Museum quality tires

Parting heavy curtains in the wee hours raised my confidence in Dutch weather forecasters. It was coming down all right and it looked a certainty we'd be racing midday in the predicted rain. Our gear box had been replaced overnight by Streaky, Ken and the boys before 9 PM as they we all well into their second pints down at the bar after we returned from the nearby Indian family's Italian pizza joint last night. Matt took the final 10 minute warm up session this morning to break in 2 sets of wets and to ensure the pints followed the gear box and not the other way round. All good for a wet race, except the rain had begun to weaken if not disappear a bit.

 

In a unique development a 2nd Drivers' Briefing was called for 10:30 Sunday morning, sign-in, racer's licenses and all, so yesterday's heavy GT4 crashes and the red light snafu at a minimum were going to be on the agenda. Bernard, the pot bellied pigmy warthog who acts as our series' chief race official, actually kicked off the meeting with an unprecedented apology for the red light incident and then proceeded to appeal for more rational driving or Mr Pot Belly was going to be forced to issue decrees unbecoming of British GT champions. Really a whole lot of nothing. We were still hoping in vain for an announcement from someone who promotes or organizes this series that they're prepared  to buy a pair of reading glasses and understand that when a Porsche tops every practice, qualifying and race event that they don't crash in, maybe the balance of power needs to be re-examined once again. The TV audience just sees a Porsche leading every event, as the chief steward's IQ is never up on the screen, so the audience is drawn innocently towards the false conclusion that only Porsche knows how to make a race car. They make a good race car for sure, but in an evenly regulated series, multiple manufacturers should be mixing it up in terms of who is quickest over the ups and downs of a season.

 

Matt took the noon Race 2 start on slicks primarily because the entire track was dry and the sun was shining, demoting Dutch weather men to a status on par with their English counterparts. Our mechanics reverted to yesterday's dry set-up and Matt took off on tires he'd complained yesterday in qualifying "just disappeared after one fast lap, really fell off badly". To myself at the time, I was wondering a mite whether this was maybe a wee bit of a backhander to cover up for our P7 qualifying start, but immediately I could see Matt struggling in the opening stint against people he ate for breakfast during Saturday's Race 1 with the exactly the same set up. This didn't feel all that good as I'd get this set of beauties to drive during the latter half of the race when they'd be even more worn down. He did a magnificent job clawing onto P7 under intense pressure from Dan Brown in the black 888 BMW, defending like a mighty midget against a giant down in Turn 1, lap after lap. Joe Osborne nosed ahead (yesterday we hauled him in and passed him) and came in for the driver change in P4 while Matt held P7 for 35 minutes and then delivered the car to me with the fine set of Madam Toussaint's wax museum tires. Another straight forward no fuel, no tires driver change for these sprint races and we actually somehow took a position or two getting back out on track. I felt supremely confident all the way from the pit box to the end of pit-out, about 300 meters away. As I turned into the apex of Turn 1 and felt the vacuous lack of grip I was immediately grateful our lead mechanic had insisted I don the XXL sized Depends for this stint. On good tires and with a solid set-up, there's nothing more fun than racing hard on a tight, narrow, dangerously twisty little ex-F1 track designed to scare the wits out of experienced drivers. There is nothing more terrifying that racing hard on a tight, narrow, dangerously twisty little ex-F1 track when your tires are shot.

 

Initially I tried to find where we might have an advantage, but found not a single corner or string of corners where we could attack. In fact, I couldn't even defend coming out of Turn 13 onto the flat out straight down to Turn 1's good passing spot under braking, lap after lap letting Trojan chariots and Biblical donkey carts take me long before the braking zones were even in sight. My compound fracture of the brain was exacerbated by our pit engineer Erik Petersen continuously imploring me on the radio, as each successive pass occurred: "Just stay on his tail, stay with him". If I could, he wouldn't have passed us, so I just bit my tongue and said nothing and will have the stitches done tomorrow.  No fun for any of the team members, our sponsors or guests who were hoping for a better result than yesterday, given we were starting far further up the field today, plus the rain had stayed away. 'Twas not to be.   If there was any saving grace I knocked off 2+ seconds in some of the final laps after throwing caution to the wind when we were already down in P11 and out of the points.

 

Perhaps out of sympathy, Mr Pot Belly issued a penalty to some poor soul who finished in front of us, perhaps for saying the kinds of things I've said in this report, but at least for now we officially ended 10th and earned one of those massive championship thingies called a point. As Matt mentioned privately, very disappointing indeed to have a perfect weather weekend, perfect pitch from drivers and team, fastest lap of the weekend, yet only P7 and P10 in the record books. Heads are bowed, 4 cheeks blushing (I meant his and mine) and in time we will recover our mojo for the final British GT race.

 

Donington lies just over the brow in early October as the season's last event looms large, and as a 2 hour single race weekend with 1.5x points on offer, coming first there places us mathematically in a place that would significantly irritate others placed in places more elegant than our place right now. One never knows.

 

 

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