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  • Writer's pictureR. Villeneuve

Traffic was terrible!

I know it has been a long time and this is way overdue but as the saying goes, better late than never.

It was very difficult to communicate at Sebring since there was just no AT&T 3G signal to be had. We gave up trying to send Facebook pics and Tweets, since they just wouldn’t go. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it...

OK on to the racing! First and foremost, I had a fantastic time in my first race with GMG. James runs a top notch operation and all the guys worked so hard, so thank you to all the guys at GMG!!!

We had a relatively smooth week of testing and it was my intention not to hold up the learning process for all of us by needlessly damaging the car. So my approach was a cautionary one. I had not been to Sebring in many years and had a steep learning curve to get up to speed. Sebring is all about braking zones and some fast corners, so getting things right takes some work.

I know it sounds cliché, but after driving the LMPC last year, it took a while for me re-adjust to the braking and less downforce offered by the Porsche. I do love driving the Porsche though and once I got my groove back, I had so much fun!

The 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring was very special. There were many teams from Europe competing as it was part of the World Endurance Championship. That meant there were 62 cars out there, 52 of them were in the faster classes, making traffic a nightmare for us in the GTC class. It’s not easy driving ‘in your mirrors’ AND driving your own race car at the same time! It wasn’t unusual to be looking in our mirrors during one of the many restarts and see 40 cars behind you, all faster! When the green would come out to restart the race, it was if you were on the freeway going 30 mph while everyone else was doing 70!But we held our own, and had it not been for a faulty alternator which, thanks to the GMG crew, only cost us 30 minutes to fix, we very well might have wound up 3rd or 4th.

There were a few close calls though, including a moment for me in turn 13 where someone dropped oil and cars started skating off the track like we were going for a loose puck in front of the net! Just as I arrived at the corner, I got a radio call from the spotters warning me of oil. A Corvette GT car had just gone inside me and went to brakes only to snap sideways and head straight towards the tire barrier. I saw this and went to the brakes only to have them lock, but not slow me down at all. As I was headed towards the tires myself, I started to think I wasn’t going to make it and eased off the brake pedal to get the car to turn. It did, but not as much as I would have liked. As I got to the grass, and only feet from the barrier, I looked toward turn 14. That is when I told myself I was not going to end our race early and ruin all the hard work put in by the team!  I had to do something drastic because I was now headed straight for an LMP-2 car with a Ferrari GT on top of it as they were careening into the tires. At the last possible second, I let off the brake and put my foot into the throttle in a desperate attempt to avoid contact and get back on track.

It worked!! The car started to turn and I missed those cars by inches. In truth, I never really saw those cars as I was only focused on looking where I wanted to car to go! It was only after watching the replay that I saw just how close it was! Unfortunately, due to me locking the brakes, I had to stop for a new set of tires and it was during this stop the car failed to re-fire due to the alternator.

I also had some minor contact later in the race.  An LMPC car tried to go underneath me into 14. Despite my efforts to give him room (I gave him plenty according to the spotters), he hit the inside curb and bounced off the curb, directly into my right front! I thought we were done for sure, but when I came in to have the car checked, there was only a damaged wheel and flat tire. The LMPC bounced off of my right front tire!  Pretty lucky! (Note: if you look on YouTube search Rene Villeneuve DP’d 2009, there is a video the same exact incident where the DP bounced off of my tire with no damage to the car!!)

As I said, I had a great time with Alex and James and all the guys at GMG and we are all looking forward to May 12th and Laguna Seca.

It is my home track and I am looking for a great finish there so stay tuned and look for updates and pictures throughout the weekend (3G signal willing)! See you all at Laguna!

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