As promised, after the first part posted few weeks ago, I again chose to tell you curious episodes experienced on the track over the years. Today I focused on the little things which can be dampers, brake pads and engine starter, little details that can make a difference, knowingly or unknowingly. For the series “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”
Diepholz, DTM, a military airfield circuit. It’s a magical year, we’re winning everything with Alfa Romeo. Our driver, championship leader, is uncontrollable. A force of nature. But in Race 1 a contact puts him in tenth place. Start of Race 2 is very good. And he’s fast, overtaking a car after another. Then, about halfway through the race, in the middle of a battle he’s off the track, into the rough grass. The car jumps but then recovers the track, not losing too much. He’s pushing even more now. The lap times are unapproachable to others. He wins the race. After scrutineering, the mechanics lift the car on the air jacks. The rear right shock slips out of its strut, in slow motion, and the wheel, just as softly, lies to the outside. Driving off the track he hit, hidden by the grass, a concrete airfield beacon. And he won the race starting from tenth on the grid… Dedicated to those who, with infinite passion and obsessive attention, spends hours setting up the car with surgical precision.
Brands Hatch. WTCC Race 2. Second place in Race 1, then, for the reverse order of top ten, we start ninth in Race 2. The car is well performing from the first session, then it is the home race for our driver. Standing start, go! Everything is running well. In two laps he climbs to the seventh place and many still to go. On the third lap I see that the first sector time is higher than usual. Something is going wrong, it is not normal. “I have a problem with the brakes” he says by intercom, then nothing else. Strange, it is not an hard circuit for the brakes and after Race 1 they were perfect. He loses one position. Then stabilizes the rhythm and defends until the end. We check the car and see that a rear brake pad pin, on the right side, was broken and flew away with the outer pad. No more rear brakes and not enough braking on the front. The driver who followed him saw the rear pad coming off from through the wheel. I struggle to believe that he could have missed such a short time with a car that was braking half than usual. He explains, quiet: “Paddock Hill Bend is one of the most difficult corners of the world. It’s a quick right, you do it in fourth, almost a jump. Followed by a strong compression and heavy braking. Under normal conditions it is hard to keep the car on the tarmac, not to jump over the curb on the left.” The rear brake pad has flown away before braking Paddock Hill Bend. Brake pedal was down. While with his left hand he held the car in the way, with the right moved the brake set all the way forward. “Then, of course, I could not brake too much late. But losing one position only, with three quarters of the race still to go, it is not bad.” No, I think, is not really bad. Also because he had less than five seconds to figure out what happened and find a solution before the next braking. Five seconds is not much, in fact. Let’s count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Nuremberg, DTM. Second year. In the first we won everything and then we were closely controlled by our rivals. They churned out a new car, beautiful. They did not want to lose their home championship, not a second time. We win Race 1. We stand for the second race. We are on the grid. When we try to start the engine, at the one minute signal, the engine starter does not engage. Panic. Let’s try again. Nothing. Let’s try again. Finally the engine starts. But the incident did not escape the watchful eye of the enemy. Just a few seconds to the green flag for the formation lap. And then, with the obvious evidence, the board of delayed start is shown: “Start delayed”. We do not believe, it can’t be true. The rivals smiles wickedly satisfied. We turn off the engine again. We can’t overheat it. And when we try to start again the engine starter dies, definitely. All the other cars overtake us. We start the engine pushing the car and set it in the last place. Our race pace is furious, insane, relentless. Then the chequered flag drops and it’s a second final position. But it amounts to a victory, one of those who make history. Sitting on the roof of the car he raises his fist to the sky and strikes the enemy. Today, gentlemen, there was no way against me.