Leaving on a Jet-Plane / V de V Fever

28th April 2008

Nick’s busy season is at full throttle at the moment, he is currently in Spain working for Aston Martin on a Sales/Dealer Driver training course, which familiarises sales staff (Worldwide) with the new product before they sell it. He is based at Ascari’s circuit and on the Spanish roads.

This lasts about a month so Nick fly’s in from Spain on Thursday (10th) night, ready for the weekend’s race.

Donington Park was the venue for the UK’s first ever VdeV round on Sunday 13th of April, nerves were high but judging by the competitors spirit and pit lane behavior, excitement was overruling the nerves.

Nick and Jean-Lou had a rather testing qualifying session on Saturday, a wheel speed sensor throwing confusion into the engine led to the car shutting off mid session. Once Team Solutions had figured out this minor glitch Jean-Lou then experienced his first wet session in the Norma. Jean-Lou performed well in his session; however it would not be a competitive time to those in the dry, a session Nick and Jean-Lou unfortunately missed due to the car temporarily not working.

Nick then had roughly ten minutes with a drying track to try and grab a good place, and that he did. Nick placed the Norma in 3rd, a great opportunity to try and grab the lead early on for tomorrow’s 3 hour race.

Nick said “Yeah, I’m pleased with that, shame I didn’t have more time really but I think we’ve done well considering what’s gone on with the car this morning!”

Sunday arrives with a lot of enthusiastic team members working on the car, prepping for the late start Sunday race. Nick, Jean-Lou and the team sat down for a team briefing to finalise race strategy and any final setup amendments that needed to be made. Nick was to go first, and he would be out for roughly 1.5 hours, depending on the race status.

Nick was happy with this strategy, he said “It’ll give me a chance to push the car from the green light, as long as it’s a clean start, we should be in for a mega race!”

The grid was starting to form and Nick came round lining up in third, the lights went out and the race was go, a massive tail back of prototypes were at full throttle down to Redgate, Nick was then out of sight until they came down through Craner and Old Hairpin, he appeared in once piece and one place for the better, he had taken 2nd by the first corner and was lining up the lead.

Nick was now about 5 laps in, and by this time the leader and him were not all that far away from the rest of the pack, Nick decided to make himself known and made a late dive down the inside at McLeans, just to keep the leader on his toes, this obviously cost Nick roughly a second but, this was quickly regained by the time they came back round again because Nick was now ready to take the lead cleanly and he had not hesitations this time. Nick then took the lead coming out of McLeans, a superb move that was only a matter of time, Nick was clearly the quicker out of the two.

This was now the perfect time to start pushing the car and getting comfortable with it, with nothing but clean air in front of him, Nick started putting in some blistering lap times, taking at 2.5 seconds out of 2nd place every lap.

Nick then set his personal best and the first fastest lap of the championship with a 1:32.124 which stuck for the first 1.5 hours of the race.

Nick was nearing the time that he would have to finish his stint to changeover with Jean-Lou. He was now 1.5 laps ahead of the rest of the pack, however the boys at Team Solutions were praying for a safety car period so they could bring Nick in and waste little time before putting Jean-Lou out for his stint.

Nick was in, the driver change and re-fuelling session went like clockwork, having watched a few before hand, you could see that Team Solutions were switched on.

Jean-Lou’s stint began with some adventurous driving from a lot of the field, which threw another safety car period, die to a car leaving the circuit at Redgate.

This now meant that Jean-Lou had lost his substantial lead, and the rest of the pack were stacked up behind him, eagerly awaiting the safety car to pull off into the pit lane.

The safety car pulled in and the race was green again, Jean-Lou put up a stunning fight down into Redgate, although somewhere between Copice and Melbourne Hairpin, Jean-Lou tangled with another car, which caused minor damage to one of the front left wings that aids airflow over the car. Jean-Lou was experiencing lots of understeer due to the damaged wing, but he kept pushing and was keeping an impressive 4th.

It was time for Nick to jump back in and finish the race, and again Team Solutions were praying for that all important Safety Car period to bring Jean-Lou in. Due to a radio malfunction, Jean-Lou came in 1 lap early, a minor set back but, nothing the team couldn’t deal with, Nick was ready to go and the boys started fuelling the car before Nick was to jump in for his final stint.

Nick was now placed 6th and starting to put the hammer down, he was 25 seconds behind 5th, which then reduced to 11 seconds 4 laps later. If he could stay on this pace until the end, he would no doubt grab 4th, and if he was lucky, sit on the podium.

A safety car was thrown for a car that had shut down on the pit lane entrance, this is just what Nick needed, the pack was bunched up behind the safety car, this was a chance for 20 minutes worth of Nick’s best driving to gain podium or the lead. However, this would not be the case because a Red light had been thrown signifying the end of the race, so all competitors would finish where they were at that current time in the race. Nick and Jean-Lou finished 6th.

Nick’s post race comments were “A bit disappointing they Red flagged it, I was quite looking forward to a little battle down to Redgate again, but the main thing is that we’ve shown the potential of the car, the boys at Team Solutions did a fantastic job and Jean-Lou just keeps getting quicker, so these are all good things we can take away!”.

The other plus side to the end of the first round is that the winner of the first ever VdeV round was a Norma. Hopefully something that will carry on all year, but next time for Nick, Jean-Lou and Team Solutions.

Nick now fly’s back to Spain to finish off the Aston Martin Job and returns for his race at Mondello Park in the Fun-cup Beatle’s!

Keep an eye on the website for more news!

Race report by Elliot Weir

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