BRASELTON, Ga. — A 1,700-square-foot, two-story apartment within a metal storage building is what Michael Mills calls home.
Race cars line the back of his living space that is located inside the MSR Houston road course facility in Angleton, Texas.
The EFFORT Racing driver has fully engulfed his world in racing, to say the least.
“I have surrounded every aspect of my life around (racing),” Mills said. “I started working as the construction manager at MSR Houston in 2007. They asked me to live at the track by the end of 2007 and we still live here. My wife Daniela actually loves living there. James Rogerson the COO of MSR Houston has been very supportive of me and what Effort Racing is doing. Now I’m the operations manager and do a lot of coaching and thrill rides.”
MSR Houston is located 35 miles south of downtown Houston and roughly 200 miles from Circuit of The Americas (COTA), where Mills competes with the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series Sept. 19-22. The 40-year-old will be competing in front of family, friends and coworkers at the event.
“For us to be there, being a Texas-based team, is such a huge deal,” Mills explained. “We’re planning on having a catered barbecue at the tent, so for us to perform well there is key. I won’t be giving anybody any room there.”
EFFORT Racing leads the Platinum Cup team championship entering rounds 13 and 14 of the 2013 season. Mills is currently in fourth position after third and sixth-place finishes at the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.
Mills partnered with EFFORT Racing in the last race of the 2011 season. Together, they pulled off a win and a second-place finish in Gold Cup, which created a huge momentum boost for the team. Mills ran a full 2012 season in the Platinum Cup class with EFFORT and won the first race of the year at Sebring. For Mills, winning races and championships rank high on the list of importance, but helping young drivers grow and develop means just as much.
Most recently, Mills has witnessed development in teammate Sloan Urry, who
won his first race of the season in Round 12 at the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Urry has now landed on podium in five of the last eight races. Mills works as Urry’s mentor on IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama weekends, however he has other tactics he uses away from GT3 race weekends.
“To be able to take drivers and develop them and get their heads straight is a big deal for us,” Mills said. “Sometimes we have Sloan (Urry) come out to Houston and spend a couple days at the track just to get out of the normal environment and into our world. Even when we don’t drive, he is so much sharper when we get to the race track.”
Last month Mills and Urry competed in the six-hour endurance kart race in Kerpens, Germany with Tim Bergmeister, Joerg Bergmeister, Marco Holzer, Thomas Holzer and Tim Von Gog. They were running in seventh before the kart broke.
“It was a great experience to be with such great racers and Kerpens is the place where (Sebastian) Vettel and (Michael) Schumacher started racing,” Mills said. “We took the opportunity to tour the Porsche Museum while we were there. It was really amazing to see all the history with Porsche. We want to thank everybody at PMNA for helping to arrange a great tour.”
An accident in 2004 forced Mills to step away from the first type of racing he was interested in — motorcycles. He wasn’t sure if racing cars could fill the void left when injuries took him off the bike, but driving the iconic Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car puts those uncertainties to rest.
“The Porsche 911 is a really rewarding car,” Mills said. “It’s difficult to drive fast and when you get it right it’s really a lot of fun. When it’s dialed in and the chassis are working well, the tires are working well, that’s about as much fun you can have in a car. I don’t miss motorcycles when I race that car.”
His father helped him move away from motorcycles and into racing cars, and now many family members and friends will be in attendance to watch him compete in the cockpit at Circuit of the Americas. Mills’ in-laws from Brazil, longtime friends, his wife and son will all be in the stands cheering him on.
Mills will even see a familiar face on track with him at COTA. His longtime friend Mark McKenzie, who actually participated in construction of the COTA circuit, will be running with Mills and the EFFORT Racing team.