UAE Touring Cars: Exclusive Driver blog by Andre Ramdhanny – ‘Wet Behind the Gears’
Oct 8th – Another long hot summer comes to a close as the excitement builds in preparation for the fast approaching race season, but for some, it is never long enough. Procrastination, which seems to be inherent in motorsport at club level, is taking its toll on the majority of teams, including current UAE Touring Car Champions MSW Racing. Having been handed a drive for the new season, is something I have been working on for some time, the fact that it has come in a vehicle capable of not only winning races, but also a championship, is an absolute dream come true. But hey, no pressure!
As early as the idea of me driving a racecar was just a whisper behind a closed office door, I have been working as hard as I can to make sure I am ready for the task that lies ahead. Training with the Original Fitness Company over the summer has got me in the best possible shape, which is an area I am hoping my more experienced competitors will overlook. Much to my wife’s disapproval, late nights were spent reviewing videos and data from Jon Simmonds on his way to the Championship. None of this will be nearly as valuable as getting out there and learning the craft from the other Class 1 drivers.
Being a full time employee at Motor Sport Wheels it has been a hectic summer with the relocation of the workshop, renaming and re-branding of the race team, preparing of the racecar and managing the daily activities to keep the business afloat during the stagnant summer months. 6 weeks worth of work, and waiting on parts, are needed to get the car ready and compliant for the 2010/2011 race season…with only three weeks to go. Keeping this busy has kept my mind off the racing and such I have been able to ignore my nervousness that changed once the pit garage was set up and our car sat in place ready for the Thursday afternoon test sessions.
While I relaxed and enjoyed a cup of Lavazza coffee I couldn’t help but stare at the most beautiful car I have ever laid my eyes on, although I may be a bit biased. If the championship could be won on looks then the team at Fibra Foil made sure we would bring that trophy home. The lights go green on the test session and immediately I know that the MSW team has given me a car that was immaculately prepared and up for the task of a rookie bashing it around the circuit. Testing goes really well and I very happy with my lap times, however being the only Seat Supercopa out there I have no one to use as my benchmark.
Race day finally comes around and its time to see just how much work this rookie is going to have to put in over the course of the season to keep up. Just a few laps into qualifying its time to adjust tyre pressures and go for it.
My first attempt at a lap and luckily I manage to stay away from any major traffic and decrease my lap time low enough for pole position. What a result, this is the more than I could have ever expected. This surely must give me a good chance at the first race, or have I fallen into the hands of my more experienced rival? Upon returning to the pits and receiving confirmation my lap time was good enough for pole it makes me wonder if I have been set up by Khalid Bin Hader in the Performance Motors Seat Supercopa: A car that is identical on power and capable of making it to the first turn at the same pace as I can, albeit on the inside line.
Looking down the main straight and waiting for the lights seemed to take forever. With every second my stomach twisted itself tighter into a knot and my heart beat like drums in some tribal ritual. Go! My lack of experience is immediately apparent as Bin Hader manages to pull more than a car’s distance between us only half way down the straight. Immediately I slot in behind him and prepare to watch the black Seat slowly disappear into the distance. Much to my surprise, and hopefully his, I managed to maintain the gap and even put a bit of pressure on the leader as we circled around for 15 laps, eventually finishing in the same way I entered the first turn: chasing. Crossing the finish in P2 and seeing the team on the pit wall as they cheer me on made me feel fantastic for my first ever race finish. Now it’s time to prepare to do it all again.
Gridding up for race 2, I am constantly looking over to pole to have a glimpse of my rival before the race starts, but no sign. This is a huge relief as now I have a chance to go for a win. The lights go out, trying my hardest to get a better start than in the first race, I go in the entirely opposite direction and get an even worse start, almost being passed by the storming class 2 Hondas!
Through turn 1 my plan is to take it slow, get the tyres up the working temperature and then carry on with the race where I could hopefully still have a gap to Bin Hader who would likely be charging to catch me in the coming 15 laps. Shockingly I catch a glimpse of the black Seat in my rear view on the exit of turn one. Seeing Khalid breathing down my neck took me totally by surprise and like a deer in the headlights, I could do nothing but watch him drive straight down the inside into the next corner. It all happened so fast it wasn’t until the following corner I actually realized I just lost my chance of a race win. All I could do is charge as hard as I can to try and force some errors, even though that seemed unlikely. For the opening lap the position remained the same until turn 15, when Bin Hader was forced to serve a drive through penalty for an infringement earlier in the race. Leaving nothing to chance I pushed on in the race while making sure I made it to the finish, which I did and managed to take the chequered flag for my first race win!
The team came into the weekend with the idea of me following the faster, more experienced drivers around and assessing what would need to be done in order to catch up. Never in any of our plans did we consider the idea of pole position or a race win, but managed to walk away with both. Looking ahead to the upcoming races I know it will never be this easy again, with new cars and drivers coming out to raise the bar, and more than likely the current drivers out to put this rookie in his place.
There is a long season ahead of us but there is no better team than MSW to keep me fighting at the sharp end of the grid. I would be the first to admit that it may take some time before I get back onto the top step of the podium, but we will get there. Bring it on!
see you all soon, Andre