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!