“Wall of shame” lurks at Daytona pit exit

January 27, 2018

“Wall of shame” lurks at Daytona pit exit

January 27, 2018

The toughest part of the Daytona International Speedway road course might be something apart from the actual racing surface itself.

The “wall of shame” lurks ominously as drivers exit pit lane after their pit stops, and it threatens to undo all the progress you’ve made on track and the decisiveness you’ve conducted in the pits.

Daytona’s pit lane exit is notorious because it’s a quick curve to the left with orange cones on the driver’s right, followed by the addition of the Armco barrier on driver’s right with a harder turn to the left. That’s followed by a rapid right, then left chicane that you have to push as hard as possible, but still delicately enough to avoid wheelspin or hitting the barrier.

When you add in cold temperatures and cold tires, it’s a recipe that can catch you out easily if you get it wrong.

“I think everyone realizes it, but the important element is that you have to remind yourself of it and talk about it in your preparation,” says Ford Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull.

“An odd thing happens here – call it a ‘freak of nature’ or whatever – but before daylight, normally around 3:30 to 4 in the morning, there’s a two-or-three hour period of slime on the racetrack. The slime comes from people are running on and off course as much as being on the race track, particularly when you get around the (Turn 1) corner there.

“There’s the wall, they hit (the slime) and they ice skate basically straight across the road into the barriers.”

One of Hull’s winning drivers from last year’s race, four-time IndyCar champions Sebastien Bourdais, explains how delicate you have to be while exiting.

“You just take it really easy, but it’s a lot easier with the GTs and the Michelin tires,” he said. “They tend to behave a lot better in the cold. The out lap is definitely not as dreadful as it can be with some other cars. It functions well, and the tires switch on quickly.

“If the temps are in the 30s, that’s the worst it gets. You run out of softer grade tires to suit the temps. But over 50? You’re fine.

“It’s still the one though where a lot of talented, experienced drivers have thrown it away and crash the cars. Even if you lose a second or two, you have to be safe. It’s happened too many times!”

One such driver who did so was Corvette Racing ace and defending GT Le Mans class champion Antonio Garcia.

Garcia won this race overall in 2009 in a Daytona Prototype, and did so despite surviving the “wall of shame.” He had a rough pit exit but caught his car before incurring any substantial damage.

“It’s always tough. There’s no room for mistakes! Most of the time you are way below the limit, because if you risk too much to be on the edge, there is no room to do a mistake,” Garcia says.

“I went off once in 2009 at Turn 3, and I didn’t do it again. But this is the kind of race where there is nothing to be gained in the first 20 hours but a lot to be lost with a mistake like that. You need to take it very, very easy.”

Hull wraps up the test of the exit here, because that one slip could end your chances.

“Some of the best people in racing have done it (including some future Hall of Famers). We’re all guilty; we all could be very guilty of taking things for granted and not communicating,” Hull says.

“The key to success at Daytona is that the comatose factor in the middle of night doesn’t get in the way of reality of the situation. This racetrack has such a personality. And pit out is one of the nine or 10 personalities this track has!”

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