Sunday, 26 May 2013

Maxime Martin

There's a danger here that I am going to be accused of being a bit slow on the uptake, but that's a risk that one takes every time one picks up a microphone and speaks, or puts pen to paper and publishes. So with that proviso, I'd like to share with you a small moment of enlightenment that I had since observing the Nürburgring 24 hour race.

Driving home with fellow-commentator Jim Roller, we were reflecting on the sublime performance of Maxime Martin in the Team Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3, and the thought suddenly occurred to me that, as he was Belgian, there were some other Belgians called Martin that had indelibly written themselves on my memory as I was growing up and beginning to get to grips with this whole endurance racing thing.

Sure enough, when I got home, a little research soon revealed that Max is indeed related to the famous Belgian racing brothers of the same name: he is the son of the winner of the Nürburgring 24 hours in 1992, Jean-Michel Martin. Readers who are as old as me (or older) will no doubt recall the Belga-sponsored cars of the late 1970's and early 1980's which had the Martin brothers - Jean-Michel and Philippe, partnered by luminaries such as Gordon Spice, Bob Wollek and Marc Duez. Jean-Michel is the elder of the two brothers, and I have to admit, on remembering the connection, were a pretty potent force.

Jean-Michel is four-times the winner of Spa 24 hours, (twice with his brother, in a 3-litre Ford Capri) and in 1980, partnered by Spice, they were third at Le Mans in the Belga-sponsored Rondeau.

A small thing, I know, but one that caused me a great deal of pleasure somehow - a sort of link with the past. And I am sure that Guy Edwards (father of Sean) and Jean-Michel and Philippe Martin, could share some stories, if they haven't already done so, as they watch their accomplished offspring plying their trade.

Here's a photo I took of Jean-Michel at the wheel of the Joest Porsche 936C at Silverstone in 1982

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Spa Six Hours

Brilliant sunshine accompanied the Spa Six hours, and I must admit I enjoyed it as much as I have any of the races I’ve been to this year. I'm very tempted to present another of my ‘classic tracks’ articles about Spa, but that will have to wait until some chores are complete. Suffice for now to say that one of the highlights of the weekend was to have a wander around (the less far-flung reaches of) the circuit during the Saturday morning warm-up. Thanks to John Hindhaugh for allowing me the flexibility to indulge myself!

Although the result was an entirely predictable Audi whitewash, the race contained lots of hints for what might happen at Le Mans in June. A detailed analysis will appear on later this week, but in the meantime, here are some interesting points. How about the time spent in the pits by each of the leading runners?

Car No. Car No of stops Time in Pits Tyre stops Stop-Go penalties Finishing position
1 Audi 8 9m 36.471s 5 0 1st LMP1
2 Audi 8 8m 51.866s 4 0 2nd LMP1
3 Audi 8 9m 23.116s 5 0 3rd LMP1
8 Toyota 7 8m 20.856s 4 0 4th LMP1
12 Rebellion Lola 7 7m 40.526s 3 0 5th LMP1
13 Rebellion Lola 6 7m 16.466s 3 0 6th LMP1
21 Strakka HPD 7 10m 41.754s 5 0 7th LMP1
49 Pecom Oreca 8 10m 42.654s 7 0 1st LMP2
24 Oak Morgan 7 8m 54.954s 5 0 2nd LMP2
38 Jota Zytek 7 8m 05.926s 3 0 3rd LMP2
51 Ferrari 7 7m 26.231s 5 2 1st GTE-Pro
98 Aston Martin 6 6m 24.265s 3 1 2nd GTE-Pro
71 Ferrari 5 6m 33.919s 5 0 3rd GTE-Pro
81 Ferrari 5 7m 06.562s 5 0 1st GTE-Am
95 Aston Martin 5 6m 34.702s 4 0 2nd GTE-Am
50 Corvette 5 7m 37.932s 5 0 3rd GTE-Am

The pit lane at Spa is 386.6m long, which means that at a constant 60 km/h it will take 23.2s just to get from one end of the pits to the other. For the no. 2 Audi, this means that more than 3 minutes was spent travelling down the pit lane - so the time actually spent stationary in front of the pit was something like 5m 40s (taking account of braking and acceleration time).

Even more impressive was the no. 98 Aston Martin, which spent just over four minutes at rest during the race.

With so many teams have practically perfect runs over six hours, the objective for the twenty-four hours must be at a similar level. One cannot imagine the winner at Le Mans (in any of the classes) having an unscheduled pit-stop.

As far as the race for the overall win was concerned, neither the no. 3 Audi (in Le Mans aerodynamic configuration) nor the no.8 Toyota (in 2012 specification) was quite on the pace of the others, and once the no. 7 Toyota had retired, it was left to the two Audis that battled for the lead at Silverstone to provide the excitement at the front at Spa as well.

The fact that Tréluyer, Fässler and Lotterer were able to overcome a 45s longer pit stop time speaks volumes for the pace of the three young chargers (although Lotterer was seen having a couple of close calls in the traffic). The average times for the fastest 25 laps for each of the Audi drivers (along with Nicolas Lapierre in Toyota no. 7) are as follows:

Car No. Driver Average of best 25 laps Laps completed
1 Lotterer 2m 01.366s 88
1 Tréluyer 2m 03.020s 40
1 Fässler 2m 02.509s 40
2 Duval 2m 02.171s 89
2 Kristensen 2m 03.401s 39
2 McNish 2m 03.164s 40
3 Gené 2m 03.227s 61
3 di Grassi 2m 02.316s 67
3 Jarvis 2m 02.553s 40
7 Lapierre 2m 02.880s 67

There is a good case that André Lotterer is the best prototype driver of the current era - the above table certainly provides evidence that he is the quickest. It is, however, inevitable, that those drivers completing more laps will have a better 25-lap average. And in those terms, Oliver Jarvis is serving notice of his intent to join Audi's top flight.

There's a lot more to look at, especially the fact that the Audis were only running for 20 laps before refuelling, whereas the Toyotas could do 22. For the moment, though, it is all speculation. June will be upon us before long, and the pieces are in place for another great race at Le Mans.