This month, Joe celebrates how a quick-thinking driver can put their team in the pound seats in endurance racing, and why a heritage-rich Circuit Paul Ricard should be on any ‘gentleman’ driver’s bucket list.
At last month’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO, we were witness to yet another race strategy masterclass from Herberth Motorsport. I looked away from my timing monitor for a moment, to find Herberth had pulled a lap on the field, and by the time they’d got to the chequered flag, they had stretched this to three. I remember receiving a tweet from a fan of the series saying, 'If you want to do well in these races, just do what Herberth do'. Simple really, until you take a closer look.
Not every Code 60 for example saw the #91 Porsche head into the pits, and there are numerous elements that must be taken into consideration before that seemingly instant decision must be made: 'How much fuel do we have on board'? and 'where is our car on the track in relation to the pit entrance'? are just a couple that come to mind. Now let’s add in the complexity of the 24H SERIES regulations only allowing 50% of a team’s refuelling allocation during a Code 60 period, and you can easily understand why I remain behind a microphone and not on the pitwall.
We also saw the timing of pitstops right on the edge of a Code 60 being deployed, purely down to some very intelligent driving. Pre-empting the purple flags flying after seeing a car in the gravel is very heads-up driving and can become very advantageous. Suddenly a team can take on 100% of its fuel allocation under green conditions while the whole field trundles around at 60kph. It’s the unseen factors like this that make long distance racing so fascinating and exciting. Anything can happen and usually does in the 24H SERIES.
Mugello also saw the welcome return of the Scuderia Praha Ferrari, albeit in an unfamiliar white livery of ‘MiddleCap racing’ and with a new driver line-up in the form of father and son Miroslav and Matúš Výboh teaming with Scuderia Praha regular Josef Kral. The Ferrari ran the Herberth team for most of the race and we all hope that MiddleCap racing with Scuderia Praha will become a familiar sight once again this year.
With the dust of the Tuscan hills barely settled at Mugello, the 24H SERIES has already moved north of Marseille on the French Riviera to the historic Circuit Paul Ricard. A slight change from our previous visits to this venue, insofar as we will be racing only once around the clock. In this ever changing situation that is the global pandemic, we once again must applaud everyone at CREVENTIC for quite literally keeping the series on-track. Last minute alterations to the calendar are something everyone can expect for the time being, but being flexible and adjusting to prevailing conditions is something we in the world of #ThisIsEndurance are more than familiar with.
And like Mugello before it, Circuit Paul Ricard is both steeped in history and a bucket list place for any AM driver.
Opened in 1970, the track has been home to many international endurance races in its time, as well as, of course, the French Grand Prix. The track was seen as a very sanitised and modern facility and still is in many ways. We no longer race the full length of the Mistrale as the 1.8km straight is now truncated with a chicane that has become an obvious overtaking spot if you’re brave enough on the brakes.
The track is also distinctive for its very different run off areas. The 'Blue Zone' runoff surface consists of a mixture of asphalt and tungsten, while the second phase, the 'Red zone' runoff, is deeper and has an even more abrasive surface to maximise tyre grip to slow cars down. Regular use of these runoff areas would be at the risk of extreme tyre wear, so take the opportunity of a track walk and try scuffing your shoe across this surface to see the incredible grip it produces.
On second thought, be careful doing that, as you may need to visit a Marseille cobbler.