Things aren’t always hunky-dory on the track. Sailesh Bolisetti and Phil Glew were revved up after their first win in Nürburgring and ready to take on the next race – at Rockingham. But things became difficult really fast. It was indeed a tough day at work. For the first time this season, the team faced a DNF. But the misery of the last race has been put aside, and the team is now ready to rock Brands Hatch. Here Sailesh tells us about Rockingham and why things didn’t really turn out the way they wanted it to.
After the topsy-turvy weekend that ended in my sweet first victory at the iconic Nürburgring, things were looking good after the first two rounds of the British GT championship. We are back in the UK and we showed good pace in testing before round 3 at Rockingham. But the weekend was not slated to end on a good note.
Going back to testing a week before the event, I discovered that it was going to be unique challenge – it is the fastest banked oval circuit in the UK, with 7-degree banking at turn one. It may not sound much, but for the fact that it is in the same league as the legendary ovals across the pond, like Indianapolis.
The weather seemed hell-bent on making things difficult, it had been continuously raining in the UK for three weeks but we went testing anyway. At the end of the day, I got just about 20 laps in mixed conditions. It didn’t help much apart from telling me where the circuit went. But regardless, attacking that banking was a pretty crazy experience. It was flat in 5th gear for us, while turning left constantly and you could feel the car squirming continuously under you. We were back the following Friday, this time on race weekend.
The first practice didn’t go too well. We were having a tough time with the brakes and tyres didn’t seem to be in a very good shape. But we were still pretty quick. My teammate Phil Glew managed to set the fastest time of the session, while I went third quickest. Second practice was much better with new tyres and brakes to work with. With the basics in place, the team decided to make some setup changes to cope with the unique demands of the banking, but we went backwards. The rear felt really loose. In fact, it was far worse compared to the first session despite having fresher rubber. However, we were still able to post similar times as the first session and retain our top spot on the timesheets. So we seemed quick but there were still a lot of issues that sorting out. I, in particular, got just six laps of running during the second practice since Phil spent most of the time trying to get the setup spot-on.
Come qualifying, our hard work seemed to have paid off as the car felt much better and I could push harder. But in racing, you sort out one issue and a new one is always around the corner. During qualifying, I had some problem with the radio and couldn’t communicate with the pits. Right about the same time, there was a yellow flag at turn two as a car had gone off track so I just played it safe and lifted off on my flying lap. With the difficult weekend we were already having, I didn’t want push my luck unnecessarily and earn a penalty.
We ultimately ended up second on the grid, despite knowing that we were quick enough for pole. I was somewhat disappointed, but it was going to be a long race – the first of the two-hour races – with pit stops for fuel as well. So qualifying wasn’t the end of it, race pace and pit work would play the major role in deciding the race. Our race pace had been promising, and our pit crew had been getting the job done right from the first race so I was looking forward to the race.
As the flag dropped, our pace advantage was immediately evident as the race progressed, and my teammate Phil Glew, who was behind the wheel for the opening stint, managed to snatch the lead and kept increasing the time gap.
He then pitted for fuel and tyres. We had over a lap’s lead! It was looking good. I just had to drive without getting into trouble to secure our second consecutive win. But the car spluttered to a halt, in a somewhat dramatic fashion, with a grinding noise and a small blaze in the engine compartment. It was race over, while in a lap’s lead!
After trudging back to the pits, we discovered that a driveshaft failure was the culprit for our first DNF of the season. It was something that the Lotus Sport UK team hadn’t experienced in their three-year existence, so the timing couldn’t have been worse. To add to our misery, Team WFR – our Ginetta rivals – went on to score full points for the race thanks to their win.
Now I’m at the legendary Brands Hatch circuit for round four of the championship, the Evora GT4 is battle-ready once again. So it’s heads down and hoping for some luck this time around as well.