stopped talking to him – I was just too hot to make the effort. He got Milka suited up and ready to take over if necessary. My drinks bottle was running low, and I was completely exhausted, but I could smell a good result and wanted to keep going. I asked if they could fill-up the drinks and douse me in as much ice as they could find.

dailysportscar.comSo I pitted at 35 to 40 minutes left, and came in with my race suit unzipped: they shoved a bucket load of ice over me – and down my suit. I took on fresh tyres and fuel, and off we went.

The ice hurt like mad to start with, but I did feel rejuvenated. Ahead of me, Max Angelelli was flapping his door open and shut in a vain attempt to get some air flow, so I knew he was in trouble. At the green I chased and chased him, never letting him rest for a moment – just waiting for my chance.

It came as we approached two Porsches on the banking. Max decided to go inside them, but had to check slightly. I went for the outside, and had the throttle buried. As I passed them, I moved down towards the inside line, working on the assumption that I had passed Max - but I couldn’t see him. Once I’d got down low, there he was, right behind me. I’d done it! A few laps later, the most welcome sight of all – the chequered flag. Was I glad to see that…

Without the ice, I don’t know if I’d have made it. As it was, I stopped the car and just sat there, because I was afraid of falling over if I got out straight away. I had nothing left, nothing at all.

I don't look too bad here, do I?

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I’ve driven a lot closed cars in warm climates – slaving over a hot steering wheel! Eventually your blood thins, as it would if you lived in the tropics all the time. The downside is that I always feel cold on anything but a really hot day. I hate the air conditioning, especially on aircraft: it’s too cold for me. I have to wear my coat done right up and wrap myself is as many blankets as I can find.

Jan Lammers, James Weaver – we’re all the same. We sit in restaurants with our winter coats on!

At this point, Andy and I felt that we ought to get on with his exploits in the ALMS – this was already looking like a monster column. As with Grand Am, it was a case of looking at the more significant events, rather than skim over all of them.

Sebring – Race of Fires
Butch is a pyromaniac! If a car is going to catch fire, you can be sure Butch will be at the wheel. I think our car caught fire seven times at Sebring, but the crew put it out every time – they were caused by a freak series of events. We couldn’t see the flames from the driving seat, but they were visible on the TV and we’d get a radio message to pit. When it wasn’t on fire the car was running really well. The Dyson Racing Team refused to give up though, and we brought the car home in sixth place.

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As an aside… James, Butch and I were driving the Panoz at Suzuka in ’97, and running well, in the top three. I pitted to hand over a perfectly healthy car to Butch, the fuel connection was withdrawn, but the valve didn’t close completely… When he got to Turn 1, the fuel sloshed out and landed on the exhaust. It was an inferno! The marshals put the fire out but it looked a mess. That sort of thing can happen, but Butch must be wondering if he’s doing something wrong. And of course we never stop teasing him.

Mid-Ohio – Turn 1 Antics Again
dailysportscar.comI did the same move on Marco Werner’s Audi that I’d done on the Ganassi car in the GA race. I got up the inside of him and passed him through all the dust and dirt into turn one. We had a fantastic dice for the next hour. Chris took over from me and drove brilliantly. He had one quick spin, in an otherwise flawless performance, and brought the Dyson Racing Lola home second.

Lime Rock Park – No Paddle
We again had a great car, but the paddle shift stopped working and we had to make an extra pit stop to connect the manual lever. It’s then you realise how nice paddle shift is, as you bounce around over the Lime Rock bumps fumbling for the gear lever. Are we spoilt or what? James and Butch finished a very close second, with Chris and I taking the final podium spot.

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Sears Point – Showing James The Way
James hit trouble at Sears Point and ended up a lap back, but right on my tail. The pair of us were “hacking” and “slashing” our way through the traffic for lap after lap.

dailysportscar.comJames told me afterwards that he was fascinated with my driving style, and that he felt like he was following an artiste at work! Well that was very kind of him, but if you’ve ever followed James for a few laps you would say the same thing about his driving. The thing is that although we like virtually the same set-up as each other, we have completely different driving styles.

When you follow James, it’s hard to believe how active he is behind the wheel. He’s almost like a rally driver: before a left hander, he actually turns right, before flicking the car the other way! He sets it up like that, while being the last of the late brakers, too. He tends to force the car to where he wants it to be. I try to feel the car through the steering wheel more, and turn-in with less aggression. Chris drives more like me than James, so we are always on the same page. Butch has a different style again. It’s amazing that the end result over a full lap is so close.

Portland – Chris’s Day
dailysportscar.comIt’s important to explain here that Dyson may run two cars, but we’re all one team, all on the same side. Our #20 car was devastatingly quick at Portland, and I put it on pole – so a big thank you to the crew for that one.

The car was perfect when I took over from Chris after his stellar drive at the front of the pack, although we didn’t have the greatest of pit stops. However, I was catching Marco Werner at a second a lap, and got back to within five seconds of him (we were going to win that one) – then we had an intermittent fault with a connection in the wiring harness. The car was losing power – maybe 30 mph down on the front straight – then it would fix itself, then it got worse, to the extent that I had to make an additional stop. We finished sixth in the end, quite a lot of laps down, which was frustrating.

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It was Chris’s day though: he was masterful under all that pressure, which went on for about an hour and a quarter. JJ would come back at our car again and again, and Chris would hold him off. It was great to see it, and I believe Rob enjoyed it immensely too, on the TV at home.

Rounding It Up
At the next race, Mosport, Chris was showing all the confidence of someone who’d really done it at the previous race. The last few races were disappointing though – but at least that makes us all the more determined for this year. We had problems at Road America and Laguna Seca, both at around the time of the first stops, so I didn’t get much running there.

We had more problems at Petit Le Mans, but as you know, there has been a huge amount of work going on at AER – and we’ve got the Michelins too. We’ve tested twice at Sebring already, the first time on the 2004 Goodyears. We put the PLM engine back in for that first test, and ran it for three days solid without a problem: it was as good as gold.

The second Sebring test was on the new rubber, and we didn’t go for pace: we were exploring the set-up we need for the Michelins. The single greatest advantage of the new rubber is…. well, I can’t tell you that, can I? Whatever the greatest advantage is – it’s going to be very significant, we believe.

So that’s a look back at some of my 2004. 23 races, 20 return trips across the Atlantic and 119 days behind the wheel of a racing car – and 2005 is looking like just the same. There’s nothing like driving to keep you on your toes.
Andy Wallace

 

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