Alastaro Finland – “Land of the Midnight Run”

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Well not quite a run at midnight but the final did take place very late, 9.30 pm and that lead to our downfall (we did not adjust correctly for the conditions).

Right from day one Friday this race threw a lot of problems at us, some related to the exceptionally changeable weather (one minute 96 degrees and sun and the next lightning and cloudbursts you wouldn’t believe) and some related to our problems with the fuel shutoff which cost us so dear in the final at Tierp previously.

After a number of warm ups during the day and many different cures being tried, we finally fixed the problem by fitting an extra cable borrowed from our competitor Fred Hansen.  Thanks Fred.

Finally having got everything working correctly we pull to the startline for the first qualifying session, after a good burnout I back up to the startline where one of the startline crew spots a very minor fuel leak.  I call David over to check the problem and he has no choice but to shut the engine off.  In that situation with a minor leak on the startline if you tried to make a run the fuel pressure would increase from 150 to 450 or 500 and the leak would increase, probably spray fuel on the rear tyres which might cause you to lose control, hit the wall or even worse cross into the other guys lane and cause him a problem.

Back in the pit we find the cause of the leak and replace the component ready for our second qualifier, but before the session can take place we suffer a very substantial downpour which floods the track and pits and end the racing for the day.

Saturday – the day starts out bright and sunny, yesterdays floods have now gone and the car is ready to run again, we pull to the startline for session 3 or qualifying>  (Session 2 cancelled due to rain).  Although we should have another qualifying attempt after this, we are all aware that should we have a problem this time and the last session was to be cancelled again we would be in trouble and possibly not qualify.

So all to play for on this run, no problem, a good straight run and straight to No.1 qualifier, 5.42 low et (which would stand until the last run of the weekend).

Back in the pit we set about our normal maintenance to get ready for our last qualifier and safe in the knowledge we are now qualified, prepare to tune the car up and lower our time still further.  Then it rained, and boy did it rain, it thundered, lightning struck the paddock a couple of times, our awning which at the time had a TV camera attached to it, partly collapsed.  You can probably guess that put paid to any further qualifying that day!!

Sunday – Race day and once again the track had dried out but when the racing was due to start the organisers found the timing system used for racing had been damaged by the lightning the night before and a long delay ensued while the problem was fixed.  The racing was finally started at 3.00 in the afternoon!!  In the first round we were paired against Esko Raisvuo from Finland on his home track and with a car that seems to be improving all the time so we can’t take any chances with our tune up, it’s got to be safe enough to run a decent time as in qualifying but not so aggressive that we have a problem with traction.

We must have judged it right, we win and run slightly better, 5.39 low et of the round just like qualifying.

In the second round we have a bye run into the final.  Now the choice is do we tune the car right up and try for low et and lane choice in the final or do I just stage the car, take a green light and then shut off, thus saving us time for maintenance and any possible engine damage.  The safe option seems like the best call, it’s getting late and although the track can continue running until 10.00pm anything could happen to delay the racing and run over the deadline so we will play safe, collect the points and get into the final.

Fred Hansen wins his semi final against Derek Flynn’s very stout effort.

So the final comes down to Fred Hansen and us.  It’s now 9.30pm and the air quality has improved dramatically.  This puts us in a somewhat unfamiliar situation. Over the last three races the car has been increasingly consistent, a good thing!! But now we have a consistent car and very little experience of keeping it consistent with such a dramatic change in air quality, only one thing for it, Best guess time!! we need to reduce the power sufficiently to prevent losing traction due to increased power from the change in air.

In the event our best guess wasn’t good enough, Fred powered of into the distance and ran low et on the last run of the weekend while we instantly went up in tyre smoke victims of our own success in making consistent power.  Now we need to get a better handle on controlling that power in all track and weather conditions, and we will!!

All things considered a good race for us and a good first half of the Championship.  We’ve been in the final consistently, run low et of the event consistently and not done any engine damage consistently, and now we need to “up our game” consistently.

Two more races to go and still everything to play for can’t wait for Hockenheim.

SEE YOU THERE

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