Michael just emailed over his follow up on the first Jetta TDI Cup race of the season. It’s a must read! Thanks Mike.
Virginia International Raceway is located in picturesque Alton Virginia. This past weekend was the season opener and worldwide debut of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. There has been tons of interest about this series from racing fans, Volkswagen enthusiasts, as well as many media outlets. Even though I have been to VIR before, I had never driven on the 3.27 mile circuit. Our weekend started with a track walk and driver’s briefing on Thursday night which concluded at 9:00 PM. All 30 of the Jetta Cup drivers then returned to the track Friday morning for the first practice session. The session went well; I was able to learn a great deal of information about the track as well as the car. Our second practice session on Friday was cut short due to a crash on the circuit. Our next on track session would be qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
Even though I only had four on track sessions scheduled for the weekend, myself as well as all of the other Jetta TDI Cup drivers were very busy. We had several driver briefings which occurred before and after all of the sessions. At the conclusion of each session we were required to go over a checklist with our mechanic and clean our car to ensure the vehicle would be ready for the next track session. Aside from that, we also had some media obligations. We had two photo shoots as well as a filmed interview. I also found myself talking with a few other sources of media in addition to some of the fans that stopped by to ask questions about the cars and the Jetta TDI Cup race series. This is all a big change from what I am accustomed to, but a change which I embrace with delight.
Saturday was qualifying and after a new set of Michelin slicks were installed on the front of my Jetta, I set out to put in my fastest lap which would set my position on the starting grid for Sunday’s race. I completed qualifying with a best time of 2:15.572, which placed me in 10th position on the grid. It was not the optimum performance which I was hoping for, but I knew it could be improved upon in the race.
Sunday I woke up to a wet track and a forecast predicting scattered rain storms. After a long day of wondering if it was going to rain or not, it was time to climb into my car and prepare for the race with no imminent threat of rain and a dry track. This was not only my first sedan race and my first time racing at VIR, but it was also my first time competing in a race with a grand prix style standing start. Because the Jetta TDI Cup car is outfitted with a six speed dual clutch DSG gearbox, it is also equipped with a launch control program. The launch control holds the engine at 4,000 rpm until the clutch is engaged allowing for a more effective acceleration from a complete stop. The race started with the field speeding towards turn one four abreast. With cars touching doors and people desperately fighting for position through the first turn, the race was under way. After a few laps of some very tough and close racing, the track went double yellow and the safety car was deployed due to a crash in turn five. After a few laps behind the safety car we returned to green flag racing. I dropped back a few positions on the restart but regained the positions in the closing laps of the race. After some very intense racing, I found myself back in 10th position when the checkered flag flew.
Even though it did not yield the results which I had been hoping for, I knew it was a solid performance and a great start to the season. It was also wonderful to see so many enthusiastic spectators at the race. I was delighted to have put on a good performance for them as well. I would like to thank the Volkswagen Motorsports team for all of their hard work, dedication and long hours which made this weekend successful.
Round two of the championship will take place at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville Ontario May 17-18.
- Michael DeNino