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LAKEVILLE -- Mark Wilkins, co-driver of the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley, heads to Lime Rock this weekend for the GRAND-AM Rolex Series Memorial Day Classic. A shorter, narrow track, Wilkins talks about the importance of racing at Lime Rock and how he has prepared for an unfamiliar track.
Q. YOU’VE HAD A TOP TEN FINISH AT EVERY RACE THIS SEASON. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON?
A. It’s been a great season for Burt Friselle and I and everyone at AIM Autosport. Burt and I started off really well with the Michael Shank guys in Daytona with a fifth place there and ultimately have gone on to secure a fourth at Homestead and we had a little bit of a tough race at Barber, but we came back and finished second at VIR. It’s been a very good start for the team and the momentum is in the right direction and we obviously have the motor package in the series. The Ford power is the way to go. We’re hoping to get to the top step of the podium at Lime Rock.
Q. LIME ROCK IS A NEW VENUE FOR THE DP CLASS. HAVE YOU RACED AT LIME ROCK BEFORE?
A. I did a race at Lime Rock about four years ago in a GT car, so I have a little bit of time around there. Other than the test in the DP car a few weeks ago, that’s about it. Lime Rock is going to be a very interesting race with both classes. It’s A very narrow and very short track with not a lot of places to pass. It should make for a very interesting and challenging race for everybody to stay out of trouble. Our goal is to keep fighting for the championship but at the same time we want to win a race and get up to the top of the podium and keep moving forward. It’s going to be a race of attrition and it’s going to be about being smart and staying out of trouble.
Q. HOW DO YOU PREPARE GOING TO A TRACK THAT YOU’RE NOT THAT FAMILIAR WITH?
A. The big thing is looking at some video. We were able, with the test, to get the chance to sort of set the set-up on the car a little and get a feel for the gearing and what we needed to get out of the car to be quick. I think the main thing with the preparation is just going in with the mindset that it’s going to be a very difficult race to stay out of trouble just because it’s so narrow and tight. The big thing is going to be patient with the GT cars and not be too aggressive. I think aggressiveness here will hurt and with a track like Lime Rock where there’s very little run-off, one mistake could be the end of the race, where some of these other tracks if you got yourself in a little bit of trouble you could still get out and be okay. At Lime Rock that is not the case. In preparing it’s just the matter of having the right mind set, thinking through what we need as a team, what our goals are and what our ultimate goals are to win a race and to finish well in a Championship. This race I think we need to finish, and if we finish I think we’ll do well.
Q. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO LEARN A TRACK?
A. It depends on the track. Typically at Lime Rock, for example, it doesn’t take very long because it’s a very short lap and has very few corners. If you miss a corner, or you don’t get the line quite right, you just go back around and do it again. It’s such a short lap that it’s nice because you can correct mistakes quickly as opposed to a track like Miller where if you miss a corner or make a mistake it’s a long lap and it’s going to take a long time to fix that. In that respect, Lime Rock is kind of neat because it’s a lot like an oval, primarily right-handers, and you’re continuously pounding out laps every sort of 48 seconds which, you’re constantly trying to fine-tune to find those last few hundredths and tenths of a second.
Q. WILL THIS RACE BE MORE OF A FINESSE RACE THAN A SPEED RACE?
A. Our races always come down to element of speed being important, but I agree, it is going to be a finesse race. It is going to be about not making mistakes and just staying out of trouble.
Q. THIS RACE IS THE FIRST OF A COUPLE THAT ARE BACK-TO-BACK IN THE SERIES. WITH THE FIRST FEW RACES BEING SO SPREAD OUT DOES IT MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU AS A DRIVER TO CARRY MOMENTUM FROM THE RACES?
A. It’s tricky. With this race on Monday, it’s critical that we keep the car in good condition and talking about it being a finesse race and staying out of trouble, really the most important thing is having a race car at the end of the day on Monday that we can competitively race for six hours only a few days later at Watkins Glen. We have to be very smart about that. The car would not be going back home to Toronto. It will be going straight to Watkins Glen and it’s imperative that we have a car we can race for that amount of time without issues. That’s kind of the main thing, and then with Mid-Ohio only a few weeks later, we have to make sure we get out of the Glen nice and clean. As much as we want to be really quick and get those top results we have to keep it in the back of our mind that we have to keep everything in line and in good shape. We’re really looking forward to getting back on track with the car. We’ve got some good momentum on our side. Roush and Ford has given us a great engine as always and we’re hoping to get it on the top step of the podium on Monday.