Barcelona 24hrs: Dubai based SDVP unstoppable in Spanish endurance race
September 7th, 2012- SVDP Racing are pleased to report their successful race campaign as the UAE’s only entrant into the Creventic 24 Hour Barcelona sports car endurance race held on 7-9 September 2012. The team of Dubai Based expat racing enthusiasts, headed by 2007/2008 DAMC Open Saloon Champion Spencer Vanderpal, assembled in Barcelona having commenced individual journeys by air and road starting in the UAE, Oman, Cameroon, South Africa, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The car itself had a somewhat longer journey, having undergone a 4 month rebuild at the team’s Al Barsha headquarters and a technical inspection by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE before starting a 5 week journey by sea for final race preparation and engine tuning in the Netherlands. Arriving at the circuit after such long journeys the team could have deservedly allowed themselves some time to rest on Spain’s nearby sandy beaches, but endurance races are not won without hard work, strict preparation and attention to detail. Almost immediately the mechanics busied themselves with the fine tuning of their 2.0 litre BMW 120 Diesel race car and the drivers conferred as to the fastest race lines around the challenging hills and unforgiving corners of the Circuit de Catalunya.
The long hours of the first day were immediately rewarded as the track opened for practice and qualifying. Dutch driver Wubbe Herlaar put in a storming performance to post a 2’11.44 lap time in only his first visit to the circuit. Not only did this secure the diesel class pole position by almost 1 second, but comfortably beat half of the 2.0 litre petrol class teams! Night practice allowed Wubbe and South Africa’s Stefan Puschavez their first taste of racing in the dark, testing their nerve as the Ferrari and Mclaren GT cars hurtled angrily past them on the main straight, lights ablaze. However, the drivers were not to be intimidated, with Wubbe again taking the fastest lap and SVDP’s Chris Wishart a whisker behind him in second place.
A very late night followed for the mechanics as the car was readied for the race, forming up on the grid on the Saturday morning resplendent in its newly applied race livery. The green flag dropped at 12:00 [noon] with Chris in the hot seat following a detailed plan with a safe and gentle first few laps allowing the pack to dissipate and avoid needless accidents with eager drivers on cold tyres and brakes.
Strong early running was unfortunately marred by power steering failure after 3 hrs racing. An hour was lost to trouble shooting and attempted repairs before the car returned to the track with no power steering, meaning a heavy work out for the driver whilst a permanent fix was arranged in the pits. Thanks to Stefan’s day job as a welder, repairs were tackled in short order and Spencer took to the circuit to reign in the deficit.
With 11 hours of elapsed race time, fate struck once more, this time with a vengeance as the car came limping into the pits; bringing with it clouds of smoke and oil and worried looks to the mechanic’s faces. The diagnosis was not good, a blown engine and groans of despair all round. The mechanics knew they had a spare engine, but hadn’t had time to inspect it and it was only half built! However, amateur race mechanics are a funny bunch and they derived a perverse pleasure in the challenge and less than four hours later the engine swap was complete. It was a tense wait as the race scrutineers inspected the quality of their work but when the starter was pressed the mighty BMW roared straight into life and showed her strength almost immediately by taking over 1.5 seconds off the fastest race lap!
As the night crept onwards the drama was forgotten as the scale of the task ahead sunk in. Almost 6 hours lost to repairs, but as they say, “You’ve got to be in it to win it” and there were still 12 hours of hard driving ahead. The drivers eagerly set out to try and claw back as much as possible and get her across the finish line. The mechanics slept where they could, the bark of “PIT! PIT! PIT!” from the crew chief rousing them from makeshift beds or the cold concrete floor. Wake, change tyres, check temps and pressures, check the brakes, clean the window, “All Clear!”, sleep… Thankfully, the laps continued to count off uneventfully as morning broke and the drivers prepared in turn for their final stint behind the wheel. A coming together with two class rival only 5 laps before the flag resulted in only minor body damage and Spencer brought the car home across the line to a well deserved 4th place in class.
Not the result the team had hoped for but with over 6 months of effort expended there were nothing but tears, cheers and celebration as the impact of what it actually meant to simply have crossed the line and finished. The hat trick of fastest qualifying, practice and race laps more than proved the pace of the car, and the quick engine change proved the pedigree of the team and hitherto rookie race engineers. “Chris and I have had better results and even podium finishes,” Spencer said in his champagne soaked summary, “but never have we felt such a strong team spirit and had such a determined bunch of guys behind us. This was a pure team effort and I will never forget it”.
The next morning, as the team disbanded, those words rang true and clear. On planes, in taxis and in the van towing the race car some 1500km back to Arnhem, the conversation was dominated by talk of the team’s next challenge – the 2013 running of the Dubai 24 hour endurance race on the 10-12 January. We hope to see you there! Check out www.svdp-racing.co.uk for more information and progress updates.