The emotional rollercoaster of motorsport can work on both long and short timescales. Sometimes, a team’s transition from the rear of the area up to the podium can take weeks or years. The weekend just passed was one that had its ups and downs.
The group entered the weekend with all three of its drivers in the top 5 of the championship, and one, now leading it. The confidence in the car was in an all-time high, and reliability has been improving all season. The track, one of the fastest in the country, should favour the back wheel drive BMWs, and the weather was looking good. This should be a good weekend. The leading driver was carrying maximum ballast as is faked which wasn’t going to help his chances, but should not cause too much of an issue. He is a talented driver who has had ballast before – not a problem.
The rollercoaster reached its apex.
Free practice one was spent scrubbing tyres. No true testing as such was done until the end of the session, but a brake bias error meant a spin under breaking coming into a heavily gravel-trapped hairpin. The time lost because of the red flag for recovery, and the clearing from the huge quantity of gravel, meant there was no time for any installation changes or refinement during the session.
The rollercoaster was over the top now.
During Free Practice Two, multiple setup changes of varying achievement and impact were attempted, but there was hardly any noticeable improvement in lap times. The problem was simply that our driver had only two laps to test each setup change before pitting and trying the next thing on the list. Normally, these changes are spread out over two sessions. Not every change you make will enhance the car, and unfortunately, as FP2 closed, the car wasn’t on the pace we had come to expect by this stage of the season.
Down we go.
Next up was qualifying. Given the natural benefit of rear-wheel drive in wet conditions, the ominous rainclouds were actually a welcome sight. Rain would equalise the pack a bit more and provide the BMWs a opportunity to make up any performance deficit. The first couple of laps were dry but the pace wasn’t there. Then the rain came, and boy, did it come! The rain was so torrential that the session was in fact red flagged due to safety concerns. By the time the session restarted, the cars were suffering from water ingress in the electronic equipment and ended up at the very back of the grid for race 1. The back of the grid, 28th place, with 75kg of ballast in the car.
Where is the bottom?
Following the disappointing qualifying session, the weather worsened. Something not found frequently in Blightly, but a tornado (yes, a TORNADO) came through the paddock. This freak weather induced terminal damage to the hospitality awnings and the entire team was out in the (now returned) torrential rain, angle grinding, cutting, hammering and spannerring to get the remains of the awning safe. The entire team, still reeling from qualifying, were now drenched through, not to mentioned the damage done to team property or to relationships with sponsors and VIPs.
Is this it?
The engineers and motorists sat down and discussed an action plan. What can be done to recoup the weekend? Was everything lost? Absolutely not! Decisions were made and changes to the automobile were done late in to the night. Everything adjustable was corrected. Gear ratios were altered. Engine maps were tweaked. Like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, the car was transformed. Untested, yes, but changed.
When do we go back up?
Race one started in glorious sunshine. The team and cars had dried out overnight, but the long walk down to the back of the grid wasn’t something the team often had to perform. The untested car seemed solid on the outlap into the grid, but this is never a real test of performance. Last checks done, 75kg of ballast on-board, 28th on the grid. The race started.
In the end, up we go!
He made up 18 places, an unbelievable outcome and better than anyone had hoped for. The overnight transformation had worked miracles and the speed in the car was rear. 10th also meant no more ballast, in addition to starting in 10th for race two. An excellent result!
Things are looking up!
Race two started with a much shorter walk down the grid. No ballast on-board, and only a few minor alterations to compensate for the 75kg lower weight. He just went and won it! He drove like the professional he is and put the car in the front of the pack, winning by nearly 3 seconds. Who’d have thought after the gloomy Saturday, that race day would include a victory. What is more, another of our drivers was third, so a double podium. An excellent result!
All that was left was race . Ballast back in the car because of winning race 2, and a reverse grid meant starting down at the middle of the pack. The unfavoured hard tyres were also required for this race. The end result was a good middle of the pack finish. Not terrible, but not on the scale of achievement of races one and two.
So the drivers leave the round with all three still in the top 10, two still in the top 5, and one still leading the championship. A result that although anticipated on Friday, appeared to fade away during Saturday.
The value in persevering, not giving up under hardship, and striving to win regardless of how the odds are stacked against you can’t be understated. A bad practice or qualifying session, does not have to ruin your race. It does not have to ruin your championship hopes. It doesn’t even have to ruin your day.
Keep your chin up, your head in the game and determination in overdrive, and as a team, wonderful things will happen.
Please remain seated until the ride has come to a complete halt.