Road Atlanta: Ryan Lewis
Ryan's Petit Le Mans Report It was not an easy road to third place for Ryan Lewis and the PR1 Mathiesan Motorsport team at this year's Petit Le Mans. Despite several setbacks including an early puncture and an electrical issue, the driving team ...
Ryan's Petit Le Mans Report
It was not an easy road to third place for Ryan Lewis and the PR1 Mathiesan Motorsport team at this year's Petit Le Mans. Despite several setbacks including an early puncture and an electrical issue, the driving team of Ryan Lewis, Ricardo Gonzalez and Luis Diaz continued the teams impressive form in the season finale.
Petit Le Mans was Ryan's first outing in the ALMS LMPC class since the race at Laguna Seca in May, and his first Petit since competing in the LMP1 class in 2008.
"I have been driving a few different cars since May but nothing like the LMPC car.I was concerned that not driving anything with any downforce for over six months would mean I was a bit rusty. I got a couple of laps in practice on Wednesday and was pretty happy straight away. Things happened a little fast on that first flyer but it all came back pretty quick."
The extended week of practice was characterised by wet weather resulting in little on track time for Ryan and the team. By Thursday morning the focus was on preparing the car for qualifying. The PR1 Mathiesan team had so far taken pole three times that season, two of those in the previous two rounds in the hands of Luis Diaz.
"Just from the team and Luis' performance in previous weekends I was confident that we going to be on pole. The car was strong the moment it hit the track and Luis went out there and threw down a dominant lap. He did a great job"
With the pole secured, race day saw an end to the bad weather but no less of a challenge ahead. Ricardo Gonzalez would start the race with Ryan due to drive second.
"Ricardo made a great start to the race. It is so busy out there that it is rare to have a couple of laps every 10 or so that you aren't trying to work through traffic. He was keeping us right at the sharp end until he got his right rear tagged by another PC car in turn 1. He did well to get the car back to pitlane under green and without causing more damage."
The puncture caused the PR1 team to drop two laps to the LMPC class leaders. But with barely two hours of the race expired there was a long way to go yet. Gonzalez continued his stint in the car, chipping away at the time to the cars ahead after double stinting his tyres. At around the 2 hrs 30 mark Gonzalez brought the Oreca Flm back to pitlane for fuel, fresh tyres and a change of driver.
"I jumped in when we stopped under green for fuel. I was happy that I now was going to get a good extended run in the car. A couple of laps in I started lapping fastest of any of the LMPC field by a good margin. It was a shame I didn't have somebody a little up the road to chase down, but I knew that by staying the fastest guy out there, keeping my nose clean and being consistent I would putting us in a good position for a strong finish at the end."
Ryan continued to dominate the pace of the LMPC field during his double stint, consistently being the fastest LMPC driver throughout. He would post the third fastest time of the race behind the Team Gunnar Racing driver Gunnar Jeanette and fastest lap of the holder team mate Luis Diaz.
"I was happy with my double in the car. The balance of the car was very good even on the double stinted tyres. The rears only started to struggle in the last two or three laps. I had tried to to look after them as much as possible as there was a chance we would try to triple them for Luis's first stint. There was definitely some more in the tank if I needed to push, but that wasn't the game plan at that point. I just wanted to make sure the car would be in good condition when I handed it over."
Diaz took over the Oreca with new tyres and fuel and early on posted his impressive fastest lap, over half a second faster than anybody would achieve that day. Diaz continued his charge until suddenly his car began to slow approaching turn 1. The car eventually came to a stop on the exit of turn 3 due to an apparent engine problem.A full course caution was thrown and the car was recovered to pit lane. The PR1 crew set to work in pitlane,trying to decipher the cause of the problem. Eventually after several attempts were made to restart the engine the decision was made to take the car behind the wall for a more thorough investigation.
There the car remained for nearly an hour with the PR1 crew working tirelessly to resolve the problem. Their efforts were rewarded when the car was restarted and rolled to the pitlane. Diaz resumed his impressive pace on track, and due to several of the other LMPC teams also suffering from mechanical issues, had rejoined in 4th place just seconds behind the Level 5 Motorsport car of Mark Wilkins. Diaz subsequently chased down the Level 5 machine over the next series of laps until he used traffic to make the pass on the run to turn 6. Unfortunately The several laps deficit to the second and first placed cars was too much to recover before the chequered flag with Diaz bringing the car home to a hard earned third place.
"When you look at the problems we had to cope with today I think the PR1 guys did a fantastic job first of all to just to get us to the finish. I think we were really the guys to beat this week. Of course the majority of the field had their fair share of problems, but it was rare that anyone could match the pace we ran for the majority of the race. Taking everything into account myself, Ricardo and Luis just tried to do our job as well the guys behind the wall. We all deserved to be on the podium that day"
"Now it's time to get my head down to working on plans for next year. I have gained some good experience in several different sports car disciplines the season. Hopefully I will be able to put that experience to use next season. The preparation for that starts right now"
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