I hope South African-based motorsport fans will remember me as the Afro-Swiss driver that was Team South Africa‘s lead driver in the A1 Grand Prix series. I also campaigned in GP2, the single-seater feeder series for Formula One, alongside Bruno Senna a couple of years ago. After a hiatus away from competitive driving, I’m back in action, having been called up by Team Bonaldi to drive its Gallardo in the one-make Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
Racing under the auspices of the Italian Lamborghini dealer, but proudly carrying the CARmagblog.co.za colours, I’ll provide updates on my latest adventures in the world’s fastest one-make championship. The most recent round took place in France at the Paul Ricard race circuit.
Practice and qualifying
After setting a new lap record in the Blancpain Super Trofeo in free practice, my confidence was high for qualifying. I posted a 2 min 11,8 sec which was 0,8 sec faster than the second placed driver.
Temperatures increased in the afternoon to around 34°C, which meant that tyre degradation became a serious issue. After the first run, hindered by traffic, I posted a best lap of 2 min 12,8 sec, which was good enough for P2 at that stage of the session.
After a brief stop for a new set of rubber and for changes to the front anti-roll bar and ride-height, I went out for one final flyer. Again I was held up by slower cars. I had just one chance for a good lap time and when the session ended I posted a 2 min 12,4 sec which was good enough to put me on pole position. With half the 40-minute session still left to run I entered the pits and watched the end of the session on the monitors hoping that no one would better my lap time… and no one did.
I kept the lead after the rolling start. Going into turn five, second-placed Andrea Amici came up on the inside and bumped me aside to take the lead. Just one lap later I passed him during a battle that lasted four corners.
I kept the lead and started to build on my lead. After 5 laps I led by five seconds which I extended to 15 seconds by the time the mandatory pit stops took place. Soon after I left the pits I received a radio call to inform me that the car was losing brake fluid. A couple of laps later I lost the front brakes completely. I still had a lead of over 10 seconds so I tried to manage the brake situation.
Unfortunately with each passing lap I struggled more and more to slow the car, running wide and even off the track at some corners. I tried to maintain a pace at which I was able to lose a couple of seconds to my followers, but enough to stay ahead until the end. With just two laps to the end of the race I still led by six seconds. Then disaster struck…
I was coming around the fastest part of the track and lost the brakes completely at 220 km/h. With the middle pedal to the metal and absolutely no deceleration I headed off the track towards the tyre wall. I tried to spin the car in order to knock of some speed. The car turned 180 degrees before hitting the wall at a pretty high speed.
I was taken to hospital – after feeling some pain down from my neck to my lower back – for a routine checkup. Thankfully I was able to walk away with just aches and pains. The chassis of my car broke on impact. A very sad end to the race as it was clearly ours to win and with me injured and the car’s chassis smashed, there was no chance to compete in Sunday’s race.
Nevertheless, I left the track with some satisfaction having claimed the Bonaldi team’s first pole position in this series. Many thanks to the team for the good job and all sponsors for their support.
Team Bonaldi and myself will be back in action for the remaining races of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo.