Round 3 at Buriram, Thailand kicked of in the first week of the new year last weekend. There’s always these two reminders to the system when you travel out to some Far East places and that is, the intense hot and sweaty atmosphere that makes any Brit abroad stick out like a shrimp for the first week. The second, how fortunate some of us are in Europe to walk along some tidy streets and feed our bodies 3 times a day. However, I will say Buriram was stunning in its own right I’d race at this track every year if given the chance.
So, the race weekend. This track I really enjoyed. It’s a circuit where you will only get to experience at a high level in events such as Asian Le Mans Series and Super GT. The first sector is all about your exit, it’s a quick 3rd gear 90 right hander leading onto a never ending straight. If you get this wrong on that important qualy lap your then faced with another challenge which is a huge braking zone at the end of that straight into a long hairpin followed by another massive straight. You have no choice but to smash that first sector otherwise the lap for pole is over.
The rest of the circuit in the LMP2 car is so nice, it’s quick and flowing so you can use all that wonderful aero you have underneath you. The GT cars looked exhausting to drive on this track, they really had to hustle that weight through the corners otherwise they would be slow.
As for the format and organisation, the organisers from ALMS and the circuit did a really sound job. Each session was on time, there seemed to be no hiccups apart from Eduardo Frietas our Race Director unfortunately braking his arm, not sure how that happened? It ran smoothly from my experience that weekend.
I ended the first day P1 in official practice, 3 tenths clear of Ho Ping Tung. I was happy with the balance, we were running maximum downforce and in hindsight now I wish I had softened the front to help the low speed corners. I really struggled with low speed understeer in Qualy. It’s a helpless and frustrating feeling when you know immediately that the car needs something to improve it, on a new tyre run in Qualy I ended up P3.
We did a couple laps before a red flag came out early, which meant we only had 6 minutes to go. Going into my puniltimate lap I had 4 LMP3s in front of me so I desperately cleared them for one push lap on the final tour. I left two tenths on the table, which would have possibly put me in P2 so it was a bit disappointing but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Come Sunday, we had to win it, we had no choice if we had a shot at the title. Georgio Maggi started for us doing a single stint. He wasn’t able to match the pace of the first two. Fabian Schiller who is a new edition to the line up from Fuji then took over for a double stint. Our Judd engine was downing the fuel in a rich engine map setting, much more than we predicted so Fabi had to turn it down to extra lean. He drove a solid stint, the gap to P2 was always unreachable but the gap to P4 was sufficient enough to not be attacked so when I took over I had to maintain the position but still attack.
I had a double stint to complete, as soon as I left the pits I realised my radio communication had failed, the drinks water tube had failed and I had no laptimes on my dash. The team communicated through the pit wall which wasn’t ideal. My pace was enough to fight for a win in the stint, on fastest laps the gap to Gustavo Menezes was 4 tenths, which was okay, their car was too quick on that day. To Andrea Pizzitola the second quickest it was 1 tenth. So we could have had a shot at P2 for sure, I ended up having a suspension failure followed by a puncture a few laps after we had fixed the suspension. This forced me to pit multiple times and we lost P3. Pretty much a disaster of a race! It’s times like this when the moral of the team is crucial, all the guys are one big family and I know each individual from Race Performance will continue to give it their maximum.
For now, I’m in Bali doing a little bit of travelling between the two weekends. There is a one week break between the rounds so most people will be staying out here somewhere. We, of course really want the win in Sepang so we will give it our best for one final push.
Happy new year and best wishes to you all!
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