Climbing the ranks of sports car racing, the more experience a young driver has, the quicker he will climb up the ranks. Bryce Miller is spending the 2009 season driving full time in the Rolex Grand Am series with additional events in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and a run in the FIA GT Spa 24 Hours at Spa-Francorchamps. We recently talked with Bryce at Road America during the ALMS weekend.
Mecca of Speed: It looks like you are running a low down force set-up today.
Bryce Miller: Up to this point in the weekend we have been running a very low down force configuration because the restrictor plate on the Porsche are very aggressive. This has reduced our straight line speed to almost the same as the GT3 Cup cars, so we are doing what we can to get more straight line speed while still getting mechanical grip in the corners.
Tire wear will be pretty aggressive which means we will have to run a harder compound. It’s a little more difficult at the moment for the Porsches, but we are going to try our best.
Mecca of Speed: Do you find the mechanical grip for the Porsche in the tighter corners such as 5, 6, or 12 comparable to the other manufacture competition, or is it still a challenge with having to run the harder compound tires?
Bryce Miller: From my experience racing Porsches in both Grand Am and select ALMS races, the difference in mechanical grip is compounded by the aero dynamic difference of 30-40% more down force in the ALMS care compared to the Grand Am car. That helps improve the braking coming into a corner. You can come off the brakes earlier in the ALMS car and carry more rolling speed into the corners, which translates into a 3-5 mph increase in cornering speed. That is a bit of an adjustment for me.
The category here in the ALMS is pretty interesting. BMW has come out of their shell and showing its colors. The Corvettes have launched fairly strong into GT2. This is only the Corvettes second race and they already have a strong base line to work from. The class has become quite competitive between the manufactures.
Mecca of Speed: You currently run in both Grand Am with Miller Barrett Racing and Farnbacher Loles here in the ALMS. How is your current contract set up to allow you to race in both series?
Bryce Miller: Last year the arraignment for Farnbacher Loles was more or less Dirk Werner as the driver here in the ALMS. This year there are a lot of scheduling conflicts between the ALMS and Grand Am, so it’s up to me and my ability as a driver to go back and forth between two series. It can be very difficult.
At the moment Dirk is in the lead for the championship with Lee Keen in the Rolex Grand Am series, so it’s difficult for him to go back and forth because he doesn’t want to compromise championship points. That has made the seat here a bit of a revolving door in terms of co-driver support for Wolf Henzler. I think Martin Ragginger was in the car with him last week at Mid-Ohio.
This weekend is one of the few weekends there isn’t a conflict and the opportunity was made available to me. I enjoy driving this car. In the future I would like to go to Le Mans so the more hours I can log in this car the better.
It is tricky to go back and forth without a continues sustained period in the car. Wolf is a good co-driver to have. He shares a lot a data. I take what I can and work to apply it throughout the weekend.
Mecca of Speed: When you are running an ALMS race, is the first event of the weekend a briefing with Wolf and how the car has been performing during the last few races, and updates on the car?
Bryce Miller: Absolutely, we have a lot of Porsche support and the team is truly a professional operation. It’s very systematic, after every session you report to a driver’s briefing room. A debriefing session can go as long as an hour in some cases, but hopefully things are going well and the session doesn’t run that long.
Our schedule here is a little more compressed. The first day is an hour practice session, which includes any live driver changes conducted during the sessions. I think it would be easier if they broke it into two sessions, which would give teams the opportunity to make larger changes on the car if needed. But this is the format we have, so the team’s need to rollout with a pretty good baseline, otherwise you are already behind the eight ball.
Mecca of Speed: The ALMS has changed the pit rules for this season with only 2 crewmembers over the wall for tire changes. From a driver’s perspective, has this had any effects on your roll during a pit stop with a driver change?
Bryce Miller: It has had much of an effect on us here. There are teams that have driver change support, but at Farnbacher Loles the drivers handle the change themselves. There really haven’t been any issues this year.
Mecca of Speed: What was your first experience in motorsports?
Bryce Miller: My dad raced for 20+ years, so I grew up in the pits rooting him on and playing with matchbox cars.
The racing process started pretty early. My dad had me in a go-kart when I was seven and it was fast forward from there. I won my first national championship at 10. Then I worked up through the formula rankings and started racing with Porsche in 2006. My story is pretty similar to a lot of guys who race here.
Most guys who start out at a young age have a father that coaches them, or some type of mentor to help them get started. A lot of the skills you learn by training like any other sport. You are very impressionable at a young age that allows you to learn quickly.
Mecca of Speed: At a young age, you don’t question what your are being coached on, you do as you are coached.
Bryce Miller: It’s funny, I’m a bit tentative to get on a rollercoaster, but to get in a racecar is comfortable for me. A lot of a person’s comfort level comes down to what they are firmular.
Mecca of Speed: Is there are race or streetcar out there that you would like the chance to have some seat time in?
Bryce Miller: I think this car (Porsche 911 GT3 RSR) is pretty special. I’ve really enjoyed my time behind the wheel. The performance limitations are higher them many people realize and I’m still working to find the limit. It’s quite a bit more then the limit of the Grand Am, which makes it special to drive in that respect.
As for road cars, I did have a turn behind the wheel of the Porsche Carrara GT, that was pretty awesome. At times you have to short shift because the power is so aggressive.
Mecca of Speed: Being a professional racing driver, what is one aspect of driving a racecar that a average person could apply to become a better driver on the street?
Bryce Miller: One of the biggest techniques in racing that people would benefit from on the street is keeping your eyes up and looking ahead. It feeds into being responsible for your own path in traffic. I think a lot of road going drivers just drive looking at the space immediately in front of them, or the bumper of the car in front of them, which can lead to highway pileups. A lot of stop and go driving could be avoided.
Mecca of Speed: Being involved in motorsports includes a lot of traveling, what is your preferred traveling creature comfort?
Bryce Miller: I live 20 minuets from Newark Airport in New Jersey, which is where Continental Airlines is based. I’m not a fan of any particular airline as, but Continental has a OnePass Elite system with lines for regular travelers, which is nice. When you have been traveling 3-4 weekends in a row it’s nice to stand in the Elite line.
Mecca of Speed: As a GT racer, what is your training regiment?
Bryce Miller: My physical build is naturally more endurance orientated. I’m not a real big guy, similar to a lot of my fellow racers. With this type of build, it’s important for me to working on building muscle. When you go through some of these endurance races you sweat and start to break down your muscle content. It’s important for me to get the gym on a regular basis and maintain muscle content.
I really like interval training, which promotes recovery. You can train hard for a cycle, than shift to a higher repetition or slower pace and then revert back to a hard cycle again. For some of the tracks we go to your body needs to be able to recover very quickly.
For example, when we go to Lime Rock there are barley any straight-aways. You can just get the car up to 6th gear and then you are imeditly on the brakes and downshifting again. That track alone stresses the importance of your body’s need to be able to recover quickly.
Mecca of Speed: If we picked up your iPod, what would we find on your Top Ten list?
Bryce Miller: Oh man, my fiancée and I are getting married in October and we are putting together a play list. If you didn’t know that, you would think my iPod belonged to someone with multiple personalities. I’m a classic rock guy and like a lot of 80s music. It’s a genre that is hard for me to steer away from. I have an older brother who is 35, which had a lot of influence on me. Besides that you’ll find, Jack Johnson, Dave Mathews and music of that genre.
Mecca of Speed: Thank you for your time and good luck with the rest of your season.
Bryce Miller: Thank you.
Content credit Bryce Miller and John Vatne. Photo credit John Vatne.