Good or not-so-good?

28.09.2014

Kevin with team-mates concluded his first Blancpain Endurance Series season with P5 at Nürburgring. And yes, it rained there.


Being fifth in Nürburgring 1000 kilometers race is not a bad result but when so many things hinder your potential then you will certainly ask what could have been possible. Even more so if you are a leader after the first stint. This is how it all panned out.

Talking about the expectations for Nürburgring 1000 km race you said you hope for a good Balance of Performance (Bop) and dry weather. You definitely didn't get the latter but the former seemed to be excellent?

Yeah, I guess in dry we could have been fighting for the victory. Actually, after qualification the BoP was altered a little bit in our favor because Audis were too fast there. Then, our qualification was not excellent for several reasons. Andy went out first and was not as fast as we expected, although he was eventually the one who qualified us in P5. I drove in Q2 and got the rain during my single hot lap. Our garages were on the distant end of the pit-lane which meant we came out last and those in the other end managed to get two dry laps. It was clearly visible from the data how I lost time due to the rain. Q3 was wet thereafter and then we lost 2.8 seconds to Audis, they were two seconds faster than anybody. Gap to Audis was a big concern.

But then Kévin E who started the car took the lead in the rain.

Yeah, when the race started we raised to P1 and we had no explanation about what is going on because one day before we lost 2.8 seconds per lap. During the later part of the race it turned out that if it rains heavily, our car is fast. Race was started behind the SC because of the heavy rain, Kévin E went to the lead in three laps (in picture above) and pulled the gap to P2 to four seconds but had to defend his position for his final few laps. If the tarmac starts to dry out, Audi's pace improves, but we are going to lose time when rain gets lighter.

Kévin E completed his first stint in P1, then you took over the car and tires were also changed while leading car continued on worn set. You lost a huge time with that and seemingly didn't get it back?

Yes, we were left behind by 28 seconds or something and the gap even started to widen because the drying track complicated the case for us. During my first stint track became drier and drier and I lost relatively large amount of time. Second stint was rather OK, other cars around us had new tires while I had old ones and I only lost six seconds during the whole hour. I don't think there would have been a big difference if I had changed the tires after my first stint and not before it. Perhaps I had been even slower during my first stint and faster during the second one.

Everything was still possible then, though.

Yeah, Andy took the car in P5 and then SC went out which wiped away all the advantage leaders had. In two laps Andy went to P3 and we were only eight seconds behind P1. We had new tires, it was raining stronger again and everything was fine. But then he had an off and two collisions – once with a Bentley which was a lap down and then with a Merc he had a direct fight. Tire had a slow puncture but he carried on because heavy rain kept the loss in reasonable limits. Then the tire suddenly blew, he had to make an extra stop and when track dried out again, he was losing four second per lap on worn tires. But if you drive for a full hour losing four seconds in every lap you are going to be lap down and that is what happened to us.

Then you took a huge risk...

Yes, because we had no pace on the damp track we decided to risk and changed to slicks as the first car when Kévin E took over: maybe we can win some time back and achieve P3 or something. Otherwise we had no chance to improve. Then Kévin E went out on the slicks, spun in the space of four turns and got stuck on the wet grass. He couldn't help it, wheels were just spinning around and car was creeping little-by-little but he couldn't get back to the track. Eventually we was pushed back onto the tarmac by marshals but more than two minutes were lost.

Without that incident did you still had a chance for a win?

Is this hadn't happen we still could have had a chance to take P3 or even maybe P2. Victory was out of our reach. Anyway, we had taken a big risk so you can't blame Kévin. It's a shame Andy had that puncture and weather was not optimal as well. If the asphalt had dried out at one go, maybe it had been better for us, but now we had those unpleasant intermediate conditions twice.

It seemed different cars were fast in different conditions.

Yes, it was very strange this time. Mercs were also fast in the wet but I guess we could have beaten them and in the dry we could have fought with Audi as well. But when you have this changing weather Audi tends to be fast in whatever weather. Maybe always not the fastest but at least among the fastest while everybody else was slow at some moment – that's their strength. We lost them three second per lap in intermediate conditions.

You made your first double-stint at Nürburgring, was it tough physically?

At one moment during my second stint rain became so hard we aquaplaned absolutely everywhere. If you catch a slower car in those condition the visibility is maybe only three meters and even lapped cars don't let you through because they don't know if it is a car which is lapping them or is it trying to steal their place. Battling was going on all the time, it never got boring. But physically it was OK, it is harder in the dry. When it rains it is not becoming so hot inside and speeds in turns are also lower on the wet track.

Do you have air conditioning in the car?

Yes we have but it helps not so much. If it is a warm weather then it blows cold air for 15-20 minutes and then it starts to blow warm air. And for the case of rain we have heated window against misting.

All in all it was an eventful race.

It definitely was. We can't say it was a bad race for us. P5 in Nürburgring 1000 km race is not a bad result by any standards. On the other hand we can't be satisfied, as many things happened during the race. But then you can look at what happened to our sister car – they managed to avoid one crash, then the other and then third car crashed into them while they were absolutely helpless.

Now you have only one race left in your season – ELMS final round at Estoril. What do you expect from there?

Let's see what we can do there, all those things we have had to fight in ELMS remain the same. We must take a maximum from those conditions and hopefully I can fight for a pole-position in qualifying. I have had two successive second places, it would be nice to win at last. We use different tires in different series. In Blancpain we are on Pirellis and only twice I have run on fresh rubber. In ELMS we run on Michelins and I have had a dozen or so new sets so I know how they behave to squeeze all the performance out of them.

 

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