St. Pete marks the second round of the 2016 Pirelli
World-Challenge and the first of two street circuits we
will be doing this year.
Because this round is back to back with the previous
round at COTA, there was no time to go home and I landed
in St. Pete on Monday with the team.
Tuesday we had completely off as truck load-in wasn’t
until Wednesday morning.
What seemed like a one time deal in Texas, has now
turned into a bit of team tradition: shooting guns.
While my lead mechanic suggested we go skydiving, I
thought it would be better to hedge my bets before race
week and suggested we go indoor karting and to the gun
Indoor karting with people involved in motorsport is
never the following: friendly or relaxed.
As soon as we arrived everyone started asking the
employees which kart was fastest and offered bribes to
get that kart.
The workers were quick to tell us that they were the
best racers around and not to hesitate for any advice on
how to drive.
This column is no place to celebrate, however, I did
win and end up with fast lap despite many mechanics and
Now logically, when one finishes karting and has
shaking arms and adrenaline, they should head to the gun
Bentley Team Absolute is most likely one of the most
culturally diverse teams in PWC. With my engineer from
Portugal, data engineer from England, mechanics from the
USA, France, China, and Thailand, many of them had not
fully taken advantage of 2nd Amendment rights.
Now I am one of the first to advocate for gun control
and higher security standards.
However, going to a gun range is one of the easiest
ways to have instant fun. Almost all mechanics had never
shot a gun so it was an enlightening afternoon.
Wednesday marked the first day of business, however,
I had come down with a pretty bad illness.
During truck load in I only briefly visited the track
in order to go over a few things with my engineer, but
spent most of the day making sure I would be ready for
track action on Thursday.
Thursday kicked off with a morning track walk. One
reason I love St. Pete is that it is also the opening
round of the Verizon Indy Car Series. A lot of my good
friends drive in that series so the morning track walk
was filled with nice high fives as they drove past on
their Taylor Dunns while I walked.
I find it much easier to gather the necessary
information by walking and really examining every
reference and bump instead of riding on a cart where you
may miss a few things.
Thursday afternoon had two free practice sessions for
PWC. The first session was extremely dusty and low grip
as we were the first series to enter the track since
After working through a few set up changes we ended
the session in sixth knowing how to improve the car for
the second session which was in a short 45 minutes after
However, as soon as we got back we realized we had a
braking issue. We tried to change it in time for the
next session, however, we decided to skip the session
and properly prepare the car for qualifying.
Qualifying on Friday did not go our way. On my best
lap I found that it was a bit hard to find extra room
and that walls don’t like to move for you. The car was
fine but my exit onto the front straight was slowed by
my mistake. We ended the session P9.
Race 1 was surprisingly calm. If I were a betting
man, I would have put a lot of money on having at least
one caution during the race, however, we instead got 40
laps of green. We didn’t nail tire pressures and ended
up slowing near the end.
That said, looking at peoples response on Twitter,
fans seemed to really enjoy the battle I had with Ryan
Eversley. We gave each other room but raced hard.
Race 2 was a bit of the opposite. We saw limited
green flag running, but the changes we made to the car
overnight made it come alive. We went from P14 to P7 in
a few laps of racing and earned the Hard Charger award
for most positions gained of any car.
My Bentley Continental GT3 was hooked up and I wish
we could have had some more laps to try and get on the
Ultimately we salvaged a weekend and kept the cars
together. There has been a lot of turmoil at the front
and we have consistently finished inside the top 10 so I
think we are actually looking alright in terms of the
Now I have two days off before hopping in a kart for
the Florida Winter Tour. If there is an opportunity to
be racing something, I’ll be in it!