28
Jan
2016

Class victory in Dubai 24h for Fredrik Lestrup and Besaplast Racing

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The Dubai 24h race earlier this month was for me and the Besaplast Racing Team another successful endurance race.
This was the fourth time we tackled the Dubai Autodrome with our MINI and we had high hopes after our previously successful races here.

There is no such thing as an easy 24 hour race, just to finish the race is an achievement in itself and it is easier said than done. As a driver you need to be fit and make sure you don’t make any mistakes.

This year there was 97 cars on the starting grid and we were in one of the slowest cars so the challenge is hard to be able to overtake your competitors and at the same time stay out of the way of the faster cars, and do all that without loosing too much time. You have to watch your mirrors all the time and plan your every move. If you don’t, you will have an accident and the race will be over.

For the team it’s a lot of hard work. Our mechanics have to stay awake for up to 40 hours straight, be part of the strategy and always be ready to tackle any problem as well as regularly change tires, refuel the car, help the drivers in and out of the car and always be around. They are the real heroes and our mechanics deserve all the praise they can get for what they do.

Another important thing for being able to finish a 24 hour race is a well prepared car. Our team change every wear and tear part of the car before the race and makes sure everything is perfect. They can spend hundreds of hours making sure the car is ready for the race.

As always we started our race weekend cautiously and only did limited driving during the practice sessions. We completed a shake down to make sure the car was ready and then we only did the mandatory laps we as drivers had to drive to be cleared for the race.

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Car ready for a massive weekend

I shared the MINI with team owner Franjo Kovac and joining us was Henry Littig and Friedhelm Erlebach. Together we are experienced of both MINI and endurance racing and we know each other well which is a good thing when sharing a race car during such a long race.

We decided I was going to take the start and drive the first stint, a two hour long stint which is the longest you are allowed to drive one stint for. The main focus would be to avoid the traffic and problems when the whole field is bunched up together and get us into the race and gain whatever advantage available.

We started on second position in our class and 85th overall, qualifying was never our focus, well aware we had a long race ahead of us. Everything went well and after two hours I had managed to pull out a class lead and placed us 58th overall.

Team ready at the grip just before the start

Team ready at the grip just before the start

 

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The race continued according to plan which was to do two hour stints before refuel and driver change. Unfortunately the organizers decided shortly before start to change the amount of fuel we were allowed to refuel, something which impacted us and several others in our class. Normally we are allowed to refuel 100litres in the stops but now we were only allowed to refuel 80 litres. During any Code 60 period there are also new rules saying we can only refuel half of the refuelling amount, meaning only 40 litres. So we had to be smart with our strategy and make sure we used the Code 60 periods in a good way and stick to our strategy.

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You almost never drive a perfect 24 hour race and there’s always something that goes wrong. For us this happened during the early morning hours when one of my stints was a few seconds too long. We made a mistake with my driving time and it cost us a 120 second stop-go penalty for exceeding the maximum two hours allowed. We also made a mistake of going too fast, something that sounds a bit strange for a race. But in Dubai you normally have a lap time target for each class you are not allowed to go go under. If you are faster you will be upgraded to a different class and this is set before the race. During the morning hours one of my team mates went slightly faster which also cost us a penalty, and we then got a third penalty when another team mate forgot to switch the driver id in the car when he got in the car. The driver id switch shows which driver is in the car which then is visible on the live timing.
So totally we had a 220 second penalty we had to take, meaning standing still with the race car 220 seconds before we could change driver and refuel.

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Because of these penalties we entered the morning suddenly in second place in the class and the new class leaders were lapping just as fast as we did, so we had a tough race on our hand. But as we showed, you rarely go through a 24 hour race mistake free and later in the morning the class leaders had their mistake. They also managed to drive a longer stint than allowed and got a penalty which promoted us back in the class lead, a few seconds ahead of them.

A few hours before the finish of the race we started having vibrations in the car while accelerating, it was a drive shaft that started to break down. This made us a bit cautions, we had to drive very cautions out of right hand corners and make sure we could take the car to the finish flag. Pushing the car harder would force us to pit and replace the drive shaft, that would make us loose the lead for sure so we had no choice but to nurse the car home.

We managed to to do that, we kept and extend the lead in the final hours and could cross the finish line as class winners and a very good 38th overall. A great achievement by us and a great start to 2016.

This years race was a bit different from previous years because of the big numbers of competitiors. 97 cars started the race and the traffic was harder to manage than in the previous years. There was alot ot accidents and you really had to be on your toes not to end up in problems.

But we did a great job, driving an endurance race like this rarely is about having the best lap time or the fastest car. If you have a smart strategy and make sure you have margin while beeing overtaken or overtake you will suceed and finsih the race!

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As always a big thank you to the whole team and to everyone who followed us over the internet for this first 24 hour race of the year.

Nothing is decided yet on the next race but we will most likely be at Mugello in Italy in March for the second 24-hour race of the season.

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Fredrik Lestrup

 

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