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!

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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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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 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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The morning after

We arrive at the driver’s briefing at 8:30. All the drivers are already suited, I’m still in my jeans. We are supposed to be in the Assembly area at 9:15. This is going to be close.

The Clerk starts his speech by telling us that they will be 24 exclusions! Each of these drivers would get a further 4 points penalty on their license for racing under yellow flag and endangering the lives of Marshall’s on track. You could hear a pin drop. This was no joke.

The day before a number of cars went onto the grass, crashes and stayed stranded on track. Race Control did not stop the race but placed it under Yellow Flag condition. The rules are clear on the matter: speed must be reduced, total control must be maintained, strictly no overtaking and duty of care must be given.

The MSA representative got the footage for wrong lap / sector. A huge commotion ensued and the communication was poor, eventually the race was canceled.
Many drivers believed, in their desperate defence that the race should of been Red Flagged (meaning that all drivers must make their way back to the pits without delay).

This misses the whole point. Yes communication and management could and should be improved. But regardless of any technicalities, there must be no room to endanger people’s lives – SIMPLE!

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As drivers, we need to stop and look at ourselves, have the courage to be humble, sorry and learn. I saw none of these qualities that day.

Story of a crash

It’s time for Race 1. I feel on fire. Lesley, my wife gives me my pep talk, a mixture of love, pride and belief.

I do my routine visualisation and say my mantras: I am in the ZONE!

The lights go off, tyre screetching, rubber burning, I have a fantastic start. I overtake a bunch of cars on the outside and manage to stay on track. We go through the first chicane and we are like a swarm of flies. Some cars overtake me but I overtake more. I am not even trying to keep count, all I know is that I am doing very well as I am in the middle of GT5 amateur and professional racers.

On the straight they catch up with me again as their engine delivers more power. But I compensate with bravery in the corners.

Silverstone is a large track. Coming into Brooklands we are three cars level. No one wants to conceed the tight corner. 

We are coming hot onto the guys in front of us.

Then a red car spins, a black professional GT5 also spins and hits him. The red car goes to the right and the black one stops on the track. This happen in the space of a second. I am still sandwiched by the two other cars, a couple of centimetres room if that. I have nowhere to go. I push the driver on my left to try and avoid the black car, he is not conceding the corner or maybe he is on the limit of his tyre grip.

A big crash ensues, the window smashes onto my face in a 1000 pieces, my shoulder hurts, I loose hearing from my right ear for a while. The mirror is broken and falls between my feet. I did not lower my visor, glass offcuts find their way into my nose and forehead, later I realise it could of been my eye. The competitor’s exhaust has pierced an 8 cm diameter hole by my door.

img 0978 - Story of a crashI am screaming at the spinning drivers, cursing…and trying to race, always. The adrenaline is still pumping!

Parts are rattling between my legs. I am very aware that the mirror could jam my brakes or throttle. It is imperative that I grab the pieces and throw them out.

Still, only one thin on my mind: race! I press on: full throttle. The 5 point harness does not let me move, I try to use my left foot to no avail.

Suddenly my steering goes, I cannot control my car anymore and nearly lose it. At 100mph with a wall on my right hand side…

That’s it, time to quit… over and out again! I get on the grass and very slowly make it back to the pits.

My door is jammed and I crawl out from the passenger seat like a frog. Now I feel concussed, lost, angry.
DNF, 0 points.

Silverstone GP, iconic Formula 1 track

The world class racers have fought, won and lossed on this piece of tarmac. We still hear the roar of their engines. Here we were, a few days ago, on their track… following on their tyre marks.Our race is a mixed pro-am race of the biggest Ginetta presentation ever with G40 and GT5 on show. The grid is 48 driver strong.

img 0085 - Silverstone GP, iconic Formula 1 trackIt’s going to be a big week-end.

I feel good, I have “Butterfly” with me (my new car, still a virgin…all white and no miles on the counter).

A day’s shake down later with no time to wrap her; we are already out for qualification. The track is full and only a few get a clear lap. I end up 12th, not bad, I’m happy with this start.

My brother is on route from Morocco with his family of pirates and will support me tomorrow on Big Sunday.

To donate, click: SOS Village children having fun.

A gruelling night of hard labour. Part 3.

