Spotlight: Performance Tech Motorsports Driver Blake Mount
Performance Tech Motorsports Driver Blake Mount is pushing boundaries as he aims to learn as much as possible in IMSA Prototype Challenge.
Mount entered his rookie season in IMSA Prototype Challenge with a focus on measurable improvement. Instead of locking the podium as his target he chose to pinpoint race craft, car control and strategy. This veteran approach to the six round-season has assisted in Mount’s growth as a driver on and off the track.
The 2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge season kicked off at Daytona International Speedway, a track Mount had never competed at, and where he had only one day of practice to adapt to the track and car before qualifying and racing his No. 19 Sobel Westex/Hotels.com LMP3 for the first time. He quickly adapted to the car laying down laps in line with veterans to the Ligier JSP3. He carried this momentum to Round Two at Sebring International Raceway, a notoriously technical and tough track.
Sebring presented a new challenge for Mount as he acclimated to a high downforce car on the bumpy racing surface that once served as an airport runway. Mount charged through the field from 16th to seventh in his stint. This would advance him eight positions in the championship from 14th to sixth fueling his effort as he headed into the halfway point of the season.
IMSA Prototype Challenge Round 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had the drivers face drastically different weather conditions for each session. Mount highlighted his race craft at this event, avoiding on-track incidents and constantly adjusting his driving style to match the climate. His performance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course would again advance him higher in the championship. Mount inadvertently lost position in the championship during Round Four at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when his co-driver Max Hanratty had to retire early from the race due to an on-track incident. From race weekend to race weekend the season colored the ups and downs of racing.
Next up for Mount and the No. 19 Sobel Westex/Hotels.com Ligier LMP3 is Round Five of IMSA Prototype Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway. With four events completed he currently sits eighth in the overall championship but is easily within striking distance of third. As Mount approaches the penultimate event, he sat down to look back on the past four events, the lessons he’s learned and his goals moving forward.
Performance Tech Motorsports: Overall how does the LMP3 differ from the formula cars you have driven previously?
“I always find this to be an excellent question, personally, there are a couple of key things that separate the two cars and series. When I try to think back to my development in some of the more junior formula series one of the first things to come to mind is just how raw of an experience it is to drive those cars. You'll never have the luxury of power-steering assistance, and when you are driving any sort of down-force based cars this can play a huge role.
“In my earlier years of driving the open-wheel cars were, for all intents and purposes, very visceral and physical. That was something I always enjoyed, and to me, there's truly nothing like open-wheel racing. You always feel on the edge, or close to tip-toeing over, but it's all about the delicate balance of staying on the line between serenity and chaos.”
“That is one of the bigger differences I've felt driving the Ligier JSP3's in the 2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge. In open-wheel, you feel like you're constantly running qualifying laps and constantly trying to balance that line of chaos and serenity, in the LMP3 you are taking more of a pragmatic approach. One of the biggest contributors to the change in pace of approach is the length that the races are, sprint racing in open-wheel can be anywhere from 15-35 minutes and you have little to no time to come up with a strategy or overly manage anything.
“I am learning with time to take a step back when I am mid-race, and to be able to understand that I need to manage my tires, I need to manage fuel and other things that you don't even think about in Formula cars. The 2019 season so far has been an incredible space of learning and growth for me as a driver. I constantly have to learn to adapt and prioritize consistency and a clean race over making big jumps in position and taking more risks. I've learned to have more confidence not only in myself but in the race car and its’ own inherent abilities on the track. That is something that will continue to prove useful as I move up through the ranks of the world of motorsports.”
Performance Tech Motorsports: What is it like driving with a teammate as opposed to by yourself?
“The 2019 season brought a whole list of new experiences and ways to race. Having a teammate is one of the more prevalent changes to my overall experience in racing. Having a driver like Max Hanratty as my first ever official teammate has been one of the most sincerely enjoyable and eye-opening experiences thus far in my racing career. It completely changed my perspective and my approach in a lot of ways. Along with a consistent track record of success in racing he has also brought an awesome attitude and positive approach.
