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Richard Westbrook Blog: All Eyes On Long Beach

Hi everyone! As I write this I’m in America again, ahead of a very exciting weekend in Long Beach, California. I’m excited about it for a number of reasons, and I’ll go into that now.

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First things first, after Daytona and Sebring, we now have got some really good race mileage under our belt with the Ford GT and while we weren’t the fastest car at Sebring, we showed good pace and the result was a significant step change from Daytona, which gave the whole team a lot of encouragement.

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In the race we took a few gambles, some worked, some didn’t, in the last stint we got ourselves into a podium position by not changing tires but quite honestly I didn’t have the pace in the end to hold on. I defended for dear life as the Ferrari closed in, but unfortunately he threw it down the inside and there was contact, which put me into a spin. There’s no bad feeling, it’s racing and it happens.

I’m really happy with Sebring we fought at the sharp end all race long and finished on the lead lap; Daytona we were 30 laps down and nowhere. I should add, it was a real shame about the sister #66 car. I feel for them, we were aquaplaning on the front straight at Sebring too, and frankly, it was evil out there with all the standing water. It sounds a bit crazy, but it was really difficult to hang on to the car on the straight, but the combination of old concrete, old paint markings and rain meant for a wild ride.

Secondly, and this is a personal one, I really like the Long Beach circuit. I love street circuits full stop, but Long Beach is a great one. It’ll definitely be different being there in a GT compared to a DP, more a case of one eye backwards, one eye forwards, rather than both eyes forwards, but on the positive side, we won’t get lapped as much by the DPs! I’ve also never won at Long Beach, so that means there is added impetus for me to do well there.

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Thirdly, I love driving with Ryan (Briscoe) and every race is a pleasure to drive with him. We work really well together and drive in a similar way, which makes life easier for all around us in the team. We’re obviously developing a new car and that means we need to try different directions, but the fact we drive the same way means that is a real benefit for the team. He improves the car for me and vice versa. He’s also really laid back and good guy to be around, which is advantageous given how much time we have to spend together! I have to be honest, I’ve been incredibly lucky with co-drivers throughout my career and have driven with some of the best – Ryan is definitely up there with the best.

I’d also add, it was great having Scott Dixon on the team last time out, he really impressed me with how he approached the weekend; you can see why he’s so successful in IndyCar.

Since Sebring I’ve managed a bit of down time, but two weeks ago I did a VLN race for BMW in preparation for the 24 Hours of Nurburgring later this year.

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It was really good to be back there again. It’s a new car this year, the M6 comes in for the Z4, and it was the only weekend I had free to drive the car before the 24 itself. We came incredibly close to winning last year, and that only fuels my fire to do well, but going back there… It really is such an addictive place and so good to drive. It’s a beautiful location, but the track is just unbelievable and after you’ve done a few laps you just can’t get it out of your head! It’s part of the reason I keep coming back. It’s an incredible place to race and I would dearly love to win there.

Overall we used the weekend as a glorified test session. It’s a difficult place to come and test, so while the team and I fully respect the VLN, the bigger picture for us in the 24 Hours, so we focused on doing four lap runs to enhance the feel of the car. The resurfacing has changed things up and given added grip to the drivers – we also now no longer have the speed limit sections. It just feels so good to drive, and two weeks on it’s still in my head!

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Speaking of 24 Hour races, I’m pretty excited at how quickly Le Mans is coming round this year. The team are gearing up to it and there is no secret its the main piece of our programme, but we want to take one race at a time. We need to keep that improvement curve going in the right direction through Long Beach and Laguna.

It’s really good to see everyone in the crew here again, everyone is a little bit hungrier now and that can only be a good thing for everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford and Multimatic.

Finally, it was good to see the outcome of the BRDC vote on the lease of Silverstone to Jaguar Land Rover. It’s a big moment for the BRDC and I can’t imagine it in any other guise, so I was a bit surprised at how close the vote was.

Anyway, all eyes on Long Beach this weekend, it looks like we’re in for good weather on the most part, and that’s great news because we can really attack the track.

Richard