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Hedlund Returns To Roots in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA

Mike HedlundFor many young drivers, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series is a platform to jump-start their racing career. But for Mike Hedlund, it serves a different purpose: refining his craft.

With more than 60 career starts in nine different series, Hedlund knows his way around the paddock. But his re-emergence in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series, in which he had one of his first professional starts, is a calculated move by California-native Hedlund.

“Over the last few seasons I’ve felt that my driving plateaued or perhaps had even gotten worse, which isn’t easy to admit,” Hedlund said. “The last few seasons my focus on doing bigger events in different types of cars helped round out my experience and I even had some good results, but I didn’t feel it necessarily made me a faster driver. This season I wanted to go back to my roots and really focus on the craft of being a faster driver.”

That desire led him to join Kelly-Moss Road and Race in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Single-Make Series with its tough competition and steady Porsche platform.

“It’s a perfect benchmark to put yourself up against to see how you’re doing after spending countless days studying data and video and testing,” Hedlund said. “The start of the season was pretty tough, as I was coming to grips with the new 991 Cup platform and the increased level of competition in the series, but I’m finally starting to get it figured out.

“The level of driving at the head of the field is at a different level than I think it’s ever been. And the combined Canada-USA rounds are even tougher. There’s some seriously talented and fast guys and girls in the series this year.”

While the series may not be the ultimate goal for Hedlund, the benefits are plentiful for him, especially getting back to his roots with Porsche, his first race car.

“The Porsche GT3 Cup car is perfect for developing and reinforcing the proper driving technique,” Hedlund said. “Without the ABS (anti-lock brakes) and TCS (traction control) found on some other race cars, it rewards extremely precise and well executed fundamentals. When you do something wrong, the car gives you immediate feedback and allows you to learn and recover.

“At the end of the day, I know that if I can drive a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car quickly, I can drive anything quickly.”

As serious as Hedlund is about racing, it didn’t happen overnight. Hedlund started participating in High Performance Driver Education track days in the late 90s. But when life took him from the West Coast to New York, he sold the street car he was using for track days.

He moved back to California in 2001 and took the Jim Russell Three-Day Racing school with high performance ratings, but at the time Hedlund didn’t have the funds to get serious in the sport. So he decided to continue working and put his racing plans on the back burner.

Ten years later, he finally had the resources and the time to get back to cars. After competing in the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Thunderhill at the end of 2010, he decided to sell his Corvette C6 Z06 and buy a race car – Johannes van Overbeek’s WC-spec 996 Porsche GT3.

He followed that Porsche with the newer-generation Porsche 997 Cup car and some of his first competitive races.

“My first club race was in March 2011 at Buttonwillow Raceway, and I had no idea what I was doing,” Hedlund said. “It was my first time using a sequential transmission, and the brakes were incredibly difficult to use because the pads were a year old. I even bumped the pit lane speed limiter in the pits, and when I went out for the first session, I thought the car was broken. I was hopeless!

“My second race was at Fontana in the Pirelli Drivers Cup, and I came close to soiling myself the first time through the banking. I had never been that fast.”

Fast-forward a few years, and Hedlund is more than accustomed to going fast. But one thing that has remained the same is the balance between his two passions: racing and working.

“Balancing work life and racing is difficult,” Hedlund said. “I’m lucky to be able to travel around the world and drive really cool cars like a hooligan, but I can only do it because of my day job. With all the studying and sim work I do to prepare for the actual race weekend and the travel associated with the races, it only leaves time for a little bit of sleep and a lot of work. I sincerely do love both, so it doesn’t always feel like work.”

In between racing and work, Hedlund also finds time to give back to different charities. Every year he tries to do something to benefit charity while racing. In the past, he has helped with series charitable work and also done his own.

Hedlund is donating $10 for every lap completed in races, testing and in his shifter kart in 2016. The money then goes to a local charity at each race event.

“When I was growing up, we had it pretty rough,” Hedlund said. “So it’s always made me feel good to give back to others when I have the ability. The biggest thing people can do to support me in this regard is to send me good local charities. It’s nice to know you’re helping an organization that has helped somebody else in the motorsport world, even if it’s a few degrees of separation.

“I try not to make a big deal about the donations each event, as I don’t want to call attention to myself for doing it- the donations are more about leveraging something that’s fun and exciting for me to help others. There’s a lot of teams and drivers in IMSA who do charity work behind the scenes. I think we all understand how lucky we are to do this.”

Source. LST Marketing


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