The CultureMap Interview

Racing in the dark: Houston's fast man Tracy Krohn reveals the secrets of winning Sebring

Racing in the dark: Houston's fast man Tracy Krohn reveals the secrets of winning Sebring

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Tracy W. Krohn on the Sebring International Raceway circuit Photo by Regis Lefebure
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The Victory Circle, with Michele Rugolo, from left, Tracy W. Krohn and Nic Jonsson Photo by Regis Lefebure
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Tracy and Laurie Krohn on the grid on pit road before the start of the race with the Krohn Racing/NXG Ferrari 430 GT Photo by Regis Lefebure
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Houston's Tracy Krohn and his Krohn Racing team drove to a thrilling class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring this past weekend. He's driven at Sebring many times but this was the first time his team has competed there in the ACO-sanctioned Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Series.

CultureMap talked to Krohn about his team, racing and what it's like to drive flat out in the dark.

CultureMap: What challenges do you face in GTE as opposed to racing in Prototypes?

Tracy Kohn: The main difference is that GT cars have less downforce. There's more mechanical grip, and Prototypes have more [aerodynamic] grip. Aero grip is easier in some ways and harder in some ways.

With a lot of aero grip, when you go faster, you corner faster — until you can't! Mechanical grip has a different feel. Whenever I first get into the GT car after driving the prototype, the first time out of the pit I always wait too late to brake, which isn't a good thing. (Laughs)

CM: What's it like sharing the track with faster prototypes and all the different classes? On television it looks fast and chaotic, and I'm sure in real life it's even more intense.

TK: In GT class, you're dealing with factory teams and factory drivers so that makes it a little easier. You're racing with people who know what they're doing, so you stay out of each other's way. Twelve hours is not for the faint of heart.

In GT you're always looking ahead and looking in your mirrors. When you enter a turn, you check your mirrors. Sometimes you get surprised and you have to adjust mid-corner, but usually you stay aware and leave room. In a 12-hour race, two to three seconds isn't a big difference, so you don't have to take a chance

CM: Your team drove flawlessly, while a lot of teams and drivers got caught out by new rules and penalties. Were they less prepared? What do you think happened?

TK: We spent a lot of time talking about it before. We always do exercises before the race. We go over protocols such as 'what if we lost radio communication?'

In fact, the radio wasn't very good at Sebring, so many teams and frequencies. We adjust for that. Managing the pit lane is so important. For us, the first rule is this: Don't get into trouble. The second rule is: Don't get into trouble. The third rule is: Don't get into trouble!

CM: What was the motivation behind having a race team? Did you begin as an enthusiast with a love of driving?

TK: I guess you could say I got addicted into it. It started when I got a sports car and thought "I really should learn how to drive it properly." Before starting the team [in 2005] there were some qualifiers. We weren't going to do it unless we felt we could win.

And if we were going to do it, we had to make a profitable business out of it. This is the first year we'll be in the black, and actually it's not through the racing, but from the contacts made through the racing.

CM: What was it like driving in the dark at the end of the race?

TK: I drove the last stint, which was about 45 minutes. You just try to hit your braking points and turning points like normal. It's pretty well lit [at Sebring] — some places are not as well lit. You go faster at night, the air is cooler and there's more oxygen for the engine. But I cruised and took it easy since our position was secure by that point. Also, our transmission was giving up towards the end. I stayed out of trouble.

CM: What's your favorite stretch of a 12-hour race?

TK: A lot of people say the end, but for me it's the start! I like the green flag, not the checkers. It's the signal for competition, and we like to compete.

CM: Does Krohn Racing have plans to move to the Ferrari 458?

TK: We're thinking about it, we're going to see what happens with the development of it. They were pretty good here but they had some reliability issues. We have no problem letting the other teams get it sorted.