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Beaujolais Villages: Teamwork

If there’s one thing I really could use right now, it’s a team. Last season I competed at St Ursanne les Rangiers with Team Macracer and it was my best drive of the season, probably the best in fact. For me the ability to drive back into the paddock, get out of the car and leave it to someone else while you relax and analyse your onboard while making pace notes is the key to improving my times right now. I don’t run out of time to eat & rehydrate, I don’t get sidetracked talking to passers by while I clean the Avons, and I have someone with me all the way to the start line so I can focus on my run instead of worrying about overheating versus turning the engine off and it not starting again. Thankfully this weekend I had some amazing support from my friend Yann Marchand who came with his family to help run the car, we made a pretty great team too.

As the championship starts to reach it’s half way point it moves South East, and this inevitably means I have to leave everything over in France from this point onwards. While this has it’s advantages, it also means that I only have Friday’s to prep the car before each race so it ramps up the pressure, so with everything prepped as much as possible I set off on the long journey… it’s funny how your mind compresses things from a year ago, like 1,000 km.

IMG_8724I made good progress after arriving 2 hours early for the Chunnel, I’d spent most of the train journey looking at all the photos being posted to Twitter in the build up to Le Mans 24h and was in a bit of a day dream for much of the drive – I’d forgotten how much time I spend thinking about life on my epic road trips! I’ve never seen so many wind farms as there are in this part of France, vast pylons are everywhere you look and in my zen like state it’s quite hypnotic if you start to stare at their rotating blades for too long. I pulled over just before Troyes and went to sleep before getting back on the road for 8am, arriving in Marchampt for lunch time in warm sunshine, slightly contrary to the forecast which was once more predicting thunder storms all weekend.

Yann arrived soon after me in the Red Bull van and set up camp while I went off to to refresh myself on the scooter. At 3.9km it can take up quite a bit of time on the little Suzuki and a car would be preferable, although one advantage here is that I can pull over at any point to get off to walk around. It’s helpful to look at the corner from all angles, especially low down as your perspective changes dramatically when you’re sat nearer the tarmac. I also like to run the course on a Saturday morning, it’s another chance to take it all in and a nice way to start the day, although I’m yet to run any of the hills after this one as they become a lot more mountainous!

I was woken the next morning by the sound of the F3000 Lola next door being warmed up, it’s Cosworth (Nicholson McLaren) V8 sounded amazing and it reminded how refreshing it is that in Europe the cars are not subject to any noise restrictions – Carlsberg don’t make alarms clocks… ;D Rain was threatening once more but first practice was dry, and this theme continued throughout the day with just the odd little shower that lasted for moments at a time. I forgot just how hardIMG_8796 you have to push here, which isn’t to say that I’m not trying hard already but on these longer and faster courses you really have to dig deep inside yourself for that something extra. It’s as though I reach a level that I determine as say 10/10ths, in practice I’ll keep something back and on Sunday I’ll give it everything, but you quickly realise after looking at everyone else’s time that 10/10ths was a bit too comfortable and actually you need to be at 12/10ths or more. You know the only way to go faster is to go beyond your comfort zone, it’s intense and ultimately a battle with your own fear. 

AUTO - MONTAGNE - BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES 2016The biggest problem that I faced all day was once again the first corner, frustratingly the Formula Renault just runs right out of lock and wants to fling itself into the wall. I was placing reasonably considering the waisted seconds as I waited to clear the wall, but after each run I was frustrated to see that other drivers were clearly finding better lines round the evil hairpin. The new sections of tarmac that had been laid on the braking zone made it as bumpy as ever.

I finished the day with a few ideas, one being to practically drive into the railings on the approach to get as far right as possible, ‘la nuit porte conseil’ someone reassured me.

Sunday started early once more with free practice from 7:30, it’s not compulsory but advisable, sure I have to forfeit a shower but I’d argue that 1:51 secs up up Beaujolais is a better wakeup! That’s the time I posted on the first competition run, it was a tense one as we had a small shower just before we set off (we’d had the wets ready to go at the drop of a hat all weekend). In this instant I immediately search someone out from the returning batch to ask about the conditions, and apparently it was fine apart from the last corner… and so it was, I pushed and on the final hairpin (still some way before the last corner) I felt the back slide round in 2nd gear. Still I kept it pinned, but on the run to the final right hander that straddles the finish line I could see it was a bit soggy as I got on the brakes. Still, 4th in class and over 3 secs quicker than Saturday, while not perfect I was finally finding a way round that first left.

The final two runs were completely dry, Yann was working hard as ever and we’d taken off a bit of wing as there are some long straights where the car was weaving a little. The gearing is perfect now, I was just clipping the limiter in 6th before braking for the hairpin that follows it, a quick look at the updated ratio diagram tells me that’s quite fast for a B road!

Sadly Sarah Louvet had an accident towards the latter part of her second run, and while she was ok the car was missing it’s front end. Her team mate Guillaume Veyrat had also come unstuck earlier that morning and when you know a few people in class have found the armco it can put doubts in your head. I’d vowed to myself that I’d break 1:50 though, and we were pouring over the onboard to find the where I could make up that time, I decided to take a few corners a gear higher, brake a bit later here and widen my entry to a few corners… it resulted in a 1:50:032 and Rémi moved ahead to leave me in 5th.

Beaujolais Villages Course de CôteFinal run from this weekend, pushed as hard as I dared and drove my socks off – really happy to break under 1:50!!

Posted by Charlie Martin on Monday, June 20, 2016


Run no.3 was an all or nothing, frustratingly I made a few mistakes charging into the rev limiter a few times and hesitating to drop all the way down to 2nd at the Portail, but I crossed the line to see 1:49:729 on the board. I was still in 5th but I was happy, local expert Didier Chaumont took 1st on a 1:47:411 but I’d gone over 3.5 secs quicker than last year and improved on every single run, thanks in no small part to Yann who’d helped me relax and focus on my driving. 

Thankfully I’ve already got some help lined up for Vuillafans, another mega fast course with over 40 degree heat last season, I think Im going to need it.

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