In retrospect, last Friday was one of my toughest struggles yet. Imagine the last 24 hours before a great challenge in your life. You’re completely focused, running possible scenarios and solutions. What you are not thinking about is what would happen if you didn’t even get a shot at it. I can barely describe the frustration that I felt when the car broke down even before getting to Rockingham. Not your typical Friday… but never mind that. I figured it’s more useful to channel my annoyance and stress towards Saturday; maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll fix it or, at least, I’ll get into a car with a new set-up. Not ideal, but it would have to do.
In the meantime, the Ginetta gang completely stripped out the dashboard and inside of the cockpit. For a while there, I was stunned by what they were doing – basically taking the car apart piece by piece. Still, I trusted them and I knew there’s a reason they were doing this. From what I gathered, the problem was with the chassis loom, a set of intricate wires that connects dashboard functions and controls with their associate mechanisms. You can think of it as the cable that connects steering to the wheels, only that it’s slightly more complicated and other functions are also routed through the chassis loom.
So a new chassis loom was brought from Leeds. While this one was getting installed, I missed my learning sessions and the pressure was mounting. At this point, I was genuinely making an effort to control my stress, which, as it turns out, is pretty difficult when you have nothing to do. Oh, and did I mention that the track layout also changed? If something could have gone wrong, it would. But Saturday was a new day, my first qualification! Regardless of the obstacles, I resolved to not give up. The mere fact that I was able to get behind the wheel and participate was a delight. At long last, things were up to me and I felt that I was regaining control over my fate.
I qualified 7th with my best lap time 1:44.
Still, my troubles were far from over. As per my training, at the start of the first race, I was waiting for a green light that basically never came. The other drivers were also more aggressive than I thought and it took a while for me to get a feel of what they’re like on the track. Sadly, this slow start cost me three places. Nevertheless, I wasn’t out yet. I found my balance and focused on the lines – I can do this. After the long straight, I jumped ahead of the driver in front. I had plenty of initiative, so I wanted to push a little harder, but there was a big risk, yet again. I had to hit the brakes hard going into the hairpin. Because of the violent deceleration, the tires started burning a little, giving out quite a bit of smoke. The tension just jumped a notch. The car was under just as much pressure as I was. Three laps later, I gained another position by luring the competitor ahead of me into a trap. I faked an overtaking maneuver and got him to defend against my pressure by changing his line.
He was forced to move to the inside of the curb. Right then, I floored it and got ahead on the other side. My heart was one beat short of bursting out of my chest as we were going into the chicane. It took a bit of effort to regain the spots I unwillingly conceded, but it was worth it, since it got me to push my limits. At the end of the race, I made it 7th, just 4 seconds behind Ron Linn. The major surprise was the time I managed – 1:42, my fastest performance yet.
I was thrilled to get into the second race this afternoon. Big props go out to my wingman, Mike, whose energy and support kept me and my car together. Pushing me harder, slowing me down and keeping me focused at the right time.
I’m also very thankful to my Moroccan and wider fan club, to my family. Your cheers and encouragements and messages lend me strength. Seeing the Moroccan flag flying in the wind gave me wings.
Race 2, I was so eager at the start of the race, my car stood still while the tires where spinning and burning giving me no traction. The car started dancing the Salsa and I nearly created an incident. While performing for the crowds, I just lost 4 places. Not again!
No more excuse, I regained 1 place going into the first hairpin. A battle of wits and courage ensued with Rob Morgan. I overtook him twice, he overtook me twice…bonnet to boot, nearly going off a few times…no one backing down. Once he forced me off track at 110 mph. Unfortunately I had to back off to avoid a penalty from Race Clerk. Track limits cannot be used to gain an advantage over a competitor. No worries, I overtook him on the hairpin as I pushed the limits a bit more, he skidded, I took the inside line…See you later Rob!
Where did I end up? You guessed it 7th.
7th in the qualifiers, 7th in race 1 and 7th in race 2, 7: my lucky number.
P.S: Rob crashed a 100 meters from the finishing line with Simon Kersey…life on the edge can cost you! They are both fine but DNF. We had to wait for 1h30min in Parc Fermé for the Clerk to release the drivers, all incidents were deemed fair. Time for a drink!
At the end of the day, I know it’s all worth it for the children that will benefit from the SOS Villagers program. Please help, thank you!