Supercar Challenge 2013
It started at Slovakia! We were racing there with the Ferrari 458 Challenge car in Supercar Challenge, formerly Dutch Supercar, a title that we won back in 2008 with the Mosler, and very familiar to us, with friendly organisers and great racing.
The factory Radical team were also there for the inaugural race for the newly formed Superlights Championship. Phil Abbott, Radical's Mister Motivator was there with an SR8 and SR3. He suggested that I might like to help out with driving duties in the SR8 in between driving the 458…..and I took part in a test session. Well, what a great experience that was! "Did I want to race it?" You bet! I teamed up with Roger Green, Radical media man, and between us we duly won all 3 races, with our main competition being the mighty Dutchman Henk Thuis in his SR8.Phil and I duly struck up a plan to compete in the rest of the races.
We then found ourselves at Zolder, a circuit that I don't have a particular love for. Too many chicanes, and serious braking areas with no run off……my friend and fellow racer Cor Euser had a huge accident here a few years ago that almost killed him, and I was extremely nervous……Henk proved that he was the master of the track, with 2 x pole positions, and 2 race wins, but we salvaged 2 x fastest laps. We had braking issues here as I didn't get on with the steel ones that well, and preferred the carbon ones that we had used at Slovakia. I managed to have a few spins and a gravelly moment all caused by the brakes…..not a happy bunny with 2 x second places.
Qualifying went OK, and I managed to pip Henk in a not so good handling car. The races were a different story, and in race 1 Henk just went off up the road, but he had an oil leak which caused him (and me) to spin. I came home the winner, and feeling sorry for Henk. Race 2 was a cracker, though somewhat contrived. we knew that Henk was in a class of his own here and I couldnt touch him on pace. There was a crowd of some 70,000 people, and it was a blazing gorgeous day. Henk and I put on a great show of passing and re-passing, but once the pit stops went by, he was gone, and I didn't see him until the end of the race. I went home pretty depressed. We just couldn't make the car work, and i doubted myself even more than I normally do! Was it time to hang up the hat? Henks an unbelievable 68, and he was driving like an 18 year old and pushing my nose (nicely) into the dog poo!
We finally got a chance for a proper test with the car. We ran on really worn out tyres, miles off the pace, but with the car sliding easily at one end or the other it was easy to make changes that could be felt. We adjusted springs, dampers, ride heights, wing angles, roll bars and tyre pressures. Once we had it feeling hooked up we put decent tyres on and wow, the car was fantastic. I knew we had turned a corner metaphorically, and that we had a fast race car that suited me. We went into qualifying and of course, my lap timer stopped working on what I was convinced was my fastest lap. We left the pit lane in second place, but i was damn sure, so chased up the timekeepers who had also somehow missed it. They found it, and I was now re-instated on pole for both races! Result! The races were fast and furious, and Henk got past me in the early stages but i was soon back on him again. he then sadly had an alternator problem and was out. Race 2 was similar, but I pulled away from Henk, who tried so hard to come back that he ended up in the gravel, and subsequently on the end of a crane, directing operations to put him back on the track. A funny sight! He came back into the race and got his points finish, but I came home the winner again, on Henks home soil. It was a good weekend! I racked up more points with both fastest laps, so Championship was looking good, but I never wanted to look too hard at it.
I always always love coming back to Spa, my favourite track. In testing, we had great pace and it showed in qualifying where I managed a 2 second gap over Henk. Race 1 was damp, and Henk slid up the inside of me at La Source and eased me onto the astro turf grass, cunning chap, and I dropped back. We had had to swap front brakes to the rear and vice versa, so I was busy sorting out brake bias issues for a few laps, but once sorted, slowly hauled Henk in, and made a pass on him into the bus stop. He tried re-passing at La Source again but I refused to not turn in, and he span avoiding me, payback for the start! His pit penalty pit stop was some 20 seconds shorter, so I had to catch him up again, and duly did, but then the red flags came out for a crash, and that was that. Race 2 was a 90 minute one, and we duly turned in at La Source without incident and shot off to a healthy lead, and ultimately won as Henk again had alternator problems. Another pair of fastest laps to match the 2 pole positions again topped up the points nicely. I think that it was actually at this point that I won the Championship but I wasn't really aware of it.
We knew the car was handling really well now, and managed to improve it again with some extra testing. We had the Praga R1 Turbo now to contend with and it was proving to be very fast in the hands of Danny Van Dongen. In testing I managed to put in some great laps, and beat his times comprehensively, and I was significantly ahead of the other SR8's, but in qualifying I suddenly found Danny half a second faster and Henk 0.1 of a second behind me. Hmmmm.
In race 1 Danny managed to fluff the start a bit and i shot into the lead and pulled away, only after a few laps to find myself falling back into the pack. Danny was really close and tried to go around the outside of me at a hairpin. I could hear him and almost smell him, but I gently made sure that he had no room to go around the outside, and then he was jumped on by Henk and Pim in the SR8's as he slithered around on the astro turf.Henk and Pim caught me pretty quickly, and Henk almost hit me when I locked the rear wheels into a chicane. I waved both of them through to try and make sure that we had a Radical win, and not a Praga win. Well as luck would have it Danny broke down on that lap with a blown exhaust manifold and loss of pressure, so that was really clever by me…..not!!…..I fought back to second place by 5 seconds with another fastest lap.
Race 2: I went in with a different mind set, and just flew into the lead and was never headed. We had improved the car again and it was on rails. Henk managed to close in to just under 6 seconds at the end, but then seemed to lose a bunch of time, and then found he had a 20 second penalty for a pit stop infringement. It felt really good to finish again on the top step, and claim the Superlight Title, for me, my team Rollcentre Racing with Luke, Ben, Karen, Mike and David and of course, for Radical.
It was great season, and I found in myself a new sparkle which had been missing for a while….in fact seriously questioned! Mojo well and truly restored. More please!