I got to go to the 12 Hours of Sebring as a competitor for the first time this year. I’ve been there as a coach for drivers in some of the support races and of course as a spectator, but this year I finally got to participate! The weekend was such a success for both Mazda and for Freedom Autosport, who raced on Friday in the Continental Tire Challenge Series.
Congrats to Freedom Autosport on their first win of the season! Randy and Andrew did a great job, and I’m looking forward to driving with the team for the next two rounds. I hope we can keep the winning tradition alive at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca since we have finished 1-2 there the past two years.
The 12 Hours of Sebring was a success for the Mazda SKYACTIV-D prototype. The week started on a high note because we picked up right where we had left off at the Sebring test a few weeks before. The car ran flawlessly through practice so we could focus on setup, and that gave us a lot of confidence because it meant we had a good platform going into such a grueling race. A lot of European teams come to Sebring to test for LeMans because even though Sebring is only 12 hours, it’s a really tough challenge.
It was so exciting getting to drive for five hours of the event! I had the opportunity to get some clear track and run some quick times. I was in the car when we had a red flag, which is extremely rare at Sebring.
What a rush it was to do a double stint going into the night as the sun set! It was so hard to see heading down the back straight—now I know why turn 17 is called Sunset Bend! Driving into the night and getting into a rhythm even through blind turns and dark sections of the track was just exhilarating.
Overall, the team worked so hard and was so dedicated, from all of the preparation to the nonstop work during the race. With all the mayhem going on around us on the track, we were able to stay clean, and we ran as high as 20th overall and tenth in class. This is a huge milestone for the entire program and it’s obvious that we’re making a lot of progress as the car continues to develop.
It truly is a major sense of accomplishment for the team and for me as a driver to cross the finish line without any issues during the race. It really says a lot about how far the team has come already, and we’re only going to get better!