Extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary measures

Something extraordinary happened before the qualifiers for the Silverstone GP. I asked Mike to perform one more check on the dampeners and he found them out and uneven. In a race, this sort of mishap can easily materialise into an accident or a spin due to loss of control. I left the car in SVG Motor Sport’s workshop in perfect condition and, at least from this end, it looks like someone fiddled with it. Did this really happen? Does someone want to hurt me? Distressed and worried, I relied on my experience to pull myself together. What do I do when I need information? The Deming cycle(*) came to mind, but with such little time before the race, there was no time to act!

My mind was already on overdrive! I tried to walk it off, work through my emotions and cleared my head for a while.

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Getting some headspace, shhhh

 

Generally, it was a nice day for qualifiers and my performance didn’t suffer as much as had I expected. I actually finished 8th. Now, I was making plans to break into the top 5 and show some of those guys my rear bumper. But Mother Nature didn’t follow through. Right before the race, during the green flag lap(*), it literally started pouring.

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Karim Sekkat (GBR).

I trained on dry track, following my line to the dot, and instead of pushing through the competition, I was faced with entirely new conditions. I had to rethink my whole strategy. The big boys upfront know what to do, for me its another first.

I focused as much as possible on getting a feel of the grip, continuously testing to determine where it’s best to be, but I just couldn’t get into my comfort zone. My start was horrible yet again. Tamsin was trying to overtake me while I was dancing in front of her. Normally, I would have picked up the pace and given her a run for her money, but then I was just focused on getting some grip. And just when you think it can’t get worse, it does – the windscreen heater stopped working right at the start. I didn’t recall anyone telling me the windscreen heater had a 10 minute kill switch. Faced with no visibility, a 20 minute race under these conditions is a lifetime on track.

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Front windscreen visibility could be improved!

I decided to sacrifice power for visibility and safety, so I turned on the A/C. Guess what? That wasn’t working either. At that point, Ginetta technology was on the receiving end of my anger. The race became a hectic struggle between maintaining traction and trying to gain any sort of decent visibility. The furthest I could see through the windscreen was… the wipers frantically going left-right.

I resolved not to give up. In a desperate attempt, I opened my side window hoping to see something. Not a chance, race cars weren’t meant to be driven looking out the side window. I got into a spin, but my reflexes helped me avoid the gravel. For a while, I was even going backwards and, to my surprise, I was quite good at manoeuvring the car. A couple drivers passed me and I dropped down a few spots. I turned around, pushed the car as much as I could and, before I knew it, I was contending with them for my rightful place. Then, another 360 spin – maybe, at least, the spectators had a blast.

Overall, I kept watching through the side-window, hoping to see the apex(*) of every corner and adjust my trajectory, I kept praying not to lose grip in fast angles and I even locked the wheels a few times at high speeds because I was pushing the car too much. In the first lap, I was constantly overdriving, frustrated with the lost spots at the start of the race. I found my comfort zone in the second lap, but I was still overdriving. This time, I was hoping to catch up. My speed would have put me in an acceptable 7th spot, yet the mishaps made it so that I finished 14th.

Nonetheless, I’m happy to be alive after everything that happened. The second round of the Silverstone GP was cancelled due to an unexpected torrential rain flooding the track. The timing couldn’t have been better, as I was adamant to go on dry settings!

Also, thank you for your advice, Mike.

sekkat 10 - Extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary measuresAs it turns out, there’s a big price to pay when I don’t listen to you, but it was a heck of a day!

I cherish my family’s support every step of the way – thank you my girls!

As it stand I now rank 10th after 3 races. Still as determined as always…

And as always, I invite you to take some time and think about the children who can benefit from the SOS Children’s Villages foundation. Let’s all pitch in and make things better for them!

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Thank you Jacob Ebrey for the photography.

(*) Control circle: better known as PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the Deming circle/cycle/wheel, Shewhart cycle, control circle/cycle, or plan–do–study–act (PDSA).

(*) Green flag lap: awareness lap run prior to the race, at pace of about 50-60mph to allow one viewing of the track conditions prior to racing.

(*) Apex: The apex or clipping point is the innermost point of the line taken through a curve. The apex is often, but not always, the geometric center of the turn. Hitting the apex allows the vehicle to take the straightest line and maintain the highest speed through that specific corner. It is often near the tightest part of a corner.

 

Overcoming challenges, an everyday task

Over the past weeks, life has confronted me with some difficult personal issues, which is why I was unable to post as usual. Suffice to say that bereavement touches us in different ways and that we each have to find a means to work through our grief. Personally, I tend to focus on my family and try to be there for them, help alleviate the pain and make things bearable.

Solace never comes easy. Still, my character urged me to push on, so I decided not cancel my last training at Silverston GP. Although I nudged my emotions in the background, my body was still on the edge from too little sleep. I had many nights with little sleep and a lot of stress, driven for 230 miles leading up to the drill sessions. And it showed on track.

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Karim Sekkat (GBR).

In just one day, I have had more spins, off tracks and near misses with aggressive drivers than I’ve had in my whole racing experience so far. Drivers in powerful cars were going in headfirst, lunging, diving and then braking or losing control, all the while snapping my line. With a few minutes left before the lunch break, I veered off into the gravel. Kindly, Mike jumped to my aid and urged me to get some much needed rest. In the meantime, he took out the hoover and got “down and dirty”. His attitude and support always lifts me – thank you, Mike! In perspective, this was a minor incident. Overall, it was incredibly dangerous on the track and it was my reflexes and experience behind the wheel that kept me out of much bigger trouble.

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Karim Sekkat (GBR).

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The race controller sent many home because of their recklessness. Then, he called a second drivers briefing and, boy, did he have a temper! Amidst shouting and swearing, I could discerned some english words. He was saying that it’s been the worse day he’s had in 26 years and added that whoever caused another red flag could f*** off and go home. No restraints. F this and F that and F some more… He even had a special mention for Ginetta drivers… Someone wanted to show us the way out, he cleared his head and left us shaking. He mentioned the international and national champions present, one of whom, by the way, took it upon himself to underline how he agreed and felt. Quite possibly, we were taken aback maybe even a little scared but as soon as we hit the tarmac, adrenaline fuelling, what can I say! Mike told me he saw almost a dozen of radicals pulled over – Aston Martins taken off track, etc. Maybe it was best they came back another day. If I find the time, I’ll try to upload some video of the spins and the general chaos.

There were also a few Ferraris, AMG’s, Aston Martin’s on track. And with their great power comes great responsibility… on my end. I was literally screaming at them as I had to constantly break to avoid accidents. Some training that was. Jay Kay was also among them, in his Ferrari but I decided I couldn’t put up with it anymore. I overtook him singing Virtual Insanity!

This way, I could at least get some spare moments to work on my lines in preparation for the next race. img 8620 - Overcoming challenges, an everyday taskLewis Hamilton’s brother and father were out as well, but other than that, nothing noteworthy happened.

In the evening, I was alone again with my sadness. I tried to wash it away and forget the tiredness and the turmoil of the briefing. I did survive it, after all. I was not content with my performance, so I tried to constantly improve, but it seemed that my body had had enough. In quick succession, I managed to explode the crammed plastic bin on myself, misplaced my phone and then put it in the wash. It stayed in there for 4 minutes. Afterwards, I overran my bath while in it and forgot the oven on! At least the phone still worked. It was definitely time to lay down for some rest…

No matter how difficult things are for us or how sordid the near future might seem, it’s imperative that we acknowledge others have to face much, much more than we do. In light of this, consider making a contribution for the children from SOS Villages.tpa picture 60612 twitter - Overcoming challenges, an everyday task

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