With the renewed motivation I gained from my improving V8 Supercar outing at Sandown in Australia, I jetted back off to the States - and Miami - looking to continue the winning ways of the Prodrive Ferrari team.

The Miami street race is a fantastic venue, but the track is about half the size it should be. It is very narrow, making it very hard to pass anyone. It also had a ski jump on the last corner, causing the cars to leap in the air, with both front and rear wheels off the ground. Being up front in the last stint of the race was definitely going to be important.

My regular team-mate, Jan Mag, was away on duty in the Danish Touring Car Championship that weekend, a prior agreement he wanted to honour. On top of that, he was leading the championship with one round to go, so had full support from the Prodrive team to go and do it.

As a result of Jan's absence, the team drafted in Darren Turner as my new team-mate and, despite having to get to know each other's set-up and so on, I was looking forward to working with him. I only knew Darren from what I had read or seen on the TV, but I always thought he was a talented driver.

Practice again showed that it was going to be close in the GTS class between the 'Vettes and Ferraris, with the Olive Garden Ferrari also showing great pace - which was good to see. Michelin also came up with a new tyre because it felt that Goodyear was pushing hard, and this was great for me to see, as I have worked with Goodyear in the past and felt that the racing tyre guys didn't get enough support from the company to compete against Michelin and Bridgestone. You can see very clearly they have progressed a lot in the last year, and that is good for Goodyear and series.

It was my turn to qualify in Miami, as Jan has hogged it in the last few races. It is an arbitrary process, as we sit down at the beginning of the year and look at what races we want to qualify for and start at. Jan loves Mosport, Road America and Laguna and, although I do as well, I didn't mind letting him do it. He is fast around those tracks and that's what matters.

Qualifying was going to be important because of track position, and the team worked very hard before the session began. We had a clutch failure in practice, and two engine changes as well, but I knew from practice that we had a chance at GTS pole. However, with the traffic, you could never guarantee a clear lap, so that made it all the more important to get pole.

I had my first run and we used a soft set of tyres, as the rubber was a free choice because we had some rain during practice. I did a time and I was quickest in class, but the 'Vette of Johnny O'Connell went quicker, so I came in and asked for a race set of tyres as I felt they actually had more grip from practice. Then I went out and got one of those rare clear laps and went seven-tenths quicker than Johnny. Olly Gavin came close - just three-tenths away - but pole was ours, to the delight of the team and myself. It was a totally committed lap and well satisfying.

Race day was hot and humid, but with no sign of the rain that we were expecting. I had the pleasure of sharing my friend's boat at the marina with David Price, so walking to the track was a breeze, and having dinner on the boat with some close friends made the trip to Miami even better. Thanks Gil!

Warm-up went well for us, but not the 'Vette of Kelly Collins and Olly Gavin, as Kelly hit the wall where the bump is and destroyed the car.

Darren started the race and was doing a fantastic job stay in front of the chasing pack. He impressed me greatly with his speed in the car, particularly as he had not been on a street track before. But he made no mistakes, so 'well done mate!'.

A yellow came out around 40 minutes into the race, and was just long enough for us to put me in the car because Darren had to do 45 minutes. I wasn't looking forward to staying in the car for two hours in that heat, particularly as the remaining 'Vette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell beat us on the pit-stop and meant that I was chasing instead of being chased.

The gap was going all over the place because of the traffic, and I had to push, but also look after my tyres, in case I had to use them to the end of the race. Another yellow came out, but we decided not to change tyres - and the 'Vette did. Now I was now being chased by the pack, but on worn tyres.

I knew that it would be difficult from my experience of last year, when everyone's tyres went off. O'Connell was chasing and catching me up, but then he disappeared from my rear view and the team radioed to say that he had hit a wall and was limping to the pits. He and a slower car apparently got mixed up and bang, and the race was effectively finished for him.

However, with O'Connell gone, I now had my Prodrive team-mate Tomas Enge catching me because he was on new tyres. He was only slowly catching me, but then another yellow came out. Shit! Now he was right behind me.

When the green flew again, we took off and were racing hard - but I was making my Ferrari as wide as a MAC truck. The team quickly radioed and asked us to stop racing because they wanted a one-two result and not two cars in the wall.

To make things more tricky, that rain that had not been around at the start of the race then re-appeared on the last three corners. We stayed on track, however, and finished one-two for the team. It was a great result and mean that I had won the last three races for Prodrive and Ferrari. To make things even nicer, the fact that the Gavin/Collins car had not scored points, meant that I moved up to equal second in the championship - which isn't bad considering I missed two races!

There was little time to rest on my laurels, however, as I am now back off to Australia to compete in the V8 Supercar race at Bathurst. This is a favourite track of mine and I am looking for a better time of it than last time I was in Australia!

DB

 

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