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Saving the Race

MAAP intern Jack Gavin (’23), writes about his motorsport experience, diagnosing issues and helping lead the way to a 5th place finish in Daytona with the JDC Miller Motorsport team.

Daytona ‘23. It’s that time of the year again. It was time to point south out of cold Harrisonburg and head to sunny Florida. This was my second time heading to Daytona, so I knew a little bit of what I was in for. This year JDC Miller Motorsports will be running a gen 2 Audi TCR, so there was just as much excitement heading to Daytona as there was last year.

The week before Daytona, I flew to cold and snowy Minnesota to learn about the new car and the new electronics platform I’d be working with during the race. I learned as much as I could in the short two days I was out of town, but one thing was apparent. It was a very complicated system and much more closely resembled the likes of a high-end prototype electronic system compared to consumer level motorsports products. This was a cool, but daunting place to find myself in – much more exciting things to play with, but a lot more to mess up.

It had been a while since I was at a track, and it was something I had been really missing. The flashing lights, shiny cars, and the smell of race gas. Driving into the track on the first day all the emotions from the first year came back. The wow factor of Daytona and the incredibly sized speedway is something to be experienced and it will not be forgotten. As soon as the gates dropped on the trailers, it was go time. As if there hadn’t been an off season at all.

The first practice sessions went by with relatively normal new car woes. Later into the Roar week, we faced a big issue that was going to chase us all week and into the race week. Much of the later practice sessions were spent trying to diagnose and fix the issue and since we didn’t have support from Audi, this proved to be more challenging than I expected. We chased the issue down to an overdraw from the electrical system, resulting in learning way too much about the car in the process. This was a challenge that came with running a new car that we were not expecting and there was little we could do with the hardware given the lack of hardware in our hands.

As the car headed out for qualifying we were all very nervous to see what would happen. To our great relief the car came across the line in P3, meaning we would start in the second row for the race the next day. The time leading into the race was hectic as the crew was trying to figure out a way to help reduce our overdraw issue all while staying within the homologation rules. After four long hours, the car zoomed across the finish line as we all celebrated a 5th place finish.

Without the hard work and the smart thinking from the crew, the car wouldn’t have come near the checkered stripes after 4 hours of flat-out racing. I learned an incredible amount about the electrical systems in cars and especially racecars over the course of the 10-day trip. I am excited for the rest of the IMSA season and excited to learn more about our new RS3 and whatever else I can at the race tracks this year.

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