FOGARTY: The GT Learning Curve

Jon Fogarty and the GAINSCO team have been breaking in the new McLaren 650S in the Pirelli World Challenge this season.
Jon Fogarty and the GAINSCO team have been breaking in the new McLaren 650S in the Pirelli World Challenge this season.

This is Jon Fogarty, driver of the GAINSCO “Red Dragon” McLaren 650S in the Pirelli World Challenge.

My racing background dates to the 1990s in the Barber Pro Series followed by Formula Atlantic, American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand-Am Series.

So, my résumé has seen a lot of laps over the years and, luckily, I have several series championships — two in Atlantic and two in Grand-Am.

And now our concentration is squarely on the GT division of the Pirelli World Challenge, and, as a rookie team in the GT class, it has been a big learning curve. We have a very experienced team at GAINSCO Racing led by our team owner Bob Stallings. My engineer, John Ward, has decades of race car experience as do many of our crew members.

It is great to be back with the GAINSCO team and racing full-time again. But it hasn’t been the easiest season so far.

We are dealing with a new car, the McLaren 650S, and a new tire, Pirelli, and it has been like starting my racing career all over again.

At the PWC opening weekend at Circuit of the Americas, we had an exciting finish in the second of the doubleheader races with a spot on the podium. It was a great start with the new car and we had a large group of GAINSCO employees on hand to celebrate with us too.

But we knew we were still learning the car, the tire, the class and the series overall. It would take time to develop a regular contending position with the very competitive GT division with cars like Porsche, Cadillac, other McLarens, Bentley, Audi, Acura and others.

Not to mention some very talented drivers such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, James Davison, Ryan Eversley, Andrew Davis as youngsters like Michael Cooper, Michael Lewis, Colin Thompson, Austin Cindric and Kyle Marcelli.

To be honest, it would be tough to race for wins right now as a rookie team in the GT division. The competition level is so high. But throw in our initial season with the new car and tire, and it’s been a handful. We had a setback too at Long Beach when we were P3 in practice and the car felt good. But I made a mistake and hit the wall. We had to take the car back to Dallas and repair it for the next week at Barber Motorsports Park. It was a tough climb.

Now, we haven’t find that coveted “sweet spot” with the McLaren and the Pirelli tires just yet, but I think we will find it in the near future. In fact, we learned more about the car in a recent test and I have more confidence as we go to Road America this week for the big IndyCar/PWC doubleheader weekend.