Finishing fifth in the season opener at Paul Ricard last weekend almost exceeded our expectations even though during our test here a couple of weeks ago, we realised we could be able to fight for podiums this season, but maybe not from the first race.
This was mainly due to fact that, even having been "up there" during the test, we expected a new aero upgrade and the car to be on a damper-rig before the race. We got the aero-upgrade, but the supplier for the parts needed to go on the rig, was unfortunately not able to deliver in time and the damper work just had to be postponed until after this first race weekend.
We were able to test the new aero at Snetterton the week before the race though, but in missing one of two major upgrades, there was still a lot of work to be done. Qualifying fifth was in that sense almost as expected, even if we were third in the practice sessoions.
There is much more to Le Mans Series endurance racing than qualifying, and with an eight hour race, everything can happen - and it did! I finished my two first stints in a solid fourth place, not far away from the much more interesting third. With no less than 10 pitstops, with positions changed continously, we were even up to second for a while, and an amazing seventh overall.
When coming in for my first fuelstop, we also experienced the problems that might have cost us a podium finish. For the rules, you must stop the engine during refuelling, and starting it again turned out to be a problem. We lost only 20 seconds that time, but the problem repeated itself for five of the 10 stops, and once we even had to roll the car into the garage to have it fixed, losing almost three minutes. Pushstarting it would give us a hefty time penalty, so that was not an option.
This tiny problem probably relates to a faulty electrical contact, but did cost us precious time. Except from this though, the car ran like clockwork the entire race, and did almost 1,400 km without any other problems, which is very reassuring, bear in mind the 24 h race at Le Mans in June.
We all got a lot of important experience from this race, and with a fully competitive car for the next race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium in early May, I am convinced we will be fighting for a podium position. Allthough I, as the pro driver, am supposed to be fastest on the track, I really must give credit to my two sporting colleagues, Karin Ojjeh and Tim Greaves, who both did a very good job keeping us high up the leader board!