We had round 11 of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship for our Mazda Prototypes at Circuit of the Americas last weekend. We knew going into the event that the heat was going to be a challenge for everyone, from the drivers to the crew and even the cars.

During the first day, our team really focused on adapting the car setup to the incredibly hot track conditions. It really paid off because the second day, in practice 3, our No. 70 Castrol Mazda was at the top of the time charts. Due to the extreme conditions, we planned alternate strategies for our driver lineup for the race. Joel Miller was going to be qualifying, and depending on how the race played out, we could have multiple driver changes if necessary.

Qualifying went really well: both of our Mazdas qualified in the top three, earning the second and third spots on the grid. We were really happy with the incredibly hard work the crew had put in to get our Mazdas at the front.

On race day, we experienced the hottest weather of the whole event, with ambient temperatures in the mid 90s and very high humidity. Cockpit temperatures were in the high 130s range. Due to weight reasons, we opted not to run a cool system or helmet blower, so it was the most physically demanding event we’ve encountered from that perspective.

38_cota2Our Mazdas got off to a great start, with both cars running in the top three through the opening stint. With a yellow falling just after the 30-minute point, that made it optimal to do a driver change. I got in and had a strong run, maintaining third place. The conditions really challenged my ability to focus and stay hydrated, and I was glad that all the physical conditioning and heat training I’ve been doing for the past several months were paying off.

With one hour to go in the race, it was time for our final pit stop. To keep us from overheating, we did another driver change back to Joel. Since our driver changes take less than 20 seconds, it didn’t hold up the pit stop.

Joel did a great job managing the race and holding down third. With plenty of excitement in the closing hour of the race, holding off fourth place was no easy task. Unfortunately, with ten minutes left, we still needed to stop for a splash of fuel to make it to the checkered flag. That cost us third place, but we still wound up fourth.

In the end, I’m really proud of our team’s effort this past weekend. Mechanical reliability was incredible and the team’s perseverance in the heat really showed. On to next week for the final round at Road Atlanta, Petit LeMans!