I am excited for another year of racing!
The first Le Mans 24 Hours for American GT racer Bryce Miller is finished, and to say it was a whirlwind would be putting things mildly. Unfortunately for Miller at the rest of the JMW Motorsport team, the Aston Martin Vantage crashed near the six-hour mark Saturday. He tried to recollect his thoughts from the accident in his final Le Mans blog.
(June 13, 2010) — Le Mans finished with four of my friends on the podium – Wolf Henzler, Leh Keen, Richard Westbrook and Dominik Farnbacher. Also Marco Holzer and the team I scored second place with at Spa – BMS Scuderia – were third in GT2 It was fun to watch the celebration at the end and to have people to cheer for in the event.
We struggled with braking system issues all week, which undoubtedly affected our lap times. Unfortunately, our race efforts started to unravel around 8:30 pm Saturday. Rob Bell was pulling some great times in the Vantage, but we became sidelined in the garage for 30-plus minutes while the team repaired a broken steering pump that contributed to an off for Rob. He drove the car back to the pits as best he could with limited visibility due to the steering fluid on the windshield, which later contributed to another off and stop that I had to make after the car was repaired. Otherwise the steering appeared okay after the repair and I was coming to the car after the stop.
At the end of my stint and two laps before our next pit stop, I had an impact with the wall at the end of the Porsche Curves that ended our race. I sustained a pretty good concussion and am quite confused about the events leading up to the accident, especially after spending an hour at the site Sunday. The car had managed to get way offline and then veered back in the opposite direction of the next corner towards the wall for what was almost a direct head-on impact of 25 to 30 Gs. My doctor says it is normal at an impact like this to not remember the exact moments leading up to such a severe incident, but I cannot assume anything before knowing what happened. The next days will be important for me to review data and talk with the team about the car’s condition in a hope that there may be something I can learn or take from what has happened.
Whatever the case, I am grateful to JMW Aston Martin for the opportunity to drive at Le Mans. The experience has been a swing of emotions, but just that I’ve driven at this famed event has been a tremendous privilege and I will not forget the entire set of events that occurred over this week to deliver the experience that is Le Mans. I hope to come back and have the opportunity for redemption.
(June 11, 2010) — Today was a day of rest until mid-afternoon. The crew did some pit-stop practice runs and Rob, Tim and I did some driver-change practices. Afterwards, we walked up the hill to the Dunlop Bridge where the car had been transported to do a team photo shoot and some photos with Dunlop executives.
We then hopped on a scooter to go to the driver parade. The crowds were so stacked up in Le Mans town it was really the best way to get over there. All the co-driver pairings were designated a classic car to ride a three-mile stretch of road. We were passengers in a 1927 Vauxhaull purpose-built for hill climbs.
The crowds were 10 people deep for three miles and the fans were absolutely crazed for our autographs and the coasters we were flinging. One man had gone shirtless and was screaming for the drivers to sign him with signatures overlapping all over his body. I presume that will take a couple soap bars to clean off!
Another woman had an incredible book that I was privileged to sign, with many pictures of famous drivers going back to the years when the Mulsanne straight did not have chicanes. Many already had team gear prepared for signing and the Aston Martin fans were particularly pleasant.
The entire experience again really felt like a dream. I kept asking myself, ‘How could so many people who love motorsports this much all congregate in the same place like this!?’ But these fans are for real and committed and I know many of them will be pulling hours through the night tomorrow similar to what we will be as drivers.
I spent a good amount of time on the scooter ride back digesting and processing what had just occurred. It is an exhilarating experience – something that feels as if it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – but of course, you look forward to and hope for the opportunity to come back for years to come. I am really excited to drive in my first Le Mans ever starting tomorrow.
Photos: 2010 Autosport Image, Bob Chapman
American growing more comfortable in JMW Aston Martin
(June 11, 2010) — Bryce Miller filed his latest blog Thursday night after the final qualifying session at Le Mans for americanlemans.com.
The team opted to put in the race engine starting this morning. They did the job quicker than expected, so we stayed on schedule and ran the 10 p.m. session. The drying conditions were a big help to continue my progress on the dry line and with braking points. It was also good additional night-driving experience. I was able to learn the track some more and close the gap down on my lap times.
My comfort level with the car has also improved quite a bit this evening and I am starting to learn how to use the aero some more in braking and faster sectors.
Tomorrow is a chance for the drivers to all rest up and then we go to the driver’s parade. I am quite excited for this and hear it is an incredible experience where you get to feel like a hero for an hour! The fans here are so enthusiastic and appreciative of our sport – it makes it great fun and an honor to be here.
It’s hard to believe I am here driving at Le Mans. The atmosphere is so special you can’t miss it. It’s not something you have to look for – it just is … Le Mans!
Check back this week for more of Bryce’s blog from Le Mans.
JMW TEAMMATES THROUGH THE FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING
(June 10, 2010) — It was a spectacular feeling to drive Le Mans today. I have never driven a race car and upshifted into fifth and sixth gear so many times in one lap. I enjoyed it so much that when my co-drivers, Rob Bell and Tim Sudgen, poked their heads in during the stop to ask how it was going, I just went speechless and then resorted to childish fist pumps.
We were held back in the garage by a couple of issues today, but I met my 10-lap day and three-lap night requirement, and the setup was improved again before Rob’s qualifying.
Unfortunately, a P2 car checked Rob up in the Ford chicane on his fast lap, but none of us are overly concerned with the grid position anyway because it is a 24-hour race.
The closing speeds by the P1 cars are significant – you must constantly check your mirrors and the circuit is very dark at night like Spa, but you must know where all the spotlights are so you don’t confuse them with prototypes.
