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!

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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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.

img 0085 1 - Silverstone GP Race 2

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!

img 0310 - The morning after
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.

img 0101 - Team presentation - Celtman 2017

Team presentation – Celtman 2017

The Athlete: Salim ‘the Dreamer’, an Ironman from Morocco looking for the next extreme challenge.

img 9825 - Team presentation - Celtman 2017
The Support Runner: Joe, a Treck specialist from the USA, carrier of the Survival Kit.

img 0083 - Team presentation - Celtman 2017
Media Support: Myriam, photograph and world traveler just arrived from East Jerusalem.

img 0084 - Team presentation - Celtman 2017
Support Management and coordination: yours truly.

img 0101 - Team presentation - Celtman 2017

img 6279 - Leading up to Qualifying

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. 

64f9a93c f23e 4426 a1ce 66ddec7a2b8d - Leading up to QualifyingThe 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!

img 0263 - Leading up to Qualifying
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.

img 0279 - Leading up to Qualifying
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