Overall thoughts

It has been a fantastic 1st season for me in this category – I must say that I’m glad that I did the move from the Challenge series to GT3. I wouldn’t have thought that the downforce on the car would matter so much!

I really like the endurance format – from a team perspective it involves everyone in the actual race to a much higher degree, and it also seems that we drivers have more respect for others (because it is a 3+ hour race and you are sharing the car, so less messy 1st corners and generally less contact than in sprint races).

And I’ve learnt a lot, built and expanded on the experiences from previous seasons. This is one of the aspects I really like about racing, learning and improving the different disciplines (car control, setup, qualifying, race craft, strategy, etc) – but also learning about myself and how others react and cope in different situations.

I can’t wait to continue our ‘work’ in 2013!

Navarra – 14th of October

A really frustrating qualifying – no less than 3 of Martin’s very good laps ruined by “pro” drivers backing off to get clear track for themselves, but not allowing overtaking. So we had to start from the second half of the field – 29th position.

But we had a good race until the point where torrential rain hit the track – it is seldom that safety cars are deployed because of rain (but it happened both here and at Spa) – and also here, even the pro drivers were spinning off the track because of the standing water. I also had a scare, seeing a McLaren parked on the track further ahead, so I eased off the throttle – but that change of balance was enough to send me spinning – I braced for impact, but luckily narrowly missed the car! (from the TV coverage I have later seen that 2 other cars spun left and right around the car before the 3rd did hit the sitting duck). After that I tiptoed around the track and the race was red flagged after 30 minutes of this.

But we end the race in the points! – 8th position!

Result: Qualifying p29, Race: p8 (in class) and p18 (out of 39)

Nurburgring – 23rd of September

In Germany it seemed that the team had decided that it was time to get me out of my comfort zone and make me push an extra bit in our practice sessions – and it worked well, improving my times over a number of laps (but did end with a trip in the gravel).

Our qualifying wasn’t the best – Martin hit traffic on his good lap and there are many sections on this track were you can get held up. So we would start 35th.

I really wanted us to do a no incidents race – up until the Spa race I had either had a spin or an extra pitstop in my stints – and I think we could have a really strong result if we could avoid me imposing ‘penalties’ on us like that.

So, we line up, weather is good, everything is good – formation lap gets under way and the Ferrari I am to have to the left of me gets in front, that is okay – we are supposed to fall back into grid order / sequence before approaching the last corners. Problem is, he doesn’t get into place – so in the last corner I get on the inside (my position) – but he closes the corner on me, hitting and spinning me – WHAT THE FUCK?! – so, I’m sitting there, turned around, having to wait and watch the entire field pass, before I can turn the car around facing the right direction. So much for ‘no incidents’ – but only thing to do is to floor the pedal and try to make up for it.

I made good progress in recovering places – then an extended safety car period happened – and we did a bad call of staying out, so our pitstop ends up costing more time than for the others that did their stop during the safety car.

But we again end up making good progress and finish just outside the points in p11!

Result: Qualifying p35, Race: p11 (in class) and p21 (out of 46)

Spa 24h – 29th of July

To be honest a 24 hour race seemed frightening, we were just getting comfortable with doing 3 hour races.

And there would be a number of unknown elements here; we would have a 3rd driver (Iain Dockerill) that we didn’t know – and I didn’t have any experience with driving in the dark, or having experience being mentally ‘on’ for driving over a 24 hour period. It turned out that Iain is a great guy focused on racing and less on fluff.

There is something special about Spa and a 24 hour race – the parade and display of the cars in Spa town was quite an experience. The atmosphere in the pit on the track was also tangible, a mix of anticipation, respect and nervousness of what the 24 hours would bring.

…and we were struggling for pace – like it seemed all the Ferrari’s were.

Qualifying was a bit disappointing as we thought we had cracked the setup for the car in France – we would start 43rd – but on the positive side, our night practice went well, nearly matching our daylight times. And we knew it was a 24 hour race, a lot could happen – and the weather at Spa is known to be changeable and able to offer some surprises.

On race day the weather was warm and nice, but clouds sweeping by looking ominous at all times. We lined up at the grid – I would start in the car – there was a great atmosphere with all the spectators in the grandstands and us standing at a packed grid with crews lining up their cars and spectators doing gridwalks.

And then the race was on! – I must admit that the next 24 hours is a blur of sensory input and experiences; getting out of the car after my first stint to have Martin take over, and fortunately having him in the car when torrential hit the track – the team holding the breath till he made it back into the pits for wet tires while we on the monitors could see numerous cars spin off left and right into the barriers. Otherwise it was great watching the team doing perfect pitstops, seeing the Danish camp and flag in the Les Combes corner, and personally keep working with the car and track when doing my stints.

Everything was really going well and we were quite lucky that the few contacts we had didn’t really affect us – so over the 24 hours we crawled up the order and finished in a fantastic 7th position! – not too bad for our first 24 hour race.

– but boy, after the rush and adrenalin had come down we all were just so tired!

Result: Qualifying p43, Race: p7 (in class) and p12 (out of 66)

The 2012 Spa 24 Hours, Round 4 of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series inside-da-2012-spa-race

Silverstone – 3rd of June

We were greeted with gloomy weather – and my first practice was on a wet track, so cautious work to familiarize myself with the track. The last 2 sessions were in the dry – and it is amazing how that transformed the track!

But we still struggled to find the right setup for the car – so our qualifying wasn’t that great, we would start far back as 41st.

And for the race the track got drenched – so another wet race were in store for us. In the team we were starting to wonder if the series should be named “Blancpain Rain Series” or we should changing name to “In rain Racing”.

The race was tricky as the track did start to dry up – and it was very difficult to make the tires last, and sections of the track that was still too wet to go to slicks.

Things weren’t helped by me doing a shabby parking for the first pitstop and driver change, resulting in our fuel station being moved to make the fueling hose reach – that gave us a drive-through penalty (and a lot of comments from the team about me maybe expecting valet parking – duh!)

But we still made decent progress through the field.

Result: Qualifying p41, Race: p22 (in class) and p31 (out of 50)