Sailesh Bolisetti and teammate Phil Glew came second in the first round of British GT 2012 at Oulton Park. It was a thrilling moment for the 23-year-old from Vishakhapatnam, India. That post will be coming soon; once he gets his breath back. For now, here’s his first experience of testing the Lotus Evora GT4, a few weeks ago.
By Sailesh Bolisetti
I had been waiting to get my hands on the Evora GT4 ever since I signed up with the Lotus Sport UK team. I got that chance, finally, after two months of longing and waiting, at the Silverstone circuit on media day, customary in British Motosport.
There it was, in all its glory. But, I would have to share it, of course, with my experiences teammate Phil Glew. That’s what endurance racing is all about – with two drivers alternating driving duties for the same race. Like Le Mans, my dream, just shorter. Phil was the first to take the wheel. Thirty minutes later, it was my turn. There was excitement, fear, curiousity and anticipation all at the same time. I hadn’t touched a racecar in almost five months and now, I was behind the wheel of a hardcore 360bhp beast. But I quickly realised it wasn’t the friendliest place to start, if you’ve only driven front-wheel cars before!
I was completely focused on the out lap. The car was quicker in a straight line; I had never driven anything like this before. The acceleration was brutal and the paddle-operated sequential gearshifts were like gunshots. But the car felt planted and stable. Then came the corner.
In my experience, the logic of racing dictates: brake in a straight line, spot the turn-in point, turn, and start applying the throttle before the apex to maximise corner speed and go full-throttle past the apex. But the Evora was different. I instantly found myself auto crossing in the run-off area. It was enough to put a dent in my confidence. I reduced the intensity of whatever I was doing. I discovered then that it was extremely difficult to apply throttle through the corners without the car pitching sideways in oversteer. Silverstone is all about fast corners and throttle application; I had no clue of the new layout and I was struggling. This car was supposed to have more grip than this! After 10 laps though, I became comfortable with the idea of oversteer and catching it – but braking still felt way off.
The next day, it was time to hit Oulton Park, about 200km from Silverstone. We sorted out some of the alignment issues we had from the previous day and then we were good to go. As always, Phil took to the track to set a benchmark. My job was to then get as close as possible. I was prepared now. Before I got behind the wheel, Phil and I did a track walk, just not on foot. He gave me pointers on braking, turn-ins, so I was a little more clued into the circuit.
But I was taken aback. Everything – braking, turn-in and throttle application – was different from what I had learnt in all these years driving FWDs. I had tried to adapt my ingrained techniques into what was a different style of driving. Unlike my counterparts, I’ve never stepped into a single-seater, so I had no clue about the relationship between the throttle and rear wheels. The rule of baking in a straight line also didn’t apply. Instead, I needed to brake into the corner, and then carrying more speed into the corner. I was doing the complete opposite.
I had to make a radical shift in my driving style. But the result was instant. The car suddenly felt more stable and felt like it had five times the grip I had at Silverstone. I was enjoying myself now and edging closer to Phil’s times.
The team was surprised. They had expected that, given my FWD background, I would take more time getting up to speed. I learned a lot and there is still a long way to go. But the team is incredibly supportive and friendly. The car’s also a second quicker than last year, so we will be more competitive this season!
Next: Race Day Oulton Park