IMSA • September 23, 2014
Curran, Said Survive Weather Extremes to Finish 8th at COTA
Texas-grade heat, humidity and thunderstorms failed to put a damper on the second-to-last round of the 2014 United SportsCar Championship racing season.
Marsh Racing competed in its second race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, but this year was different because the team raced its Whelen Motorsports/Team Fox Corvette "Daytona Prototype" rather than its GT Corvette from last year.
Three practice sessions were held Thursday and Friday. Not only did the Marsh Racing team and drivers have to deal with adjusting to the track in their Corvette Prototype, but they had to deal with some difficult wet and dry conditions during practice sessions before qualifying late Friday afternoon.
The Marsh Racing crew effected changes both in aerodynamics and chassis setup over the weekend, changes that proved successful in the new car’s low speed handling capabilities on the winding, hilly, 3.4-mile road course near Austin. However, more work was needed to help in the high speed esses that make COTA such a unique track.
The team wished they could have had one more practice session with the #31 Whelen Motorsports/Team Fox Corvette DP, but eagerly awaited to see the results of their work show up in their qualifying lap times.
The changes proved beneficial to Eric Curran, who lowered his best lap time by over two seconds.
"It was awesome to come back to COTA in a new Daytona Prototype," Curran said. "As always, Boris and I continue to see improvements from the hard work the Marsh crew is putting in. Obviously we still need to find some more speed, but we continue to make progress."
With the command to start their engines, Boris Said fired the ECR Chevrolet engine and made his way onto the track for the formation lap. The team decided to run Boris on a fuel-saving strategy with a goal of making only two pit stops during the race.
Everything was going to plan until suddenly the car started to sputter on lap 23 - the race’s first of only three caution laps. A failure in the Reserve Fuel System had forced a pit stop earlier than expected.
Unfortunately, when the cars are under a yellow flag situation, and the pits have not officially been opened, no service other than fueling can be completed. With a quick splash and go Boris was back out. A few laps later he came in to complete the full pit stop and hand the car over to Eric.
With one hour, 40 minutes remaining in the race, it was now essential that Eric continued to run the team’s fuel saving strategy. Eric put his head down and ran strong consistent laps. His biggest challenge came from the Texas sun causing increased track temperatures throughout his two stints.
He commented: "Throughout my two stints behind the wheel, during the race, the high temperatures lessened the amount of rear-end grip that the car was had, causing it to oversteer - where the rear end loses traction and tries to arrive at a turn before the front end does. But like many problems cars have in racing, after the race the team a learned a broken rear wing was a major contributing factor to how ’loose’ the car became.
Eric and the Marsh Racing boys withstood the high temperatures and humidity to finish the race 8th place in the Prototype class. Nothing gained, nothing lost. With another quick turnaround of less than a week, the team will re-prepare the car and send it back south to race Oct. 2-4 in the prestigious, 10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
"I’m really excited to get to Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta," Curran said. "We were able to do a few days of testing which should really help us quickly get up to speed. It’s always fun to race in such a great event, and I’m even more excited to run it this year for the first time in a Prototype."
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