I never drove the FW31 on COTA before, but from driving some GT3 races I knew that setting up the car for COTA’s alternating slow and fast sections can be really challenging. To be honest, it was worse than expected: in addition to be technically challenging, COTA has some nasty kerbs that you can’t afford to even slightly touch with the FW31. The tradeoff was then to choose between a fast but unforgiving setup or a somewhat slower setup that could cope with the kerbs.
Not feeling confident to be able to complete 56 laps without a single mistake, I decided to run a soft setup. I was surprised by the very good performance of that setup, which convinced me to adapt it for qualification.
With very few overtaking opportunities on COTA, I knew that a good qualification was the key to a good race result. On COTA it is very easy to get an offtrack penalty, so I decided to drive the first flying qualification lap really cautiously taking no risk on the kerbs. To my surprise I got the 8th provisional position and with a 1.36.133 it would have been a P15 in the end. Unlike previous qualifications where I drove at my maximum pace on the second flying lap, I decided to take a small margin … and it payed off. I was able to drive a 1.35.749 which was only 2 tenth off my personal best and put me in P7 on the grid.
My start was very good, as I could close the gap to Mogar Filho in front of me. Being in the left lane, I was surprised to see Greger Huttu crashing into Olli Pakhala and flying in the air in the right lane! But thanks to my good grid spot, I avoided the mayhem and found myself in P4 attacking Mogar.
Being faster than Mogar I tried to pass him for several laps, but his slow in / fast out driving style being the complete opposite of mine he could easily strike back whenever I attacked him. Overdriving the car to overtake Mogar I half-spun on lap 5 allowing Joonas Nukarinen to pass me. I then calmed down and drove behind Joonas up to the first batch of pitstops. Being slightly heavier than all the drivers in front of me I pitted one lap later and was able to score my first lead lap in the iWCGPS series. Unfortunately I was just a little bit low on fuel for one more lap: I was out of fuel in the pitlane but lucky the pitlane at COTA is downhill.
My rather slow pitstop put me right in front of Jake Stergios still in 5th position. During the second stint, I lost concentration, spun twice, got 2 slowdown penalties and was unable to find a rythm. But the field having spread, I only lost 3 spots.
After my 2nd pitstop I could concentrate again and drove carefully in P8 up to the end … exhausted!
Aftertoughts: Strategy was good and without my errors I certainly could have challenged Mogar for P3. This car/track combo is so difficult and requires so much consistency that without a soft setup I would have ended in the wall more than once.
For next season, one of my main goals will be to improve my consistency throughout a race. At that level you simply cannot compensate the lack of consistency with raw speed. I am still astonished by the consistency of the top drivers! If I can’t get to that level of consistency, I will have to compensate with more forgiving setups.
Gratz to Martin and the podium.
Thanks to the team, for the work on the setups and the strategy.
Thanks to our sponsors for their support
Simputers PC Systems,
Precision Sim Engineering.