September 21, 2023

Next to Legge, Monk sees the top of IMSA GTD rookie seesaw

Sheena Monk is one of many drivers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class in their first GT3 race cars, in her case having moved from Michelin Pilot Challenge GS. But below them, she and veteran Katherine Legge are higher in the points, sitting just outside the top five overall as the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park weekend began. Along with the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22, there were a number of top-five finishes, most notably a fourth in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, where Marc Miller and Mario Farnbacher joined the party. But with some performances that Monk and Legge consider to be below par, they’re a little surprised where they rank in the standings.

“I think we’ve had a season of ups and downs so far,” said Legge (pictured right, above, with Monk). “High is probably Daytona and Watkins (Glen), low is Sebring. I think we’ve had a few bad races with Long Beach and Laguna, frankly. So the fact that we’re sixth in points I think is incredible. I think for lack of a better word we could salvage some losses from our misfortune. But I think the potential for us to get better is great.”

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Looking at the GTD rookies, Monk is on top. Patrick Gallagher, along with Robby Foley, is two points ahead heading into CTMP, also in his first full GTD season, but has quite a bit of GT3 experience. And in the Trueman-Akin Award standings for the best Bronze driver in GTD, Monk is second behind Brendan Iribe. However, she quickly disowns full ownership of that position.

“There are many other factors that come into play,” she says. “I drive with other people who… I say they play cleanup, but I have to give them the car in the first place. Unfortunately at Laguna I didn’t do my job in that sense and we really had a chance. I think I look at it like I have a team of guys who are having incredible pit stops. And we’ve been very solid with our driver changes; those things are important. So I can’t say, OK, yes, I’ve been like the best of the newcomers to show up.

Monk says her qualification could be better. “It’s something I’m focusing on because I feel if I’m further back in the field from qualifying and the track position is better then I’m less likely to be around the incidents that happen early in the race. ”, she says as Legge nods in agreement, but acknowledges that she still has a lot to learn about driving a GT3 car, with all the aero grip the NSX brings to the GT4 cars she has driven before.

The first time she felt the compression in Turn 6 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was a revelation, notes Monk. That adds to the ever-expanding knowledge base of what makes a GT3 car different from what it has raced before. The accumulation of knowledge will certainly increase her pace, but there are some mental components that will allow her to apply that knowledge, Legge says.

In addition to the various features of her Acura NSX GT3, Monk incorporates lessons on the mental game of racing from her veteran teammate Perry Nelson/Motorsport Images

“I think Sheena’s tendency is to run under the (limit) rather than cross the line and bring it back, while a lot of newer drivers who haven’t driven GT3 cars before have the confidence to get out there. go and go, over the line and under the line and over the line — play with that line,” explains Legge. “We’ve been working a lot on how to get her to go out and get behind the wheel , push right away – even if you make mistakes, be confident and comfortable when she’s uncomfortable, and take it back to where you want it to be. Because then you’ll be there faster than taking small bites out of it. She has the skill and ability; it’s all mental.”

Monk admits she likes to build up her time in the car, and with limited practice time on the weekends, that holds her back. It’s also one of her problems in qualifying where she has 15 minutes to get the job done. Asked to rate herself on her performance in the season so far, things like that make her a pretty harsh self-assessment.

“I’m not happy, to be honest. But if you’re here and you don’t win, I think everyone feels that way,” says Monk. “So I don’t know if that applies specifically to me. I think everyone here is so competitive that you have high expectations. You believe in yourself and you believe in the team you are with. So that might seem like a negative, but I think it’s a healthy answer and a healthy response from someone who is competitive and just wants to win.

“But I also realize that it takes a while. So I don’t think, especially how long I’ve been racing – I haven’t been in this for so long that I certainly don’t expect to show up and win; I understand how wildly competitive this field is. I just think for myself, maybe a little less incident, maybe a little more speed and consistency. Maybe I’m a little hard on myself. But I think we will get there in time.”

Story originally appeared on Racer

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