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Jan 22, 2014 - 06:20 AM
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Big Decision Continues To Pay Off As Vance Makes Career Step At Rolex 24
Posted by: newsla on Jan 22, 2014 - 06:20 AM
Grand Am News
Big Decision Continues To Pay Off As Vance Makes Career Step At Rolex 24


James Vance was a young man at a crossroads - both in his career and life - in 2012 as he finished his second year of college.

Vance decided in 2011 to focus on business and economics studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, after winning races and championships in regional, national and international karting events from 2005-11. He also had moved into racing cars by competing in the Formula Ford open-wheel series in 2009 before following the path of most teenagers and enjoying college life.

 

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But the passion for competition never cooled for Toronto-area resident Vance. Thoughts of the sound, the sight and the fury of being in a race car still bounced around his head.

So Vance sat down with his father, Nigel, and asked if he could take a break from school to pursue his true vocation - becoming a professional race driver.

"He said: 'You know what? You have a year. That's it," Vance said of his father's orders. "I said, 'OK, done.' From that point forward, I knew my timeline. I knew I had a year to make things work, or I was going back to university.

"Once I made that decision to leave university, it's a life-or-death decision. It becomes do or die. You will do anything to make it work."

It is working for Vance. He landed a seat with Dallas-based Team Speedcraft in the SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup series in 2012 and finished 11th in the season standings despite missing the first event of the season at Sebring. He earned a best finish of second at Road Atlanta.

That performance and backing Vance landed from BIONIC ENVIRONMENTS helped him climb to the next step on the sports car ladder for 2014. He will make his IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge debut Jan. 22-24 at the iconic Daytona International Speedway in the No. 50 Berg Racing REDCOM Labs/BIONIC ENVIRONMENTS Porsche Cayman in the ST class of the ultra-competitive North American series. His co-driver at Daytona will be team owner John Weisberg.

Bionics Environments 1123 - james full suitVance, 20, will race the Porsche Cayman all season for upstate New York-based Berg Racing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, which runs as a companion event to many of the elite-level TUDOR United SportsCar Championship events and has launched the career of some of the most elite sports car drivers in America.

"I made the best of it, made it work," Vance said. "I think the biggest thing is realizing what you want to do with the rest of your life. And the earlier you can come to terms with what you want to do, it feeds your desire. The moment I realized I wanted to be a race car driver, not even to make money from it, but to realize I can wake up in the morning and realize I race cars for a living, it's just drive, determination to make it happen."

Uncommon maturity and passion for a young man just entering his 20s helped Vance navigate the often-choppy waters of finding sponsorship. He formed a partnership with BIONIC ENVIRONMENTS, a Mississauga, Ontario, company that specializes in products that improve indoor air quality and motor vehicle environments as well as eliminating unnatural frequencies from EMF's, wi-fi environments and mobile phones.

That unrelenting drive and focus also will help Vance adapt at Daytona to many of the variables of endurance racing for the first time. Pit stops. Driver changes. A race of two hours, 30 minutes - about one hour, 45 minutes longer than his previous longest race. The different driving style required to be quick in a purpose-built race car like the Porsche Cayman, not a modified road car like the Mazda MX-5.

Vance's driver coach, Russell Walker, has provided indispensible advice during hours of testing and talk. But Vance's self-confidence also is vital, tempered by the struggle to become a self-supporting professional race car driver in just one year before he was out of his teens.

"I try not to put expectations on myself," Vance said. "But I know I'm a great driver. I'm quick in everything I've been in. But endurance racing is a bit different. I think the biggest development of myself that I want to see is real consistent runs, finish every race. I want to make it successful for myself and help to develop my sponsors, make them happy."

FAST FACTS

Date: Jan. 22-24

Venue: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla. (12 turns, 3.56 miles)

Race Duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Schedule: Practice, 1:30-2:30 p.m. (ET) and 3:45-4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22; Practice, 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23; Qualifying, 2-2:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23; Practice, 9:45-10:15 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24; Race, 1:45-4:15 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24.

TV: 6-8 p.m. (ET), Friday, Jan. 24, FOX Sports 2

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