Colin Mullan: On the Right Path

Written by Team USA. Posted in Colin Mullan, Driver Blogs, Feature

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Published on May 24, 2021 with No Comments

What a treat it was to drive this historic Mustang!

DANVILLE, Calif. – It was a lengthy nine weeks from our last race in the IMSA Prototype Challenge at Sebring – but finishing up my first year at Ohio State University certainly kept me busy. Along with wrapping up the school year, a friend of mine asked me to fill in for driving duties in his 1967 Trans Am spec Mercury Cougar, raced by Parnelli Jones, at Laguna Seca.

It was certainly an experience unlike anything I have driven before. The level of grip, or lack thereof, took a bit of getting used to, but sliding around a 55-year-old muscle car at one of the most iconic tracks in the country was thrilling to say the least. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the driving style required back then.

No looking back in the JMF LMP3 car.

A few weeks after arriving home from Ohio, I was back on a flight to Columbus for the next round in our Duqueine LMP3 at Mid Ohio. We welcomed a new co driver to the team, Antoine Comeau, who would be joining me for the race weekend.

Track time was going to be very limited, as we had only two practice sessions take place before qualifying, one 45 minutes long, and the other 30 minutes. This meant each driver would get only about 35 minutes of practice before qualifying, and in my case – the race. We hoped that our baseline setup from Putnam Park would serve as a good starting point here, but we were a bit further off than we had hoped. A setup change in between Practice 1 and Practice 2 brought us closer, and I felt that we were on the right trajectory for the rest of the weekend. Antoine qualified sixth, putting us in a solid starting position for the race the next day.

We made another step forward at Mid-Ohio.

At 9:40 in the morning, Antoine started the race strong. He picked up a position into the first corner and was running very strong laps with the lead group. Later in the stint, however, he got a small bit wide exiting Turn 9 and went for a quick spin. He got going again, only losing one position. With about an hour remaining, we pitted for tires, fuel, and a driver change. The front air jacks on the car did not deploy properly, so we were a little slow on the tire change, costing us an extra few seconds by the time we exited pit lane.

I pushed hard on the outlap and found myself behind the fifth-place car who had fallen back after some contact sent him into a spin. I tried to find a way to get by early, but it proved to be very difficult to get close. Our setup was maybe a little too safe as well, and as the track got hotter, we lost more grip at the front tires.

My new co-driver Antoine did a great job before handing the car over to me.

A full course caution bunched up the field, and I knew this would be my best opportunity to try to make up a position. I got a great run out of Turn 2, but the car in front covered off the inside line into Turn 4. I dove to the outside and tried to make a move stick into the corner. Unfortunately, there was not nearly as much grip there as I expected. The rear broke loose, and when I corrected, I was off in the gravel trap. I rejoined the track but lost a few positions in the process. I managed to catch up to the pack again, and luck fell our way to get us back into sixth place.

Saying that we started and finished the race in sixth place really understates all that happened. For this being Antoine’s first race in the LMP3 car, and my second, our trajectory is in the right direction. Our potential for a podium was there, and I am really looking forward to another shot at it in Watkins Glen in just a few weeks time. Each race weekend in this car is a new learning experience, and I am very grateful to be back behind the wheel. Testing is up next, then our race weekend on July 1-2.

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