Karim Ojjeh recounts the difficult weekend at Silverstone from the driver's perspective, which left him and his team with a difficult decision that they are yet to make.
We arrived 2 days earlier to prepare. I was personally pumped up as Silverstone has always been good to me.
It started Thursday. We had three 50 minutes test sessions. We could have stayed home, it rained. Cars went out. So did I, to gain experience. I ended the day with three spins but no harm done. On Friday my co-drivers joined. It was dry. We lacked pace on that day and made changes to the settings for Saturday. After our Saturday morning test, the blow came: one of our drivers felt sick and left for the weekend – panic struck! We had two options: 1) Continue the weekend with two drivers; b) Call for support. We opted for b) and called Philipp Eng (BMW works driver) as he was preparing his barbecue in his hometown, Salzburg. He quickly put off his barbecue with water, called his buddies to cancel the meal, organised his trip and drove to the airport. He arrived late Saturday evening.
Philipp’s presence was a real treat for the team on Sunday morning. His amazing knowledge of the car and professionalism is second to none. It was amazing to hear him talk about the setup of the car, using terms I hadn’t heard before. Terms such as “combined entry,” “platform stability,” etc. He put us, and especially the engineer, to rest in terms of the car’s setup. It was time to concentrate on our qualifying (in the morning) and race (in the afternoon).
As of last year, the grid position of the car is determined by the average times of the three drivers. I went out first. I was on a very good lap, but unfortunately spun in the last corner to avoid a competitor. With Philipp’s help, we qualified 34. Marc started the race and avoided a big crash that took out 4 cars after the fourth corner. After 30 minutes he pitted due to a power steering failure. It took 20 minutes to replace the cut tube linking the liquid cylinder to the steering column. He then went out, proceeded with his drive through penalty for exceeding the pit speed limit and stopped for a driver change. It was my turn. For the first time since we arrived at Silverstone I was finally by myself and concentrated on my driving, slowly catching the cars. A big crash caused a FYC (full course yellow) followed by the safety car. It lasted 10 minutes. 30 minutes later I pitted. Philipp went in. We finished the race and scored points!
The question is what do we do now? Our third driver decided to quit. There are two problems: 1) finding another teammate and 2) the competitiveness of the series. There are three car categories in the Blancpain Series: PRO, PRO-AM and AM. There are four driver categories: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Philipp is considered Platinum. Me Bronze. The driver lin-up determines the car category. We began the weekend in AM and switched to PRO-AM with Philipp. Today there is a problem in the categorisation with Bronze drivers, some are actually Silver. Everyone will tell you that this Championship is the most competitive and toughest GT3 series in the world! The question arises: are we competitive enough to stay in the series? The team is brainstorming. I just hope we can see the light after the storm!