Aaron Telitz, 27, from Birchwood, near Rice Lake is enjoying a fine start to his season with the AIM Vasser Sullivan Team.
He and teammates Townsend Bell and Frank Montecalvo from the USA and Shane van Gisbergen from New Zealand completed 728 laps of the 3.560-mile,13-turn Daytona International Speedway Road Course at the Rolex 24 at Daytona January 25-26 to finish 12th in the GT-Daytona (GTD) field, the biggest of the four-division field in their AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Lexus RCF GT3.
One of two identical vehicles racing for AIM, the four drivers were battling for the lead, racing among the top three in their division near halfway mark of the 24-hour event.
“There was a small incident,” recalled Telitz in a telephone interview. “One of our teammates went off the track and hit a Rolex sign. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but they weigh those Rolex signs down and it kind of broke the front end of the car.”
The repairs took about 45 minutes and put the team about 26-Laps off the pace of the top GTD car. The team returned to the track in 13th spot and managed to move up one position, otherwise keeping pace with the front of the pack the rest of the way.
Telitz has been racing since he first hopped in a kart with the Midwest Karting Association in Eau Claire, eventually advancing to Formula Ford 1600 and through what is now known as the ‘Road to Indy’ Divisions – USF2000, Pro Mazda (now called Indy Pro 2000 and finally Indy Lights.
Last season, he ran a half season of Indy Lights along with the four Endurance events on the 12-Race Weathertech SportsCar Championship Series.
This season he is scheduled to do the four Weathertech events again, beginning with the second race of the season, the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, scheduled for March 18-12 at Sebring, Florida; followed by the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen at Watkins Glen, N.Y. June 25-28 and finally the Motul Petit LeMans, a 10-hour event at Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA Oct. 7-10. The other eight Weathertech Events are shorter runs at some of America’s top tracks, including a two hour, 40-minutes event at Road America in Elkhart Lake July 31-Aug. 2.
Telitz was a rookie in the series and the discipline last season but was part of the a second-place finishing squad at Daytona and finished in the Top 10 in all but one of the four events.
Using what he’s learned from last season, the Birchwood racer is not only seasoned in the GT style, but also more used to the vehicle itself.
Telitz said there were no changes to the vehicle for this season but added there could be some updates for 2021.
One of the differences being a part of a three or four racer team is on car set up. Feedback in debrief sessions is crucial in those series as a racer gets the car set up specifically to their driving style.
“It’s really about getting a good initial balance on the car,” said Telitz. “We’re not trying to tailor make the car for any one driver, it’s more neutral. It’s really about being able to drive a neutral car, I guess. The engineers work to make a car that’s going to be consistent for everyone over a long run…In Sports Car, endurance racings it’s more of a team car.”
Generally, the feeder series open wheel races last 30-45 minutes and comfort for the driver is a primary concern. In the Lexus RCF GT3, drivers are spending hours in the seat and Telitz said it is actually pretty easy to come up with a compromise.
“In our car, the biggest person makes a formed seat and all of us smaller drivers will make a seat insert that fits inside the other seat, so we’ll still have a custom-ish seat and it’s easy to take in and out in driver changes.”
This vehicle is much bigger and heavier than the cars Telitz raced in the various open wheel series, but it also likely more comfortable in general.
“Comfort is pretty good in the car. The Lexus is actually quite roomy, it’s got an adjustable telescoping steering wheel and the pedals move. It’s pretty easy to feel comfortable.”
Anyone who has seen a race on television or in person is accustomed to the frenetic pace of not just the cars, but the crews and drivers – everything is done at the fastest level possible and adrenaline is in the red zone.
Pacing and actually stepping back and resting is vital in the racing version of a marathon and Telitz said he was able to do that this time around.
“We have motor homes at the track and it’s actually really nice and convenient to go back to the motor home and take a nap between your stints and stuff. It was tougher for me last year, but this year I put some noise cancelling headphones on and took a nap.”
The focus now for the AIM VASSER SULLIVAN team is on the next event at Sebring. Telitz and his team finished ninth at Sebring last season and would love to improve on that spot this time around.
While Daytona is a combination oval/road course set up, it is all on the same type of surface. That will not be the case in Florida on a course that is made up partially of an airport tarmac.
“Yeah, they are two completely different race tracks,” said Telitz “At Sebring you have multiple surfaces. Like at Daytona you pretty much have all asphalt. At Sebring there’s going to be the concrete runways, asphalt road course part, there’s a lot of patches they’ve put in certain parts. There’s more high speed corners at Sebring than Daytona. It’s completely different.”
Telitz said the team will be a pre-race test at Sebring to get a starting set up on the car and regain their familiarity and comfort on the track.
“We’ll hope to get our car into a window so when we get to the race were just kind of tuning it up.”
As of this moment, Telitz’s 2020 racing schedule includes just a repeat in the four endurance rounds of the IMSA Weathertech series, but things could change. He is open to virtually anything.
“I’ll hop into anything anyone asks me to drive,” said Telitz. “If any teams want me to hop in and drive, I’ll do it. Last year I drove a DIRT Midget over at Green Bay.”