From the original article on SpeedTV.com
2009 Star Mazda Series Champion Adam Christodoulou files his first blog entry for SPEEDtv.com on his Rolex Series debut weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It’s been a good learning weekend for me and my co-driver John Edwards in the SpeedSource/Newman Wachs Mazda RX-8. We obviously knew we had to start gaining experience in the car as we only had a day and a half before coming here for our debut. Luckily being a part of the Mazda family, we were able to get in Skip Barber cars on Thursday morning, so we learned the track in those cars and it gave us a good idea of the track layout and got us ready for the first practice on Friday morning.
Our first practice went well; we ended up near the front in the GT class. We made some changes that didn’t work out in the second session, so we went back to the basics and seemed to improve on our pace in qualifying. It would have been nice to have learning the car a bit more before being thrown into our first race, but we managed. It’s taken a lot of effort to prepare the car for the first race, so we’ve had to deal with what we’ve had, but it’s worked out quite well.
Going into this first race, I hadn’t experienced endurance racing before, so I was trying to figure out how GRAND-AM racing worked and what to expect. I was hit with one huge surprise when I had a puncture during my stint in the race. We were in third or fourth at the time, and things were looking good for a top-five finish, but trouble struck.
I remember looking in my mirrors knowing there was a DP car coming up towards me, so I took my usual line and the DP went underneath. Suddenly, three-quarters of the way through the corner, I heard a bit of a bang and the steering wheel went an extra few degrees on me and realized something wasn’t right. All of a sudden, it started drifting towards the wall. I luckily managed to keep it off the wall and going down the next stretch, I had confirmation that it was a blow out. I attempted to make it around the first corner but ended up just taking the escape road around the oval. Luckily being on the oval, I managed to use the oval portion of track and make it into the pits.
Even under such short notice, the entire SpeedSource team was prepped to put new tires on the car. After my stint, the adrenaline was still pumping as I climbed out of the car. I tried to not get in the way of the crew. But after the stop, I thanked all of the guys. They did an awesome job for John’s last 30-minute stint. He was on new tires and we both seemed to preform well in the dark.
The challenge of endurance racing with the driver changes is something new for both of us. I’m sure we’ve done over a thousand driver changes already. We’ve been practicing them non-stop throughout the weekend and also down at the shop beforehand. It’s something new we just have to get used to and I feel we have down pretty well, but can probably still improve it by a few seconds. It’s just going to come with experience.
Sportscar racing is definitely a different type of racing, as I’ve quickly learned. Normally in a single-seater, you’re assigned to your own car and it’s up to you on how to work the race. In that type of racing, you have to take an aggressive approach right from the start. In endurance racing, you have to take care of your tires, watch your fuel and be mindful of the car because you have to hand over the car to your co-driver in decent shape.
To be honest, it felt quite strange watching John do qualifying. I’m used to qualifying my own car, so it was weird sitting in the pit lane seeing the times come in. I was also in the pit lane for the start of the race, watching John take the start. It’s a different experience, but when you’re in the car that’s your time to preform and make sure you make minimal mistakes and keep out of the way of the DPs and run your own race at your own pace. You have to make sure you don’t go all out in the first few laps and don’t have anything for the rest of the race.
Each time I went out, I learned something new. Now I’m getting more of a feel for how fast the Daytona Prototypes are. For the next race, I’ll be able to decide if I’ll be able to go flat-out in the corners or to back off and allow the DPs to pass at the right time. I’ve also learned the aspect of pit stops and the fact that we need to probably speed them up a little bit. We had one or two issues in the pits, so I’m sure we’ll get it sorted for the next race.
After spending last year getting used to the twin-rotor Mazda engine in Star Mazda, it’s quite an experience driving the triple-rotor power plant in the RX-8. It’s got a special ring to it and definitely sings down the straight. It produces a good kick. The Mazda is unlike any other GT car I’ve driven. It hasn’t got much roll, but feels so stable under braking and has more characteristics of a single-seater considering how light and nimble it is. The punch from the engine is also special. The higher the revs, the more power you seem to get. It just wants to carry on and go. I think Mazda has a pretty awesome setup for its GT car.
I’m happy that we have the first race over and out of the way now. After all, the main goal for this race was just to finish, and we accomplished that. Now I know where we need to improve for the rest of the season. It’s a shame the results weren’t a little better, because we could have been fighting for a top-five position, but I’m sure we’ll get everything sorted and we’ll give it our best shot for the next race at Barber. John and I are the new kids on the block, and we’ll keep learning through the entire season.