DXDT Racing persevered through high temperatures in a challenging race weekend at VIRginia International Raceway, competing in three doubleheaders across the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by aws, GT America powered by aws, and TC America powered by Skip Barber Racing School. Despite the sweltering conditions, the team delt with the highs and lows as only a professional race team can: through teamwork, consistency, and perseverance, each of the six DXDT Racing cars put in a commanding performance, bringing in a total of six top-five finishes, two podiums, and one historic win.
GT World Challenge America
Race one at VIR proved to be one of the most action-packed races so far in the 2021 season. The No. 63 Mercedes AMG GT3 of David Askew and Ryan Dalziel suffered from an incident in qualifying and unfortunately had to miss race one. George Kurtz led the team charge to the green flag in the No. 04 CrowdStrike/AWS Mercedes AMG GT3 starting from seventh overall and third in class. Kurtz’s stint was one filled with battles, holding off the No. 77 Acura NSX GT3 of Michael Di Meo, and fighting with the No. 93 of Taylor Hagler for sixth. He finished his stint and pitted from seventh, and after a longer stop to make changes to the No. 04 Mercedes, the car rejoined some positions behind, but Colin Braun took over and had the car back up to fifth in no time.
Meanwhile, Erin Vogel and the No. 19 Mercedes AMG GT3 started eleventh overall and seventh in class following a shortened qualifying session in the morning. Vogel found herself shuffled back several positions on the aggressive start, but she kept the car clean and put in consistent laps to climb up to ninth overall by the end of her stint. The smooth execution continued in pit lane, where the pit stop proved to be a flawless performance by both drivers and crew. The driver change, as well as fueling and the tire change, happened in perfect timing, moving the No. 19 to first in class and fourth overall. Their stop, as well as attrition for others in pit lane, gave co-driver Michael Cooper a 16-second gap over Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche. As the No. 19 led its first laps of the 2021 season, Colin Braun engaged in a heated battle with the No. 93 of Jacob Abel for third place in class. Lap after lap, Braun worked to set up the pass, and eventually secured the podium position by the drop of the checkered flag. All eyes were on the No. 19 of Erin Vogel and Michael Cooper, who crossed the line in first in class, and third overall, netting their first win as a pair for DXDT Racing. Erin Vogel made SRO America history on Saturday afternoon, becoming the first woman to win a GT3 race in North America, as well as the first woman to win while racing a Mercedes AMG GT3 in North America.
The blistering temperatures that were present for race one returned for race two, making tire conservation and participant heat tolerance keys to a strong race. The No. 04 Mercedes AMG GT3 was the closest team car to the front, with Colin Braun starting in fifth place overall, with Michael Cooper and the No. 19 Mercedes AMG GT3 in eighth. Due to missing the second qualifying session, the No. 63 Mercedes AMG GT3 had to start from the back with Ryan Dalziel at the wheel but made quick work of that situation. In the first five laps, he passed seven cars, climbing up to eighth place. An early-race caution allowed for the field to bunch back up after they had slightly spread out. Braun took advantage of a Lamborghini locking up on the restart and climbed to fourth place overall. Another Lamborghini had an off-track excursion, and Braun claimed another spot to take third place overall, racing behind the class leader, Jan Heylen in the No. 20 Porsche. The move also allowed Dalziel to move up to seventh and put heavy pressure on the No. 9 Lamborghini. He made the pass in turns two and three, advancing to third in class. Just as Braun set the fastest lap of the race, he slowed on track and was forced to end his race early with suspension damage.
As the race continued on, the No. 63 Mercedes and No. 19 Mercedes were still in the fight, as Ryan Dalziel continued his climb to second in class, and Michael Cooper closed in on fifth position as the pit window opened. The pair pitted one lap apart, and after flawless pitstops from both crews, they rejoined in the same positions as which they entered. Erin Vogel took over from Cooper in the No. 19, and gained another spot to run fourth in class. David Askew also gained a position to take the class lead after the race leader was given a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infraction. Though the class leader had enough of a gap that his re-entry would have been close, Askew pushed hard to pass the pit exit as the former leader was attempting to rejoin. From there, attrition appeared for both DXDT Racing cars in the final minutes, but both Vogel and Askew pressed on to finish fifth and sixth in the final race.
