Colin Mullan: Moving Quickly

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

Published on September 07, 2021 with No Comments

DANVILLE, Calif. – Back in February, I had the pleasure of driving the Mercedes-AMG GT4 as a part of the JMF Motorsports shootout. As one of three drivers selected in the program, I would go straight into the JMF LMP3 car for the IMSA Prototype Challenge championship. Although I’m still racing in this series for the remainder of the year, when one driver couldn’t make the team’s debut in GT4 America competition recently at Road America, I was asked to fill in.

It was exciting to drive a GT4 car again.

We shook down the team’s new car at Putnam Park on Monday, August 23. Only my co-driver, Michai Stephens, and myself had previous experience in this car – mine being limited to those few test days back in February. Back then, we had the car in unrestricted mode, making much more power than in SRO competition, and without any of the extra ballast as well.

Overall, the Putnam shakedown went well, and we felt that we had a great starting point on the car to begin the weekend with at Road America. The race weekend kicked off with a major downpour right at the start of our first practice session, forcing a delay as the conditions were just too bad to run in. We eventually made it out on track for a short session in mixed conditions. It was difficult to read the proper balance of the car, but we didn’t think we were too far off in the wet with the limited running.

Conditions changed dramatically as the weekend progressed.

Our final session of the day was in dry conditions, and although it was another short session, we found that we were much further off pace than expected. We went back to the drawing board on setup and managed to find a bit of extra speed for qualifying. It wasn’t perfect quite yet, but each session we were making continuous progress.

The best part of the GT4 America weekends is unequivocally the racing itself. With nearly 40 entries on the grid, it was bound to produce some good battles throughout the field. Michai started behind the wheel for Race 1, and was able to make up a position in the first few laps before a full course yellow took out much of our running during the first stint. Unfortunately, we were still a bit off on setup, and as a result, our tires fell off pretty rapidly. We finished 12th overall and fourth in the Silver category.

The competition in SRO GT4 Americas is intense.

We made a lot of changes overnight to the car to help fight the terminal understeer problems that we were faced with. Additionally, we had qualified on the same set of tires for both Qualifying 1 and 2, meaning we would have a sticker set to start Race 2 on. I started in the middle of the pack for Race 2 – 18th out of 38 entries. I was able to make up a few places at the start, but given the BOP, it was impossible to defend from the charging BMWs, who had more than 10 kph up on us on the straights. I was able to make up a few positions – and take the fight to other quick Mercedes on track. Our pace was right where it needed to be, we found nearly two seconds from Saturday to Sunday on race pace alone. Michai got in the car and was able to make up a few more positions before a lengthy full course caution prevented us from fighting further up the overall order. When it was all said and done, we came home with a third-place finish in the Silver category.

It was cool to share the Silver class podium with Michai.

It was great to stand up on the podium again, but I was more proud of how much progress we made as a team during the short time on track this weekend. We went from having almost no experience with this car, to fighting with other Mercedes teams that have amassed overall and class wins this year. Every session was a huge learning experience for all of us, and I can’t thank the team enough for all of the hard work they put in to get us there. I’m so grateful for the opportunities John Farrow has provided through the JMF Motorsports program. It’s been an amazing year so far, and there’s still plenty left in store soon!

-Colin

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