AMERICAN TRANS AM TOUR: NATHAN HERNE’S COTA DIARY #4
Nathan Herne has finished fourth in his maiden international motor race in the final round of the American Trans Am Series at the Circuit of the Americas.
Herne qualified 12th for the one hour race and made strong early progress to be in contention for a podium finish.
The two-time Australian Trans Am champion was battling for third place, only to make contact with his rival, damaging the front splitter and losing vital downforce. He soldiered on to finish fourth – an outstanding result amongst a 50+ car field.
Before Herne strapped himself in for the race, he filed his second last diary entry – exclusive to the Australian Trans Am web page.
Stay tuned for his full race recap soon!
“So we’ve wrapped up Day 5 now. This trip is starting to go ridiculously fast! In a little under 40 hours and I’ll be on the plane back to Australia!
“Yesterday was quite a good day. We got the car to a point where I’m really happy with it and we were really really quick on the race run in practice.
“Qualifying was a bit of a different session to say the least. The gentlemen’s agreement here was stated pretty clear by the boys that no-one passes on the out-lap of qualifying, which I agreed with 100 percent. Although two cars who were at the back of the grid (the grids were split based on practice times), decided to come flying around the outside of everyone to ruin all the gaps everyone had laid out.
“I nearly got taken out on the out-lap by one of them, so I thought best to just pull over and let them sort they’re own stuff out. Although then I saw that same car hit a sausage kerb that hard that he broke the right hand front suspension clean out of the car! He pulled off to the left and got onto the brakes just off of the track on the outside of the carousel instead of just letting the car roll so he wouldn’t of been in the way of the session.
“Seeing all this I thought, righto, there’ll be a red flag here and I’ll come in and have an extra warm up lap and be set. Well, to my surprise, and I probably should’ve taken the hint on what was about to happen on the first time by, they just waved a single yellow and called it a day.
“So I saw he was off and covered by a single yellow, so I thought to myself “no rush, still 10 minutes left, plenty of time for a lap.” I went for one lap, locked the rear brakes and still pulled it up, although I just wasn’t happy with it so I decided to change the bias and set a new gap in front to go again.
“The next lap was absolutely perfect, the car handled great for the whole lap and I was super happy with how it was going, although to my surprise, there was a recovery vehicle on the track around the carousel and a bloke tying up the car that had fired it off on the out lap to recover it, still only guarded by a local yellow.
“I kept on the lap, until I got to the next flag point and the in car flag system flashes a black flag at me (basically a red flag in Australia, meaning session has been suspended). The worst part was I was at turn 19 (second last corner) on a lap that was set for either pole or second place.
“I couldn’t believe it had happened, they put us to the end of pit lane although they cancelled the session with 5 minutes still left to go.
“I honestly thought I was going to have to start out of P55, although luckily enough for me I somehow still kept my pace up enough to finish P12 on the lap I locked the rears.
“Every driver knows in qualifying you need a banker lap, and I always do one no matter what, but for some reason this time I thought against it and paid the price. The worst part was, on the lap I wasn’t happy with, I was still on for P2 before I decided to abandon the lap.
“We were ridiculously fast so it’s one of those cases of missed opportunities, quite a big lesson to learn as I still haven’t had a chance to show what I’m capable of over here, we used my green set of tyres on Thursday and didn’t have any new tyres for the practices yesterday when everyone else did, and we were still consistently in the top 10, so I guess that’s something to be happy with.
“Anyways, on a more positive note, I’ve had the chance to sit down and have dinner with the Howe family, which is pretty damn cool. I’ve been in contact with Chas Howe (owner of Howe Racing Enterprises who build all Australian chassis and my American chassis) since we started racing Trans Am in Australia, and he really has to be one of the nicest, smartest blokes I’ve met. He reminds me of a bloke from Lismore by the name of Danny Smith who helped myself and dad out a lot in the early days when it was just us working on the TA2 cars. Danny loved all Howe cars as they were similar to the cars he worked on in the States. So when we had our car in Lismore he was happy to help us out!
“Chas has some cool stories to tell about motorsport from all different points in history, he was telling me that the TA2 as a car has been sold in 20+ countries and has a running series in five of them. It’s pretty cool to think a formula like this has taken off so big around the world!
“I had the chance to meet Al Unser Jr. today, and Jesus I was like a fat kid in a candy shop when he introduced himself to me, couldn’t honestly contain my excitement. Meeting Al was organised by one of the team sponsors, so I’d assume that’s why he knew my name, but let’s not the facts get in the way of a good story shall we. He was talking about Surfers Paradise in open wheelers, so I showed him some photos of the S5000 there and he liked the cars, V8’s in an open wheeler seem to be pretty popular here!
“There’s some pretty cool names kicking around here. With Chuck Norris rumoured to even be coming out to the track today! If nothing else good happens, and I get to meet Chuck, this will have been a successful trip!
“I’m starting out of P12 for the race, it’s my first time racing longer than 30 minutes, so it will be an interesting prospect. Although let’s see what happens!
“Thanks again for all of the support, hopefully today pans out well!”