Get up close and personal with Sailesh Bolisetti as he takes you through his experience of racing the European circuit for the Euro RaceCar series. This is part 1 of a very special guest blog Sailesh will be writing for Riding Fast and Flying Low through the Euro RaceCar series.
The 2012 racing season was an eventful one – with quite a few highs and lows thrown in.
I got an amazing opportunity to drive for the Lotus factory team in British GT championship, which was a huge step-up from the Scirocco Cup I had driven the year before. We managed to do only four rounds, two of which were DNFs as our Lotus Evora struggled with mechanical issues, but that wasn’t before a second place finish on debut at Oulton Park followed by a win at the legendary Nurburgring.
After two consecutive DNFs at Rockingham and Brands, I was unable to make it to Snetterton for round five. It was a result of a bizarre bureaucratic mess-up, which meant that my British visa was rejected couple of days before I was set to fly out. And this was despite being granted a sports visa on multiple occasions earlier.
A new leap
Anyway, enough about the past. For 2013, I decided to switch genres once again and move to stock car racing.
It is my third international season in saloon car racing, which as always, has been the focus of my career and I decided to compete in the Euro Racecar Series – the only championship sanctioned by the world body of motorsport FIA, as well as the American NASCAR.
My ultimate goal is to become a top-level saloon car racer, and Euro Racecar is the right step towards that. As you would know, NASCAR is huge in America, and Euro Racecar is a feeder series, which works on promoting drivers and helping them make the transition from Europe to the US.
For one, it allows me to stay in Europe, which is close and convenient, and I have the opportunity to learn the ropes of stock car racing without going all the way to America.”
Run by the France-based FJ Group, the series visits some incredibly historic circuits during the course of the season, including Dijon, Brands Hatch, Monza and Le Mans.
Like each passing year in my career so far, these 450 bhp cars are faster and more powerful than whatever I’ve raced until last year. It wasn’t going to be easy, especially since I hadn’t raced since July 2012.
In flesh and blood
My first opportunity to get behind the wheel of my new steed came at the official pre-season test at Nogaro Circuit, also the venue for the first race of the season.
But things were difficult as uncharacteristically bad weather in South of France threatened to rain out the test. There was some extreme wind as well – the kind that pierces you through and through if you’re not dressed appropriately.
Nevertheless, we decided to get on with it and were able to run in stints as and when the weather allowed. There were a lot of new things I had to learn at the same time – the car, the track and trying my best to communicate with the team, as unfortunately my French isn’t up to scratch.
But we managed nevertheless and it helped that a few people around spoke English so I was able to communicate my feedback, which is extremely important in the early days of working in a completely different environment.
The bad weather was actually good news in disguise since we were bound to race in similar conditions during the season being in Europe. However, with low track and ambient temperatures, it was a struggle to get tyres and brakes upto operating temperatures and we couldn’t put on slicks at all, so the entire day was completed on Michelin wet tyres.
One thing was clear though, everything was quite physical as this was a car that likes to be muscled around – especially the gearbox, which is similar to what is used in NASCAR. My hands actually hurt a bit after I climbed out of the window (in true NASCAR fashion!) since I’ve been used to paddle shifts for quite some time [since 2011 in Scirocco Cup and British GT], but I have managed to adapt well since then.
It was my first experience with a front-engined, rear wheel drive car so it would have been nice to get some more laps, with slicks and so on but that’s always the case. But we did the best we could and I was looking forward to returning to Nogaro for the race weekend in around 10 days’ time on March 28.
More on that in the next installment!
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All images courtesy Sailesh Bolisetti