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American Festival Zolder

The American Festival in Zolder was the last round of the Belcar Endurance Championship 2018.

After the turbo problems in Spa during the previous race, the car was fully prepared and also extensively tested on the circuit of Croix-en-Ternois. The car passed two full test days without any problems.

Jamie did free practice on Friday, during which a number of minor adjustments were made. The car had also made significant progress in that regard. On Saturday Jamie managed to place us on P19 with a fastest lap of 1’41″2, by far the fastest we had ever driven with our diesel Radical. My part of the qualification was severely interrupted by two red flags, which prevented me from doing a fast lap.

The start of the race on Sunday was taken by me. As there were no incidents on the track during the opening hour, I could do the first stint of the two-hour race. In addition, the car behaved properly, although I had a poorly functioning right front brake caliper, making it tricky under hard braking. I was able to move towards P15 with some intensive battles with GT4 cars. During that first stint I was able to lower the benchmark of the Radical to 1’40″045, a huge step forward!

After an hour, Jamie took over. However, he had to continue immediately as our refueling system failed, the pump was stuck. After just 15 minutes, the team got the pump working, and we immediately came in for our second stop.

He managed to keep the car out until suddenly he came back without any gears. Moments later, it appeared that a bolt had come loose, causing the rod to come loose from the shift mechanism. The problem was solved fairly quickly, so that we could finish the race without further problems!

I would like to thank the Oracle TSL team for their confidence in me this season, together we have taken a huge step in the right direction.

Racing Festival in Spa ends in a disappointment

The Racing Festival in Spa was the 5th and penultimate round of the Belcar Endurance Championship 2018.

The car was rebuild after the fire on Thursday during the 24 hours of Zolder. Furthermore, some updates were made to the car, which did not immediately have the expected impact. After some last-minute changes, the behavior of the car had improved somewhat. The car also proved to be faster compared to our previous race in Spa.

During qualifying, Jamie put us on 20th place. He also took the start of the race on Sunday. However, after 20 minutes, fate struck again. A blown turbo went partly through the exhaust, but worse, also partly through the engine, which caused some serious damage. Our racewas over immediately, but the question remains whether the power source can still be restored.

To be continued …

6th place and fastest lap at 8h FKI!

The 8h of FKI is an absolute classic in the Belgian indoor karting world.

This year I was not at the start with Mats de Jong, but with young star Guillermo van Pamelen. Guillermo is only 15, but has been active in the indoor karting world for several years. For example, he also participated in the Kart World Championship in Szczecin last summer.

During free practice and qualification it soon became clear that our kart was not too great. I could eventually qualify on P8 (on 23 teams), never an ideal starting position, even in an endurance race. My fear became reality when less experienced drivers started competing for position in the first hour of the race. I tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible, but despite my effort we still lost too much time. Again proof that starting in the front in an endurance is a much greater benefit than often thought.

Our second kart turned out to be two tenths faster, so we moved to P3!

Guillermo had a hard time with his first kart in his first stint. He could get fast times out of it, but was not always consistent. With his second kart he was a lot more consistent, so we stayed between P3 and P5. Unfortunately, at the end of his stint, Guillermo was pushed into the tyre wall. We lost about 20 seconds.

After 4 stints in total I took over again. Unfortunately, Guillermo forgot the button during the driver change (which starts a timer of 30s) so we lost about 10s. It must be said here that I also realized too late that the lamp was not on. A shame because those two things caused us to lose more than half a lap on our closest competitors.

I drove one more stint myself before coming in with hands full of blisters. Guillermo drove two more stints while I had my hands patched up at the first aid. At the end of the race I took over again and we got a very fast kart in the last stint. Since we were unable to win or lose any more positions at that time, I decided to do some hot laps and take a shot at the fastest race. That finally succeeded three laps from the end for which we were eventually rewarded with a beautiful cup!


Broken clutch ruins Zolder Superprix

The third Belcar race of the season was held at 01/07/2018.
After our point finish in Spa, we were all keen to do it again in Zolder. We arrived in Zolder with a slightly faster engine, which made the gap with the front runners a bit smaller.

Since Raf was on vacation, Jamie and I took on the driving duties.

Everything went pretty well in qualifying on Saturday. At the end of the session I was able to put a 1’44″6 on the table which brought us to P23. The car was a bit faster compared to Spa, but we still had no chance against the much faster Normas.

Jamie took the start on Sunday. His times continued to fluctuate around 1’45-46 until after 20 minutes he was forced to come in with a broken clutch. Unfortunately, the team did not have a spare one, so our race was over immediately.

Unfortunately no points during the Superprix and immediately our second breakdown of the season. Developing a car yourself with limited budgets (and time) remains a challenging task …

In mid-August it is already time for the Zolder 24 hours, where we will try to do better than last year, where we lost about 7 hours due to mechanical problems.

Double podium at the 2x 5h Cup in Szczecin!

During the weekend of the 16th and 17th of June, a 2x 5 hour race took place on the Silverhotel track in Szczecin (Poland). Since the Kart World Championship is being organized here in 5 weeks, this was an excellent opportunity to start training on this track.

Together with my Traxxis teammates Ward Maenhout and Christophe Verhoeven I went to Poland for this 2x 5h race. The first was held on Saturday afternoon, the second one on Sunday morning. This made it possible for us to return home Sunday evening.