The ups and downs of racing: Saturday was a great day for DXDT and today not so good. But I think everybody had fun at VIR. It’s a great place to race. It’s a great field of cars with some great competition. It’s just so much fun to be here. Yesterday I had an issue in qualifying that hurt the car a little bit and we elected not to race. Today, there was still something not quite right with the car but I’m not going to blame it on the car. It was tough driving up there. I had fun for a while. I had a good battle with the leaders for a little bit. That’s the way it goes.
It was a good weekend as a whole. We obviously had an incident in the first qualifying but the team rallied and rebuilt the car, which has been fast. It’s a little disappointing that we didn’t get to qualifying. I think we have a front-running car, as we showed in race two. After missing race one, we missed a little on the adjustments to the track. I think David struggled a little bit in his stint in the race, but so did many of the other teams and drivers here. It was a very demanding weekend for competitors.
We have to learn from this weekend. This is a long season. Some weekends are great and others not so much. This is one of those. We’ll regroup and be back at it.
I don’t know what happened in our final race. I went through turn three and felt like the right rear tire was flat, but it wasn’t. So I think we had some sort of suspension issue. Normally this thing is a tank. We had a little light touch on the other side at the start but I don’t know. We ran a lot of laps after that before something happened. I’m really disappointed for CrowdStrike and George. I felt like we were in a really good position. We were going fast and doing our thing. These things happen from time to time. I’m just disappointed for the DXDT guys.
It was slick out there, but DXDT Racing gave us a really great car. It’s probably the best Mercedes-AMG GT3 we’ve had yet this season. We also had one of the best pit stops we’ve had so far and came out third best out of the whole field in race one. This weekend was truly a team effort. Michael was really consistent in the car and stayed out there in the lead, kept that gap, and preserved it all race. I knew from the beginning that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was going to be a good fit. I’m hoping this is the start of more races like this. It takes a couple of races for everything to gel, and this felt like this was the first race that it has.
Erin and I have been chipping away slowly but surely, getting better and better and figuring out this Mercedes-AMG GT3. We’ve been working on the pit stops a lot, trying to dot every “I” and cross every “T” and I think that really showed today. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.
George Kurtz started the first GT America race of the weekend in third and produced a strong performance in the sprint event. In the second half of the race, he found himself in an intense three-way battle for the lead with the No. 45 of Charlie Luck and the No. 70 of Brandan Iribe, and momentarily took the top position before the side-by-side action recommenced. The duel led to Kurtz suffering a cut tire, and he was forced to pit for a fresh one, able to quickly rejoin. He was able to make up some lost time, finishing sixth in class.
Running in the sister car, the No. 58 CrowdStrike Mercedes AMG GT3, Moses started fifth and kept his nose out of trouble, quietly gaining two spots before a late-race full-course caution. The caution turned into a red-then-checkered flag, ending the 40-minute spring race early. The No. 58’s stealthy climb up to fifth place overall marked Moses’ second top-five of the season, following a fourth-place finish in race one at Circuit of the Americas.
In race two, Moses followed a similar strategy from the day before, biding his time while the pack ahead raced hard for position. He started fifth but got shuffled to sixth in the opening lap, right behind teammate George Kurtz, who started second. Kurtz also saw the No. 04 Mercedes moved back on the start, but dug in to catch the two cars ahead and create a three-car fight for third place in class. He put heavy pressure on Jeff Burton’s Lamborghini, who briefly lost his pace after putting two tires onto the grass. Kurtz pressed on to race alongside Jason Daskalos in the No. 27 Audi R8 LMS, but as the pair raced side by side they had contact, sending Kurtz off course. Though the car had damage, he was able to safely pull off to an access road, ending his difficult weekend early.
Downtown Nashville will host rounds seven and eight of the GT America series, with a temporary street course to be made of the city streets.
The weekend overall went better than planned. I didn’t plan to get in the top-five. The GTA drivers are pretty stout with George and a lot of guys who also run GT World Challenge. I was pleased with where we ended it up and keeping the car on the track. I have a good mid-race pace but I need to be faster at the beginning. I had a good start in the second race but didn’t get the pace quick enough and the leaders pulled away. Once you get that gap, you’re not going to make it up on these guys. Overall I’m very pleased the car is back in one piece. We’re going to get ready and have a good pace for Nashville. No one is going to have practice. It’ll be a level playing ground when we start, so we’ll see how we get up to speed on the streets of Nashville.
Source. KBru Communications