After just two months on the track Duplo have had their first win!
On the 19th of June the Duplo race car took on the Spa Circuit, in Stavelot Belgium, and finished first place. We have got you all the details from the driver himself, our CEO and Chairman Robin Greenhalgh.
Robin caught us up with the race series so far:
The Supercar challenge is a racing series that takes place over 7 w-e’s. The tracks include Magny Cours, Zolder, Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort and Assen. After a fire at Magny Cours that destroyed all the wiring, electronics and electrical parts the car was re-built in time for testing for Zolder. During testing there, we discovered a crack in the cylinder which meant an engine rebuild, and worst of all, no racing at Zolder. Despair was beginning to set in! However, Johan Kraan, our fabulous team manager, reassured us all would be perfect for Spa. And indeed it was, but we weren’t to know at the time!
So, we arrived at Spa on Thursday in preparation for sign on and driver briefing at the crack of dawn Friday morning. Spa holds a a special place in my heart as my grandfather on my mother’s side was the Mayor of the town (I’m half Belgian) and we spent Christmas, Easter and part of the summer holidays there every year since I was a baby. Going to see the races at Spa was one of the activities that was always on the calendar. In fact my grandfather presented Jim Clark with the winners trophy for the 1963 F1 grand prix. As a kid growing up around racing cars, my father was an amateur saloon car racer, driving at the mythical Spa track became a childhood dream, winning there was a wild fantasy! So onto free practice on Friday, the car indeed was perfect, Johan and his fabulous team of mechanics had done a fine job. The car was working perfectly, in fact, we set the 2nd fastest time in our category, happy days. After a few minor tweaks 2nd practice went well too. We were ready for qualifying Saturday morning and proceeded to get the fastest lap time 2 minutes before the session ended but we developed a gear selection problem, so had to abort the final quick lap to come into the pits. The issue was quickly identified but couldn’t be fixed in time to go out again, so our rival's car no.303 pipped us to pole but we would be alongside them for a rolling start. Very happy with that! As a team we decided I would start the 1st race on Saturday and Jerome, my eldest son, would start the 2nd race on the Sunday.
As you can see from the in car footage, I was a bit slow and was sneakily overtaken before the green lights by another competitor. Happily, I was able to overtake him and set off after our pole sitter. Things were going well as we were trading similar lap times until we had a slight brake problem. Late into the race the left front locked up and put me into a spin that pushed me down into 3rd place. The 2nd placed car then crashed, so we were back into 2nd at the time of the pit-stop and driver change. Jerome went out and was doing a fine job until the gearbox got stuck in 3rd gear, we were lapping but at 20 seconds a lap slower than the leading car, until the final minutes when they ran out of fuel, we overtook them one lap before the chequered flag and were extremely lucky to have won that race. The mechanics spent the rest of the day fixing the brakes and the gearbox sensor in readiness for the 2nd race!
As we were winners on Saturday, 30 seconds was added to our pit stop time as a handicap (2nd place gets 25 seconds and 3rd place gets 20 seconds). This is quite a lot of time to make up and makes sitting in the car waiting to go seem interminable, especially in the heat. The temperature inside the car reaches a warm 46 Celsius, with the fireproofs, crash helmet and adrenaline coursing through the veins it makes it nice and toasty! Add to that a heart rate at 140 and it makes concentrating challenging!
Anyway, Jerome was set to start on Sunday, and having learnt from my slow start that he needed to be stuck to the back of the car in front, he made a great start and led our class from the off building a nice 8 second cushion by the time he came in to hand to me after 30 minutes of our 60 minute + 1 lap race(this sentence is weird to me- maybe I'm not understanding the jargon?). As you might see from the film of our pit stop it isn’t an elegant affair. In order to help the outgoing driver I grab him by the shoulder straps and pull him out and drop him on the ground so I can jthen ump in and prepare to drive. Only when I’m in the car and the door closed can they fill the tank with fuel. While they are doing that I’ve got to strap myself up with the 6 point harness, make sure the shoulder straps go over the hans device (this stops your head going too far forward in case of a frontal crash), hard enough without a crash helmet and gloves on with them and knowing that you have to be expeditious, makes it a challenge. They’ve finished the fuel, I’ve finished the seat belts, Jerome then opens the door to say the tyres are causing oversteer under heavy braking, something Johan told me before the race : Robin, beware with this heat, the tyres are going to be very slippery when it is your turn! And with our 8 second lead whittled down to nothing I rejoin the track with one thought, bring her home! I was very cautious for the first few laps and promptly got the hurry up from the pit wall waving me on eagerly each time I went by!
With some racing cars, after you go over a kerb or a rumble strip you have to pump the brakes in order to prepare them for the next braking session and to go fast you have to take kerb and rumble strip, so each time you have to tap the brake pedal to prime them. If you don’t disaster can strike, as it did in the first event; when my left brake locked on and threw the car sideways.
Coming into the chicane 3 laps from the end of the race I didn’t prime the brakes properly and so the car lurched left and put me into a spin. As I recovered I could see my 2 competitors drive past serenely. I knew I didn’t have much time to get ahead and build a lead, but putting in some 2’42’s I managed to catch and overtake them and build up a lead - enough to take the chequered flag and the limousine bus from parc ferme (place the cars go after the race) to the podium to celebrate our 2nd victory of the w-e! Realising a boyhood dream of winning a car race at Spa for the 2nd time. Dreams do come true!!!
Robin and Jerome's next race is at the Zandvoort curcit on the 12th-14th July, so stay tuned on our social media channels for race and training updates. We look forward to sharing with you some more sucess from the Duplo race team!
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