Road Atlanta was the home of the final race of the season in the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge series. With two rounds left in the season, all that had to be done to lock down the championship was to start the first race. Believe me, the entire week leading up to it, I think I quarantined myself. I have been in my first semester of college now for a little over two months and am forced to stay inside since I’m up to my eyes in homework. Therefore staying healthy hasn’t been difficult since there aren’t too many people that are sick in a library! Thankfully, I made it to the track healthy.
Going to Road Atlanta has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Coming to the beautiful state of Georgia was a plus and blew away all my expectations of this amazing place. There is awesome food (yes food, first and foremost), picturesque fall weather, and a track that winded its way through greenery and hills that you would think came out of a painting. There were steep inclines and descents that are crucial to utilizing to attain the fastest lap possible. The hills can hurt you more than help you, and with the Mazda MX5 being a momentum car, one bobble could be a half second down the hole in the blink of an eye.
Getting the car to handle properly is more important here than anywhere else. With corners being very fast and flowing, the car has to be stable. I had to venture away from making the car loose, because if mistakes are made, circumstances are escalated dramatically, whether it is a crash or loosing time on key sections of the track. I turned to a more stable setup that enabled me to achieve the lap times I was hoping for. We had a lot of track time, which was so beneficial. I spent the first two sessions getting the car handling properly, and then after the handling was down, I experimented with tire pressures. I was able to learn a lot in the five practice sessions we were given.
Qualifying went well. I qualified second for the first race and first for the second race. Much to my surprise, it started to rain during the first race. I fell back to third on the start due to starting on the outside, which was where all the rubber was (rubber is VERY slippery in the rain). I worked my way up to second, but it was too late. Lucas Bize was able to maneuver his way through traffic better than anyone else on the first lap and generated a gap too large for me to make up. I was close at the end but not close enough.
During the second race, I was able to get a good jump and ended up first at the end of the lap. I used traffic to my advantage until the end and was able to win the race along with the championship.
The year couldn’t have gone better, and the Skip Barber mechanics put together a car I couldn’t break. I am so grateful to the Mazda team and Skip Barber Racing School for this opportunity to do what I love. This year couldn’t have been possible without my parent’s support, and the One above being there for me and equipping me every step of the way. Looking forward to what we can achieve next year!