Tomorrow is a prep day for the car. We will run again tomorrow night. Amen for Le Mans. MORE DAILY LE MANS BLOGS
(June 8, 2010) — It’s Day 2 of Le Mans 24 Hours week. We had a drivers meeting this morning, then I rode the circuit on a scooter with my co-driver Rob Bell, who has been here four times.
Many of the turns are sweeping and fast, so car placement will be critical as well as braking with many of the braking zones being coupled by multiple downshifts. Riding down the Mulsanne Straight, it is quite alarming to see just how long the original straightaway was. My father raced here three times before when the Mulsanne was wide open without chicanes. Anyone who’s done that in the cars from previous eras I have a great respect for!
We wrapped up this evening with autograph signings – the fans are super-enthusiastic and it’s great to meet all of them. They really know racing! I’m looking forward to driving the car here tomorrow. It will surely be an upgrade from my scooter.
At scrutineering this morning in the town square, the presence of press and media along with the great swarms of fans and their spirit left me feeling almost as if I was dreaming. I am doing all I can to try and soak it all in – advice many have given me and I plan to make a discipline of.
This afternoon has been normal preparation by the team to the car and preliminarily going through seating variance issues with my co-drivers Rob Bell and Tim Sugden. I’m working to get my helmet functioning with the car radio system as well.
I have to say it feels just incredible to be here, to know I am on hallowed ground and such historic territory relevant to sports car racing teams and drivers around the world. I can’t wait to start driving!
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(April 16, 2010 at 10:50 a.m. ET) — Long Beach, Calif. (RacingWire) – This is the only circuit on the ALMS schedule I have not driven. John is in the car right now and while we’re 20+ minutes into the session most of its been under red flag. I am excited to drive the track this morning. Hopefully we can get some green flag laps to get some temperatures & pressures in the tires so we can baseline the car and begin working on a setup.
(April 16, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET) — Our first outing was tricky but it went well – we are P2 at the moment. I only had 5 or 7 laps. John and I have both never seen the circuit and there we’re a lot of red flags early on when John was trying to get laps and learn the track. We were able to get a decent baseline later in the session but we also found some minor issues in the car that will be easy time gained after we rectify them. John kissed the wall in turn 1 near the end of the session so they are friends now. We missed the last 20 minutes of the session which was a small setback but there was no radiator damage and the crew is already halfway there in getting the car back together. We have another practice later this afternoon and then qualifying.
(April 17, 2010 at 11:30 p.m. ET) — Our last minute late entry at The Long Beach Grand Prix turned out very well considering our minimal preparation time before the event. My co-driver John McMullen rose to the occasion in his first ever ALMS race under the high pressure of large crowds and sponsor presence at what is a historically famous venue. Unfortunately, John was held back early on when we were issued a wave-by under caution, but the GTC car in front of us did not take it and we were forced to go down a lap as a result. Despite this, the crew gave us a solid car to go the distance and score second fastest lap of the race. We finished 5th and scored points ever so necessary to our championship hunt given our absence at the opening round of the Sebring 12hr race. This is just the beginning for us, but a good start and we will look to go from strength to strength heading into our next race at Laguna Seca.
Bryce Miller was born July 26, 1982 in Honolulu, Hawaii and he currently resides in Summit, N.J.. He’s married to Jill and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in History. He’s sponsored by Marquis Jet, IPC Systems and TOTAL Lubirciants. Among his many racing accomplishments include the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series GT team championship. His team website is www.brycemiller.net and you can follow Bryce on Facebook and Twitter.
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(Day 1: March 4, 2010) — I met up with the team today at the track. Lee outlined to Luke and I our rollout plan for tomorrow and we discussed some possible strategies and weaknesses to improve on from our race here in October. Tire wear was an issue then, but the ambient is quite different now and the new Pirelli tire is even more resilient. Subsequently, our October set-up should lean more in the direction that we’d like to take the car for this weekend. That should help us establish a starting point. There is quite a bit of track time tomorrow but the sessions are stacked upon one another making the larger changes to be performed in the garage a more critical play call as many times it will mean having to forfeit live track time. We tried to walk the circuit tonight but were kicked off after being sprayed with tire marbles by the jet engine hanging off their safety trucks. Wish us luck tomorrow…
(Day 2: March 5, 2010) — We were pleased to roll out with a good starting setup today with both some speed and driveabilty in the car. During one of our sessions we got caught out chasing an understeering condition and were able to determine a slight sticking of the throttle at idle as being the culprit.
Luke had a tire blowout coming out of Nascar T4 in the beginning of the afternoon session and the car was stranded their for the duration. He brushed the wall slightly but fortunately he was able to maintain control of the car giving the crew an opportunity to prepare properly for qualifying.
Luke did a great job qualifying the car 8th. This makes us the lead Porsche on the grid going into tomorrow’s race.
(Pre-Race: Saturday, March 6) — It’s been a long day but we’re really looking forward to the race. We used this morning’s warm-up to bed brakes and scrub tires.
I think we have a good race car to take to the front assuming we can keep it clean and stay free of contact and mechanical issues.
We’ve debriefed on our racing strategy and Luke and I had some really good driver change practice runs clocking in at 20 seconds each. The crew is on form and looks good on the pit stops. Keep an eye on us; I have a good feeling for a result today.
(Post- Race: Grand Prix of Miami) — We led the Porsche charge today but a faltering gearbox tampered with our differential and then failed. It is unfortunate as our team put together a really good car but it is nice to know we have the pace amongst the Porsche’s.
Unfortunately, the 1st Porsche finished three laps down but I’m sure Porsche will do better at the next events.
Our next race is at Barber Motorsports Park where Porsche’s runs its driving experience so hopefully we can do something there. Keep the faith. We’ll bring one home sooner or later.