Salim and Arnaud. They have shared so much over the years, were is the Animal? He has nothing left in his legs and told Salim to go. 17:50, 17:55, 17:56, 17:57 Arnaud appears. 3 minutes left before the cut off time! He looks like a dead man walking. But make no mistake, he is no quitter, he never has been, it’s just not in his nature. Respect! He does not want to stop, he knows if he does he will not be able to stand back up. He knows how to squeeze the last drop of energy from his body!

Joe steps in as Running Crew support for the last 22km. Full of smiles, Joe must be a refreshing support in this still miserable conditions with rain and wind.

​An hour later they get to the top of the ascent. They continue on the flat and Arnaud catches up with them! He found some juice as Salim was slurring his words and was getting imprecise with his footsteps. His turn to focus if he wants to finish this challenge.

Like in any endurance sport, you will hit a wall! Are you strong enough to demolish it? Climb it? Find a way around it? Or will you stop? Myriam and I head for a nice glass of champagne and cocktail drink.

They take over 4 hours to complete this section and we meet them a few hundred metres from the finish line. They are all smiles, the pride already oozes from their eyes. They have made it!! They are CELTMEN! X-tri – One of the three worldwide most extreme long distance triathlon. We are humbled.

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Epilogue: 156 finishers, 12 DNF (Did Not Finish) and 1 possible disqualification. Arnaud lies on the floor and is wasted. Time to head back to our B&B. It’s 1:00 am, 23 hours non-stop, time for a well deserved rest. Salim progression stats, not for the faint hearted: 1/2 IronMan, 1 DNF Ironman, 1 Ironman, 1 Extreme Triathlon…what’s next? Stay tuned!

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The definition of a boomerang

The weather is miserable. Some drivers prefer the wet, others the dry. I’m definitely a dry kind of guy. So for me, the qualifications were not easy, I was sliding all over the place as soon as I was pushing a little. A kiss on the wall closed my left wing mirror…I managed 12th.
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The sun comes out. I always smile when I see the sun. We put the semi-slick tyres on, stiffened the car, I was ready to roll.
Race 1, we get to our grid, my heart is pumping.
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First race of the season. I speak to myself once more. 5 seconds to go seem like an eternity! AND OFF WE GO!!!
22 cars piling up in the 1st corner. Heightened senses as I concentrate on my line, my strategy, my mirrors, my gears, my opportunities, my risks… I nick 3 places taking the fast flowing left hander called Cascades with cars centimetres from me, all around me.
I am already 9th… “Come on, settle down Karim!” I hear myself shout as I hit full throttle on the straight reaching over 103mph.
At the 5th corner, I offer a dummy on the left to Ben Low and attack his right… I’m 8th…as I overtake I know I have to brake hard to make the chicane. “Breathe! Relax! Focus! You got this one.” The adrenalyne is pumping like mad. I shout my mantras: “come on!’.
One lap later, we are back to Old Hall, a former GT5 driver challenges me. I give him room and chose the faster racing line rather then defend. He takes the bate and sneaks on my inside…We are driving too fast, is he going to end on the wall? He overtakes me and goes off track! That’s an illegal move, but respect to the guy: he did not slow down and makes it back on the tarmac. I haven’t checked but it looks like he has balls of steel.
David Holloway is still breathing down my neck for the second lap running! He makes his move at Lodge. I give him the space to focus on the longer faster racing line. This corner, Lodge, is the most difficult out of the whole citcuit. For starters it’s a BLIND corner, then to add a bit of spice, the radius decreases and to finish it off, the camber goes from positive to strong negative with no run off. In short, all the laws of physics are converging to throw you off track. His overtaking move is also illegal but he has to choose between slowing down or bracing for impact. This time my strategy has worked, I overtake him straight back with my a higher momentum.
But Wager comes out of nowhere down Cascades! Oh No… There was an easy defence here! I’m back to 10th.
I drove defensively as David is faster then me, still on my tail. I risk it all, take the fast line on the edge, I loose grip and overcook it… 2 tyres on the grass; sweating like a monkey in a sauna I manage it back on the black stuff. David waives me goodbye.
I realise why I went off, no the track is not greasy. I am the one loosing grip coming out of corners…my tyres are overheating; it’s not good news. You need confidence in your equipment, knowledge of where the limit is and courage to push it. It plays on my mind, this added unwelcome variable will not disappear. Coming out of the next corners, I had to catch my car as it was sliding…I am not gonna make up anymore places now.
I finish 12th, where I started: Boomerang.
Please consider SOS Villages:
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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.

 

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