An American in Germany

Courtesy of Panorama Magazine – July 2013

My first Carrera Cup race. At Hockenheimring. Was I excited? Absolutely! But I tried to be realistic with my expectations, as my competitors have three, four, or even five years experience in the series and on tracks we’d be racing on.

For me, this race was not just about learning a new car—it was about learning a new car at a track I’ve never raced on, in a country I’ve lived in for only two months. We’d done some testing at the Hungaroring, Adria Raceway, and the Red Bull Ring to prepare for the season opener in Hockenheim, so I was beginning to get comfortable with my new “office.” But now it was time to shine in Hockenheim!

People kept asking me if I was nervous, or felt the substantial pressure to perform since I’ve been lucky enough to be part of Porsche Motorsports’ Junior Program. Deep down, I knew results would be important. But, to me, it was just another car at another track. After all, why deviate from doing things that helped get me to where I am? As long as I could manage to not put too much pressure on myself, I’d be alright.

When I arrived at the track, the team was ready as ever. I caught up with a few fellow drivers I got to know during the Junior Program shootout back in October 2012, but this was my first race weekend against them. Competition was in the air. I was there to beat them, just like they were there to beat me.

After load-in and track walks on Thursday, the team and I headed to the hotel to get some rest. So much for that: I couldn’t fall asleep until wee hours. So many things were running through my mind. I was so curious as to where I’d stack up against experienced veterans who have done more than a hundred races in the 911 GT3 Cup. In the end, these thoughts didn’t matter. In about nine hours, I would find out.

On Friday morning, we had a one-hour practice session. This began with bedding in brake pads, and then it was straight to new tires to see where we’d stack up. On new tires, you usually have one to two laps to warm them up, two laps to get the most out of them, and then you pit. If you don’t put a lap together in those two laps, you’ve missed the “peak” of the tire and you won’t be posting a time anywhere near the top. In a 35-car field, I managed to post the eighth-best time.

Our setup was close, but we had too much oversteer to go much quicker. I was more than happy to be in the top ten, and very eager for qualifying on Saturday. Perhaps it would stay dry, making things a little less complicated for my first race weekend? Nope!

Clouds decided to release almighty rain, so it was time to learn Hockenheimring in the rain. For Race 1, I managed to qualify eighth. For Race 2, I would start eleventh. I wasn’t the happiest with my performance because I knew I left something on the table in a few brake zones, but it would have to do.

Race 1 took place in dry conditions. My goal was to stay out of trouble and finish in the top ten. My launch was average and I managed to get through Turn 1 without problems. For Turn 2, I took the inside line to eliminate the risk of someone taking me out of the race—and that cost me one position. Then, in the hair- pin, the same situation. I battled for ninth the entire race, but wasn’t able to make a move stick. After the race, I was full of smiles with my tenth-place finish, and for being the top-placing rookie.

For Race 2, I had a much better launch, but I wasn’t able to do much with it since I was blocked by another driver. On the opening lap, I was a bit more aggressive but still had finishing the race as my number-one goal. After the first lap, I managed to get up to tenth, where I stayed for most of the race. After a small mistake about three-quarters of the way through the race, I slipped back to eleventh, where I’d go on to finish.

So, my first race weekend in a Porsche was…awesome! It was such a great experience, and I’m more determined than ever to get to the front as the season progresses. I have to say thanks to Porsche Motor- sports for this opportunity, to my primary sponsor Roboscan Internet Security, to Patrick Long for all of his help and support, and of course to my family and supporters back home in the great U.S.A. I blame my grandpa for giving me the racing bug with a go-kart as a present on my fifth birthday. Who knew I’d be lucky enough to make it this far? A young American, racing for Porsche Motorsport and doing so against no only great German drivers, but against some of the best sports car racers from around the world! —Connor De Phillippi 

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