ESR ACC League Round 5/8 – Zolder

Round 5 of the ESR league took us to the short Belgian track of Zolder. The track has lots of long straights and hard braking points and, with plenty of laps under my belt I was feeling quite good about the race.

Prep

I’d done quite a lot of practice, initially concentrating on getting my tire pressures consistent and then making a few other smaller changes. I’d done some calculations on fuel and even tested them out in a full race length successfully. Finally, I’d made some changes to the ride height and rear wing to give a bit more grip. I had a personal best of 1:31.8 that I’d set in a public lobby the day before the race. I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough for the front row but I thought it would be good enough for the 1st half of the grid.

Race

DAN_BAILEY1982, me (with damaged bonnet) and diddy2112

As it turned out, my 1:31 would have been good enough for the top half of the grid if I’d been able to reproduce it. I couldn’t and had to settle for a 1:32 which was good enough for P7 between DAN_BAILEY1982 and F3kka2009. I’d done a couple of low fuel runs but hadn’t been able to get a quick, clean lap in. Between P5 and P9 we were all pretty close so I wasn’t to upset.

At the start I managed to get away cleanly, running wide in traffic exiting both Kanaalbocht and Lucien Bianchibocht allowing DAN_BAILEY1982 to pass me, and then passing F3kka2009 exiting the Kleine Chicane. At the end of lap 1 I was only 0.5s behind them with JWE-Banff2020 3s behind me. I was able to stay close to them and as we came through Jacky Ickxbocht at the end of lap 2, F3kka2009 span at the exit and with nowhere to go I hit him square with the front of my car. I took some light damage to the front but was able to continue, now 4s behind DAN_BAILEY1982.

I started to close the gap, making up a place when bigyin86 span exiting the Villeneuve Chicane. By the end of lap 4 I had the gap down to 1s and was able to pass DAN_BAILEY1982 when he to span at the Villeneuve Chicane. I was now up to P4 with GTRacer884 about 10s up the road and a healthy gap of over 4.5s to JWE-Banff2020 behind me.

With the car feeling good and with plenty of space on track I set my fastest lap so far on lap 7 (1:32.214) and continued to lap at a similar pace until it was my turn to make an error at the Villeneuve Chicane. I managed to avoid damaging the car and quickly got it going again without losing any positions. I lost control under braking at the Kleine Chicane as my tire pressures dropped a little on the following lap which allowed ScottFenton15 and bigyin86 through, once again avoiding any damage. Crossing the line at the end of the lap I was only 0.2s behind bigyin86 and had F3kka2009 1s behind me.

We fought down the straight between the 2 chicanes and he passed me entering Villeneuve. On the following lap, I missed the chicane entirely, collecting a warning for track limits. Now, at the end of lap 13, 3 laps after my troubles had started I’d got my tires back up to temperature and could start to push again. My front left tire pressure started to go down again on the following lap which caused a spin at Earste. This time I did some damage to the car and had DAN_BAILEY1982 right behind me, although a lap down after completing his stop. With only fumes left in my tank I had to pit at the end of the lap, delayed slightly after DAN_BAILEY1982 tagged my right rear at Bolderbergbocht, spinning me around. I limped the short distance back to the pits for a 42s stop including new tires, fuel and 12s of repairs.

F3kka2009 and I at Easter in a practice session

I rejoined the race in P9 on lap 16 although 2 of the cars in front had yet to stop.

I clipped the exit kerb at Jacky Ickxbocht on lap 17 and span around, hitting the wall hard doing some light damage to the rear. I was able to keep going and by the end of lap 18 I had a gap to JWE-Banff2020 of 9s in front and DAN_BAILEY1982 10s behind. A few laps later, I was lapped by P1-Dylan-20 and ran off track on to the gravel exiting Kanaalbocht which caused by tire pressures to drop further and left the gap to DAN_BAILEY1982 now only 8.4s.

With 13 minutes left, I knew I was going to struggle. The car felt like it was struggling to brake and steer, with almost no grip. My tire pressures were continuing to fall, dipping below 27.0 psi on the front left. On lap 24, DAN_BAILEY1982 was only 3.6s behind me and once again I ran wide, this time at Earste. To try and get some heat back into my tires I turned down the traction control – this seemed to work and I got the psi up by 0.2 across all tires.

DAN_BAILEY1982 continued to close in on me though and on lap 26 I ran wide at the Villeneuve Chicane allowing him to pass. He then ran wide exiting the chicane and I took the position back. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he took it off me again though. With only 5 minutes left I was hanging on to P10 by the skin of my teeth. DAN_BAILEY1982 was staying about 1s behind me but diddy2112 was closing up on him quickly. He finally passed me on the inside at Earste on lap 29 with diddy2112 doing the same on the run down to Kleine Chicane. I completely missed the braking point for Jacky Ickxbocht and cut across the gravel to complete the penultimate lap in last place.

With the clock run out and the chequered flag waving I picked up a small consolation prize when diddy2112 made an error exiting Jochen Rindtbocht and I was able to take P10 off him. It wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face though. I’d be hoping for a lot more than 10th place from the race.

Lessons Learned

All of my problems in this race started on the 2nd lap of the 2nd stint when I crashed the car in to the wall. From that point on I was never able to get the tires up to pressure again and the car got progressively worse with each lap and each trip into the gravel. With hindsight I’d have been better off returning to the pits to repair the car.

I’ve still got 2 30 minute races at Zolder to complete as part of the MRC league. At least I have a setup that works now. I just need to make sure I keep it between the white lines to avoid any pressure loss.