Bryan Heitkotter took his first pro victory on Saturday and backed that up with a repeat performance on Sunday, sweeping both ends of the PWC double-header.
By: RaceCanada.ca Staff
August 23 2016
Bryan Heitkotter swept both rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge double header at Utah Motorsports Campus last weekend, marking the first pro win for Heitkotter and the first win of the season for the AIM Autosport prepared Always Evolving Nissan GT-R's.
RaceCanada caught up with AIM Autosport's Ian Willis to chat about the weekend.
RaceCanada - What is it about Utah Motorsports Campus that worked for the car(s)? And ideally, what about the track worked for Bryan?
Ian Willis - UMC is a track that suits our car well and turbo cars in general as evidenced by our results last year and of course this year. Any track with long straights, high speed corners and a relatively high percentage of time at full throttle is good for the Nissan. We struggle on tracks with short straights, lots of hard braking zones and less time at full throttle. (Not looking forward to the next two events...)
UMC is at 1350 meters elevation which means the turbo cars have a natural advantage over naturally aspirated cars. After the promoter test day when the turbo cars were 1.5 sec faster than the N.A. cars the PWC tech officials made significant adjustments to all the turbo cars. With some further minor adjustments through the two practice sessions they appeared to get the BoP right as the performance gap was close in qualifying and the races. Although we were not quite the fastest car over a lap we had worked hard to setup the car so it would be consistent over a long run in the high heat of the weekend. Both races were run in 35C to 40C weather with track temperatures over of 55C.
Bryan usually thrives on fast flowing circuits like UMC so his pace was not a surprise. I also think that living in Fresno he used to the heat, LOL!
RaceCanada - How difficult was it without James Davison this weekend, and how late did you find out he would be able to race?
Ian Willis - James and the team were informed of the suspension by SCCA on the Friday before the event. After some long teleconferences with Nissan, James, AE and ourselves it was decided the best course of action was to put another driver in the car for both races at UMC and have James return to the car in Sonoma. Since the fastest lap of the first race determines the starting position for the second race it makes it very difficult to get results missing the first race of the weekend. With the revised championship format next year requiring additional drivers for the Sprint X race events it was also decided that it would a perfect opportunity to test a potential driver for next year.
James was at the event and worked with the team and drivers all weekend as a spotter and driver coach. He works very well with Bryan, even when they are competing against each other, so it was great to have him there to help.
RaceCanada - You had to work with a new driver for the first time since taking on the Always Evolving Nissan GT-R program, what kind of challenges did that present?
Ian Willis - Well actually, as it turned out, we ended up with a driver that we had worked with before when we did the three Blancpain races last year! Craig Dolby was the JRM factory driver last year and fortunately for us he was available since he does not have a full time ride this year. When we looked at a short list of names we obviously wanted someone with GTR experience and someone who would fit in with the team. Craig was the perfect choice on short notice and we were very happy to have him join us.
RaceCanada - When You have a very good car on Saturday, qualified 3rd & won the race, how much are you inclined to change the car for Sunday? If you stand mostly still with set up, how worried are you about other teams catching up?
Ian Willis - Very good question, do you have a hidden microphone in our trailer? That is exactly what Bryan I and I discussed between Race 1 and 2, is our hand good enough to win or do we pick up another card from the deck! After going through all the data and trying something new in warmup we went with a subtle change that worked quite well in race 2.
RaceCanada - You have announced plans for 2017 alraedy, how important is it for AIM Autosport to once again have firm schedule this far in advance?
Ian Willis - Yes the announcement was that AE intends to run 3 cars next year however, the budget is not in place yet but things obviously look very promising. We have had too many years where we have nothing confirmed by the end of the season so it is refreshing to be this far along this early.
RaceCanada - And on the topic of next season, what does next season hold for AIM Autosport? Will there be changes to the driver line up?
Ian Willis - We are very happy with James and Bryan as they work well together and push each other to go faster. Continuity is very important in this sport so I hope they will be back with us next year. With the new format for 2017 there are several options in how you choose to run your program. Teams could run two cars in the Sprint races and combine the two drivers into one car for Sprint-X or they could add two drivers for Sprint-X and field two cars for the overall Championship. Ideally we are hoping to run three cars with two being Pro cars competing for the overall championship and the third car possibly a Pro-Am or even an Am-Am driver lineup. There really are many different combinations which is why the series has chosen this format to provide different cost levels and get more participants. As always it depends on budget and where the return is, so these decisions are yet to be finalised.