On Saturday Christophe took the start from second place. He was able to hold on to that for a long time and even managed to attack Rico Haarbosch (Dutch Value) in first place. Ward took over from Christophe after 1h20 and brought us in at P3. After our pit stop we were back on P2 so I had the task not to lose time and try to maintain our position. We succeeded which meant we immediately grabbed our first podium of the weekend!

The race on Sunday was a copy of the one on Saturday, with the difference that I was allowed to leave on pole just before Dutch Value. Giovanni, who started for them, was just a little bit more consistent, he eventually passed me after a few laps. I was able to stay in his bumper until the end of my stint, making us comfortable on P2. Ward and Christophe both drove sublime stints, which meant we also finished at P2 in the second race!

A disappointment avoided on the last possible moment in Essen

After a relatively good opener of my Formula Karting campaign it was already time for the second race of the season in Essen (DE).

Essen has never been my favourite track, although I had found something extra during the 12 hours last year, so I thought I would be able to stand a chance for a good day’s result. However, we had to wait and see how the kart differences were going to be, last year it turned out to be a weak point in Essen.

On Friday evening I went down to Essen together with Traxxis teammates Ward Maenhout and Nick Van Ostade to do several heats. Nick turned out to be very strong, as expected, and I expected him to be comfortable in the top five a day later. I had to try something myself, but at the end of the evening I had a good feeling.

On Saturday my race could not start worse with a second to last starting position in the first heat. in qualifying, I immediately noticed that this kart had no power. Sadly enough, I was not allowed to change before the heat started. Due to some bumping in front of me, and a well-timed shortcut, I could win a few places, which ultimately gave me one miserable point.

Since Formula Karting works with a half-scrap result (the worst result only counts half), I was in bad papers right away.

In heat two I drew a decent kart and qualified in 6th place. However, I was pushed into the tires halfway by Selina Balneger by driving me straight to a corner of the track. Unfortunately, she was not punished for that move. I eventually became 10th, while I was in 6th or 7th place before the incident.

Heat three was a bit similar, even though my kart was just a bit less and there were some drivers behind me a bit faster after I started 7th. In the final stages, I got hit by Christian Douven when he took his shortcut. I went wide and lost three places, so I only finished in 11th.

The last heat I a solid kart in which I could qualify as 8th after a medium hot lap qualification. I won a place in the final stage when Nick did an optimistic manoeuvre on Thom Van Dijk. With that 6th place I went up from P14 to P9 in the day standings.

The pace was not quite there, but with the bad luck in race 1 in combination with the actions in the next two heats I was happy to finish in the top 10. Without these things a 7th place would have been the maximum achievable.

Next appointment is the circuit of FKI Machelen, a track that suits my driving style a lot more and where I hope to gain some points on my closest competitors!

Eleven Sports 24h of Zolder

The Eleven Sports 24h of Zolder was the fourth and most important meeting of the Belcar Endurance Championship 2017 which was held at the 19th and 20th of August.

The team decided to attract a fourth driver, this turned out to be Raf van Belle.

The Cosworth engine in our Radical SR5 was replaced by a Volkswagen TDI unit. Mainly to improve the reliability and autonomy of the car.

A novelty this year was the obligated parade to the city centre of Heusden-Zolder where all cars were lined up and accessible for the public.

As usual there were different training and qualifying sessions on Thursday. There were two training sessions of each one hour, followed by two qualifying sessions of each one hour as well. At the end of the day there was a three-hour night session in which each driver had to drive at least three timed laps to be allowed to start.

During the first qualifying session we ran into some small issues concerning the engine management. These were fixed quite fast however. Afterwards I got a 1’42″779 out of the car, a time which remained unbroken for the rest of the day and put us 22nd on the grid.
In the evening we found quite a few issues with turbo pressure which tended to drop under heavy load. The team remained confident as they had an entire day to find the issue and bring the car in perfect condition to the start.

On Friday I wasn’t at the track myself, but the car was modified and improved throughout the entire day by the Oracle Cars crew. The turbo issue was also found and fixed.

On Saturday morning there was foreseen a short warm-up, the ideal moment to test the car and do some last checks before the race.

Raf took the start at 4pm and remained between P20-25 until he boxed after 40 minutes when the turbo pressure started to drop again. After a long intervention I took over from Raf but sadly I drove a three-hour stint with only in and out laps until the issue was finally found. In the end it became clear that one issue was causing another one which made us lose a lot of time. After three hours of doing test laps I was forced to get out of the car to not exceed the maximum driving time. Raf took over again and could drive an almost flawless stint.

It was then time for me to get some rest. When I arrived again in the box the next morning I heard Eric and Jamie had driven almost flawless stints as well, so we were still in the running.

On Sunday morning I drove my last stint. After a little more than two hours I almost lost the rear end of the car coming out of the slow hairpin. I was able to pit, but there became clear that the rubber from the left driveshaft was burned. The grease on the driveshaft was spilled on the engine which caught fire. Luckily, I was able to get out of the car fast enough.

After a thorough check it seemed that there wasn’t too much damage to the car. However, because there was less than one hour left, we weren’t allowed to re-enter the track. We were forced to retire the car after 23 hours and 40 minutes…

I’d like to thank the whole Oracle Cars crew for their endless determination and effort during this difficult weekend. Without them, we wouldn’t have gotten that far!