Last season in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge was one to remember for me; I learned more than I ever expected to that season.
The part that was most beneficial, in my eyes, last season was that I had to set my own car up. Prior to 2013, I had spent some time on reading books about setup and, in my free time, I went on iRacing to see if what I had learned applied. Coming into last season, I felt I had an upper hand on the competition in that department. It also helped that I had been driving the Barber MX-5 the year previously; however, that was on a different set of BFGoodrich® Tires and we weren’t allowed to tune the car. All in all, what I learned last season is going to be extremely beneficial to help me win the championship in MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich this year.
After not winning the MX-5 Cup Shootout at the end of 2012, I was pretty disappointed; but now I think it was the best thing for me. If I had jumped straight into MX-5 Cup, I would not have the knowledge I do now. Going into this season, I feel better, and more prepared than I ever have before.
Ken Murillo, the team engineer at ALARA Racing is what really brought me to race with them. I raced with his Continental Tire team at the Lime Rock Finale, and that was what sold me. I have done a couple of tests in the past months to prep for this season, and all of them have been giving me a lot of confidence. Now that I have worked with Ken a little bit more, I have learned that we speak the same language. Since I have studied how these cars work, we can talk on a more technical level than most. That means we can get the car sorted a lot quicker on a race weekend with limited track time, which is going to be extremely crucial at a track like Houston. It is also nice having access to last year’s video from 2013 Champ Christian Szymczak. Using that video, I can see not only how he drives, but how others do as well.
This is probably going to be one of the most competitive seasons I have ever done. Racing against guys like John Dean and Patrick Gallagher really isn’t going to make it easy. I expect to be running in the top five or so, hopefully battling for wins, but I know that all I have to do to win the championship is finish in the top 3 or 5 every race and have no DNFs. This is going to require a lot of patience and smart driving to achieve.
While racing takes up a major chunk of my time, I have to balance being an engineering student with what’s left. This semester, I have scheduled my classes around racing. Balancing the two is probably the biggest challenge I have ever come face to face with. Doing homework in hotels and on airplanes on a race weekend isn’t exactly the thing I want to be doing. I have learned to switch my focus from one to the other, although it hasn’t been easy. For those racers who are in the same situation, it’s difficult to not think about racing while in class.
I am really looking forward to kicking the season off at the 12 Hours of Sebring and, at the end of the both of the races, hopefully I’ll be standing on the top step of the podium.