Sunday, November 28, 2010

28th November - Ebisu 6 Hour Taikyu Race - Mike Gadd (1st of 4).


I was looking forward to starting a race – never having done so. I wanted to experience the atmosphere of it all which I figured would be very different form the end or middle of the race where I have so far only driven.

With the discussions we had at the team meeting and the new methods I tried I had managed to get 1:11:0 during practice and felt that a low
1:10: was certainly doable - i was eager to find out exactly how low- but damn the rain started!!

Despite the rain it couldn’t have worked out better for my first race start as Tom did an amazing job in qualifying not only putting us at the top of our class but in the top 5 overall. I was to experience the race start for the 1st time in the front of the grid at the no,5 spot surrounded by the Rire cars and their ilk.

Alas in the rain and cold the race queens were few and far between and despite our prominent position never came close to our car for the prerequisite pictures.
Race started slowly with the B class cars around me going ape shit swerving violently back and forth in the rain trying to get some heat in their tyres and almost hitting each other at times in the process....

As the race got underway and settled down we soon spread out. With no cars in our class infront of me I was happily lapping some surprisingly slow B class cars while I kept an eye out in my mirror for our class cars.
The rain had been coming down for over an hour and the track was slippery in places. I was frustrated at not being able to get decent lap times but as I was lapping B class cars and hadn’t seen any car in our class behind me I knew I was at least maintaining our position hopefully gaining a lead.

The rain slowed and almost stopped for a while then it would start up –. This actually created more danger as cars (myself included) would begin to pick up speed and change line demand more grip and then occasionally when the rain picked up again the grip would go and you’d have to rapidly readjust. The rapid changing conditions caught many off guard and quite a
few span. I was comfortable and stable basically keeping a conservative
dry line but reducing the speed as the rain wasn’t pooling. I was certainly getting zero under steer and was probably lapping at about 1:14?. which appeared to be competative in these conditions even amongst most of the B class cars. In practice the day before I had tried out some techniques we had discussed at the team meeting and boy what a difference. The chicane now is far easier for me. I also changed the way I took the last corner with a lot of success taking it as a constant radius corner no braking going in and full throttle from apex going wide and high. (basically appreciating we have more turning grip after apex than before) I was settled in and things were stable. The rain had probably picked up and I was passing the kink. What I had been doing so far was to clip the kink in 4th lift, then back on the throttle at const speed, no braking,
wide, and enter take the corner on a constant radius. As I begin the
turn in and at last min drop into 2nd and as soon as I apex its smoothly
transitioning 70% throttle for a short time then 100% as I go wide up the hill. Bit of oversteer half way up that needs to be adjusted for.

Then disaster struck.... For some reason I suddenly had less grip after
the kink. I don’t know if the rain had picked up more or there was oil on the track (I suspect the latter) as I was doing the same thing I had been doing all along – but something had changed. As I passed the kink const throttle const rad I was fine for a bit then as the line turned more in the back swang out violently. Possibly I wasn’t on enough
throttle and the back was light or rain or oil - but either way I couldn
’t catch it and recover I span off the track sideways and ploughed along sideways in the dirt. To be honest it reminded me a lot of my landrover days. As I’m sat there my immediate thought was to see if I was stuck to get straight back out there. I didn’t want to spin the tires to I gingerly tried to pull forward - they span! Bugger. At that moment I saw the no2 place car pass me – bugger! Thinking back of the landrover times again I put her in reverse and forward and rocked her gently before finally getting out of the rut/soft soil and managed to get my front tyres on the track! Yes. Waited for a gap and got back out there dumping a considerable amount of mud on the track.

The offing had cost me about 10-20 seconds which I was determined to make
up but decided to take the last corner entry slower. Surprisingly
quickly I caught up with the no2 car and passed him. He was still behind me as I reached the kink then despite slowing down (and thinking about it know – because of) as gracefully as I could I span off in exactly the same place doing exactly the same thing! This time I stayed on the track and recovered so fast I actually caught up with him almost right away. I remember thinking this guy must be thinking I am if nothing else unrelenting as I regained all the lost time without missing a heartbeat. I realize now that I span the 2nd time precisely because I wasn’t on enough throttle (for that line) to keep the back down right when I needed rear grip. Lesson learnt – less throttle can be less safe if its at the wrong time. Im also thinking for this reason perhaps we need a rear wing......

Everything back on track I settled down retaining our lead but I dialed it right back further on the last corner. Given that I had been taking that corner as fast as the slick clad rire cars i figured i could afford to dial it right back. I saw 4 cars spin off there during my session – I suspect there was oil mixed with the rain and made sure to pass this info to the next driver. I could see I was the faster car in our class overall and we were in front so I was content.

....... Then the real disaster struck I saw tom with the ‘pit in’
sign. Apparently one of our wheel arch liners had come undone and was
hanging down. The marshals wanted it fixed. I had just had the battle
of my life to keep our place so I was far from happy to be pissing away time in the pits especially as nobody was telling me what was going on. I ’m sure tom and sumi were working as fast as they could but from drivers perspective in the middle of a race the removal of the liner was infuriatingly slow. I swore rather a lot as I sat there seeing the no2 car lap us again and again and again! That’s one video that I don’t want to see lol!

Back on the track with 15mins to go and we are 2 laps behind in 2nd place! Damn.
The good news was the rain had stopped and the track was drying so we were hoping sumi alex and tom could regain those lost laps!
They did. Alex in particular did amazingly well, His driving is smooth and fast. After a couple laps lost to driver change and refuel It came down to tom to regain our lost laps. By the time he went out after change and refuel we were 4 laps down and it was very exciting. Tom was 2 secs a lap faster and they also had a driver change and refuel to do so we were on the edge of our seats. We didn’t know how fast their new driver would be.

Then they made a huge mistake! They came in for a driver change, they refueled, they checked the oil – and then with only an hour to go they changed tyres!! With a smile on my face I watched tom passing the pit lane again and again as they faffed about. That error and toms faster driving during his session took us up to a +4 lap lead and 1st place!!

It was a great race and a lot of fun. Despite his outrageous accent Alex is an asset that I hope we will be seeing a lot more of in the future.
The new pedal position and cover make heel and toeing a breaze. The new
extensions i put on the harness wasite straps makes them a lot easier to use. The car needs a wash, and tom needs to burn that video of me :) well done team gaijin!!!! what a season!

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