I apologise in advance for this blog; I am tired, stressed, down…but not out!
Last night I got my car back working, we still had some work to do to enter this week-end’s race, and it all seemed feasible. We would quickly check the compulsory transponder, onboard cameras (vbox), lap time predictor (racelogic) for the tech savvy, add the racing numbers, stickers and SOS Villages decals.
I set-off this morning full of hope and dreams. Within 30 minutes, I was surrounded with smoke inside the cabin, battery light on red and a sense of deja vu. I got towed to Rockingham and while I watched my competitors getting ready for the race, I paced up and down the paddock: six guys where under my bonnet and inside the cabin stripping everything bare!
So no testing for me today, the car is still on the mend and we can only cross our fingers… hopefully… maybe… tomorrow will be a better day. At best I will race a car with a new set-up straight into qualifying with no testing…at worse I will watch…either way far from a good starting point.
So in the morning I will do what I always do, I will pick myself up, change what I can change and not worry about what is set. If there is a way to qualify, I will be there; that much I promise. In the meantime, it’s goodnight from me.
Thanks for all your wishes from England, Estonia, France, Jamaica, Malaysia, Morocco, Mozambique, Romania & United States… Especially to my fan club, flying over from Casablanca: BIG UP BRO!
SOS Kinderdorf in Kochi (Kerala) in Indien. Foto: Frank May/picture alliance im Auftrag von SOS Kinderdörfer
The Ginetta Racing Drivers Club (GRDC) speeds into action at Rockingham Motor Speedway this weekend, as 22 newly qualified racing drivers enjoy their first ever motor race.
Jack Oliphant will share his car with father Paul (who races in the GRDC+ series) and enjoy tuition from older brother Tom, who won the 2015 Michelin Ginetta GT4 SuperCup.
Similarly, Ron Linn from Dewsbury has followed in son Stewart’s footsteps and found himself behind the wheel of a G40. With Stewart a former champion and son-in-law Shaun Goff owner of Optimum Motorsport, he will be sure to have a large fan club descending on Rockingham this weekend.
It seems there’s plenty of local (to Ginetta at least) folks signed up this season too, as a further five drivers hail from the home of the White Rose. Representing Leeds is David Powell, whilst Sheffield is pinning its hopes on Paul Ogle. Former professional remote controlled car racer Richard Isherwood and car collector Richard Anderson will be aiming to take some champagne and silverware back to their hometown of York, whilst completing the collective is Wetherby’s Adam Beaumont.
Across the Pennines, Oldham’s Richard Tetlow joins the grid having heard all about the series from 2015 racer, Phil McGarty. The only female racer on this year’s grid, Tamsin Germain, will be representing London, whilst presenter of Channel 4’s The Love Of Cars, Ant Anstead was a late entry and will be representing Hertfordshire. Coming from slightly further afield, Mike Rogers will make the commute from his home in Munich for each of the four races. Whilst gaining slightly fewer air miles will be Northern Ireland’s Keith Gibson.
Some of the slightly more experienced competitors include Vimto Soft Drinks Rally Champion 1992 Robert Morgan from Rutland, track day enthusiast Karim Sekkat from Oxford and Southampton’s Barry Trumper. Want2race winner Phil Ingram hopes his experience as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer at Williams Advanced Engineering should make him one to watch this season.
With an incredibly varied grid of ages and experiences, this year’s Ginetta Racing Drivers Club is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet.
Extract Ginetta News, April 28 2016, 2:02 PM
SOS Kinderdorf in Kochi (Kerala) in Indien. Foto: Frank May/picture alliance im Auftrag von SOS Kinderdörfer
“I first met Karim when I introduced him to iZone Driver Development, he came across as a very confident individual who is clearly very successful in life.
His words to me were “I want to be the best I can be in Motorsport and I need you to find me the most optimal way to do this”, it is rare that a completely new driver has this determination and drive to achieve straight away. When we started training together it was tough and I think it quickly dawned on him how hard this task would be.
Starting from scratch is never easy, getting used to the sim, new tracks, the difference of driving a race car to a road car, it was all very new. Motorsport is a very tough sport to pick up quickly, you have to unlearn a lot of bad habits from normal road driving and be able to be committed whilst still being controlled.
Karim stuck with it and I started to see improvement, the consistency came and we could work more on technique rather than track knowledge. He really made a big step forward when he had more testing time under his belt, he was able to take the learning points from the real test into his sim work.
Going into the first race, I feel confident that Karim can fight for top 8 results and maybe better, his biggest challenge will be maintaining his performance when his heart is telling him he wants to be better. The main thing for Karim is to enjoy the experience, give his all in every race and learn from his mistakes, so we can improve for the next outing.”
