Traditionally, I don’t get on with Spa. I always think of it as an F1 circuit and as that’s not my main interest I don’t drive it much. It’s also a long lap and takes a lot of effort to learn it. However, with an 80 minute race, a 50 minute race and a pair of 30 minute (wet) sprints coming up I thought I’d invest some time in it this time.
Learning the lessons from last weeks races I decided to concentrate on driving rather than fiddling with the setup. I used the aggressive setup as a base and adjusted the tires and brake ducts until they were consistent and I wasn’t over heating them after a few laps. Starting with some base laps at 2:28, by race day I had my times down to 2:24 with a best time of 2:24.7. I knew this wouldn’t be good enough for the front of the grid but I hoped it would be good enough to race with some of the others towards the back.
The session started with a 15 minute free practice, followed by a 20 minute qualifying session. It soon became evident that if I could pull of a 2:24 in qualifying it would be good enough for a good slot on the gird – certainly in the top half. As it was though, I couldn’t pull off a 2:24 an I had to settle for 12th out of 14 with a time in the 2:26s
The race itself was a bit of a non-event for me. I decided on a 2-stop strategy as this would have allowed me to run 3 roughly 25 minute stints which would serve me well in the ESR race next week. This was sub-optimal for this race as everyone else did a one-stop.
At the start I was taken out at the first corner by one of the drivers behind me, damaging the car slightly. I recovered and spent the remainder of my first stint trying to catch the rest of the pack who were 10s in front of me. They were all running at pretty much the same pace as me and although I got up to 13th quickly I couldn’t close them down and the gap stayed constant. I started to run low on fuel a lap earlier than expected and came in after 10 laps, fuelled a bit extra, repaired the damage, changed tires and went back out.
Other than a crash, damaging the car when I lost concentration being lapped the 2nd stint was unremarkable. I returned to the pits, changed tires and fuelled to the end of the race. By now there were only 12 drivers in the race and I was in 11th. On rejoining in traffic, I was comforted to find that even though I was a lap down I was able to lap at the same speed as the drivers in P7-P10 who were around me on track. I made up a place with about 15 minutes to go when the driver in 10th had an accident and had to pit and eventually finished in 10th.
I left the race feeling disappointed and dejected. I’d been looking forward to racing during my first stint and I felt like I’d had it taken away from me after being taken out. My pace, although not fast, was good enough to have had a race with other drivers and although I’d likely have had the same result I would at least have been on the same lap.
I did make good progress on managing my tires, only starting to struggle when it started to get dark and cool down and it was tough keeping the pressures up. Next week the league stays at Spa but in the wet with 2 sprint races. I’ll be getting some experience in the wet with the ESR league on Sunday and then start getting some wet Spa races in.