Filipe Albuquerque

Detroit

🇺🇸

11 – 12 June

Raceway at Belle Isle Park

IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship

Wayne Taylor Racing

3rd Place

We went to Detroit with little expectation because it’s a track that is very winding, it doesn’t favor us so much because of the bumps and it has few fast corners. In addition to not handling the rebounds well, our car has more aerodynamics and adapts better to high speed corners and smoother tracks. Detroit is also the home of Cadillac, there is a lot of attention and a lot of involvement from the GM group in this race, the spotlight wasn’t on us. We were aware of that and we went to Detroit with the desire to make the best of what we had, to try to win, but we wouldn’t be upset if that didn’t happen.

We started the free practice well, with Ricky Taylor running quite well, although we were all close. I did the second part of the session which was more complicated because of a red flag. I didn’t drive as much as I would have liked but  it’s  what happens in city circuits. In the second practice session, we were more motivated because of the progress of the first practice but things started to get complicated. We finished fifth and were just the best Acura on track, it was a position that wouldn’t take us very far.

In this race Ricky qualified, he made a good effort and was just two tenths and a half off pole position. It was very good, but still it was 5th. We were only the best Acura but it’s an ungrateful result when we’re so close to pole on a city circuit. The pace was good, but starting from 5th place is kind of bittersweet.

We went into the race fully aware that it was difficult to overtake and we knew that starting from 5th was not the best position. We took some risks and made some changes to the car, Ricky was having trouble generating tire temperature and was not feeling confident at all. Being on the outside, I started thinking about the changes we’ve made and wondering if we  took the right approach, but once the race starts we have to finish it with what we’ve got. Five or six laps later, Ricky started to have a very good pace, being one of the fastest on track, and we started to fight for third place. The team made a very good strategy and when I entered the track, in 3rd, we passed a Cadillac and a Mazda that was our direct rival. Everything happened at the pit stop.

I felt good in the car right away, the Mazda came close but I had it under control. When I started to gain distance, I felt that there was something strange in the car. I said on the radio that something wasn’t right and I waited for the next corner but I started to feel a lack of power. I asked the team to analyze the car’s behavior but I didn’t really needed their confirmation as one corner later, I confirmed my feeling 100% because the car didn’t come out of it fast, we didn’t have power coming out of the corners. The team confirmed our problem and there was nothing to do but hold third position for the rest of my stint – and there was still about half an hour to go until the end of the race.

It was important to stay ahead of the Mazda that was fast and glued to my rear. On top of that, with Oliver Jarvis, a driver I know well and who is very good, I knew I would be passed on to the slightest mistake. I had to race to my limit, especially managing the traffic very well.

I was able to hold my position, but 12 minutes from the end, a yellow flag appeared. If there wasn’t a restart, that was fine, but, in the good American way of racing, the  restart came with a lap from the end. My fear was exactly that moment because I didn’t have the same power as the others. I decided to focus on my position because I knew it was impossible to attack the top two and I managed to make a good start, despite Oliver Jarvis almost passing me at the entrance to corner 1. After that corner I didn’t get any more traffic and I continued to manage any possible mistakes to the end of the race.

We finished third, ahead of the Mazda, we went to the podium on a track that was difficult for us and in a race that was even tougher because of our engine problems. Both I and the whole team, we were super happy because we knew we made the most out of what we had. These times you almost feel you won the race because of all the challenges that made it so hard to get this result.  

We left Detroit very happy and the next day I went with the team to spend a day at Cedar Point, at a theme park full of roller coasters. It was my birthday and it was a good team building between engineers and drivers. It’s important to spend time off the tracks, laughing a lot.

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