Tom Oliphant is a professional driver and coach. Tom’s racing career summary so far:
Races entered 117
Pole positions 6
Fastest laps 10
Race win percentage 9.4%
Podium percentage 30.8%
During testing, my battery light turned solid red. I’m hoping there’s not much to worry about there. Later on, I check my times with Mike again. I’ve made some progress and shaved off three seconds. I knew I could do it, I am half way there. A surge of exhilaration grabs hold of my mind and body. I’m getting better and better. Eagerly, I get back on the track. This is my way of talking game.
In the oval, I felt my tires were losing grip again at 108 mph, I am facing that dreaded concrete wall again! I also heard a strange noise coming from somewhere. It seems like the Universe was throwing everything at me to knock me off my balance. No chance. I will keep my line. The concrete wall will have to wait for someone else to kiss it. In the pit, they discovered that the differential had sprung a bolt. I was so relieved to know that the car wasn’t dancing because of me. We’re out of our depth, though.
Luckily, team Want2Race steps up to the challenge. They work their magic and Mike is with them every minute, watching and learning. And they did an incredible job. Thank you, guys!
Back on track, I manage to shave off another two seconds. 1:53. I decide it’s time to confront what happened to me last time. Meet the wet tarmac on the wet grip area. I got used to sliding, my back drifting and then gaining control again. Every time I slid, I was focused on the line. I felt the car’s reaction, what was going on and now, hopefully, I master it somehow better.
It’s time to go all in. I need to make sure I’m on the level with them. My mind slows everything down and I become aware of every small detail. I push her in every corner, I even conquer my fear and go by the concrete wall as fast as I can. My body feels the pressure, as sweat drips from my forehead slither on my jaw and down onto my neck. I pass the finish line – 1:51, just shy of the big boys now.
I did it, I got to my goal. It’s just a matter of time before I can do this consistently. I take down notes from the day, paying close attention to what happened and I head on home. I came here before the sun rose, I left after the sun set. Did time stop? I was so tired I could barely tell what was happening. I was losing energy, speed, torque and the dials kept spinning out of control. The speed was a constant 40mph, but the oil pressure was abnormally high. Wipers gave into the pouring rain, while the heat from the engine bathed me in steam. The battery went dead and I drove blind for a while, relying on the lights from the truck in front. I couldn’t see the signs, so I missed two parking spots. Soon enough, the engine gave up.
Using my racing skills, I carried the speed for a while longer. When I got out to push it somewhere safe, a few strangers jumped to my aid. I don’t know who they were, but, if you’re reading this, thank you!
I arranged to have the car towed. At home, there’s not one ounce of energy left in me. I can’t even take a shower so I’m going to allow myself one accident today: I crash in bed for a well-deserved rest…Tomorrow morning I will have to find a quick solution to get the car roaring again or they will be no race for me!
Less than a week left until the race season kicks off. Do you know the feeling you get in the very last moments before an exam, when it’s your turn to be called in for that job interview or when everyone’s walking in that meeting? The one that’s going make everything happen or end it all? You feel far away, as if what’s going on is unreal but, at the same time, you know you have to be there. You know you can’t let this just pass by you. Focus on the present and live every second as if it were your last. With less than a week left until the race season kicks off, that’s how I feel.
Most people around me were sleeping, eagerly awaiting two relaxing days to recharge their batteries. I wasn’t. I was up at 4:30, before daybreak, to make it in time to the last training at Rockingham. This was the last chance to improve my lap times and get it right. I secretly wanted the sun not to rise, time to stop or maybe slow down, at least. Just me and the car on the circuit for a few days – nobody has to know. When I got there, I realized that I left home so eagerly that I had forgotten my lenses – minor issue, nothing to worry about.
Something else concerned me more. All the experienced drivers had their garages reserved, I found a spot on the parking. They were full of smiles. For a second, I was caught off guard. These are the big boys. I’ve been driving around the track for a while now, but they were the ones who owned it. Yet, this is just a narrative. It all comes down to the flag and the green light. They may be good, but they can’t stop me that easily. We’ll see on the tarmac if their attitude matches their skill.
When we start, my laps are far away from theirs. Mike times them. Who would have thought that I would use a business competitor analysis on the track? I’m at 1:58, while the good ones pull off around 1:51. The gap is big, can I get there? In the meantime, I introduce myself. You never know what a bit of socialising tells you about your competitors. They’re quite entertaining, always full of laughter and friendly jokes. I wonder if it’s a strategy to make you feel at ease.
Soon enough, my suspicions are somewhat confirmed. They say they don’t train. The instructors say otherwise. Combining mind games, understatements, civility and sportsmanship, there’s not one of them who is willing to give up their cards. Whether it’s laughing off a serious inquiry to avoid giving an answer, talking less in order to arouse nervousness in others or giving the impression they’re doing a lot worse than they are, it’s all about getting under the skin of your competitor and throwing them off their game as much as possible. But when I get in the driver’s seat, none of these things matter. It’s just me and the car.
