After a delay of a week caused by organisational issues we reconvened the championship with a smaller than usual grid for the night race at Barcelona. 9 Drivers qualified with 8 taking the start. With 2 weeks to get ready for the race I was keen to have a better result than I had in round 2 at Mount Panorama.
I don’t know this track particularly well so I started off with the Safe preset and with the driving line enabled, just following it. Initially times were in the region 1:52. Once I was a bit more confident I started to play with the tire pressures so that I could get the tires consistent over a 25 minute stint and then started to concentrate on improving my times. With my tire pressures sorted I was able to get down to 1:48.77 and after playing with the aero setup, increasing the rear wing and the front splitter I got down to 1:47.34, still with the driving line enabled.
Feeling confident I turned the line off but was never able to improve on this time although I did get close to it come race day.
In qualifying I wasn’t able to repeat my practice pace at all and had to settle for 8th place with a 1:48. It was a long race though so I wasn’t overly worried and by being at the back I could take advantage of any contact at the start.
I deliberately hung back at the start so as not to get involved in first corner incidents. Everyone got through cleanly and I was able to pull alongside diddy2112 exiting Elf and we stayed neck and neck until I passed him on the inside exiting Repsol. In front of me, GTRacer84PL and JWE-Banff2020 were fighting over 5th place. I closed the gap to them right down on arrival at La Caixa and then threw it away, applying to much power and oversteering around and off the track exiting Banc Sabadell. I caught the slide without losing any positions and ended the lap 1.5s behind them and 0.9s in front of diddy2112.
At the start of lap 2 I outbreak myself once again and spun around at Elf and again at Seat (although I caught this one before I left the track). I made up a position after Silva_karter87 and bigyin86 came together at La Caixa and then threw it away by oversteering exiting Europcar. While bigyin86 pitted for repairs I made up a position and adjusted by traction control to try and combat some of my oversteer issues. The car felt better and I started to push – a little to much after I had a brush with the barrier at Repsol and took some light damage to the rear. Then, at the start of lap 5 I lost control again at Elf. After missing my braking point down the straight I managed to make the chicane but with to much power I oversteered off and hit the barrier, hard. I took severe damage to the front of the car and smashed the windscreen. Rather than limp around the track I returned to the pits immediately and repaired the car for about a minute, rejoining in 8th and last place.
While in the pits I gave myself a bit of a talking to, had some water and sorted out my head ready to go back on track. I was much quicker now, recording a 1:48.222 right after leaving the pits – about 3s quicker than I’d gone previously and able to stick with GTRacer84PL who was a 2s ahead of me on track but a lap in front in reality. I went slightly quicker the following lap and again on the next one – what would be my best lap of 1:48.072. I was catching GTRacer84PL who was it turn catching diddy2112 and I was able to unlap myself when they made a bit of contact. At this point I decided to make my pit stop so that I could see where I really was in relation to everyone else in the race.
The race was fairly smooth from that point until I span again with 16 minutes remaining. P1-Dylan-20 had been closing in on me from the lead and while looking for a spot to get out of the way I binned it at Wurth. Recovering without damage I sought to make up a space when GTRacer84L had to visit the pits after a collision and JWE-Banff2020 temporarily disconnected. While GTRacer84L recovered in the pits I went up to P8 and eventually finished about 10s behind JWE-Banff2020 after GTRacer84L left the race with about 6 minutes left to run.
My race was ruined by my early issues with oversteer and once I’d set the traction control, the car was much better than it had been. Even with that change thought my pace was much worse than I knew I could do which is disappointing. Partly it was down to confidence in the car but also frustration with myself. When I was following other cars I was able to keep pace with them, I just couldn’t run for more than a few laps early on without crashing. The time I spent in the pits making repairs was something I had to do but I would have been better making my stop then.
I learned a lot about car setup in preparing for the race which I didn’t know before – especially tire pressures, brake ducks and aero but I still have a lot to learn about these topics and car setup in general. I need to look at ways of combatting oversteer on corner exit (or just use less throttle).
I also need to practice race distances to better understand fuel burn. I used the estimated burn of 2.93l per lap when setting up the car. When I stopped I had 27.5l which the onboard computer said was enough for 10 laps. At the end of the race I had 27.6l which was enough for 11 laps. I’d started with 40l and added another 4o at my stop which, based on 2.93l per lap would have been enough for 27 laps. I actually did 25 and was lapped at least once so this calculation was correct. Based on the fuel I actually burned though I was using 2.75l per lap and carrying extra weight. Running some simulated race lengths will help me better understand how much fuel I actually need.
The next round is at Monza which should be a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll have a bigger grid and I’ll be a lot more consistent.