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CATSBURG: Brands Hatch Debrief

Reiter’s Nick Catsburg files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Reiter Engineering

Photo: Reiter Engineering

After a disappointing weekend in Nogaro, we were aiming for a better result at Brands Hatch.

Straight after Nogaro we did some extra testing to better understand the new Gallardo R-EX. This already showed its benefit in my Pirelli World Challenge races at Barber Motorsport Park, where I used the R-EX for the first time and immediately ended up on the podium. But we didn’t expect Brands to be as good as it turned out to be.

The last time I drove at Brands Hatch was during the Formula Ford Festival of 2006. Also, that was one the small Indy layout. I was looking forward so much because from what I remembered this track is mega. And old-school, no compromise, lay-out where it takes some time to find the limits…

Racing against Laurens Vanthoor, Chistopher Mies and the Van der Linde brothers on iRacing the week before also helped to get to know the full layout.

During the Free Practice sessions we already noticed that the car was performing way better than it did in Nogaro. Unfortunately the runtime in both the practices was very little due to the many crashes. The level seems to be very high this season and the drivers are pushing to the maximum all the time.

My teammate Albert drives a lot less than I do during a racing season, so for him this lack of track time is really an issue. Still he managed to do a very good job this weekend!

Qualifying was mega. It was a super intensive session which showed how competitive this series is.

During my Q2 run we thought we were quick enough to only use one set of new tires. In the end it got so close that we decided to take another set and be sure to be qualified for Q3.

In my best lap I actually had a little off so I know it was going to be better in Q3 if I managed to get a lap together. Finally we end up at P2 with the guys behind me being super close to my lap time. After Nogaro, a front-row wasn’t what I was expecting.

I know I only had a chance to overtake Laurens, who showed an incredible pace all weekend, at the start. I tried to go round the outside in turn one and after in turn two. I was close, but not close enough!

After that it must have looked like a boring race, being slower than Laurens on P1 and faster than Christopher in P3. The car was handling great and I was just trying to be as fast as possible without doing too much damage to the tires and obviously without making mistakes.

At the pitstop we lost some time because I stopped slightly too late which doesn’t help our crew to do the tire change. But still Albert got out of the pit lane in second position. Albert was doing a good job on P2 and we were settling for a nice P2 finish.

Unfortunately we got a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Albert was slightly too early with pressing the pit speed limiter.

This stuff happens but it cost us a P2 finish and a P2 starting position for race two. Albert still managed to finish in 7th position. So it could’ve been better but at least we are back in the game!

Albert was on starting duty for the main race. He had a great start from P7 jumping to P6.

Throughout his stint he was under a lot of pressure from the Phoenix Audi but he didn’t crack and put in some nice and consistent lap times.

We lost some time in the pit lane again, I got out on track right behind Markus Winkelhock in P7. We both had similar pace which was also fast enough to close in on the cars in front of us.

At the end of my stint I got into a great fight with Markus, eventually overtaking him around the outside in the fastest turn of the circuit. He is a hard challenger but leaves enough room for a clean fight. Awesome!

The Nissan was really struggling in the end of the race, so it didn’t take long to overtake him which eventually made us finish on P5. It wasn’t a bad result and I was very happy with the pace we managed to do all weekend.

All in all the Brands Hatch weekend was a very nice one, such a great venue with a lot of spectators on Sunday. Now I am getting ready to go to the Nurburgring for the 24 hour race.

The next Sprint Series event will be in Zolder, this track should normally suit the Lamborghini really well. I can’t wait!

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