22 September 2009

Race Review - 1st round of the Le Mans Classics Championships

I've been waiting for the start of the new championships since summertime break to have something to write about in this blog. The long awaited Le Mans Classics Championship finally kicked off last Friday, the 18th - and when I say awaited, I really mean it was awaited by everyone: 19 drivers took part of the race! I have never seen so many drivers on an "one car-one driver" race format! But what will also go down in history for this first post about race reviews, is that this race marked my return to the podium - and straight to the top step! Really, I can't remember my last visit to the podium, I'm more used to battle for the places "right under the podium spots".

Classic cars seem to find many enthusiasts in Braga. Take a look at the great lineup for this race:
Porsche 917s, 908s, even a Carrera 6... My Ferrari P4 (and another white and blue one), a couple of 512S Codalunga... Ford GT40s and even a Lola T70!

This race took place at the GT Team track, which has seen competition for the last time back in June! The track was used intensively for the preparation of the Porto 24 Hours race, but unfortunately the outside lanes were very dirty, and the ones on the middle still suffered from lower-than-average grip. So, qualifying was the key for this race. I got lucky here, I admit: being 18th from 19 on the track gave an heck of an advantage: not only I would know the region of the best laptimes, I would also have a clean lane.

Well, a scare hit me right at the start. The best laptime so far was a 8.44 s, and I knew my car could deliver a laptime close to that - if the tires started to work straight from the start. On the 1st lap, even being extra careful, I couldn't avoid an exit into a very dirty section of the track (I like to call it "gravel trap"). I thought my chances were gone, but on the very next lap, I was able to record a high 8.5s, so now I started to push. Feeling the car delivering the performance helped me to push constantly and I managed to grab pole by the 4th attempt, but feeling I could do better, I managed to break it back-to-back: a high 8.3s and a great 8.325s at the end! The 19th driver failed to improve, so the very needed pole was mine!

Since we would have 3 heats (starting from the slower drivers), when it would be my time to race, the "dirty factor" would be less felt on the outside lanes. Still, no chances taken, and I've chosen my starting lane so that I would end on the dirtiest, hoping it would be clean by then.

"Gentlemen... Start your engines!"... my car leading the pack for the start of Heat 3.

The starting lane was actually one of the fastest to drive... but here came another scare. My car couldn't do better that 8.7 on this one, when I would expect laptimes similar to the pole. I had to submit to my opponents faster pace, and I was struggling for 3rd with other drivers starting to "bite" hard on my heels! But the following lane was much better: out of the middle lanes and I was now on the right pace. Strange thing, indeed. My only explanation was that most people carried dirt from the outside lanes into the middle ones (according to this track's lane rotation rule, every driver on an outside lane will move to a middle lane). Now I was able to recover 2nd place, as the previous owner was having a hard time on the dirty "blue" lane. My pace was now the fastest, but the gap to the leader was on more than one full lap. Moving to the 3rd lane, the dreaded and dirty "blue", I was surprised to see that my car fared much better than anyone that passed there before... and now, while not being fast enough to fend off the opposition from the back, I was able to pass the leader who was struggling for grip on the dirtiest lane of them all, the "black" one. Moving to the middle and fast "green" lane, I was able to drive side-by-side with the former leader and confirm that the "red" lane was not as fast as before: this time I was able to pull away on this lane, as their laptimes fell a bit. Getting closer to the end, I still had to face the fast and tricky "white" lane and the dreadful "black". I had a couple of errors on the "white" lane but at the end I had a lead of almost 3 full laps that I would have to defend on the "black" lane. Starting this final lane, I was very relieved to see again that my car did good here, better than anyone else. At the end, I managed to secure the win by a full 2 laps margin - and I even stopped alongside the 2nd and 3rd place on a rare occasion when 4 cars ended at the same section!

A rare occurrence: 1st (my P4...), 2nd (white 917) and 3rd (Ford GT40) placed drivers side-by-side. The great looking 917 Gulf was caught in the middle here, but finish a honorable 5th.

Both 2nd and 3rd drivers were tied at the end, and even though the 2nd placed car was some inches ahead, the race organizers decided to attribute an ex-aequo 2nd place for both. So, this was the podium, for cars and drivers:

"Feels good to be back..." Me, with both 2nd placed drivers side-by-side.

The awesome list of models ordered by finishing position, with the podium placed cars separated...

Curious fact: 3 different models on the podium, and mine was the only one that, historically, failed to win at Le Mans...

Well, so this marked my 5th race win in slot cars races. My last one in July 2008! Also, from the 5 wins, it's the 3rd with Ferrari. Even more curious, this #21 Ferrari P4 is my second model of this car: the first won the only race it took part, although unofficial, but this "2nd" one also won at its first outing... the P4 is a true Ferrari pure-blood, it seems!

So, time to starting tuning the car for the next round, at the CSB slot track. I'm sure the opposition will do their homework, and I am short of ideas to extract more from my car. This is what made the difference, I knew how to set this car from top to bottom, while others had to test different solutions on cars that we're not very used to race. Still, I had the upper hand on the outside lanes (that was the key for this victory), maybe it will be likewise on the CSB track.

So, hope it all turns well for the next one... see you then ;)


  1. Hello Hugo.

    Congratulations, it was a superb win indeed. And you did a fine tuning job on that P4 also. The little scalex was very, very fast.

    I felt too many grip problems. The track was very odd, no grip nowhere... (at least I didn't find it anywhere, but you seemed to manage quite alrigth, didn't you?)

    Anyway, congratulations once again for your win.


  2. Yeah, grip came from a pair of recent 19x10mm Slot.It P1 compounds treated with Blue Factor bushing oil for one week!