2014 Subida a Algar – Practice/Shakedown event before the first round of the National championship

This event is the first in the calendar of the Andalusian championship, close to the lakes area of Arcos de la Frontera, and one that we had won the year before with a time of 1 min 26.2 seconds. The road is not the best to be honest to truly test the cars pace, it is very tight and twisty very worn and shiny tarmac and broken in some places. The run is only 2.55 kilometres in length.
The event is again, as is the tradition, in two phases, phase A on Saturday afternoon and Phase B on Sunday morning. At this time of year the weather conditions can be unpredictable, and true to form same as the previous year phase A started off in the rain so wets were the order of the day. The first run of each phase is always a practise, having never driven the car in the wet and pouring rain I was a little apprehensive, a completely new set up, paddle change for the very first time in any competition car and a set of Avon wets again unknown to me. It didn’t help on the run through the service area to the start that the wiper linkage decided to throw the towel in so no wipers! no time to repair, a very difficult run as you can imagine poorly sighted, but managed surprisingly a 4th fastest time, less than a second behind the three 4 wheel drive cars entered on the event. The next run (The 1st Official timed run) the rain had stopped but as the road was still very wet with running water in places we stayed with the wets, and as I could now see I squeezed in a fastest time, so leading phase A.
Before the last run of Phase A there was an hours break and the sun had emerged and as such partially dried the road so time for the slicks, tyre warmers out but yet another problem the new Generator also decided to throw the towel in and as such we couldn’t warm the slicks so decided to stay on the wets rather than destroy a new set of soft slicks, I thought i could hold first place with a bit of luck as we were nearly 3 seconds in the lead. That would have been the case if it weren’t for a moment of brain fade coming out of an open left hand hairpin in second gear and instead of selecting 3rd selected 1st so had a half spin and lost a bit of time, enough to drop us back into 4th place, less than a second from the eventual winner so truly would have won. As you can imagine I took a bit of stick for this lapse in concentration and as such Neil my trusted service technician decided to carryout a minor modification to the control system to prevent it happening again!

Sunday and Phase B, and again same as the previous year, completely different weather conditions, bright sunshine, dry roads and warm, just what was needed to fully try out the car and make use of the power and new gear ratios to the full. We had borrowed a replacement generator from someone in the town so great, tyre warmers out which are essential in hillclimb events as they need to warm right from the off, tyre pressures as in all form of motorsport are also key but as we were learning we were a little in the dark as what was the best pressure to kick off with, the shorter the event the harder to predict.

Service area, parked next to Phase A Winner, National Group A champion in the Mitsubishi EVO 11.

All the national events range from 5 kilometres to 8 kilometres so the 1st practise runs are probably the most important run of any event.
Having competed in a number of countries throughout Europe on admittedly mostly rallies I have experienced many different degrees of professionality and levels of quality of organisers and attitudes of race directors and clerks of courses. On the Sunday the race director must have climbed out of bed on the wrong side and for some bizarre reason was seemingly angry with all the drivers and made it clear that if you were late on arrival to the start line you wouldn’t be allowed to run. First car away 10.30am, we being seeded car 1 were therefore the last to leave, 30 cars at 30 second intervals my start time 10.45am. We need to retain heat into the tyres virtually minutes up to starting so arrive to start no more than 5 minutes before the start, 10.40 achieved no problem, not the case, myself and the 4 cars in front of me were refused a start as we were deemed late! Definitely not the case so an argument kicked off but his word was final, we had delayed the race and as there only have a small window to keep the road closed with the Guardia Civil that practice was now over. Great no way of testing the slicks, gearchange, and gain any knowledge of tyre temperatures and pressures for the following two official timed runs.
Back to the service area to be then informed that the race director had decided to have an hours break for breakfast!!! Unbelievable.
The first official timed run the organisers had as a result of the previous issue introduced a runner to tell cars when to set off to the start line, a good idea following the official complaints from a couple of competitors. We were called, great, 5 minutes before to find a queue of a dozen cars at the start line, the race delayed due to a crash.
Twenty five minutes later we rolled up to the start line with stone cold tyres, resulting in a very entertaining run up the hill for the spectators, a great deal of sideways action as a result of no grip or traction. 4th fastest time and 3 seconds off the pace, by now I’m thinking that this is certainly not our day like the previous one.
The final run, ran like clockwork, hot tyres, good and correct pressures and set the fastest time of the weekend to win the event and take our first top step on the podium. Happily too i beat my record set the previous year by just over 1 second which is very satisfying. I believe that the car has great potential and believe that through the forthcoming year and the national championship times will markedly improve and its pace will be able to match the best out there in the GT category, mostly Porsche GT3’s and one or two Ferraris.
The first round of the championship is called the Subida a Estepona down in southern spain about 15 kilometres south of Marbella on the coast it is a 7.3 km run with an excellent road surface, and a touch wider so should be good for the Ginetta. The event is over the weekend of the 5th and 6th April, less than two weeks away.
Check out the organisers website for more information of the event in early april : www.subidaestepona.com
I am informed that the National Spanish Championship events this year will be shown on Motors TV so watch out for that.