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Bruno's Blog: Spa, My Preparation For Le Mans

Bruno Senna is our latest DSC columnist, he’ll be bringing us his thoughts up to and through the Le Mans 24 Hours. First though it was Spa, in a very emotional week.

Hello DSC Readers!

Having returned to WEC for two races, I would like to share with you every now and then some of my personal views and give some deeper insights into what´s going on behind the scenes and also in a driver´s mind…

Actually the Spa weekend did not start too well for me, as on Thursday I missed my flight from Nice to Belgium. Probably due to the Mayday holiday there was a big traffic jam between Monaco and Nice, and instead of normally 20 minutes for getting to the airport I needed more than one and a half hours. So I also missed the drivers briefing at Spa, got a slap on my wrist by the stewards for it on Friday morning, but just escaped a penalty, thanks, guys!

What actually really impressed me on Thursday, (1 May), was the huge impact of the 20th anniversary of Ayrton’s death, all the reactions worldwide, but especially in Brazil.

So many people everywhere still remembering him, showing their respect and paying their tributes, it really touched my heart a lot… I personally always want to remember all the good things my uncle has left us, keep the good memories of the time we spent together in the family, and of course I also feel quite proud about his legacay, the Ayrton Senna Foundation, led by my mother Viviane, which does a lot for improving the situation of underprivileged children in Brazil.

We launched a new site on the Thursday, http://www.ayrtonsenna.com.br/senna-experience/, where fans are asked to share their memories and experiences with Ayrton and the traffic was so big the first day it completely went down… I tried to log on to it a few times and I did not manage…

What I personally felt was, that I was a bit tense since the beginning of this week, I did not sleep too well and I wondered what it was all about, as it could not really have anything to do with the upcoming race, even after a long break.

Senna-Autograph-Spa

A race in a team that I know, at a track I love and where I used to do well in the past, so no reason for getting nervous or whatever. And normally also things like “memorial days” don´t get especially close to me, mainly because I am not a person who cares so much about dates and numbers… But I had done quite a few media things about Ayrton during the last week, including a special for Brazilian radio, “Radio Bandeirantes” where I am telling his life story… I liked the idea and the concept, so I recorded it all myself at home at Monaco.

Maybe in the end all of this had gotten a bit closer to me than I would have thought before, but once I was in the car at Spa, it was all gone and I was really happy to be back into racing, getting prepared for the big highlight at Le Mans, where I will also share the #97 Aston Martin with Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner.

Senna-Spa

The car felt quite good from the beginning, especially during the first wet season at Spa, but also in the dry it was okay, especially when we really got the tyres up to temperature. At some point I even had the feeling that it was easier and more comfortable to drive than last year´s Aston Martin. But even if this was really the case, I can see another a bit worrying reality as well:

At the moment, with the current BoP, the Aston Martin is for sure a bit behind the other competitors. With all the sandbagging that is, of course, going on as usual before Le Mans, it is probably a bit difficult to judge from the outside, but I think in terms of lap times it is minimum 0,5 seconds that we are lacking…

What is worse is that with all the changes in the BoP since last year, we at Aston lost out especially in our strong areas: aerodynamics and fuel consumption. The last point we could see clearly in the race, where we needed one more pitstop than Porsche and Ferrari.

It was too tight for as at Spa to do the normal one hour stints as the others, and was only possible if you have an extremely fuel-conserving driving style.

Actually I personally just could do the necessary 25 laps, but I know that already last year I normally always used a bit less fuel than my teammates. Actually I hope the authorities will have a close look into the situation before Le Mans and maybe apply some changes again to give us a fairer chance…

The beginning of my race, when I took the car over from Stefan, was not the luckiest:

During the pitstop, a wheel nut got lost, which directly cost me about ten seconds and also put me in a lot of traffic on my out lap. There was one of the GTE Am Ferraris all over the place, not knowing where to go – which cost me another four or five seconds… Resulting in my good friend Mako in the Porsche just getting out of the pits ahead of me… Even being slower at that moment and obviously fighting a bit with his car, he was difficult to overtake.

Senna-MackoInteresting to watch: When I approached him for the first time, he seemed to be quite slow on the straights, but then every time I tried to overtake, he was suddenly much faster, must have given some extra power…

Anyway, it took me quite a lot of laps to get by, which again cost some time…

I had a chance quite early in the stint, and maybe with somebody else I would have tried to pull through. But as it was Fred and I know him so well that I was sure he would never give in, I decided in the end not to take the risk of the two of us ending up in a crash…

Once I had passed him, the rest of my double stint worked quite well. The tyres really lasted fine until the last four or five laps, when I met heavy traffic again, and due to this lost tyre temperature.

Bringing them back after this was nearly impossible… When I handed the car over to Darren, the plan was actually that he would do a double stint as well and we might have a splash-and-dash towards the end. But with dropping track temperatures, the tyres gave in too early, so we changed them, and the strategy, and he tried a full attack on the podium in the last 45 minutes. But we were too far behind, so it did not work out. Maybe without the bad pitstop and the whole cascade of consequences following, it would have done, but it is always difficult to say…

WEC_Spa_Race_08

For me the weekend was very important for getting into the rhythm of WEC again, also for analysing the other drivers, how they behave in traffic, for example, whom to trust, with whom to be rather careful – everything to be perfectly prepared for Le Mans. But before we go there, I still have another task ahead of me which I am really looking forward to: From 13th to 18 of May, together with Martin Brundle I will take part in the classic Mille Miglia in Italy with some beautiful historic Jaguars. I am sure you will be able to watch something about it on SkySports!