Leading up to Qualifying

Thursday 6:00am I Get into my truck direction Oulton Park. It’s the British GT Opening week-end and I am racing in the Ginetta GRDC+ series. My new mechanic, Kevin was already there and helped put up the awning. 

New liveryThe car did not start but we had a new starter motor as spare So, no big deal, a 20 Minutes job. The view from my “in-house” mechanic was that it was not a starter motor issue but a battery issue, no problem we had that as a spare too. In the end it was a starter motor issue but what we did not realise was that the new starter motor was of different size then the old one. It just did not fit! Ginetta assured us that it should fit…well I don’t know how many Ginetta’s are sold every year but it certainly not a mass production item! So it’s kind of a constant prototype development type of story I guess.

Well the rest of the day was spent trying to fit alternator… the advice was to file the sump to create more space. That was just too risky for us. Ginetta did not carry the old version, but luckily Phil McGarthy sold me an old refurb starter motor. Tired we went to our hotel at 21:30. Phil, a racing competitor, started his team last year and looks the proper part now as well as having improved his driving skills…another one to watch.

6:30am, ready for the testing day. The weather is not great, the track is wet and greasy, but that is part of the fun. There will be a lot of red flags, sliding and catching going on, I need to find where the limit is in those conditions. I am just not doing enough testing compared with the others. I go out with a car that had not been spanner checked. A misunderstanding between mechanics hand-over…

As I was taking a fast corner, I heard a bang and a swerling noise. I knew I’d lossed at least my fan belt. I decided to complete my corner and take the short circuit layout called Fosters back to the pit lane. I never got that far, I span without knowing why and headed for the tyre wall. My bonnet damaged and plenty of fumes coming out from underneath it were not a good omen. Could my engine be on fire? I quickly got out and escaped behind the tyre wall to safety.

Unbeknown to me, my mechanic watched the incident unfold; I was loosing my pink coolant which caused me to spin as I drove on it in the turn. A bolt was missing from the alternator, the resulting pressure snapped the alternator bracket. The belt went off, the water pump stopped working, the pressurised coolant found it’s way out. On a straight it went under my car and did not affect my grip. My right rear tyre went on it as I turned…into the wall!

Another tragedy, another testing day gone and plenty of work to be completed quickly before the qualification tomorrow. The header tank was cut open and needed replacing. Unfortunately Ginetta nor any of the teams carried that part. We went to the circuit shop, looked at online shops, all header tanks are of different shapes and sizes, nothing like mine. 

As we were running around like headless chickens, Ginetta was also trying to find a solution. Callum, the Ginetta parts man organised for someone to open the factory in Leeds. Nice gesture! But it dawned on me that there was no mention of any company manufacturer on the tank. It was a Ginetta part that started with G5; could it be a common part to other cars? YES! Ginetta actually carried them for another series. I was so happy to get my hands on it.

I came back all smiles but my mechanic was not enthusiastic. He found that the alternator bracket had been alterered. The standard part would not hold the alternator safely, I was back to square one with a bigger problem on my hands. Simon, the Ginetta production manager was very nice as usual, and we looked for a solution. I left it with the Ginetta team, Lee came to have a look, I went to the circuit parts shop. The manager actually found me a friendly welder who would come on Good Friday and open his workshop to solve my problem!

By 17:30 we had a working solution. By 19:00 we had all parts fitted. By 20:00 we had a running car. We just had to prep it: ride height, weight, toe, camber…Curtains at 21:30 again!

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I feel the world is working against me. No I am not the only one, I remember seeing a competitor refitting a whole engine today. Another working under his bonnet and yet another not being able to go out. No I am definitely not the only one.

It was time to get back to the hotel and have a few drinks. I went for a reasonably early to bed that night. Unfortunately my room was adjacent to a snoring master who liked to sleep with his loud TV on. I think I got 3 hours cursing him and 3 hours sleep that night.

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Karim Sekkat

Entrepreneur, keen sportsman & family man

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