Hi again, it’s Jon Fogarty and our Pirelli World Challenge road racing season ended recently at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of my favorite tracks.
I’m back at my home in Bend, Ore., just a beautiful place to live and raise a family. We moved here more than 10 years and it was a quiet town at that point. My family (wife Sara, son William and daughters Allison and Emma) really enjoy the atmosphere of Bend.
Things here have changed recently and Bend has become more of a tourist attraction and resort location. So even some of the streets can get pretty busy in both the summer and winter. In the summer, we have biking, fishing, golf and other activities for the tourists and skiing in the winter.
I have a few more weeks of mountain biking left before the snow hits and I’ll work hard to keep in shape of the off-season.
The PWC season finale at MRLS had a huge field of some 125 cars in the paddock and the GT race was a wild affair. I wasn’t in last year’s GT last race, but everyone claims it was wild too. There was bumping and shoving last year there and it was part of the action this time too.
The GT field is extremely competitive and very tight. Just look at my rookie year in GT sprint racing. I was running second in the next to final race at Sonoma. I was hit and I had a flat tire. I was forced to retire the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance “Red Dragon” McLaren 650S on the first lap. Then I ultimately finished 12th in the GT points in 2016. Say I finish in the top five in that Sonoma race, I would have placed seventh in the final points. Wow, that’s pretty close.
At MRLS, we had a good car and I have run many laps there over the years. I have won races there too. The GT field was tight as usual and we ended being the fastest McLaren by qualifying fourth. There was only Johnny O’Connell (Cadillac), Patrick Long (Porsche) and Michael Cooper (Cadillac) in front of me on the grid. But row two was a good starting position.
The one thing I didn’t want to do was insert myself in the GT title battle between Patrick and Alvaro (Parente, who started sixth). I wanted to get a good, clean start and then see how the race played out. At the drop of the green flag, I actually got a good start behind Patrick. But Alvaro went way wide behind me. I thought he was off the track. But he got an incredible run and moved by me. Actually I thought he was inches from being too far outside and getting a penalty.
But he dove in behind Johnny and Patrick, and I was side-by-side with Cooper through turns three and four. Then Bryan Heitkotter and Colin Thompson pushed their way in the mix. It was a typical GT start and it was the finale. Everyone was going for it. That is usual at Laguna Seca too.
After all of the bumping and people making mistakes, we settled in with sixth and battled with a lot of people. Then, on the final lap, it was a green and white flag to the finish. I was waiting for another mistake by someone. And even Johnny, who led the whole race, got two wheels off the track in turn four and Patrick went for the lead. They collided in turn five and Patrick was forced wide into the dirt. I was battling him for fifth at that point.
After the race, Johnny was penalized back to fifth and they gave me sixth. I really wanted a top five finish at Laguna Seca but it wasn’t in the cards.
Looking over the season, we learned a lot about GT and Sprint racing this year for our first year in the class. We made great strides since the mid-point of the season and that’s a testament to our GAINSCO team and our team owner Bob Stallings’ commitment to success. Qualifying up front is essential in the Sprint racing format and I am pleased we found the pace to do that.
While we didn’t have the year we hoped for 2016, we didn’t let the early disappointments ruin our season. GAINSCO has a strong, solid team with a lot of experience. Everyone worked so hard this year and it did take some time for myself and our engineer, John Ward, to learn about the car and the Pirelli tires. Those were new to us. But the team always prepared a good car and I expect us to improve again during the off-season testing.
With the racing season now over for us, I’d like to thank everyone for reading our offerings on SPEED SPORT this year and I wish everyone a great holiday season and Happy New Year.