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As season finales go this one was fairly charged, ok I wasn’t in the top three as I’d hoped I might at the beginning of the year, but I was still locked in what would be a fairly intense battle for 5th place with Thierry Bertin. To add to the drama that unfolded we were racing in a class of no fewer than 16 FR’s, and as often seems to be case racing à l’étranger, it came right down to the wire.
Unusually I was flying out to Basel having left Herve in Swtizerland following Les Rangiers, I’d driven him to the Swiss race purely as a means of getting there from Lyon having driven the Norma that weekend. It’s a pretty cheap flight from Luton at £60 return with Easyjet, it meant taking a short bus ride and then a train but even so it was a fairly relaxed journey as I had plenty of time. At Basel station there was an unusual lottery display in the form of a golden donkey, people were queuing to wag his tail upon which a golden ball dropped from his bottom into a bucket – bizarre but the marketing department had struck gold too as it certainly grabbed people’s attention!
I stopped at Super U en route and bought enough food to last the weekend, I seem to be accumulating things as the season flies by as I seem to spending increasing amounts of time rearranging Herve’s interior (it’s all the trophies lol!). As the parc des pilotes wouldn’t be open until mid morning on Friday I dropped in some friends and spent the evening with them. The next morning I met up with Colin Le Maitre & Peter Dorey from Guernsey who kindly marked out a spot for me in the grounds of the large factory, it’s an unusual setting after some of the more scenic settings in the CFM, as Turckheim sees us stationed outside a huge derelict & decaying industrial building.
I used Friday to work on the car and session the hill on the scooter, it’s a while since I’ve had to rely on it for learning the course and here more than ever it’s clearly beyond it’s operational envelope – you just can’t get any idea of entry speed at 30mph… plus it takes forever to climb 6km and descend each time. Still it was dry and sunny, and I was happy to see everyone!
The last race of the season is always a combination of excitement loaded with a nagging feeling that winter is round the corner and the realisation that I will really miss everyone until we’re reunited the following Spring.
It’s an especially melancholy feeling right now as the majority of us are changing cars and classes for 2017. I’ve had an absolutely incredible time racing with everyone in D/E7, we’ve battled and laughed our way through 2 seasons of the best racing I’ve ever known, and like all the best moments in life I can’t help feeling that I don’t want it to end. Coming into this weekend though I just wanted to push the car hard and finish on a high.
VIDEO DIARY #11: Turckheim 3 EpisThe 2016 Championnat de France de la Montagne comes to a close this weekend and I’m feeling a bit sad to be saying goodbye for 6 months… :/
Posted by Charlie Martin on Thursday, September 15, 2016
Saturday’s practice started with a relatively gentle drive as I got my head back into formula mode, late on Friday I’d managed to jump in the back of a BMW driven by Cyrille Frantz with Corentin Stark riding shotgun while I was battered from all angles by the mountain of luggage piled to the roof lining. It’s the longest track of the year and once you find a good rhythm here it all starts to come together, but you have to be certain of where you exactly on the second half as there are some evil corners that tighten or come out of nowhere. My initial time of 3:05:881 was well off the pace, but ultimately I just wanted a familiarisation run. After the Norma the FR feels slow in a straight line, running up to 6th gear from the start line it was really apparent how hard you have to work the Renault’s engine – it’s still a very fast car but once you’ve re-calibrated your perception of fast there’s no going back (spoiler alert).
Turckheim Course de CôteMy 2nd and fastest run up Course de côte de Turckheim Trois-Epis , made a few mistakes and ran wide out of a hairpin but a fun final drive for 2016 in the FR!
Posted by Charlie Martin on Saturday, September 10, 2016
Run two was much better putting me one second under the three minute barrier, in heat hitting 30 degrees the tyres were really struggling. Being last years race slicks they’ve seen more action than Chuck Norris and were too hot to hold your hand on at the top of the hill, I had a job cleaning them too once I was back in the paddock. A big group of us got together that evening to give Rémi a signed photo of us all standing infront of the summit at Mont-Dore, regretfully he’s taking a perpetual break from racing and will be sorely missed by us all – surely one of the best drivers and nicest people I’ve met on track.
Sunday came with the promise of rain, we’d known it all along and there seemed to be a chance we’d escape since the metéo kept delaying it’s arrival as the day progressed. Although not right at the sharp end, with 15 cars to compete against I was fighting for a mid class position most notably with Thierry (there were just 4 secs between 1st & 12th place). My first run was tidy and around two seconds quicker at 2:57:302 which put me 0.5 secs behind him, and coming into run two I knew there I could go faster still. I tried a few different gears on places, some worked and others didn’t, and despite understeering wildly towards a ditch on the way out of a hairpin I managed to improve.
I crossed the line at 2:56:631 but Thierry posted a 2:56:584 – could it be any closer?!!
The final run? Well you couldn’t make it up really – Thierry had to call time with a suspected engine problem, and I knew I could make up the 0.1 deficit, basically repeat my run without the big moment. As I rolled up to the line I heard that the rain we’d been expecting had started to fall at the top, but I reasoned it would be ok as I sat there eyes fixed on the red light… ‘go green now!’ I thought. Then suddenly the claxon, arrête de course, engine off.
They rolled me back as five cars descended, and then the rain came, hard. Thierry came over and we shook our heads laughing at the timing, sometimes you have to see the funny side in life and admit defeat with a smile. I was offered the chance to drive back to parc fermé and with the track now resembling an ice rink I thought it was probably the best decision – the car is up for sale there was no point in taking an unnecessary risk for one last drive. Afterall, I’m driving the Norma next weekend! :D