Misano : Karim Ojjeh Race report
Quick rewind: as our 2016 objective had not been met in the Blancpain Endurance Series, we decided to move to the Blancpain Sports Club Series, which is dedicated to “older” gentleman drivers. You can visit the site at blancpainsportsclub.com.
Misano is a small circuit, totaling 4.22 km. The first sector is very windy with a lot of corners in second gear. The second sector is mostly straights, but again with a couple of second gear corners, and the third sector is again twisty with two corners in third gear. So you need a car with a great mechanical grip. The BMW is a big aerodynamic car that does like to quick transfer changes. So it’s best in high speed corners. The car is not really adapted to this circuit, so we lowered our objective wanting to finish top 5. We expected the series to be competitive but not at that level.
Free practice one was very difficult. I had seen previous videos and track data, but I had never been on the track itself. I tried finding reference points, but everything is somewhat flat. After practice I went to another BMW team racing in the Blancpain Sprint Series and ask for some pointers – where to look and how to manage the car. This was a tremendous help, as free practice two was much better, with lap times coming down. In qualifying, I was not able to get the rhythm with new tires. (A little important side note: our tires are not heated (!), so you need to build heat before we can go full speed.) There was too much going on and most importantly, cars were using a lot of the curbs, some even going 4 wheels off the track! I qualified 20th!
The race was late in the afternoon, the sun setting low. I saw that and knew that it would be tricky conditions in some corners having the sun in your eyes. The start was a joke! By the third corner, we had lost 3 cars in the middle of the pack. By the end of the lap another 2 cars were out! I was already 15th by then. The race went through its pace. I caught up a group and was able to pass 4 cars, 2 thanks to the sun! The drivers had been blinded by the sun in two corners and I took advantage by slightly lowering my head to avoid the sun. Another 2 cars collided in front of me, and I finished 9th.
The main race took place on Sunday before mid-day. Finishing 9th in the previous race I started 9th. The start was fine, leaving one car by, but controlling the back. Another two cars collided in front of me. I made my way up to 5th. My tires were starting to wear down and I was passed by 3 faster cars. I was slowly catching a car, another BMW, a Z4. The driver was known to be very defensive. As we exited turn 8 I was right behind him. As we accelerated, my engine proved sufficiently faster allowing me to come side by side into the next corner. For some reason the driver crashed right into me and we were both out of the race. As I could not exit my car from the driver’s side, I had to squeeze out from the passenger side. I would have finished 8th.
I learned later that the incident was under investigation. An hour after the race, the stewards published a report reprimanding the driver of the other car for having caused a collision! That’s all nice, but does not relieve me from having to pay for the big damage on front left of the car!
As to the Mercedes, they are on another planet – lapping 2 seconds faster than anyone! In the Blancpain Sprint qualifying race, they came 1, 2, 3. In the main race they came 1 and 3. It’s a great car, lots of areo and well balanced. The best part of the car is the engine, which is still atmospheric compared to the BMW’s turbo.
Our next meeting is in the middle of May at Silverstone. In the meantime, for those that want to see the race, you can go to YouTube and type in Blancpain Sports Club.