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Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK - Thursday 14 May, 2015

David Brabham Blog - FIA WEC Spa

As a driver you always look forward to racing at Spa, I don’t think I have ever heard a driver say they didn’t like it! Spa is a fast flowing track that rewards bravery and the faster the car the better.

Talking of fast cars, how fast are these LMP1 cars going now? I am not sure I’ve seen a bigger step up in speed between two racing seasons. The LMP1 cars are lapping 4 seconds faster than last year, which is incredible and highlights the rate of development now with the manufactures in the highest category.  

There is one team scratching their heads and that’s Toyota, talk about hero to zero...! For the World Champions to be that far off the pace must be a real shock and it will be interesting to see how they respond. They are the smallest outfit in terms of budget by a long way and for them to turn it around is going to take some doing, but if they are 4 seconds off the pace at Spa, Le Mans is not looking great either. However, with the current high spec cars I’d say reliability would be the key for a podium or win for the manufacturers.

Who else has been impressed by Porsche’s efforts his year? God knows the amount of resources they have thrown at it, but their pace is a real shot across the bows of its competitors. I am sure the first two rows at Le Mans will have a bunch of Porsches, and with a mix of Audis and Toyotas. Audi still look very strong in race trim and they will be a tough team to beat when it comes to the last three hours of the race. Tyre wear seems to be the big factor in LMP1, with Audi looking after its rubber better than most, which should give them a good advantage in the pit stops.

Since the ACO restricted the amount of crew changing the tyres, the teams and tyre manufactures have worked on a more durable tyre so as to limit the amount of time required in the pits changing them. This has made the compounds and constructions very different; they are much harder to get up to temp and to get the car to suit the tyre. This was the HPD P1 car’s problem in 2009, the tyre was just too hard for the car and we never got the tyre in the right range. It really didn’t matter what you changed on the car, the speed never really changed to what it could have been if the tyres had worked.

It is interesting for me to watch the LMP2 battle and see who is fast and who isn’t. I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see the pace of the winning Jota car, being an open top car, as I would have thought the efficiency of the coupes would have been a bit of an advantage, clearly not. I am also looking at the tyre war between Dunlop and Michelin, but I wouldn’t say it was a straight fight as Dunlop seem to have the majority of cars and the Dome on Michelins isn’t the best car to gauge, so it’s difficult to really know how fast that car is.

With the planned return of the Brabham Racing team via the FIA WEC through Project Brabham and our transparent open source racing model, we will soon be shopping around for a fast LMP2 car. Being able to view how the season unfolds is a luxury you don’t normally get! To find out more about how we’re rebuilding the house that jack built visit the www.brabham-digital.com website.

One thing is for sure; the racing up front this season has already delivered some terrific moments and wheel-to-wheel racing which is always good to see. The speed differential between the LMP1 cars and the GTs is as big as I have seen it and this can cause some indecisions out there as drivers determine who is going where. I felt for Nick Tandy, as I did a similar thing in 2009 the corner before at the exit of Pouhon. It was my first race for Peugeot and the speed differential was bigger than what I was used to in the states driving the HPD LMP1 car and I misjudged a slower car thinking my speed would get me through the gap. It didn’t and I ended up clashing with the car and it damaged the suspension and ended the race for the car I hit.

With Le Mans coming up next, which is the biggest sports car prize of them all, I think the team that wins Le Mans will not necessary be the fastest but the one who spends the least amount of time in the pits. Who will it be? I can’t wait to find out.

David Brabham

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