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PALMER: Spa Debrief

Lamborghini’s Andrew Palmer files his latest column following Spa…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

It’s pretty hard to choose a place to begin my latest column after the conclusion of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

I could recite the event chronologically starting from the Monday before or try to highlight all the positive moments of the event; however, neither seems fitting, as this was certainly a weekend the whole Lamborghini GRT Grasser team does not want to relive.

Instead, lets look at some of the facts of the weekend from my perspective.

The fans at Spa are the most passionate fans I have seen to date. Starting from the Monday I arrived, thousands of people were already present at the track and in the town of Spa for the event.

On Tuesday, I had a fan come up to me and ask me to autograph a picture of almost every car I had ever raced, including a photo from my very first car race almost 3 years ago.

In fact, when I tried to remember a certain race I had done he remembered before me. This experience was something I hadn’t had before in the United States.

These types of encounters happened all throughout the weekend.

The parade to the town of Spa is an event in itself. Its not often you get to see 60 plus racecars driving down public roads lined with thousands of passionate fans.

We nominated our senior driver, Fabio Babini, to take the wheel of our Lamborghini Huracan GT3 car and drive it into town.

Lamborghini was nice enough to provide all of its official drivers with Huracan and Aventador road cars to flank the racecar on its way to the village. We were lucky enough to lead the 60-plus car train down the countryside roads that ended at the city center.

There was certainly no lack of engine revving and blow-byes on the 10 km journey. Once there, it was almost impossible to walk around with the amount of fans present to look at the cars.

Even when I ducked away to have a quick dinner on a street side café fans came up to us to ask for pictures and autographs. I wish I saw this type of passion from people of all ages at every race we went to!

Weekend problems started for us from the first lap of the first session. On the first lap of the Bronze Test (Silvers are eligible at Spa) I had a big moment through Eau Rouge. The car was much trickier to drive than at the test and I spun coming up the hill. Luckily I avoided any contact.

In FP1 both cars were well off the pace and we made significant changes for Pre-Qualifying. Fabio got in the car with new tires and went off in the exact place I had on his first lap.

Unfortunately, he was not so lucky and sustained heavy damage to the front of the car. The mechanics worked tirelessly but we missed all of qualifying and half of night qualifying.

Both cars were not quick enough to make it into Friday’s Super Pole, and after extensive data analysis we decided to change both engines the night before the race. Hence, we would start last on the grid and the mechanics had already been up for 24 hours before green flag was waved.

It is almost impossible to follow the race and just surviving the full 24 hours is an accomplishment.

With the use of two safety cars, gaining positions and deciding pit strategy is almost like a lottery. In a matter of a few laps we went from 43rd to 15th back to 30th then to 21st.

The biggest thing you have to remember is that it works in cycles and those that benefited once from the safety car will most likely get hurt from it later. We had solid efforts by the whole team for the first six hours before I got in the car.

When I got in it was already completely dark out and our lights were far from optimal. While trying to make a move on a Mercedes we made contact and took a hit into the wall.

That was the end of our 24 hour. We were consistently running in the top-10 with a high point of P4 but sadly the luck of our first day on track caught up to us and it was finally time for us all to rest.

The full focus is on a strong final result in Germany 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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