40 hours awake

15.01.2015

From the desert heat of Dubai Kevin is back to his native Estonia with its ever-changing winter weather and back to his everyday training routine. Here he shares his impressions and thoughts about the very first 24-hour race he managed to finish.

You told you went cross-country skiing this week, is there any snow in Estonia?

Yeah, there was lots of snow at Aegviidu, some 30 kms from Tallinn, even though some places were rather melted down and wet. I skied 18 kilometers with no problems.

Talking about recent race – what is your conclusion?

It was a good experience, absolutely different form of racing because of 95 cars on the track with some of them lapping 20 or 30 seconds slower. Every lap you had to overtake 5-10 cars. I drove about five hours at the race and during that time I got no one single free lap.

Any scary moments?

Yes, there were few moments. You keep yourself in the slipstream before overtaking and in the same moment somebody turns into your path from the front. So there were some minor touches but nothing serious.

The main thing about your race was obviously the gearbox breaking down in the beginning of your stint which robbed you the possible podium place. Did it happen with a bang or you felt it coming?

Actually it was a half-shaft which snapped initially and that in turn destroyed gearbox internals. Mechanics changed the half-shaft first and we already hoped to get back to the track. But then they checked the gearbox, it still didn’t change gears so they were forced to change the ’box as well. But how it happened...

I guess it was my second lap when I started to feel something suspicious and hear cracks during gearchanges. On the lap it eventually broke down I heard an extremely loud crack from somewhere left-rear in the first sector. First I thought it being puncture or something. I kept it steady but not on full speed – everything seemed to be OK. Then on the backstrecth I went faster again, maybe 250 kph, but not full-throttle for the case if there is a puncture. Two turns later there was another loud crack and thereafter I couldn’t change gears any more. And on the pitlane I lost the drive completely.

So you were lucky to complete the lap first place?

Yeah, but I didn’t reach the pitbox, some 200 meters were short.

But at least you were not out on the track somewhere.

Yes, then we should have had to wait for the recovery truck. In that sense we were lucky.

There was no safety cars on the track but many times you had to drive under Code 60 conditions. Did you used speed limiter to keep the right pace?

Code 60 meant you had to follow the minimum laptime, if you went faster you were penalized. It was rather difficult, you had to keep the speed on your own. Fortunately we had a stopwatch on the steering-wheel display: you switched it on when crossing the finish line and then simply tried to keep the pace. Basically we could have used the pit-speed limiter, but the speed at pits was limited to 40 kph and our pit-speed limiter was set accordingly.

How was the night driving? You had no possibility to try it last year at Spa 24 hours.

In some sense it was even better because if you flash the lights it fills their mirrors and they see somebody faster is approaching from behind. So it was even easier to overtake slower cars than by daylight.


But driving-wise, how did you see the landmarks? Only few places had some lighting.

Yes, only main straight actually had the proper lighting, elsewhere it was more or less pitch-black. But with so many cars out you can see rather well in others lights also.

You had some very good laptimes in the dark as well.

Yeah, maybe, although I think I did my fastest lap 2:01.0 or something on my very final lap in the morning. Still it is more down to the fact who hits less cars during the lap.

Last year you drove for ART GP which is perhaps one of the most professional teams outside F1. How did GTRussia compare to it?

Rather good, we had Fortec mechanics and one engineer from them as well. Two mechanics were former F1 guys and they used to run Merc last year, so it was very good. A big thank you to everybody!

And now you can tell which differences Merc SLS has compared to McLaren you drove  throughout the 2014.

It is much easier to ride the kerbs with Merc – you go full-speed and don’t feel anything. But you can feel its weight and bulk in the turns, it takes a little bit more time and feels different there. Top power and low-rev traction are extremely good. With McLaren you have to fight the car when turning, Merc is more comfortable in this sense. But it is not so easy to draw any parallels because the tarmac itself is said to have the worst grip of all tracks in the whole world. At times it was understeery, at times oversteery, car actually didn’t settle down at all. By night if there was some wind blowing you could see how sand was flying over the track.

You drove about five hours...

Yes, we drove by turns – Marko, Karim, Alexey, me – and I was the last one in the order. Two of us couldn’t drive our final stints because that one-and-a-half hour pitstop.

It was surprising to see you didn’t let two drivers to drive during the night and let two drivers sleep longer in the same time.

Yeah, we didn’t. It was still OK, even if I could only sleep twice, about 40 minutes apiece. We didn’t do double-stints as well because driving time was limited to two hours at once. We had to refuel after about 1:15 and double-stint would have been 2:30, so it was better to change driver every time to minimize the number of pitstops.

Did you have some special preparation for the 24-hour race?

No, it was business as usual. But race itself was rather tiring. At the finish you had been awake for almost 40 hours, it is quite a long time anyway.

That was it. Do you have some certain plans for the near future?

Nothing is finalized yet but I hope I can do something in the end of January or in February.

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