“I take every second of every session to absorb as many things as I can from him. Having two completely individual drivers in one car could either be an abrasive experience or one where the two adapt to each other and thus form a more efficient hybrid. I feel that is one of our advantages over other teammates in the series this season. That chemistry sometimes can make all the difference.”
“That being said the car and how it is set up is no longer purely for me. It has to not only be drive-able but also competitive for both drivers. Thankfully Max and I do have very similar approaches to driving the car as well as working towards a solid platform or setup for the car. We are constantly close to each other when looking at data and the best part is sometimes Max learns from my approach and others I learn from his. This has created a very productive dynamic between us as teammates.”
“The most recent thing I've noticed about having a teammate is that you aren't just sharing the car, we share the hard work, we share the ups and downs of racing, we share the heartbreak of crashing, we share the resolve to be successful and ultimately we share the same result. I hadn't truly grasped that until the most recent race in Toronto where for the first time this season Hanratty qualified instead of me, this meant that I would also for the first time in my life be watching the start of a race that I am competing in.
“Along with being a good learning experience in terms of managing my intensity and focus until my stint, it also helped me to appreciate what it must be like for my parents or the team. It was nerve-racking to watch the race from my pit box. Though it could be stressful I was able to just believe in Max and his abilities.”
Performance Tech Motorsports: What was the first thing you noticed about the car at Daytona International Speedway?
“One of the first things I noticed in Daytona wasn't anything to do with the car, it was more to do with the incredible track that was right in front of my eyes! Seeing the banking while being on foot was a mind-blowing experience. I would say overall; I was taken back so much by the track that I barely noticed anything about the car. That was also the first time I had ever driven the car in the rain and I did so during qualifying which was intimidating in and of itself. To my surprise, I qualified the car 12th out of the 29 cars that went out, and that for me is a memory of Daytona the shines brighter than them all.”
Performance Tech Motorsports: “What was the biggest lesson you learned at Sebring International Raceway?”
“I think the biggest thing I learned at Sebring was that the races are long, thus allowing you to find more consistent success if you are pragmatic and approach the race more smartly and patiently. I started the race in 16th and instead of trying to take huge risks, I settled in and just ran my own pace. In doing so each lap I was slowly picking off positions, waiting for the chaotic drivers in front of me to make a mistake and then making sure I was in the right place to capitalize on said mistakes.
“It was a humbling experience and something that grounded my race craft and approach to racing as a whole. I was able to take the car from 16th to seventh during my stint, one of my best performances all season! After my stint, Hanratty brought the No. 7 Hotels.com/Sobel Westex car home in fourth. It is the highlight of my season so far, but I intend to change that at VIRginia International Raceway come race day.”
Performance Tech Motorsports: What was your favorite part of Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course?
“Without a doubt my favorite part of racing at Mid-Ohio this season was having to be ready to adapt to any circumstance, whether it be the weather, avoiding crashes in front, or battling back after being pushed off the track. That race was filled with so many challenges and I feel that I stepped up to each one in a way that proved to myself just how much I have grown this season. The weekend was filled with adversities and that's something I actually welcomed and then proceeded to conquer.”
“I struggled in qualifying when I had the pace for our fourth place, our highest qualifying position this season, but failed to get it due to traffic on my last few flying laps. This taught me many things but mainly that I do have to be ready for anything and thus I need to put more importance on laying down a decent lap fast in case of a red flag or traffic. Qualifying in this series is only 15 minutes so it teaches you to be able to put something competitive down on lap two or three.”
Performance Tech Motorsports: What is your current goal for the rest of the season?
“Going into the race at Toronto my goal was to continue learning and developing as a driver while also maintaining or improving my position of fifth in the championship. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside of my teammates' control we ended up not finishing the race. Which has caused a big loss in championship points for me. I've been pushed back to eighth but this season my position wasn't the main goal. I was and still am aiming to learn and continue trying to absorb as much as I can for when I do come back next season to go for the championship.”
“That being said I still have every intention of finishing Top Five or higher in my rookie season and will be doing everything in my power along with Max to provide the best results we can while still learning and growing as drivers. Don't count us out just yet!”