For the third year in a row, Russell Ward and Winward Racing will take on the Hankook 24H COTA USA, and for the second year in a row, will be teaming with his father, Bryce. The Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck at the Circuit of the Americas, but the father-son duo is confident all that will change in 2019.
Russell, you’ve competed at both of the previous Hankook 24H COTA USAs, but bad luck on each occasion has cost you a podium finish. How keen are you to put that right at this year’s event?
Russell: “I am really looking forward to getting back to racing at COTA. I love this event and look forward to it every year. We have a very competitive line-up and the speed will be there. Hopefully we can put it all together and redeem ourselves for the past.”
Bryce, this year you’re back for your second crack at the Hankook 24H COTA USA with Winward Racing. What memories do you have of last year’s race, and what do you think you’ve enjoyed the most about the CREVENTIC events you’ve competed in?
Bryce: “We had a really great car last year but suffered an oil line leak which we tried to repair four or five times, and in the end, we unfortunately had to retire the car.
“I really like the CREVENTIC events and plan to do several more next year. The racing is very professional and the organisers are trying to keep the costs down, which is very important to all the teams.”
Neither of you are strangers to the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Perhaps you could give us an idea what it’s like to race around this venue compared with other tracks you’ve driven in North America, and which corners/sectors really challenge you…
Bryce: “COTA is my home track being that I live in Texas. But unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to go there since last year’s Hankook 24H COTA USA. It is a super track with a very challenging rhythm section from turns three through nine. It’s also great for a 24-hour race because there are some long straights that allow you to sit back and enjoy the race and perhaps put in a double stint.”
Russell: “It’s one of the most well maintained and professional venues that I have raced at, and it really does have just about everything a driver could want: fast turns, slow turns, surface variations, elevation changes, etc. I find the final sector and the Esses to be particularly challenging because they are high commitment areas of the racetrack and a lot of time can be lost there.”
It’s a strong entry list for this year’s event, particularly in the GT division. Which teams and or cars do you feel will be the most difficult to beat, and why?
Bryce: “It is a very strong field this year with 14 GT4 entries, which is up from last year when I think we had seven. Simply put, the team that makes the least mistakes will most likely win. Winward Racing is coming off a strong finish in the IMSA series this year and we looking to carry this momentum into the 2019 Hankook 24H COTA.”
Russell: “It’s too early to provide a rating as I have not seen any of the drivers in the GT4 division in action. But I do know that [the GT4 teams] have the potential to win and that they will be looking at us as a benchmark!”
What’s it like racing, not just as teammates but as father and son?
Russell: “It is awesome to be able to share a car with my father. I compete against him enough in IMSA, so it is nice to be able to team up with him for a change. He is as fast as a jet, so he will fit right in!”
Bryce: “I am really lucky to be a part of the Winward Racing team: I just show up and drive! Russell is actually the team principal, and he and our team manager Alberto Pena have done a great job this year, despite the fact that this is only our second year of operation. We again have a fantastic driver line up for Hankook 24H COTA 2019 and look forward to a podium finish for the year.”
*This year’s Hankook 24H COTA USA takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on 15-16-17 November 2019. Further details available on 24hseries.com