Race report by Robin Frischkopf, Swiss XRAY Team
Last week-end it was finally time for the first Swiss championship race of the 2007 season. We went to the town of Morges at lake Geneva, where the MBLR club had prepared a temporary track on a grass field in the middle of the town. The track was very fast, with two straights and some fast corners, but also technical, with some hairpins and with one table jump right before a corner and one double jump right after and before a corner, making jumping very difficult because the car had to be lined up straight right out of the fast corner and as soon as it landed you had to turn in for the next corner. There were a lot of spectators throughout the week-end because the track was at a very public place.
On saturday it rained the whole day and the track got very muddy. The two practice and four qualifying sessions were held nonetheless. My XB8 EC, which I had finished building just a few days before the race, handled very well. I drove all four qualifying heats without making big mistakes. I touched the tubes here and there and didn’t always land perfect from the jumps, but my car was never on the roof the whole day.
After the first two qualifiers I was on place 3, but I couldn’t improve a lot as the track got worse with more holes, bumps and even puddles, and at the end of the day I was on place 7. My XRAY teammate Patrick Hess however was on place 10. Since he was my main rival last season and now my teammate, he was the bar that I had set for me and so I was more or less content, also knowing that in the finals I was always better than during qualifying. We also hoped for better weather on sunday. After al the driving was finished I had to hose down the whole car with water because it was so dirty. Normally I would never recommend or do this, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
On sunday morning the weather had improved a lot. The sun was now shining and it was about 19Â° C. Since I was qualified directly for the semifinal I had the whole morning and half the afternoon to clean and prepare my car. I disassembled it almost completely and checked all the bearings. A few had rusted overnight so I had to replace them, but most of them were fine and rolling as free as ever, even though I practically drowned the car the day before. With the car as good as new again, I looked forward for my semifinal.
My semifinal, the A, was very competitive, with the 13-times swiss Champion Didier Perrin starting from 1 and a lot of other fast drivers. I started from fourth place so there was no room for errors since fast drivers were infront and behind me. The start went very well though and after half a lap I was already on second position. A few minutes later, Didier Perrin’s engine cut out and I was already leading the semifinal. It stayed like that until the end of the 20-minute run and I won my semifinal with one lap ahead. Since the track had gotten more dusty and the grass was disappearing, I changed from DLD Splinter to crime fighter tyres and they had very good grip, but did not brake as good as the DLDs. I had a little trick though, at the end of the straight I would always use the inside of the track, which was not ideal for the racing line, but which was still full of grass and so I could brake a lot later.
The car just handled great. It had a lot of steering and changed directions very fast, which was important on this track. It seemed to me that the car was as fast as I could drive it so I was the limit and never the car. The only setup changes I made during the race was the springs, from hard to medium, the front shocks, from 500 to 350, and the tyres. Other than that I didn’t know what to change since the car handled so well.
Even though he was very fast, Didier Perrin missed the qualification spot for the final by a few seconds because of his flameout. After the second semifinal, the starting places for the final were set. My teammate Patrick Hess had managed to win his semifinal as well, with the same number of laps as I had, but his endtime was three secons faster so he got pole for Team XRAY and I started from the second place. However my fastest laps were a bit faster than his so I was looking forward to the final very much. The two Team XRAY drivers had come from 7 and 10 to 1 and 2.
Before the final I was very nervous. This was only my third race season and once again I had the chance to win a race. The start went very well and already I could challenge Patrick. He made the first mistake and I took the lead. However then I made a mistake again and he took the lead back. I was so nervous and kept making mistakes, about every 2-3 laps I was on the roof the first few minutes. But still I was in front of Patrick and leading the race after the first pit stop. But then, about 10 minutes into the final and I was still first and very nervous, I made a mistake on the double jump. I missed the jump and landed next to the track. The track marshall had a bit longer to get to my car as a few other cars drove past, but when he got to my car to right it up, the engine had stalled. It seems that the idle was a bit low and I should have blipped the throttle a little while upside down, because other than that the RB WS7III ran great, with good acceleration and topspeed and acceptable fuel consumption.
I was devastated and all my hopes of winning the race disappeared. I quickly changed into survival mode and tried to get the best result possible. When my car exited the pit lane, I was on fire. Immediately I drove my fastest lap, and the fastest lap of the race, and kept the pace up to gain as many positions back as possible. I was sixth when I exited the pits and managed to overtake one car after the other. I didn’t make any mistakes anymore and managed to drive faster than before.
At first Patrick, who was now leading the race, was more than one lap ahead of me. But I lapped myself back after a while and reduced his advantage to about 2/3rds of a lap. In the end I had the second-placed driver, Francois Bossetti, a long time veteran of the Swiss buggy scene who was also driving an XB8, in my sights. But the final was just a bit too short and I missed him by about 4 seconds when the 30 minutes were over.
What a final. I was disappointed of course, but it could have been a lot worse. On the results sheet I saw that I had not only made the fastest lap of the race with a 28.818, but I had had the fastest average of all the drivers (a 29.9 compared to Patrick’s 30.4) even though my flameout had meant a 1-minute laptime. It was amazing how much faster and more concentrated I was just by being angry and desperate. I hope with more experience I will be able to give 100% under any circumstances and make less mistakes even when I’m in the lead and nervous.
After I crossed the line I immediately congratulated my XRAY teammate Patrick Hess for winning the race. I would have prefered to win myself of course, but I was happy that he won the race for the Team. And for the first race of the season I was content with my third place, always hoping to improve further throughout the season and maybe having the chance to win a race once more. Finally we had an all-XRAY podium with Francois Bossetti taking second place.
1. Patrick Hess, XRAY
2. Francois Bossetti, XRAY
3. Robin Frischkopf, XRAY
4. Alessandro Rigamonti
5. Thomas Hofer
6. Alexandre Amort
7. Simon Stalder
8. Marco Stettler
9. Christophe Plancherel
10. Aldo Barel
Source : Xray