Rallycross Recap – David Binks from Loheac
Let me start by thanking the guys Codemasters for all the help they given during the last few weeks, the event would not have been possible without the huge amount of effort the guys put in.
But less of the slushy stuff and on to the amazing time I had in Loheac, driving the Peugeot 208 of Albatec Racing. Having not been in a race car for nearly two years I was somewhat nervous heading to Mayenne to shakedown the car but once I floored the throttle pedal the nerves were soon replaced with excitement; nothing quite beats 600hp and 4WD on a hot sunny day in France. The test went fantastically well as I’m sure you all read in my last blog, we were happy with the balance of the car and the lap times against Andy Scott, team owner of Albatec Racing and also my team mate for the weekend.
So after we packed up all the equipment and loaded up the cars we set off on the two hour drive through some gorgeous French countryside heading to Loheac, where they were expecting over 70,000 visitors to the event. Some spectators had already arrived, watched us unpack the trucks and start to set everything up. I had not seen anything like it in my life but it is amazing how far the RX sport has come in just a few years.
As we headed into the Friday morning, I walked the track and realised that the set up we had in Mayenne just wasn’t going to work for Loheac so Friday afternoon was spent frantically figuring out which direction to take the car ready to go into battle during Saturday’s action. Many walks of the circuit and some long conversations with Andy and chief engineer Thierry put my mind at ease and we changed some settings on the car that would hopefully bring with it some extra speed. Set up is a massive part of being quick on any track and as you DiRT players will know, a good set up gives you a great advantage over the other cars.
Waking up on Saturday morning, again the nerves were back, I was starting to question myself, weather I’d fluff the start, make a silly mistake, have a crash from not being quite race ready from all the time away. My two mechanics Nick and Rob were amazing, they knew I was nervous so did all they could to take my mind off the racing until I needed to focus, we even chose songs they’d play down the radio for good and bad performances. They were both great the whole weekend, thanks guys.
As the practice got underway, our first run was great, the track was slippery but we were able to keep up with some cars and we weren’t right at the back.My second run however saw us pull off the track early due to a fuel issue that left us with a lack of power. Then, on our third run I had to pull over to the marshall on the cool down lap as the car had filled with smoke. Luckily there was no fire this time – that was to come later so get your marshmallows ready. As we went into the heats I was confident that I could push had against some slower cars in my heats but I also had some quick drivers who I would look to follow around in the hope they’d pull me around for a quick time.
I got a cracking start in heat one from the outside of the grid but I knew I’d never be able to drive around the outside of Edward Sandstrom and Derek Tohill, so I took my joker lap straight away with the knowledge that Tohill had jump-started and had to take his joker twice, hopefully leaving a gap for me to chase down Sandstrom. The Audi S1 in the lead was just too quick for me to catch so as Derek appeared just in front of me after his first joker I decided to stick behind him and bring the car home in second, giving me a decent finish to first event in two years.
Drama started as I turned off the anti-lag and pulled off the circuit, only to see flames flying through the vent in the bonnet. I quickly drove to the fire marshal who began putting out the fire. I realised that I had left the car in gear which meant that the marshals were unable to pull it onto the flat ground so I hopped over to put it in neutral but at this point the flames appeared once again and I consequently got doused with extinguisher as the marshall once again attempted to put the fire out The boys worked their butts off to get the car cleaned and re-prepped ready to back out in the next heat, ready to face another battle.
Heat 2 was just as exciting for me. This time I came home 3rd behind two very fast French drivers after being very lucky to get back out. As the racing came to a close on Saturday the team and I sat down to discuss heats 3 and 4; how could we find more speed? More consistency? How could we get further up the leader board..? Something had to change, so we altered some settings on the car copying what Andy had been using in the hope to find more grip and speed from the 208. I went to bed confident we could move up although the semi finals seemed impossible.
We went out in morning warm up to find that the track was extremely slippery, finding grip was impossible, the car just would not turn in, but I still felt confident I could push forward up the leaderboard in heats 3 and 4. I lined up on pole position for heat 3, Andreas Bakkeruud was in this heat after he’d had troubles in heat 2 the previous day and he was the guy I was going to chase, the benchmark to aim for but I didn’t get a great start. I found myself behind both Bakkeruud and Ollie O’Donovan allowing Andreas to pull away while I was stuck behind a struggling O’Donovan. A recovering Simone Romagna just beat me to 2nd in the heat leaving me 20th overall going into the final heat.
I had it all to do although I knew a semi place was not on the cards I still wanted to push hard and improve my time. I lined up alongside Pauwels, Audren, Romagna and Tohill. This was going to be a tough heat, we were all around the same speed, I was looking forward to a battle. As we charged off the line hitting 0-60 in 2 seconds I thought I could squeeze round the outsideinI turn one but I was mistaken as Audren came across the track pushing me into the gravel allowing Tohill to cut underneath, ruining my race. I chased hard to catch up the time lost, but I was too far behind after my trip into the gravel and came home 4th in the heat. This left me 21st overall after the heats which I was disappointed about as I was expecting more, but when you look at the drivers who were racing, 21st isn’t so bad.
I had a total blast, can’t thank my sponsors enough, JBT Waste Services, RecycleItAll, Harsh LTD, Cross Wrap, Ripla Web Design and Smuggling Duds. The guys at Albatec were great to, Andy for allowing me to thrash his car around a race track. Cathy for dealing with all the details like press releases and ordering race suits, not to mention all questions I have asked over the few weeks. My mechanics Nick and Rob, what two legends, you kept me laughing all weekend.