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PALMER: Paul Ricard Debrief

Lamborghini’s Andrew Palmer files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Dan Bathie/Xynamic Motorsport Photography

Photo: Dan Bathie/Xynamic Motorsport Photography

I often try and work under the assumption that, for the most part, you create your own luck in life. However, sometimes racing happens in the part of life that is not “the most part.”

The third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Paul Ricard with Lamborghini and GRT Grasser Racing was certainly not the best of weekends and had its dose of simply bad luck.

That being said, we learned valuable information we can take to the 24 Hours of Spa.

This round of the championship started a day earlier as the first long race of my European season was to take place on Saturday and last into the final hour of the night.

Of all the tracks I will visit during my European campaign, I felt the most prepared for Paul Ricard. I had logged hours on the sim and completed two tests with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 in varying weather conditions.

The condensed schedule of the BES championship allowed for one day for the drivers to relax and clear their heads before FP1 began on Friday morning.

The south of France was certainly suitable for such activities. I spent the evening reviewing data from my teammate Mirko’s quick lap in testing so we could hit the ground running in the first practice.

Our strategy leading into qualifying was to focus on our car and make sure we had a stable rear for the long stints during the race.

Paul Ricard can really chew up the tires and optimizing average stint pace was a priority. Our pre season testing paid off as our sister car was P1 in FP1 and FP2. We followed close behind utilizing less new sets of Pirelli P-Zeros in practice.

In qualifying I had the duty of bedding in our race brakes and feeling the car on used tires, while my teammates would make new tire runs and take a stab at the pole.

Q2 bode well as Fabio took the provisional pole. In Q3 Jeroen drove well but the tyres were not optimized. We would end up P15 of 63 for the start of the 1000km of Paul Ricard.

The timing of the whole weekend was a bit strange as we had a six-hour break before the start of the race and even longer until I would enter the car for the third and forth stint.

All of the heavy hitters use this race as a tune up and test for the 24 Hours of Spa. Hence, we decided to double stint drivers to prepare for the flagship race next month.

Race time rolled around and I was fortunate to share the grid walk with my whole family who flew over to visit me. I have become a creature of suitcases and hotel rooms so having the whole family there for the first time in over a year was motivating.

Unfortunately, as soon as the green flag dropped our problems started.

A botched first start lead to an odd safety car deployment and a full restart. The chaos that ensued forced us to start in 31st rather than 15. Fabio remained calm and chipped away at the competition.

Towards the end of the first stint he started to report a mechanical problem. He managed to finish his second stint and he pitted from 7th to hand the car to me. The problem was manageable and we could drive around it if we sacrificed some laptime.

After battling the factory Audi and Bentley during my first stint, I got a tire puncture at the fastest corner of the racetrack. Fortunately, I pitted and put on a fresh set of rubber and resumed with much quicker laptimes.

The car felt alive and I started lapping as one of the quickest cars on circuit. Only five laps into the start of my second stint the mechanical failure won and I was stranded on track. Our race was over at the 3.5 hour mark.

Lamborghini and GRT Grasser had prepared the car like it would be a 24-hour race. We had a new engine and gearbox to ensure reliability. Sometimes you just get a dose of bad luck.

Fortunately, we have diagnosed the issue and will ensure we will not suffer from this in Spa.

The remaining part of the week is quite hectic. The official Spa test occurs Wednesday and then I’m straight off to Watkins Glen.

We can’t always prevent bad luck from hampering our plans, but the next few weeks will be used for creating our own luck for the next BES race. Lamborghini, GRT Grasser and I have are heads down until FP1 at Spa in a month’s time.

Andrew Palmer (@APalmerRacing) is a Rolex 24 at Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans class winner, driving for Bentley Team Absolute in Pirelli World Challenge.

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