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JONSSON: Bahrain Debrief

Krohn Racing’s Nic Jonsson files his final Sportscar365 column of the year…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

The FIA WEC season has come to a conclusion with the last race on the schedule at the Bahrain International Circuit in the Middle East.

For me and Krohn Racing it’s been a very challenging season with lots of issues that we have been fighting all year. We have been struggling with a very inconsistent race car that we have had a problem to figure out. We have, for sure, made lots of progress and got the car more consistent and competitive at times.

Going into the last race in Bahrain gave us some confidence since we had a very competitive and fast car last year and was in contention to win.

The first practice session of the weekend was okay and the car felt pretty good but was not particularly fast. Our focus was more on a consistent race car so this was what we worked on. We were able to achieve a pretty good balance on one of the tire combinations we planned to run in the race.

When we finally got to the race with me starting I was struggling the first 5-7 laps before my tires came in. After this we had a good, consistent car and ran a good, competitive pace.

About 6-7 laps before the first pit stop one of the Audi LMP1 cars came from far behind trying to pass me at the apex of Turn 4 going inside the curb of the track, jumping and bouncing over the curb, and completely rammed me in the right rear tire.

He got a warning for it but this hurt us since the car stalled and I had to re-fire and get going again and lost about 35-40 seconds. I’m not sure what it is, but the Audis seem to think they are invisible. The strange thing is that the other LMP1 cars never seem to get involved in situations like this with the slower GT cars.

I got back to the pits without any damage, so we did not lose any extra time in the pits. We kept running a good pace for the next two stints and moving up in the standings. Unfortunately on the in lap for the next pit stop something very unfortunate happened.

I was standing ready in pit lane with my helmet on and ready to go when I see our car pull over to the right side before pit lane. The car had run out of fuel due to some sort of fuel system issue and we had been stranded on track with no chance to retrieve the car.

So the 2013 season ended in a very unfortunate and disappointing way. The Krohn guys have been working hard all year and we have made progress and have great hopes and are already looking forward to the 2014 season. The final decision about what series and program we are going to run in 2014 has not been fully decided yet.

My team owner and co-driver, Tracy Krohn, and I had also arranged for a LMP2 test at the circuit the day after the race in the Lotus T128.

This is something we had talked about for awhile and thought this was the right time and place for it. This was the very first time for Tracy driving a car with this much downforce, horsepower and with carbon brakes. ]

The biggest challenge was to make Tracy fit in the closed cockpit due to his height. But with almost two days work with seat fitting and adjustments he was able to fit with some sacrifices, but still get a chance to drive and get an understanding for the car and its features.

After the first run he had a big smile on his face! It was very apparent that he had fun and liked the car, despite not being able to use his right arm and hand steering to the right because of hitting the side of the cockpit.

I got a chance to get a run in the car as well. I have driven cars with these same features in the past and knew what to expect, but you never really remember until you get back in the car how well balanced cars with this much downforce and with carbon brakes are and how much fun they are to drive.

The test went really well and we both left Bahrain with a bittersweet taste in our mouth, with the unfortunate situation from the race weekend, but with a great day testing the Lotus LMP2 car.

I need to say a big thank you to the whole Lotus team who were extremely patient and accommodating throughout the weekend assisting getting us fitted in the car in between all the race prep they needed to do. They are a very professional and helpful crew.

It looks like I’m fortunate to be representing Kinetic Motorsports/KIA Racing in 2014 again in the Pirelli World Challenge with Kinetic/KIA. I’m also privileged to be back with Krohn Racing next year, with their announcement coming soon.

With the holidays approaching fast, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and thank every one for the great support I have received all year.

I hope to get to see many of you at the race tracks around the world in 2014. Even though the season is over, it is just a few days before the preparation for the 2014 season starts again.

Nic Jönsson is a former Swedish F3 and Group N Touring Car champion and current sports car star, with numerous international victories to his credit. He drives for Krohn Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and European Le Mans Series.

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