Everyone always credits the driver with a great race, but racing is far more of a team sport than most people think. Races wouldn't happen without the support crews standing by to prepare the cars and quickly solve any problems that arise.
We followed Carlos Gomez from the excellent racing blog Axis of Oversteer this weekend, as he was there to race a Ferrari 458 Challenge. Gomez recently switched to racing in Ferrari Challenge from a Porsche GT3 Cup. He explained that Ferrari Challenge requires less seat time to remain competitive than GT3 Cup. The Porsche's lack of ABS and unique rear-engine layout make it a more difficult car to drive. Life started getting more in the way of racing, so the switch to a Ferrari made sense.
Each Ferrari Challenge car comes with full support provided through a Ferrari dealer that sponsors the teams. For Gomez, Ferrari of San Francisco provides support for the car: parts, support staff, transportation to the race, catering and even driver coaches.
Carlos' weekend was off to a rough start. He had to miss an earlier test day, so the Ferrari of San Francisco team set up the car based on feedback from their other drivers. For Gomez, the rear end was a bit too high and he actually found the car far too oversteery.
After the drivers were done with each session, the team pulled fuel out to measure consumption and downloaded data from the cars to study.
Not much had to be done to prepare the Axis of Oversteer car for qualifying, though.
"People think of Ferraris as delicate machines," explained Gomez. "But these are really bulletproof."
The team adjusted the car based on Gomez's feedback, but he still felt rusty at driving it when he qualified ninth in it for the first race.
The first race went well at the beginning, with Carlos finally getting his feel for the car back and hustling up to sixth place.
Surprisingly, the first Ferrari race was the best behaved of the entire weekend. The driving was exceptionally clean, as everyone knew they had to save their cars for another race after this one.
Then tragedy struck Carlos' car. The transmission wouldn't shift into any of the even numbered gears, taking him out of the race. Gomez limped it back into the pits, but knew he was done.
A solenoid that controlled the pressure for the even-numbered gear shaft was the offending piece. Gomez had suffered another gearbox failure two years ago and the crew was able to replace it overnight. This repair, however, wasn't one that they would be able to do at the track.
Carlos' weekend was looking like it was over until his team was able to borrow a complete spare car that Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale had brought with them. It was back on!
This is perhaps the most impressive thing about the Ferrari Challenge series: everyone's extremely friendly, and all the teams pitch in to help each other. The competitive nature is still there, but they'd rather beat you on the track—not win by default because your car is down. As with any group of Italians, there's a sense of loyalty among the Ferrari racers: not only to the individual teams, but to the series as a whole.
The crew placed Axis of Oversteer's trademark silver-and-orange liveried hood on the new black car and rushed to get it set up and ready in time for the race, which was the first group on track in the morning.
Gomez had to start from the back of the grid in thirty-fifth place, but quickly started picking through the back of the field.
The second Ferrari Challenge race had considerably more contact than the first, with lengthy full-course yellows dominating the race.
Even with the limited green-flag race time, Gomez was able to finish in the middle of the pack. The crew who rushed to get the second car ready saved the day after all.
Another Ferrari of San Francisco driver even won the Coppa Shell division in the second race, proving that bunnies on your livery really do make you faster.
We often only think of endurance races as team efforts, but in reality, any motorsport takes a whole team to make it happen. In some cases like this, it takes multiple teams! Countless hours of car prep and work go on behind the scenes to give the drivers the best chance of winning possible. They're also the folks who can turn around a mechanical issue into a completely manageable, fixable problem.
Even though the Ferrari Challenge racecars are generally reliable, all it takes is one big failure to take you out. The rest of the team is standing by for when that happens.