Red light district 

We get onto the grid. The lights are on red. Literally a second later they go off! Unbelievable, usually we get a 5minute board and a countdown. I have a false start, never mind, to late to complain, focus, drive, race! I block McGarthy who was trying to sneak on me.

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26 seconds into the race as we approach Brave corner dust rises into the air…something is up. Half a second later Wager is spinning in the middle of the track maybe 3 car lengths in front of me. Fleming avoids him in extremis; I am already on his tail. He has claimed the rest of the track and has 2 wheels on the grass.

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My last 2 accidents flash in my mind…not again! My heart is pumping like crazy. I take the grass, it feels like skiing. I’m not traveling fast but I have no grip with the ground. I am watching my own race slo-mo in my head. I must be very careful to slowly brake and turn the car. Nothing sudden or I will spin into running cars and the concrete wall ahead. Don’t accelerate through the high kerb or your car will be in pieces. No don’t brake either… Balance, awareness and finesse are required here. You can do it, rejoin the track but not across the kerb or the car will not make it, I already told you!!!

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By the skin of my teeth I get back onto the tacmac unharmed. I’ve survived the incident but find myself at the back of the pack. Again!!! At that stage am I 20th? 22nd? Who knows? Who cares? Are the other drivers conspiring to take turns and spin in front of me? Do I just attract bad luck?

No, in my heart I know that I need to get quicker, to move beyond the mid pack as to avoid being in a tussle in every race. This is deja vu, I need to perform some stunts to get back up. Frustrating, challenging but so much fun!  Come on wake up! Be wild! The long hard climb to Mount Everest is upon me.

Wager is behind me and hungry, so am I. Once again I have nothing to loose, be at your best Karim, I say my mantras, relax my mind and get into the zone.

I make a few overtaking moves and I am happy with the progression. Last time I saw Kevin’s board he was indicating 10 / P14. 10 for my car number and P14 for my position in the race. I still have plenty of time to grab a few places.

9’25” the Yellow flag is out. Great I think, I’ll catch up with the pack ahead and that will make it easier for me.

I see Guy’s car in the wall, it looks pretty smashed up. I hope he’s alright.

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Unfortunately we finish the race under Yellow flag…disappointing! Butterfly and I are unharmed and live to fight another day.

Zandvoort Race 1 final checks

The track has dried and I’m pumped! After telemetry review I believe that I have a power issue…even though I enter corners at a higher speed, some competitors seem to be quicker on the following straights. We need to find out where this comes from. The throttle not opening fully? The engine not producing enough power? Too much toe dragging the tyres? The list goes on…Kevin is on hand, I trust him and let him do his Job. Between you and I, maybe I’m not exiting the corner well enough.

I remember this morning’s high tech drivers briefing. That’s my job.461f7ad2 10de 4d80 ba73 12332390463c - Zandvoort Race 1 final checks

The race control managers tells us that they don’t bother about track limits. They have no sensors for determining whether we are going beyond the kerb. “We will not give you any points on your licence, not even a time penalty because I’m a lazy bastard!” he says. And there is a reason for that. He begs us: “please try it! In that corner you will be fired against the wall, in this corner your car will not survive…please try it, it makes for fantastic viewing! This will be your penalty”. We laugh while grinning our teeth. It’s funny how you can get our attention so easily! I love the Dutch, they always make a point with a smile, no shouting, no swearing while leaving you in control of your destiny!

Now the preparation is over

The forecast has changed. Ares was fighting Uranus as storms and thunder got louder and heavier through the night. The track will be wet, cold and green for qualification. I wonder what the best setup for the car is…I can’t get anywhere near my times from yesterday.

img 0343 - Now the preparation is overThe track feels slippy but the top five are able to maintain the speeds from yesterday. Come on Karim, stop looking for excuses and get on with the job at hand.

Then a red flag. Someone went off. I refocus. A few minutes left on the clock maybe 1 or 2 laps at the most. I decide to push more. I can’t afford to crash my car again, there will simply be no time to mend it. Caution! I push but not too much and qualify 11th.

img 0344 - Now the preparation is over

Yesterday I was doing the time the guys between 5-10th are doing…everything is to play for…at least on paper! I can’t wait.

Map of a death trap

The circuit is unbelievable, thrilling, dangerous, a mixture that sucks you in.

Every corner has a pitfall, a concrete wall, no run off, an indulation, a camber, a gravel pit, an oval…there is just no time to relax the mind!

img 6805 - Map of a death trap
At the end of one of the longest straights in motor racing the famous Tarzan hairpin offering fantastic overtaking possibilities. The victor often decided by who dares break the latest…without running into the gravel!

img 0301 - Map of a death trapAfter a set of fast flowing lines you arrive at a very challenging and technical turn. Drivers need to be able to trail brake, balance the throttle and picture the road ahead even though it cannot be seen! Spectators can see some on the limit driving here. A concrete wall right on the edge of the track gives you no option for mistakes. I call it the Brave corner.

