This month, Joe congratulates GPX Racing for a well-executed, race-winning strategy at the 2020 COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily, and explains why “an easy and unchallenging” track map can in fact be anything but that.
When it was announced that the resurrected Coppa Florio was to take place at the Autodromo di Pergusa in Sicily, I was intrigued as to what the competitors of the 24H SERIES would make of the blast around the lake. Which is basically what the Enna circuit consists of.
Looking at an outline of the circuit via a track map, you would think the first COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily was going to be an easy ride. The perimeter road around the Pergusa Lake, the only natural lake on the island of Sicily by the way, punctuated by five chicanes looked quite easy and unchallenging. How naive and very wrong we were!
Preparing to drive a circuit by looking at a track map is a rookie error that this writer once fell foul of. 31st March 1985 was the date of my very first motor race as a driver, and the track map of Mallory Park in England (also around a lake bizzarely) looked simple enough. Until of course I got out there and had to factor in the speed, the kerbs, the bumps, the braking points and everything else being thrown at me. I learned a big lesson that weekend.
Every race track is unique, bespoke in every way. Just because the track bends to the right doesnt necessarly mean its like any other right hand bend you have encountered.
The Enna circuit was to challenge every aspect of our 12-hour race, once again split into two six-hour segments across two days. Drivers quickly found that the path to a quick lap was to use every available piece of real estate, if not more, at the numerous chicanes. This of course led to their race engineers having to consider damper settings that wouldn’t cause their cars to launch into orbit when they did so.
Race officials were also called upon to cater to the challenge of some track damage during the race. It’s not the first time we have seen a major endurance race delayed for track surfaces lifting and the like, and at Enna we saw some kerbing become detached from the constant pounding. Track officials went to work and very efficiently removed the offending piece, which left us to ponder whether the drivers would be advised to stay off that part of the chicane. It was very apparent this was not the case when the race went back to green, and we quickly had a train of cars hammering over the dubious area of kerbing without concern. As usual, the need for lap time supercedes everything else in racing.
So the revived Coppa Florio panned out, and after 12 hours of racing it was the GPX Racing Porsche that came out on top in a very well executed race strategy. Using Frédéric Fatien, their AM-class driver, for the regulation minimum amount of time under Code 60 was a particularly shrewd move, albeit one that generated quite a few comments from the 24H SERIES fan collective:
“Whats the point of Fatien going out for the Code 60 caution period?”
“That is so unfair to Frédéric that the team are using him that way.”
No disrespect to Mr Fatien, but alongside hotshot superstars Jordan Grogor and Mathieu Jaminet, he is the slowest driver in the GPX driver line-up (in fairness, there aren’t too many drivers quicker than Grogor and Jaminet). So the decision to utilise Frédéric for his mandatory 60-minute stint across two segments, at a time when everyone else was traveling at 60kph during two Code 60 caution periods, minimised lost time considerably and optimised GPX’s race time as a result.
A few fans struggled to appreciate this strategy, but factor in that Frédéric is GPX Racing – he’s the team owner – and I think it very commendable that he sacrificed his drive time in this way. A sacrifice that went someway to clinching overall victory, and it’s for this reason I applaud and congratulate everyone at GPX Racing for a majestic COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily win.
Check out Joe Bradley’s column, and more, in the 2020 Hankook 12H MUGELLO digital magazine, available now.