Every race is always a multitude of bright impressions. And Le Mans Bugatti track tried to provide Porsche Carrera Cup France participants with as more surprises as possible, and not always they were pleasant, but...we have something to recall!
After free practices on the dry track it was raining during the first qualification, that frazzed the nerves of many sportsmen, including the Tsunami RT pilot, Oleksandr Gaidai:
"There are high spots when breaking in some turns on this track, but they are felt only when the track is wet. It should be just known, you should have significant experience on certain track, and I don't have it. Let's see what expects us on the race: the weather may be any, even snow won't surprise me!"
- Oh, so?! – the celestial chancellery flared. – We haven't any snow, but no way you will be bored!
To the moment of the start the track was already dry. The cars lined up on the starting grid and started the warm-up lap. And the shower rain started just at this moment! All the peloton (except Tom Dilmann, whose transmission was scared of the future adventures and has broken just in case) meekly returned to the boxes, and mechanics started to change tires for those rain ones. Having waited until the last nut was screwed, the weather attendant in the celestial chancellery grinned malevolently, shut off the tap and switched on the track drying.
In the clouds of water spray 25 cars of Porsche Carrera Cup were going to the start. Some dancers that had performed some waltz figures on the gravel outside the track, separated from the leading group in a very short time. Nicolas Armindo, Sasha Bottemanne, Christoph Hamon, Vincent Beltoise and, surprisingly, Maxime Jousse from the pole position, who generously ceded the leading position to Côme Ledogar, were in this company. Lonnie Martins and Joffrey De Narda followed Ledogar.
Oleksandr Gaidai started from the 19th position: "Due to the large amount of water the vehicles in front could not be seen. The position far from leadership under such weather conditions gave few chances to change it, the only approach was to drive carefully and wait". Whatever Gaidai stated, almost on every lap he managed to win back the position, and he climbed up to 13th position.
At the same time, Martins and De Narda performed coarse attacks towards Côme Ledogar, and the latter ceded: Martins overran him on the long straight line, and De Narda – in the next turn.
At the same time, while the cameras were resting on the "gangbangs" in top-3, Oleksandr Gaidai caught the kerb in the turn and was turned. It was not only the mistake of the pilot, but rapidly drying track, and the rear wheels began to run hot and lose the adherence to the track. Anyway, it cost the Tsunami RT pilot the significant loss of time and the change of the 13th position to the 20th. Oleksandr immediately began to retrieve... but there was not so much time till the end of the race...
By the way, about the race duration. Due to insidious actions of the weather attendant the decision was made to reduce the first race from 35 to 25 minutes: rain tires on the dry track couldn't outlast longer.
Also the stewards did their bit in the race intrigue – five cars at a time were penalized with pit lane crossing for the cut-off. Even Lonnie Martins and Joffrey De Narda were among the penalized pilots. Côme Ledogar got his first position back and didn't cede it to anybody. Besides, he was the only one from the top-5 according to the results of the qualification to finish in top-5. Steven Palette was the second, and the last in top-3 was Gael Castelli.
Till the end of this hurry scurry race Oleksandr Gaidai managed to get the 16th position and became the 6th in Division B, and wasn't at all satisfied with this result. But there was another race ahead, and the forecast promised the rain for the whole Sunday...
Porsche Carrera Cup France, Le Mans (Circuit Bugatti), April 26, 2014
Race 1 (overall)
1. LEDOGAR Come (Team Martinet - Alméras) JOUSSE Maxime (Sebastien Loeb Racing) 13 laps
2. PALETTE Steven (Yvan Muller Racing) +2.751
3. CASTELLI Gael (Larbre Compétition) +3.574
...16. GAIDAI Oleksander (Tsunami RT) +42.900
...21. BOTTEMANNE Sacha (Sebastien Loeb Racing) +4 laps
Race 1 (Division B)
1. LAPIERRE Christophe (@LoebRacing) 13 laps
2. LINDLAND Roar (Sebastien Loeb Racing) +15.482
3. TROUILLET Eric (Graff) +15.642
...6. GAIDAI Oleksander (Tsunami RT) +33.708
7. JACUILLARD Christian (Yvan Muller Racing) +56.184
But it was not the weather to create the main problem of the Sunday morning for our team. After the observing lap Oleksandr Gaidai was ready to increase the pace abruptly. Unfortunately, the gearbox of his Porsche had its own opinion: it was jammed on the third gear. As it found out already after qualification, the reason for that was the gearbox compressor breakdown. This problem is known by Porsche, but there is no way of resolving of this problem yet, so the compressor was replaced under the manufacturer's warranty.
By 11.00 a. m. the track was drier already, and Porsche Carrera Cup participants were preparing to start on the slick, but the rain started again. At midday the situation with the weather (and also with the choice of tires) was incomprehensible. At 12.15, half an hour before start – it keeps drying, but slowly. It was high time to make a decision, and Tsunami RT engineer decided to risk: the tires of the car of Oleksandr Gaidai were replaced to slick ones. Some competitors didn't replace the rain tires and after the warm-up lap had to start from the pit-lane.
12.45 – start! The track is dry, and Oleksandr Gaidai gets ahead abruptly! The table of results gives a thrill: and here is Gaidai, on the 10th position, than on the 7th... and... he has the 6th result in the absolute qualification!..
Even the outstanding duel of Vincent Beltoise and Nicolas Armindo for the first position and Jimmy Autunes with Gael Castelli for the third position faded because of the brilliant breakthrough of Oleksandr. Gaidai gave way to Tom Dillmann and is rushing to the finish. He is shadowed with the famous team: Côme Ledogar, Lonnie Martins, Maxime Jousse.
And on the last lap, like a bolt from the blue, there is an announcement: Gaidai is penalized for 30 seconds!
O. Gaidai: "I hadn't had any cut-off, any contacts with other drivers and I hadn't overrun under yellow flags. I supposed that it was the penalty for touching the markers – plastic columns on the outer side of the track in some places. When you touch them, you don't even notice it because they are plastic: no sound, no damage on the car. I think, that's the case".
You can hardly imagine more offending situation – brilliant start, impeccable race, and the result – only the 16th place in absolute classification and the 5th in Division B.
Porsche Carrera Cup France, Le Mans (Circuit Bugatti), April 27, 2014
Race 2 (overall)
1. ARMINDO Nicolas (Imsa Performance Matmut) 15 laps
2. BELTOISE Vincent (Yvan Muller Racing) +1.273
3. ANTUNES Jimmy (Imsa Performance Matmut) +13.005
...16. GAIDAI Oleksander (Tsunami RT) +52.353
...25. LOAN Alex (Graff) +4 laps
Race 2 (Division B)
1. PASQUALI Laurent (Imsa Performance Matmut) 15 laps
2. GLORIEUX Jean (Speed Lover) +14.038
3. TROUILLET Eric (Graff) +14.617
...5. GAIDAI Oleksander (Tsunami RT) +26.342
...9. JACUILLARD Christian (Yvan Muller Racing) +1 lap
O. Gaidai: "I had a good pace during the race, everything was fine. It is very offending that finally I have the position different from that I had finished with... But for the penalty, this race could be the best race of my life".
So, we should come to terms with the fact that the best race of Oleksandr is waiting for him. We believe that it will be within this season. For example, on May 10-11 in Misano, on the first stage of Porsche Carrera Cup Italy – why not?! And after that we have to strain after the next race, that will be even better. It's just the beginning of the season!