That piece of tarmac, that winding ribbon of black heaven, is quite frankly, my favourite place on this blue-green planet of ours.
Lets start with a picture. Here I am looking dashing, this is a great pic, Jakob did a great job on this one. The suit, undershirt, and everything else MOMO makes can be had through the MOMO links round this blog.
(all pictures ©Jakob Ebrey www.jakobebrey.com)
All of the week before the races I was watching the weather, hoping beyond hopes that the notoriously unpredictable Spa rain would hold off for my journey to the epic historic circuit. The day of departure the forecast still said fantastic sunny skies with warm temps - perfect. It's not that I don't like racing in the rain, I actually love it, but a place of such awesomeness just had to be driven in the dry.
For testing we had two 30 minute sessions, which for a lot of people wasn't enough, so a large number of the front running drivers went and did more testing beforehand. I did not, though I knew how the track moved and which way the corners went through religious study of onboard videos and Grand Tourismo 5. This, however, did not prepare me for the sheer elevation of the track, there isn't a single corner or straight on the entire 4.5 mile track that lacked a few meters of change. Never the less, in the first half hour session out on track I had knocked my laptime down to a very respectable 2:56, compared to one of the other drivers who had been there much much longer, they were running 2:50. Six seconds off in my first ever half hour session driving the track is something to be extremely proud of.
I'm working my way back up the field here, after some problems.
Sadly the second session was full of red flags and problems, so out of the full half hour we got just two flying laps in. These were both 2:56, so at least I was consistent and could work on finding time in qualifying the next day.
For qualifying I knew that I just had to push to get the speed up, as I knew it was a chance to find pace and lap time before the races. I qualified 13th with a 2:52.1, 4 seconds off pole position 2:48.4. As this meant I had found 2 seconds of pace against the fastest drivers overnight, with no practice, I was pretty pleased!
Fighting for position through Eau Rouge
Race 1 went brilliantly! I started p13 and made quite a good start, not really moving forwards but not losing position either. Through Eau Rouge for the time, a big chunk of the leaders span and crashed, leapfrogging me from 14th to 7th. With the remaining 4 laps, I fought heavily with a few other cars, and made it to P4! Top 5! I was, and still am, ecstatic! First top 5 of the year... so fantastic. The safety car came out, and under that P1 blew his engine up, covering the track in oil. P4 slid off into the barrier, allowing me to move from 5th to 4th, however because I almost followed him into the barrier on the oil, the race was red flagged. Had it not been, P1 would have received a DNF and I could have been on the podium. It is pointless to think of what could have been, as focusing on how to make it happen properly is far more important.
Here is the race 1 video, from start to safety car. It's really exciting!
I work hard every day to make the podium my place, where I belong. In every race, every test session it gets closer and closer.
Race 2 was hectic, I started p13 just like before and got a pretty good start, but coming out of the first corner and continuing down the hill to Eau Rouge I was side by side with 2 other cars. Eau Rouge is hard enough as a single car. Spinning at 115mph is quite scary with 20 cars breathing down your neck. Luckily I stopped the car before ending up in the barrier, but it was a close thing. I rejoined at the very back of the 35 car grid. Throughout race 2 the car was just, unhappy. Unresponsive steering, no grip, lots of understeer, then oversteer, just a really unhappy handling car. Really I should have headed the warnings going into Eau Rouge for the first time, and not attempted to take the corner flat out like I had in race 1. As a racing driver though, with cars close behind and just ahead, I wanted the run, I wanted the positions, I needed to gain. It's just a shame the car was having some issues and couldn't hold the track.
I fought back up to somewhere around 20th position in the following couple of laps. I then came across three g40s in heavy battle, slowing each other down. I knew I was quicker than them, but on lap 4, I was in heavy battle and the grip was just... gone. Here's the video
As you can see, I catch the initial slide but the following snap of grip and reinstated slide just throws me off the track and into the tires. Damage to the car, but no damage to me thankfully.
Full race 2 video will fill this space soon.
Well, because I crashed out of race 2, my grid position was the 2nd to last row. The Optimum guys did a fantastic job getting the car out on time for the grid formation lap. The car wasn't in happy condition after my crash, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. These Ginettas are fantastically tough machines!
While out on the formation lap the throttle got gradually more and more stuck open, to the extent I was on full throttle with my foot no where near it. I tried lining up on the grid to be ready for the green flag lap, but it was just boiling and destroying the clutch. I got pushed off the grid into the pits after the green flag lap started, the guys were there, ready and waiting to fix it. A quick troubleshoot later and the throttle was fixed. Somehow the clutch wasn't destroyed, so I was able to move to the end of the pit lane and start the race from there. What an experience that was! The lights go out on the grid, however I'm not allowed to leave pit lane until -after- the last car has passed the pit exit. This meant I started the race with stone cold slick tires, about 10 seconds down the road from 33rd in 34th position. This was my race though, it was time to work and find the pace.
Things went swimmingly; the car was better than race two but still not as happy as race 1. I managed to turn similar lap times, in the low 2:50s, with traffic and low grip. It wasn't there to improve my times as I knew I could. By the end of lap one I had gained one place; through lap 2 I gained 8 more. Lap 3 saw another 5 fall; lap 4 another 2. By lap 5 I was up with the G40s and continued to gain another 2 positions, even chasing down my own teammate. Lap 6 saw a further 2 positions, and coming round on the last lap, I moved up passed my team mate and took 15th place. 24 places in just 7 laps, just 20 minutes of racing. There's no better racing than that!
Unfortunately, due to the train schedule and getting a lift home, I did not have time to grab my race 3 footage, I may get lucky and have it at Brand Hatch, but it is unlikely.
Making my way through turn 1
Spa has left me wanting more. I love the track and the amazing hilly countryside in which it's set. It really made me see just how much I love driving, no matter where I am on the grid. I love to drive, I can't stop, it brings sheer joy to my heart...
Because of this, I'm always hunting partners to join me in my racing exploits, sponsors are what they're traditionally called, but as I only deal in mutually beneficial terms, it's a partnership. Don't hesitate to contact me, I'm more than happy to about talk what is available to you.
Till next time!