Then you pick up high speed and head towards a crest, the track is unseen until you get there, you just got to trust it’s going to be alright!

Then there is Scheilak, a corner to rank amongst the greats with Eau Rouge and Paddock Hill: seriously fast and technically challenging.

And what about Audi S where spectators will see the opposite. Kerb crashing is the order of the day as drivers strive to straighten this fussy corner. Overtaking is difficult but spinning is not.

It’s a death trap but as you race there you’ve never felt more alive!

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img 0322 - Cool town Zandvoort

Cool town Zandvoort

Zandvoort seems a nice sleepy beach town. You arrive at the circuit smiling and relaxed. Actually it is very welcoming with many signs worthy of British humour. 

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Rules are very relaxed too. Dogs allowed in the paddock and we have a driver’s briefing on the deck in the sun. For this open pit lane test day the drivers are allowed to overtake without consent left and right and outbreak people! 

The casualties during testing start climbing as a number of cars are badly smashed.

I see Ron Lynn having his first off in two years: The God of the black stuff has fallen!

My times keep improving, I’m in a good place. I am getting ready to race in the British Race Festival.

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Going Dutch with Kevin

We are on our way to Zandvoort, Holland! Our first European race in perspective. The rugged English brand Ginetta will be present at the British Race Festival. 

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For the very first time in history the spectacular Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge will come to action at Circuit Zandvoort. The Ginetta G40 will race in this fierce brand cup. All cars are equal, so it all comes down to the driving skills of the participants – very promising for lots of close racing in the Zandvoort dunes!

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Kevin is driving while I’m blogging. I already took 3.5 hours to drive 120 miles…hopefully I will be faster in Holland!

Silverstone GP last chance

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We only have time to refuel and we are back on track! Maybe it’s a good thing, no time to think, to dwell, to talk.

I am focused, I have nothing to loose. I will start at the back of the grid. With 48 drivers it means being so far back that you are not even on the straight… I hardly see the lights, yet I am so focused on the 3 red dots.

Then like in a dream, I press the throttle and overtake cars one after the other. In a smooth fashion, so easily it seems like they are letting me through. I fly like a butterfly with no care in the world. I am climbing steadily, surely without making a mistake.

I provoke the slide at the right time and catch the car just in time as to keep the momentum going. As two cars are fighting one another, I overtake them both in one sweeping motion.

I am on the edge of the grip, of the track yet I am so relaxed. This is it, this is the feeling, I am in the Zone!

I would like to finish in the top 10…

We arrive in parc Fermé and I am overjoyed! My Bro and Kevin, my mechanic, are there to congratulate me from the other side of the fence. They can’t believe it either: “You finished 9th!”

Seing a bunch of people around my car, I go to find out what is the matter. The scrutineers get my bonnet open and start opening and checking all sorts. They check whether I changed the size of valves to let more air in, they plug their computer to see whether I have remapped my engine to give it more horsepower…they apologise for the extent of the checks and reassure me that they are only doing their job. I thank them and tell them that I am taking it as a huge compliment!

This must of been the best race of my career!

Silverstone GP Race 2

It’s been 2 accidents in a row, the inability to repair my Butterfly in time for the next race. So in total I score 3 DNF’s, 2 expensive bills, 1 badly hurt ego and 0 point. The season is truly over from a competitive point of view.

I am convinced I could not of avoided any incident. I have spoken to Ginetta staff and the Clerk as well as reviewed the on board telemetry, circuit cameras and live TV retransmissions. It’s just bad luck.

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A friend of mine passes me by ans asks me how many points I have on my license. Do I project the image of a reckless driver? He is surprised to learn that my license is still virgin while he conceeds that he has 2 points on his… We laugh it off.

My wife is not here to give me my pep talk and worse, our telephone conversation got me in a bad place. My brother feels that he should step in with a few words of encouragement. I am suited and booted, in my car, ready to go. He says something along the lines of: “isn’t it great that you do such a dangerous sport?” Cheers! That’s what I really needed to hear after 2 crashes…please Bro – I love you – , but whatever you do in life, don’t become a psychologist!

We are back on the grid, I’m not feeling it. Race control shows the 5 minute board and only 5 seconds later it’s lights out! Go Go Go…no. I was a sleep, maybe dreaming, who knows? I have a bad start. My car is badly pulling to the left. Did Kevin not repair the steering correctly? Am I imagining things? The pack of cars extend their lead on me. Come on Karim, courage!

Now I remember, during testing we were wondering why the car was pulling sideways in certain corners, the winds were very strong. The car is great and so is Kevin. It’s me! Nobody or nothing else to blame. Put your crashes behind you. Let it wash over you, press the throttle, allow your brain to focus and relax all muscles. That’s it, I catch and overtake 6 cars…only to spin in the last corner before the checkered flag!

I am still traveling backwards, I do not want to crash, I reverse out of the track on the grass while avoiding oncoming traffic. Having not stopped on track and allowed the car to continue it’s travel, I have given enough time for all the cars to race around me.

Time to get back to the truck and lick my wounds.

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