In her latest blog post for Euro Car Parts, Charlie Martin talks us through the events at Saint-Ursanne les Rangiers and how she faired with a new, faster car around such an amazing circuit. We know she was both excited and nervous from her preview to the race weekend, so how did Charlie get on?
“So you haven’t done any testing? Nothing at all? You’re just going to get in the car and drive it tomorrow in the race?”
“Yup, that’s the plan” I said, “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
If this conversation had only occurred a couple of times it might not have been a big deal, but climbing into double figures on Friday I began to wonder if I could really measure up to the task in hand. Namely driving by far the fastest car I’ve ever been in at the fastest hillclimb in Europe.
I arrived in Jura late on Thursday, around 1:30am in fact after collecting my van from an industrial estate in Geneva where I’d left it after Mont-Dore. I was a little rattled after being fleeced by a taxi driver only to be hailed and questioned by the police as I waited for my friend Fabien Bouduban.
It felt strange bundling my kit bag into his car after driving to les Rangiers and leaving my race car and mobile home as I’d found them just hours ago, but then this was no ordinary race weekend.
At breakfast I chatted with the nice man in the hotel who remembered me from last year, before meeting Paride outside who’d come to pick me up. With the help of Google maps and Google translate we chatted while we found our way to the hill, and spent the next few hours driving it. I was glad that this would be the second time driving here. Once you’re out of the forest it’s fairly simple but in the trees you need to be completely on it to keep your foot down.
Down to business
Schroth Racing had kindly sent me one of their IndiSeat kits and the team helped get me into a good position before pouring in the chemical to set the beads inside the bag. Once you’re comfortable you use a vacuum pump to remove any air which then helps it to harden, leaving the seat formed perfectly around you. This means that it’s safe in terms of support, and lightweight enough to help with aerodynamics and speed, but it also means that you ‘feel’ everything the car is telling you.
Thankfully Saturday started dry but we knew rain was coming around lunch time, and quite a lot of it… I sat in the car with the rear on the jacks warming the transmission, going up and down the gears and getting my first chance to try the paddle shift and get a feel for the pedals.
Within an hour I was strapped in for my first drive and surprised at how calm I felt, but then having two mechanics to look after the car (and driver) makes a huge difference to your state mind. The journey to the start line can be quite a lonely time as you tend to tune out and become absorbed in your thoughts, oblivious to the crowd around you. Davide and Emiliano were always on hand, and it’s comforting just to share a thumbs-up, a wink or a nod with someone.
First impressions… amazing!
There was so much power and the noise. The air box for the Type R is right behind your head and the howl as you close in on the redline (just shy of 9,000rpm) is addictive, as is the surge of power that keeps coming as you flick the right hand paddle towards you every time the shift lights flash.
There’s a lot of feedback (more than the FR) and you can feel the car move around, not that it’s lacking in grip (the downforce is something else) but you have more information to go on in terms of what the chassis is doing.
My initial time of 2:39 was pretty steady but then my plan was to build as much confidence whilst perfecting my line so I was ready to push on Sunday – it’s practice after all. The second run was on a fairly wet track but I managed to go a second quicker before the heavens opened for the final run.
I posted a 2:40 which wasn’t bad, but nowhere near my final 2:25 banzai wet run last year. Still, the car felt stable in the wet and even though I was soaking I loved every moment (Davide had softened it up and it felt more poised than on the second run). On his first drive in the new car (a Norma with a more powerful engine) Fabien had posted a 2:10 which seemed scarcely believable though!
Mixed conditions for race day
I woke to the sound of heavy rain in the night around 4 o’clock, and sure enough the tarmac outside was dark and wet when I pulled back the curtains at 7am. After a few delays the news came back that it was dry in the forest, and I was ready to attack. I went pretty hard, lifting a lot at Les Grippons but once into the forest the car was just soaking it up so I carried on pushing harder and harder. I lost time at the final hairpin after fluffing the down change and exited in 4th, still I was thrilled to see I’d posted a 2:15 putting me 3rd in class!!
The final run went even better, more gas under the bridge this time and I held onto the gears a bit longer (it’s easy to forget you have so many revs to play with) to post a 2:11 and keep my position. I was absolutely buzzing and just wanted to drive it again and again, I never expected to feel so confident in the car straight away.
Once again it was a magical weekend at Les Rangiers. Simone Faggioli (Team owner and reigning champion) won his class and broke the record in the process, Fabien took 1st in E2-SC with a 2:01 and I held onto 3rd to join him on the podium (I took fastest lady too). To top it all the whole team went out to dinner for Mario’s birthday (Simone’s father) before saying goodbye and turning in for a quite a late night, I think my ears were still ringing to the sound of 8,500 rpm but I don’t think I’ll have to wait too long to hear it again.
Everyone here at Euro Car Parts is delighted to hear how well things went for Charlie at Saint-Ursanne les Rangiers, and to take another step onto the podium is fantastic! Come back to our blog next week for more updates from Charlie Martin and to get the latest motoring news, consumer advice and guides.