30_Tom_StrategistIn my latest Mazda Motorsports Behind the Zoom entry, I wrote about what it takes to be a team strategist, and last weekend I had the opportunity to be Freedom Autosport’s team strategist for the first time.

The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Lime Rock has always been a special event for me because of all the success I’ve had there, both during my MX-5 Cup days and with Freedom Autosport. Going back there last weekend, I was really excited about the new challenge of not only being the race strategist but also dealing with two cars on the radio. It’s a challenge to handle all of the elements for a two-car team.

This was really a different perspective for me. Usually, I’m on the driver’s side of the conversation, and this time around I was orchestrating the meetings and calling the shots of what setup changes to make and what our next session plan would be.

30_FreedomLimeRockI came to find that it was a little bit more challenging than I had first anticipated. It was critical to pair orchestrating all of the details with proper time management. Our schedule was tight so we had to fit meetings, setup changes, and even some video/data coaching for our drivers into very small amounts of time.

After Friday’s practice and qualifying, I had sense of accomplishment and, of course, excitement for the race the next day. The young guns – Britt Casey, Jr. and Devin Jones – in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5 had done a wonderful job of learning the track in short order and giving us feedback so that we could set up the car to their liking. The No. 26 actually had a couple of challenges throughout practice, which meant we missed valuable track time, so that really put an emphasis on trying to get the car setup and get the drivers some seat time before qualifying.

It was exciting to have both cars in my ear as well as the IMSA race control radio feed so I could hear their instructions and procedures throughout the race. I relayed that information to the drivers along with coordinating with the pit crew accordingly. Things happen so quickly at Lime Rock (lap times are sub-1:00) that we all had to really be on our toes.

After we made the call to come in for our pit stops, it was fun to watch the race unfold and to see our drivers climbing up through the field while I gave them updates on the gap to the next ST car ahead and GS traffic behind. I even threw in some coaching tips along the way to Britt, who was acting as our closing driver for the first time.

Overall, the results for our points-leading No. 26 car weren’t what we had hoped for, but Andrew did an incredible job to get 11th place. Devin and Britt impressed everyone: Devin set the second-fastest lap of the race, and Britt battled with the series pros just outside the top five to come home seventh!