The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain…So they say!
In this case, the rain fell mainly on the Circuit De Catalunya. And when it did fall, it fell in very large lumps, complete with lots of thunder & lightning and for large amounts of time! In between the large lumpy rainfall the sun was hot enough to fry eggs, bacon and my shiny head…Yup, I either looked like a drown rat or a red lobster, despite the application of sun cream!!!
So, rewinding back the story a few months. I was chatting to SVDP Racing’s team principle, Spencer Vanderpal up at the Dubai Autodrome when he asked me if I would like to travel to Spain with the team for the next round of the endurance series at Barcelona’s Circuit De Catalunya. After a brief conversation, a phone call to a couple of other Dubai based teams who were also planning on doing the event, the deal was done. I would cover the media side for them & they would fly me over, sorted.
As the car, the mighty BMW 120D was already in Europe, Holland to be precise, there was no need to worry about shipping the car over. The car had been in at Wubbe Motorsport for some major upgrades and preparation work. Wubbe Herlaar has his own motorsports workshop and carried out the majority of the work before the car left to Spain, it should also be mentioned here that he is also a very quick driver and one of the five man driver team for this event. The other drivers being Spencer Vanderpal, Kris Budnik, Chris Wishart & Jason O’Keefe. All experienced drivers and all experienced in endurance events of some sort or other….
The Tuesday evening before we flew out, it was decided we would check in all our luggage for the event. This would comprise of everything from some spare car parts, tents, seats and the BBQ ! Yup, 168kg worth. Our actual limit was 160kg between the 5 of us. There was a Mexican stand off as Spencer refused to pay 8kg excess baggage and the lady at the check in counter refused to give in….Finally we hit a compromise and 4kg’s were removed in the form of two inflatable seats, and the young lady waved the other 4kg’s….Result !
The following morning, the hire car arrived and we were off. Seven hours later we were sitting in the baggage area waiting for our 12 boxes & cases to roll off the belt…This was after we had had a rather tedious flight as the Emirates entertainment system wasn’t entertaining us after it failed to work after many failed reboot attempts. What was entertaining was when one of the young lady cabin crew members shook the Worcestershire sauce bottle for Spencer’s tomato juice not realising the top wasn’t on, Chris Wishart was the recipient of the contents of said sauce bottle, all over his new white SVDP Racing Team shirt….He wasn’t happy but he did smell better!
Next stop was the hire car collection point. Two VW Caddy vehicles were the order of the day and a great choice they were too, loads of room and enough get up and go to get us to the circuit in less than an hour after leaving Barcelona Airport.
Most of the guy’s had already arrived but the car had not, that was on the back of the transporter somewhere in the area but couldn’t locate the circuit. Approximately two hours later Egbert & Sam arrived, somewhat fraught but safe.
Now the work began, the van was unpacked once the car was off the trailer. The pit garage was set up and everything found a place to live for the next four days. Sharing our pit garage was the second Dubai based team, that of Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing with their trusty Seat Leon Supercopa. The brothers Moutran, Sami, Ramzi & Nabil along with Phil Quaife & James Kaye were the pilots for this race and once again, all seasoned endurance drivers. By this time it was late into the evening and we dragged ourselves off to the hotel which was a 15 minute drive away…We Checked in, had a quick and deserved beer and it was off to bed…
Up at the track the following day was a blur, the car was finished off and all the new stickers stuck in place and she was looking great. Everyone was looking forward to getting her out onto the track for a shakedown. When that time finally arrived, there was great disappointment for the SVDP boys, there was a severe electronic issue with the ECU which would cause the car to drop into ‘limp home’ mode and a reset would be needed each time to bring it back out and run correctly again. This was not only dangerous but, very frustrating as it could potentially have them as a non-starter for the race. After the amount of work and effort that it had taken to get the car to this point, the mechanics and engineers were not about to let it happen. They decided to try the spare engine to eliminate any other components which could be causing the problem. Unfortunately again, after the guy’s worked tirelessly until 4am the car remained with the same problem. Again the guy’s were not about to give up, they rigged up a reset switch on the steering wheel which they could reset the ECU without the need to move their hands from the wheel…After a team driver talk, this compromise was accepted and the car was taken over to scrutineering for the official checks….Passed that OK !
Out on the track the car looked great and to be fair, they guy’s were peddling it at a good pace. The weather was trying it’s best to spoil the show by throwing a huge thunderstorm at the circuit for a couple of hours. Then the sun showed up and tried frying the drivers in the car, this almost worked with Jason as he struggled with little or no ventilation at the hottest part of the day. Later more vents were cut into the plexi-glass windows which did help…
So with qualifying next on the agenda, the car was sent out onto the track with close to 60 cars to do its thing. Whilst not at the sharp end of the grid, they were some way away from the rear of the grid and in good spirits, after all, the race cannot be won in the first corner but it can be lost….They had a whole 24hrs to move up!
Mid day would be a new start time for the race. The famous Catalunya Circuit clock tower rolled over the 12.00pm start time and it was on, all systems go. The early hours were again a mix of dry & rain as the heavens opened up again, team mechanics were kept busy swapping between wets & slick tires for the next few hours. As the drivers from each of the two teams pulled in for the scheduled driver changes and fresh tanks of fuel, the night time was soon upon us.
There were dramas for both the cars into the evening, for SVDP racing, a severe wheel wobble turned out to be a loose adjuster which, after a short pit stop was rectified. For the Duel Racing team, the quick shifter system had a melt down due to a blown exhaust, the heat melting through the plastic tube which fed the system. This would prove a costly repair as it took quite some time in the pit to repair & replace the parts. Again, SVDP Racing were back in, this time a piece of bodywork from another car had hit the BMW head on and smashed the front bumper and grill, more serious though, was the hole it put in the coolant radiator causing the engine to overheat. A quick swap of radiator and repairs to the bumper etc and 35 minutes later they were back out.
Shortly after Disaster struck again, as within a few laps, the car overheated again and once more needed a pit stop. The cause once again was the radiator. The one fitted also had a small leak thus a loss of water had the car requiring a new one fitting which was done so in double quick time. The Seat of Duel Racing had also been back in for a few minor issues and found its way back out onto the track. Unfortunately it had dropped from its earlier impressive overall position of 5th and 1st in class, way back down the order.
As night gave away to sunrise, both cars were looking battle weary and scarred but both still running strong.
The hope was to keep piling on the laps in case anyone of the cars in front of them in their class may meet with problems and thus promoting them up and into a podium position.
Unfortunately this time there would be no such luck. The SVDP BMW would come home a creditable 4th in class and 38th overall and for the Seat of Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing a 9th in class and 32nd overall. A consolation for each of the teams were that they managed to finish the race with the fastest lap for each respective class, well done boys!
With that and with the national anthems of the winners being played in the background, we packed up the car and the pit garage, back to the hotel and ordered 16 large pizza’s and lots of celebratory beers for everyone….
For SVDP, this is still unfinished business, they are already planning their assault on the 2014 Barcelona race, they are looking for the class win and are determined to make it third time lucky and land the ‘pot of gold’
With such great team spirit and a little more luck, who would bet against them….Not me that’s for sure!
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