Rockingham, Europe’s fastest racing circuit, is the first of four circuits comprising this season of Ginetta GRDC. With less than 10 days left until the racing season begins, the pressure is definitely mounting. We better know the other drivers and get accustomed to the track, qualifying chance to make the grid is 15 minutes flat. No more than 24 hours later, the real race begins.
Whenever I firmly grasp the steering wheel and push the weighty clutch to the metal, a surge of adrenaline takes over me. The car’s engine, a 1.800cc, 4-cylinder, produces 135bhp. Unlike standard cars, there’s no stability control, vector assistance, four wheel drive or any electronics. You have to rely on your instincts to maintain traction in those tight curbs. There’s no power assisted steering, which means that the wheels turn exactly as much as your hands are telling them to. And it gets even more interesting when you suddenly realize there’s no ABS, traction control, ceramic breaks, airbags or any kind of help. That’s right, you have to know how and when to break, otherwise you’ll find yourself in the gravel or kissing a concrete wall.
As exciting as it is, handling such basic bare bone car is never easy. I am not alone in my passion behind the wheel. Everyone else is training just as hard. So far, I drifted twice into the gravel at over 95 mph at Donington Park and Brands Hatch. Fuelled by an ambition to perfect my racing skills, I did not slow-pace my first training days and the wet tarmac of Rockingham showed me no mercy.
In a split second, I lost traction and I hit a concrete wall. Initially, I was angry for not anticipating the situation and reacting earlier – the steering wheel and the throttle were close to worthless because the wheels lost grip of the track. But then, while I was rushed with the ambulance and taken to a medic for a check-up, my mind was focused again. I needed to make the next start and improve my lines. Nothing short of perfection will satisfy my perseverance.
For a while, things seemed to be getting worse, my car was in no shape to get back on the track. The Ginetta team were sawing the fibreglass, patching and taping to no avail…
On the other hand, the red flag meant race control stopped all racing and everybody had to go back to the pits. So as luck has it, just in time for the next start, I was offered someone else’s car. They understood my thirst and gave me the chance to run again. I couldn’t believe the camaraderie! If it happens to somebody else, I will return the favour; even for a competitor. Humanity is always there.
All the while, Mike Alder, our mechanic who is learning to be a magician (assistant, linesman, data analyst…) rather than just repairman, worked assiduously to remove the gravel from the tires, under the bonnet and under the boot… what a mess. I am in his debt for the quick turnaround he managed. Thank you, Mike.
The tension is rising. Soon enough, we’ll be up against real teams with tens of mechanics, data analysts, drivers who spend weeks perfecting elaborate techniques and their truckloads worth of equipment. We may be neophytes in many ways, but we will not be stopped so easily. I can’t wait to get back on the track…
I hope you are enjoying our progress, so don’t forget to be part of our journey, have a look at our Racing sponsorship presentation. All the proceeds from sponsors will go to SOS Villages. Thank you.
As a Moroccan, I’ve had the privilege to grow up in one of the most culturally syncretic countries in the world. However, looking back on my childhood, things were not always easy. Morocco’s Casablanca often saw the confrontation between the European and Arabic cultures, clashing on a resilient Berber foundation. These three major traditions were a lot to take in. I loved going on the corniche and gazing at the ocean. Unlike the people around me, the ocean was a single entity, unimaginably greater than human beings, yet so much more synchronised. Even today, I’m overwhelmed by its beauty and character.
Morocco also brought together the wealthy and the poor. I could never find it in my heart to reconcile these extremes and I always knew we could do better. With the help of technology, our lives were improved dramatically, yet so little was shared with those who actually needed our help. Today, still, we are far from perfection. But this does not mean that we must yield to the hardships that lie ahead. As a young man, I never ceased to persevere, but I knew that others were not as fortunate as I was.
Some of the children I grew up with didn’t have the same opportunities. If something is to be different, we have to make it so. Nobody will do it for us. Once I set-up and secured the KAS Technologies Group, I finally felt that my desire to give back to the community might actually come to life one day. My occupations today are still in tone with those of that young man who used to stroll along the ocean shore.
I’m uncannily aware that my existence will end one day. I’d like to greet that moment with no regrets, so every day, I live life to its fullest. Like a heart monitor, I want every day to be full of ups and downs. We can keep the smooth line for the end. It’s no wonder that racing is so deeply rooted into my spirit. The sensation of controlling a machinery working like clockwork on the edge is just breath taking. Made by man, yet still, somehow, perfect. Following this passion, I joined the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club with the intention to participate in the Ginetta GRDC series. I am blessed.
Orphans and very vulnerable children deserve to lead a full, happy life too. We can all do something to help and disrupt the status quo. So let’s give others a chance to change the world. For me, this is car racing.
By the way, we are raising funds so be part of our journey, have a look at our Racing sponsorship presentation. All the proceeds from sponsors will go to SOS Villages. Thank you.