AUSTIN, Texas (Aug. 26, 2015) – Moorespeed and driver Will Hardeman progressed to a season-best finish at VIRginia International Raceway during Rounds 11, 12 and Round 4 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series.
Hardeman finished fourth after starting third in the rescheduled Round 4 Sunday, Aug. 23. The race was rained out in two previous scheduled dates. Round 4 was long anticipated for Hardeman and Moorespeed. The team qualified a season-high third at NOLA only for the race to be postponed due to rain at NOLA and again at Watkins Glen.The first two races of the weekend at VIR had highs and lows, but a more conservative approach to the first half of Round 4 found Hardeman dropping back into the clutches of veteran Kasey Kuhlman.
A battle ensued between the two, and the hard-edged racing had consequences.Hardeman’s No. 19 Moorespeed/WPD Porsche and Kuhlman’s No. 15 Porsche made hard contact in Turn 14. Hardeman went off track but continued quickly to catch Kuhlman and make the pass for his fourth-place finish as Kuhlman went off track two turns later due to damage from the previous contact.
Team owner David Moore was proud of the gains Hardeman made but still sees room for improvement in his racecraft.
“He ran a conservative race but he got his best finish of the season,” Moore said. “He did a great job, but, I felt he was a bit too conservative for either of our taste. In hindsight, a podium finish was well within his reach if he drove the way he did in Race Two. His brake zones became longer, and he would get on the gas just a tad bit later. I would have liked to have seen him push harder, but I also didn’t want to push him into a spin. He maybe didn’t have the pace for first or second, but I think he could have held third.
“Will has worked so damn hard in record time; we all want it for him, and it can be frustrating. We talked again this evening after landing home in Austin, and he’s not satisfied with his performance. That’s a good thing. He’s proud of what he’s accomplished in only 12 months. I’m very proud, but he’s hungry for more and feels he is close to a breakthrough. He’s coming over dinner later this week, and we will debrief video and data of VIR again so we can really identify his weaknesses that we need to work through prior to COTA.
“But overall, it was a great weekend. We have been knocking on the top-five door for a while, and we finally got it and Will is in high spirits. The last race, he had one off that was induced by a move that was maybe not so kind from his good friend Kasey Kuhlman, but he didn’t let it faze him. He got back in the fight right away.”
Team driver coach Price Cobb, 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, further elaborates Moore’s comments.
“The difficult thing for each of us to realize is that Will is so naturally gifted that he is already running at the front but without the years of experience and knowledge everyone else has picked up during those learning years,” Cobb said. “Because of this, when Will finds himself in a difficult position there is a much smaller knowledge base to draw from, which can be a severe hindrance for him. The end result is that we get frustrated for no other reason than we forget his remarkable climb is all him, but without the usual foundation. Once we give ourselves the reality check, all is good again.”
Hardeman demonstrated his quick learning ability by making rapid progress over the weekend. He bested his previous finish in each race, continuously building momentum to his top-five finish in the final 45-minute race of the triple-header weekend.
The beginning of the weekend started roughly for the Austin-based Moorespeed team Saturday, Aug. 22 in Round 11. Hardeman spun in Turn 5b, the rear of the car hitting the wall, causing significant exhaust damage and rear body damage. Hardeman continued but was black-flagged due to his rear bumper hanging off his car. The team quickly removed the loose pieces and sent Hardeman back into the race. Hardeman kept a level head and focused on finishing the race and working on his racecraft. He finished 13th in the Platinum Cup class.
After Round 11, Moore, Cobb and Hardeman studied data and video to prepare for the double-header Sunday. Moore then took Hardeman to various corners on the 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit where he was having trouble and watched TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Daytona cars’ race lines. On Sunday morning, Hardeman shaved 1.4 seconds off of his lap time, turning a best lap of 1 minute, 51.592 seconds in Round 12.
Starting eighth in Round 12, Hardeman was running within the top 10 and working his way up the field before a spin under braking into the famed Oak Tree turn cost him a position. He finished ninth overall and in the Platinum Cup class.
“I’m not content where I ended up with over the weekend because I know I’m better than that, and I can do better,” Hardeman said. “But when I step back and look at myself from a global perspective, I’ve never been to the track and have never raced before this year, so I’m OK with how I did. Six months ago a top five would have been a great achievement. Today now that I’m looking at podium territory, I know I can do better.
“My fourth-place finish was due to technicality, not because of speed, necessarily. It’s very easy to advance through the back of the pack. Once you get to the front, it’s more competitive than ever. When I get to the podium positions, they’re going to be that much more gratifying.
“First and foremost, I want to thank my wife, Anna, for being there this weekend. She’s my rock. I get to have a clear and very calm mind because she’s there in support of me, and I have no worries. And I have to thank my team for providing me a perfect car and all the tools I need to be successful: coaching, mentoring and support.”
Moorespeed next will compete on its home track, Circuit of the Americas, Sept. 16-18 in Austin, Texas for Rounds 13 and 14 of the championship. Visit imsa.com for a full schedule.