Q&A: Cadillac’s Laura Klauser
Q&A: Cadillac’s Laura Klauser
Through three races of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Cadillac Racing has continued its DPi success.
Cadillac has opened 2019 three-for-three with wins in three entirely different types of races, and with three different cars.
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R kicked things off with a win in the waterlogged Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Meanwhile Action Express Racing has won two straight events. Whelen Engineering Racing’s No. 31 Cadillac scored the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring win.
Then Saturday at Long Beach, the Mustang Sampling Racing No. 5 Cadillac team took the win thanks to a strategic decision to pit earliest in the final cycle and only change its right front Michelin tire for its final stop. This meant it was able to run the final 48 race laps on the left and rear tires.
Filipe Albuquerque held off Ricky Taylor, a former Cadillac driver now racing one of the Acura Team Penske ARX-05s, to give Cadillac its third straight win at Long Beach.
Preseason, MichelinRacingUSA.com caught up with Cadillac Racing’s program manager Laura Klauser to relive the highs of the first two years and lay the groundwork for 2019.
Besides these first three cars, two new teams have acquired new Cadillacs for 2019 in JDC-Miller Motorsports and Juncos Racing. Both JDC-Miller and Juncos enjoyed their best races of the season Saturday at Long Beach. Juncos’ Kyle Kaiser led 14 laps and JDC-Miller’s Stephen Simpson was close to podium position before slotting in a season-best fifth place.
With that all as background, here’s a look at Klauser and her role overseeing this six-car program all vying to keep Cadillac up front (tweet via MichelinUSA).
What was the spark or background that got you interested in racing?
Laura Klauser: “I was always interested in cars. One of my favorite memories of being a very little child was washing the cars with my dad! For racing, it was participating in Formula SAE competition in college. I went to RPI (Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute) and we had a Formula SAE team that competed. We did very well. My Junior year, I was team leader. We placed ninth in the state of Michigan competition, which was huge. Being a part of the team, going through the motions of all the racing and competition was great. Got into my system and couldn’t get it out, and was able to find my way back to it when I came back to GM.”
What did you tell your friends when you were getting into racing?
LK: “I was thinking about this. It’s so funny! All my friends said, ‘Well, this is the perfect job for you, now isn’t it’… and I think they were right. They knew this was a good fit for me to be involved. My house is covered in racing pictures. It’s just the way it is!”
Who or what were your favorite cars and teams growing up?
LK: “I always rooted for the American brands typically. I grew up in a union household. My father’s an electrician. So, Ford and GM and Chrysler were big hits.
“General Motors has become my favorite since I started working for them. Even in college, they supported our formula team. So they gave me the opportunity to co-op with them before full-time. Corvettes have always tickled my fancy. And then the Cadillacs, when they raced in the World Challenge series, were cool because they’re so different.”
So being a program manager… you’re juggling 4-5 teams with different agendas. What’s the hardest part of this role?
LK: “I think the hardest part about this job is always feeling like you don’t know enough. There’s so many things you have to know. You have to know the car inside and out. You have to know the teams and how they function. And you have to know the series and what the rules are. You’re always scraping for more information.
“But, on the flip side, I’m learning every single day. Anytime we have an issue to work through or if there’s a scuttle in the paddock between two personalities, or we run into something with the series, I get the opportunity to learn more and more and more, and build my experience. I’m relatively young, but every day I get stronger with the information I gather.”
What skill sets are needed and how do you handle that?
LK: “We have a different relationship with each of our teams. We play off their strengths to make our program stronger. So each of them will bring us something different to the table. I think by allowing them to have their own unique seat at the table, that creates an overall relationship with the program.
“We also make sure then we are very clear and neutral with all of them. They all get the same information from us. The same hardware to race with. We take our foundation, and they add their own flair. That’s what you see with their performance out on track. They all have the same car, and all handle it very differently. Maybe one has a better weekend than others.”
In 2018, you oversaw several teams running one car during one of the Michelin “On-Track Opportunity” days in Daytona. How was the balance there?
LK: “I think it came down to everyone is completely invested in this program. All of our teams have skin in the game, and they all want the best product possible. So when we had the opportunity to do the test -and it was tight given the timing where the races were – we all got together and said, how do we provide the best input from Cadillac to benefit everyone?
“We chose one car to participate, and each team sent representatives to be a part of the process. Everyone had their own unique role that weekend. People monitored timing. People monitored wear on the car, and the setup. Everyone had their own job to do, but everyone came together as a whole to work together as one group and put aside our differences for that test. It made a huge difference for feedback we could give to Michelin, and we think it made a better car and better tire.”
How did Cadillac and Michelin work together during the 2018 on-track opportunity days?
LK: “Playing off the strengths of everyone, Cadillac and I worked directly with Michelin. We also have the team relationships as well. That way they are able to get the O.E. perspective from us, and how we see from the program as a whole. As well as the individual detailed perspective that the team engineers can give. We think that’s the best way to make sure the final product fits everyone’s needs.”
After two championships and two Rolex 24 At Daytona wins in 2017 and 2018, how excited are you for 2019?
LK: “I could not be more excited for this year. I love our family has grown. To be a part of this series right now is something I’ll cherish right now as a memory. I think we’re set up to be competitive as we have been and continue on. We will not hand over that trophy willingly. They will have to fight us for it! We can’t wait for some phenomenal racing. Petit Le Mans last year were some of the best. We have the momentum ready to go.”