Barcelona Blancpain Wrap-up!
So I have finally had the time to sit down and fill you all in on our hectic race weekend that was the last round of the Blancpain GT Series for the year.
Where to start!
We arrived at Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya on Thursday night to start setting up and get everything ready for the weekend. I had never been to the Barcelona circuit before let alone Spain so the drive into the track during sunset was so beautiful.
My mum and dad flew over from Aus to support me for the weekend and met me at the track on Thursday night - it was so nice to finally give my dad a big hug after not seeing him for 6 months.
After we got all the little things organised at the track we headed back to our hotel to have some dinner and get some sleep - nothing to exciting!
Friday was filled with lots of running around with administration checks, driver change practice, pit stop practice and our afternoon track walk. It always takes us a few goes of driver change practice to find our rhythm again, a few bruises later and we can comfortably do the driver change in any possible order. With no on-track action for us on Friday we got to do some filming so you will definitely have to keep your eyes open in the next few weeks ;)
Once all the support categories were finished on Friday I was able to hit the track for the first time for our track walk. During our track walks, most of the team come along with us drivers including our engineers so we all have a similar understanding of the curbs, lines, run off and all of the different variables. It was super nice to have my dad come along with us and experience a European circuit, it's just so different to home! After the track walk we grab some dinner and head back to our box to make sure everything is prepared for our first free practice on Saturday morning, once we are all happy, then it's time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep.
Our first free practice begun at 9am, so it was a nice early wake up call to be out at the track in time. Tomas begun the first stint of FP1 to give both me and Marko a base to chase, Marko then hoped in next and began to learn the track. I was in 3rd and ended up doing around a 40min session, FP1 had a few red flag sessions which made it a little difficult to get a rhythm but it was very good seat time for both me and Marko. After the 1 and a half hour session is finished we sit down, go through data, do our track maps and find out the biggest areas for improvements.
For me my biggest area which needed improvement was sector 3, but as a whole I was struggling to put one full lap together as I would have quick sectors in different laps. But we were happy with the first session and had a lot of positive improvements to take away from it. By the time pre-qualifying (FP2) came around, the weather had done a complete 360 and as I was sitting in the car waiting for the fast lane to open it started to rain, so we switched to rain tyres and then began the session in slippery conditions, as the session went on it just got wetter and wetter. I did around 6 laps and then came in and handed the car over to Marko who did his long stint in the middle of the session. Tomas then hopped in the car for the last 20 minutes and we played around with the setup a lot making sure it was all good just in case we had a wet race. After the session it was quite difficult to sit down and do data with one another as each driver had different track conditions so we compared where we could and tried to focus on where we could improve for qualifying the next morning.
Sunday was a very busy day with Qualifying beginning at 9am. Marko did Q1, I did Q2 and Tomas did Q3. Again the weather was unpredictable and for Q1 the track was wet, for my session the track was drying and for Tomas' session the track was completely dry. So Marko ran wet tyres and both me and Tomas could run slick tyres in our sessions. Out of the 50 car field, Marko qualified P41 in his session, I managed P35 and Tomas put us on P24 overall for the start of the race. After qualifying we had to decide the starting order for the race, both me and Marko wanted to start so we flipped a coin and he ended up winning the coin flip so then it was decided that he would start the race.
We then had an autograph session in the middle of the day which was super cool, the amount of people that came up to us and were just extremely passionate was amazing to see, especially because at this point it was raining very heavily and to still have these people wait in the race was mega!
After this it was time to grab some lunch and prepare ourselves for the race, we did a few more rounds of driver change practice so it was fresh in our minds to make sure we had a good rhythm and then it was time to relax before the race start.
The race start is always one of the most stressful moments for me, whether I am actually taking the start myself or watching my teammate do it - it's always very intense! Marko had a clean start and managed to stay out of trouble, he lost a few positions and went back to around P34 during his stint. We each had around a 1 hour stint and Marko handed the car over to me and I continued on to try and keep the momentum up.
It was quite a hard stint as I went back out just in front of the leading pack so for the majority of my stint I had to make sure I let the leaders past safely but kept our position from the people we were fighting against. I did struggle quite a bit with the handling of the car so I wasn't 100% happy with my stint but I handed the car back over to Tomas to bring the car home and we ended up finishing the race in P35. When we take a step back and look at the race as a whole, it was actually both mine and Marko's first time competing in a Blancpain Endurance race as the last times we unfortunately didn't get to race.
There are so many positives to take away and a big learning experience for us both but to have finally ticked off and finished a Blancpain Endurance round is a big step forward. There are so many people to thank for the weekend, including everyone who tagged along with me on my rear wing, my family, my best friends and of course my team - Reiter Engineering. These guys are legends, I love working with them and I am proud to be apart of the team.