This past weekend was a very interesting stop in the European Le Mans Series for several different reasons, but one of the most challenging ones was that neither myself , my co-drivers or any of the team members has ever been to Red Bull Ring before.
The track is located in a place called Spielberg, in the middle of ski resorts, farms, and, as you can imagine, an absolutely spectacular setting.
The track has lots of elevation. If you have seen any races on TV, you can’t really appreciate how much elevation, twists and turns this track has to offer.
The only place that has any flat areas is the front straight away. Otherwise the track has either elevation, camber, or off-camber, all the way around. During the track walk I understood already this would be a place that we really needed to manage and take care of our tires.
The first practice session confirmed exactly what we had predicted. The one thing that did surprise me was that the track had a very low grip level and that you had to run a different aero and chassis balance on the car than normal, due to the elevation and track configuration.
The team did a great job and gave us a good, well-balanced car for qualifying. I was elected to qualify and was able to get P6 in a very tight and competitive field and session.
We felt like we had a good balanced car and ran a fine, solid race. Both Tracy and Julien did a great, consistent job and handed the car over to me in seventh place. Right when I left pit lane with new, fresh tires straight out of the oven, the yellow flag came out and we circulated for about five or six laps behind the pace car.
This made my tires cool down and I really struggled to get the proper core temp back into them. This was something that I suffered and struggled with the rest of the afternoon. With other cars making mistakes and getting penalties, I was able to move up to a fifth place finish, just by running a safe and consistent race.
I had another two caution periods that put another few heat cycles on the tires and I really struggled for grip throughout the end of the race. But we were able to maintain good enough speed to have another top-five finish.
With us never having been to the track before we will have to be pleased with another top-five finish and being fourth in the championship with two more rounds to go, at Paul Ricard in September and Estoril in October.
You never thought that a track with just two left hand corners could be that much fun and challenging! Two corners have steep, uphill elevation that really catches the car and allows you to brake really late.
Another two corners have the same amount of elevation, but going down hill, and this makes it really interesting when it comes to get your brake balance right without locking up tires.
Besides this you have three really high-speed third and fourth gear corners, where you have to get your aero balance right to get the speed out of the car.
When you see the track layout on a map, it look very simple and straight-forward, but it’s way more technical and challenging than that. It was a great, fun track to race at and the Krohn Racing crew gave us a good, fast, solid car for the race.
Until next time, take care of each other, be safe and GO FAST!