38 degrees centigrade. Nice. This is going to be one tough weekend.
The test session for round 6 of the UAE GT Championship is a good time to consolidate my motorsport education this season. The benefits of examining a data trace and adjusting both car and driver were manifest to me at Yas Marina, and Porsche Supercup hotshot Sean Edwards is on hand again this weekend at the Dubai Autodrome to advise Alex Renner’s drivers.
It’s remarkable how old I feel when I spend time with someone like Sean. I get the same irrational insecurity playing football these days. Half my opponents on the field are my friends’ teenage sons, annoyingly flexible and lithe, and speaking a language I can barely comprehend. I’m probably squinting every time they talk to me – it helps me to decode the words coming out of their mouths, though the processing takes a little longer these days.Sean is 23 and sitting on top of the world. He supports Formula 1 at the pointy end of Supercup, driving one of the most desirable race cars in the world and earning a pretty packet in the process. His boyish good looks and easy manner ought to make me hate him, but somehow he does a great job of putting dinosaurs like me at ease.
I plan the test session methodically, adjusting lines and braking points sequentially until I string together my quickest lap in the first 20 minute session. A quick chat with Sean over the trace from the DL1 data logger reveals where I’m right and wrong, and the next 20 minute session is spent experimenting with alternative aero and suspension settings.By the end of the session, I’m comfortable with what I’ve learnt and opt not to run the car in the final session, with a view to preserving my ageing steed for race day tomorrow.
GTB championship leader, Paul Denby, has been similarly diligent with his homework, and it shows in qualifying the next day. Paul will be sharing his drive once again with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, and we discover that the three of us are separated by a mere 0.2 seconds, with Sheikh Hasher for once the slowest of the trio.
Having put in my mandatory three qualifying laps, I re-enter the pit lane and park up to Paul’s relief. I know that I’ve made a couple of errors on my quickest lap, and might have shaved a few tenths off, but I figure it’s more important to preserve tyres and brakes for the race than chase P1 for bragging rights. Paul has pole and I have P2, but we both know it’s all about the start.
For once the Gulfsport Ginetta is nowhere near the pace in qualifying, coming in at more than a second off pole for GTB. Hmm, can’t quite work that out. Martin Hope and the Ginetta G50 are normally a potent combination. In the ARM garage we reckon Martin has opted for a less than aggressive setup for his latest guest driver, but it later transpires that they’re on a harder compound tyre today to negate the effects of the extreme track temperatures towards the end of the race. Let’s see if their gamble pays off.
We’re also disappointed to hear that Jon Simmond’s Aston (now liveried in a fabulous Gulf blue) will not be competing today. With a fag end hanging nonchalantly from the side of his mouth, Simmo will no doubt have a characteristically colourful reason for not running the Aston, punctuated with earthy language and mimed opposite lock, but we reckon his creaking frame might expire at the very thought of running two touring car races and a 45 minute GT race in the same searingly hot day. Thankfully team mate Frederic Gaillard will be defending DXB Racing’s honour by running with the GTB pack in his sinister bare carbon Mitsubishi Evo. Will Fred’s highly tuned banzai warrior last 45 minutes of extreme heat without (literally) melting its arse off?