Vila Real European Championship Report
Everything started on Sunday. As I could not take holidays on Monday and Tuesday, we decided to go to my home track on Sunday in order to prepare the car and do a shakedown to see that all was well. The car was almost perfect, so just we save it to have everything ready to Vila Real.
We started our 900 km travel to Portugal on Tuesday at 15:00. We arrived to Vila Real at 24:00 very tired. However we found part of the Spanish Team that told us a little bit of how was going the EC.
To be honest I did not have high hopes of doing well because we arrived two days late, and it was the first race with additives in Europe and we thought that specially Italian drivers had more experience than us.
The first heat ran was quite hopeful. We did a best lap of 19.6, being not to much slower than the rest of drivers of my heat. It’s important to notice that the layout was not difficult, but it was difficult to make time. Any mistake means a big crash because of the high speeds and fast corners around the circuit.
In the following heats of free practice I was trying to go faster doing a lot of mistakes losting time in the track. So after 6 rounds of free practice we hadn’t improved anything and also we felt super tired. I was 48!! We were quite lost with the setup and additives so went to talk with Salven to see what he was using. I decided to copy some of his setup. We move from 600 to 1000 in the rear shock oil and from 500 to 600 in the front. Also we moved to rear softer antiroll bar and we moved the weight to the rear of the car. We leave it ready for Thursday morning and went to the Hotel to try to take a rest.
On Thursday morning I felt better, and in the first controlled practice heat I had improved almost half a second from Wednesday! For the second heat we moved to longer wears and we improve a bit hit hotter conditions, which showed us that the real improvement was much greater. I already felt much more comfortable, the car felt really good. I didn’t have a spectacular fast lap, but I was very consistent with both, big and small tyres.
In the first qualifying round all goes well except about three mistakes that cost us three seconds. We were on 21v at 7:04 and 24th place. We were in ¼ that was so good for us. In the second round we did a cleaner and more consistent run and get down to 21v at 7:01 that remained me in ¼. So we finish the day very happy with the car and the result which was was a reasonable goal for us.
The objective for Friday was to keep the ¼ finals. We knew that the first round on Friday were the fastest one because the colder conditions so I checked the complete car having it perfect for the first Friday round.
We went to the first round and the car felt really good. He did a really fast run doing laptimes in 18.9 and 19 low doing a 22v in 7:12!!
It was an awesome time for us much more faster that expected, eight seconds faster than Thursday! After my round I was the 6th, however we have to wait for the faster groups. To be honest I thought that the fastest guys were going to improve so my mind was in maintaining the ¼ finals. When the round had finished Jorge Porcar come and told me that I was the 12! THE 12!! We could not believe it. We had a super time being fighting with super drivers. Now I say that I never would imagine it.
But here began our problems. On the first group of the checking of the tyres was delayed because the additive sniffer was detecting smoke from an engine. The race director did not notice anything and opened the track when only four or five drivers were ready. Some Italian drivers claim because they had not enough time to warm the car, so the race director decided to repeat the round of the group 8. Well, we were prejudiced, however almost all drivers were ahead us, so we only could lose one or two positions that remained me in semifinals.
But then the Swiss team manager says he wants to annul the complete third round and repeat it during the afternoon completely excluding morning times. The Race Director move the decision to the drivers, deciding to repeat the entire round annulling the times of the third round. I lost my time of 22v in 7:12. I think if not the most, I was one of the more disadvantaged driver with this decision.
We were very angry and sad. As always the luck turned her back to us in the key moments. In the 4th round I was not enough concentrated so I did a mistake on the first lap and got retired. In the 5th round we broke the engine. Everything was going bad.
For the last round, we put another engine and everything seemed ok. I was again the fastest driver of my group. My first laps were quite fast (18.9 and then 19 lows) until I was just behind Tobias Hepp. First he close me the door some laps being much slower that me. So my mechanics called me for the refueling with the idea of pass Tobias using the lap with clean space. However he also decided to go to the pits. My mechanic was awesome in the refueling leaving the car just ahead of Tobias car. And then he decided to pass over my car inside the pit lane and of course he hit me moving my car out of the track! I could not believe it! How I could he so unlucky? I lost all the concentration because I thought that it was impossible to do the 22v. Gradually I recovered the concentration and I could finish with 22 v at 7:19. When we were looking my lap times we noticed that I was going to make 22v in 7:13!!!! It meant semifinals!
Finally we were on ¼ finals. The bid question for the finals was just to change or not the tyres. Almost everyone said that it was impossible to do 20 min with one set of tyres. But I was quite sure that I could do it. We knew that changing tyres in the ¼ finals we had bif chances to get semis. But in the semis our big chance to be in the final was to avoid the tyres change. Also, my car always goes well with big tyres, so we decided to try to do the finals without changing tyres.
However when we checked the engine it was very dry with no oil inside. We went to ask Fantini and advise me to change the fuel. The doubts came to us. Should we change the fuel? Will we have enough time in three minutes of warming to tuning the engine and clean two sets of tyres?
Everything was ready, but finally we decided to change the fuel. The start of the ¼ finals was Ok and I was third. However after some laps the engine became too lean having no power. We could maintain the third place but I needed more power so during the second pit-stop my mechanics retuning a bit the engine, but then the engine was too rich and I was almost the whole track in first gear. I was almost slower than before. But when people change wheels I got second position. I had to keep the second or third position to go to the semis. But then, just before the last refueling due to the engine was too rich I ran out of fuel! Here I end my race!
It was the European Championship where we were closer to the TOP arriving two days later. We had done everything right, all the decisions that we took were right. However the foolish decisions of the race director, and the decision of changing the fuel ruined our race.
Seeing my tyres at the end of the ¼ finals, and seeing that the strategy that followed some drivers as Salven and Green to move from ¼ to the final was just our one, I think we had serious options do the final.
Now he have to forget this race, and going to Gijón knowing that we can be very fast if we find the right balance of the car.
Thanks to my sponsors, Procar, Serpent and Matrix for the help, the team Serpent for information, Jonny for making me awesome refuelings and of course to my father because without him none of this would be possible.
Greetings to all,