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After taking a few days to relax and enjoy my family, here I am to report about my experiences at the WC.
The trip started at the Miami airport, were I meet DJ. After flying for a little more than nine hours, we finally landed in Zurich. There my Kamikaze friends Nigel and Sam were already waiting for us to start our trip to Lostallo. We got to the track early afternoon, and we could not believe our eyes. The track was huge, so big that a fifth scale will looks like a sedan in one of our big US tracks. The driver stand also was proportional to the track. It was a 3 story building with the drivers stand in the last floor. This was kind of scary, not only because of the hegith, but because the communication with the pitman was nearly impossible. On top of the incredible track, infrastructure and services, there was the best part: The Alps. The track is in the middle of the mountains, making that whole experience unique. We decided to go and find the Hotel, which was around 25 Km north to the track, unpack and prepare everything for the next day.
The WC format is very unique. Free practice does not exist, only control practice. They organize the drivers by groups, normally 15 drivers per group for the practice sessions and they do 3 or 4 rounds per day. This year they decided to do 3 rounds of 13 minutes and one of 7, for a total 46 minutes. This was the total of track time that we were allowed per day, for a total of 4 days of practice. So of course, the drivers that were able to attend the pre-WC and/or were kind of locals, has a bid advantage. For me was the very first time, so I had to start from scratch.
So I decided to start with Michael’s 966 suggested setup and spend as much time as possible driving and learning the track. Basically I stick to this program for the first day, until I felt that I could drive the line and start making changes to the car to suit more my driving style. The days went by, I was getting better confidence with the track and my 966 was getting better and better. Actually my final setup was not that different from Michael’s just very small details.
At the end of the long practice days, actually I was very happy and confident. Everything was going super smooth and well. My 966 and my MAX XL9 TQ where really good and my pace was the right one.
So the qualifying days finally arrive, and I say finally because after so many days of practice it almost feels that should be over already, but actually the real race is about to start. The program was for 2 rounds 10 minutes rounds per day. In order to make it fair for everybody, you never run at the same time, so one day you run in the afternoon, another one in the morning and the final day is morning and afternoon.
First day of qualys started with the right foot. In the first round I had a decent run, good enough for top ten, but in my last pit stop I made a huge mistake in the pits and I lost seven seconds. The second round was better, and that one put me top 15 after the first day. I was super happy, but looking for more. Second day was also really good. Third round the track was faster since was a morning round and I improve my time. Fourth round was even better for me, and strange enough, I was the fastest when the track was hot. So I end up the day in 10th position. My goal was to have a spot in the semis, but the more I was running actually the faster and more consistent I was, so actually I was now aiming for the top 4. The last day of qualifications was really exciting. There was a lot of pressure in the air. Many drivers had the opportunity to improve and this basically this was the best chance and the best round, since was early in the morning. My fifth qualifier was great, even if I made a few small mistakes that cost me a couple of second overall. That round put me 6th overall. I was happy but I knew I could do better. So for the last round I made sure everything was perfect to try to improve but unfortunately the track was really hot and I could not improve. So qualifier was over and I finish 6th overall. I was really happy and confident for the next round. My qualifying position was actually perfect since I was starting the semis from the pole.
So Friday was my day off, so I decided to go to the track, prepare my car and help my friends in their racing. I pretty much check the whole car, in order to have it ready for the race day. I took my engines to Max, so he could check and make sure I was in good shape for the Saturday main events. I was pretty confident that I was able to transfer to the final, so my preparation of the equipment was towards that event.
So Saturday came and actually I was very relaxed. After the quarterfinals, the free practice for the top four and the lunch break was finally my race. I was just a little concern on the tire selection. The strategy was no tire change, so I went for a very hard compound. Crazy decision since I never tested this. In order to compensate for the tire selection, I decided to switch for a softer rear sway bar. Actually my car was really good, since the first laps of the warm up, the balance was great. After a 10 minutes delay requested by Bertin, the race started. I had a clean start and I manage the first couple of laps to maintain my position. When you run with hard tires, it takes few laps to have good grip so I was just willing not to make a mistake and keep the car in the asphalt. Finally the tires came in and I started pulling from the pack. I was in control, so I could actually manage the race and the pace. So first pit stop came, almost everybody pit at the same time. DJ, as he did it the whole week, was once again super fast with the fuel gun, so I exit the pit even with more advantage than when I came in. At this point I had already a few seconds when all a sudden, when I was entering the straight away, my engine stop. I could not believe it. By the way the engine stop I knew immediately that something was wrong. I could not understand. The tuning of my engine was actually on the safe side, blowing lots of smoke everywhere in order to prevent this type of problems. Game Over!
At that point I had lots of mixed feelings. I was super mad, frustrated, disappointed and sad. Everything was going so perfect until that point…..
Somehow, staring at the mountains made me feel a little better. After a few minutes, I actually felt better, and I start packing my stuff in order to be able to relax and watch the other races.
The rest of the story most of you already know. Lamberto Collari is once again the king of the 1/8 scale class. He definitely shows that his nine titles are not just a coincidence, but the result of the mix of the talent of his team, that are capable to prepare and execute the perfect race from every angle.
Looking in retrospective, after almost a week, I have to say that once again I learn a lot and I am grateful for the opportunity to race with the best drivers in the world, and happy to be able to perform at that level. I made many new friends and meet old ones. So overall I am satisfied, even if I still have a bitter taste in my mouth.
I will like to thanks many people that in one way or another was very close to me during the whole event: The Kamikaze boys, Nigel and Sam, Joaquin De Soto, My father (on the phone everyday), My wife and Kids, all my friends and family in touch thru Facebook, the Serpent clan (MS, RB, SH, etc. etc)
Also like to thank my sponsers, Serpent, Xceed, Max Power, and KO Radio's
A special thanks goes to DJ Apolaro, he did a super job the whole week in the pits. Thanks for your help my friend.
And now………. Now back to work and packing again for another big race, the US Nationals. Wish me luck!