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JONSSON: Shanghai Debrief

Nic Jonsson files his latest column following a challenging weekend in China…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

We have another race in the books of the 2013 FIA WEC season. The Krohn Racing team traveled to China for the 6 Hours of Shanghai race this past week.

We had unusual and unfortunate weather in Japan two weeks ago, where we never got to race due to the rain and the tire supplier, Michelin, not having any rain tires. We really looked forward to the race in Shanghai since we had a good result there last year with a third place finish.

Practice started out pretty well for us with being in the top-4 for the first session. The biggest issue for everyone was to try to keep the tires clean. It seemed like it was difficult to create the proper tire temperatures and to keep the tires clean to get the performance out of the tires that we expect.

Our focus was on trying to get better traction out of the corners. We seem to have an issue with our traction control that was working very randomly for us and this dilemma prevented us from really being able to work accurately on our set-up since we could not rely that the traction control would work for us the whole time.

We decided to increase the stiffness of the car to try create more tire temp and try to keep the tires clean and that way gain more grip.

Qualifying was a very disappointing session for us, ending up second from last. This was not the worst. The more concerning problem was that the car was not handling the way we would like it and we were about two seconds off the fastest car.

Everyone in motorsports knows that this is light years behind, or like losing 10-0 in hockey. We had our work cut out for us in the race.

We sat down and discussed the situation and what we should change for the race. We came up with a plan and were hoping this was going to work for us.

When the race started I could stay with the leading cars for the first 3 laps on semi-cold tires before the other cars got temperatures in there tires and got up to their normal speed and pace.

Unfortunately, I just had to settle in and run the pace the car allowed me to without falling off the track. The feel and sensation was that my tires never got up to temp and offered the grip that’s expected.

When I got out with about 45 seconds behind the leaders, we had no idea why our car lacked the grip that every one else seem to have. We started to play with tire pressures and different compound tires between the front and rear of the car to see if we could gain some more grip and performance.

We kept struggling through the first half of the race until I got back in the car with no setup changes, just another set of tires and adjusted pressures. Now, all a sudden, I was the fastest car on the track in the GTE class over the next hour and had no idea why and how the car could go from being very difficult to drive to a great handling and fast race car.

Right when I pulled out of the pits, I hear some loud noise like someone was hitting the car underneath with a big hammer. One of the air jacks we use to lift the car up when changing tires had got stuck in the down position and was now hitting the ground when I loaded the car through right hand corners and made the car very loose in the rear end.

I tried to run over a few curbs to see if I could get the jack to go back up, and lucky enough that worked. The rest of my stint was a very good and uneventful drive.

It’s amazing how nice and easy the Ferrari is to drive when the car is fast and works properly. Tracy got back in after me on a different type of tire that he really liked and had a great stint.

Maurizio got in to finish the race, but unfortunately the throttle stuck open for him on his second lap. That made him go off track on the last corner, but fortunately enough, with his experience and skill, he was able to not hit the wall or anything else.

We ended the race parked next to the track, but with the car in one piece heading to Bahrain for the last race of the season in the WEC  in about three weeks.

We had a very good and fast car at Bahrain last year and we hope that the luck has turned on us and that we can have a good end to the 2013 race season with a great result in Bahrain.

Till than be safe and take care of each other.

Thank you for all your continued support.

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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