By: Irina Boyarskaya
Photo: Akis Temperidis
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And all the more, no collar poured with champagne to the happy competitors on the prize podium. An unexpected strategy of the Tsunami RT team sparked furor in Le Mane and was crowned with unqualified success. However, we propose to recollect the whole weekend from the very beginning.
The second Porsche Carrera Cup France round in Le Mane supported the tradition established by Ledenon and brought the month's supply of precipitations to the track. But it preferred not to repeat the Ledenon's strategy and to distribute them fractionally. So the qualification before the first race was taking place under the sprinkling, almost mist spray. St. Petersburg's or Baltic countries' inhabitants know such a weather very well, but our team from Odessa was very surprised. However, the professional racer is good at his ability to drive under any weather conditions. But Oleksandr Gaidai had a rough time here, in spite of his experience: he was drastically scarce of driving experience, because on Bugatti circuit we hadn't even any practice because the driver was ill. When the wheels entered on the rest of the slick tires on the wet asphalt it was very slippery, and the search of trajectory not crossing with the slick traces took time. And the time was in deficit...
O. Gaidai: "I drive very well where it is dangerous, fast, not knurled. But I begin to lose on the slow pieces. The good experience is required on the track to remember where is the dry trajectory and where the slick traces can be. I demonstrate good times where it's not related to the peculiarities of a certain track."
Although the start from rest is applied in Porsche Carrera Cup France races, not each of them starts with the safety car and under the shower rain. But the race of Saturday was just like that. The driver from the pole position, Maxime Jousse, should be mentioned because he drove well ahead from the very start and didn't participate in any "gangbangs" on the track. He had his own crow to pick with: he had to get own for the very offensive fall-out in Ledenon.
At the same time the rest of the peloton was phlegmatically exchanging the positions. Vincent Beltoise and Nicolas Marroc outflanked Kristof Lapierre from the leading group. Gregory Guilvert was breaking forward decisively. Steven Palette was competing with Jules Gounon, and Joffrey De Narda – with Matthieu Jaminet.
Egidio Perfetti and Roar Lindland with a teamplay worthy of a better cause unitedly aimed and pushed Oleksandr Gaidai. Our driver managed to stay on the trajectory: it's not easy to throw Gaidai off balance.
The same can't be said for some other participants. Either 35-minute race under the rain mauled them or the competitors got to them, but mistakes in the middle of the peloton came one after another: Vincent Beltoise was jumping on the gravel, than Jules Gounon made his team catch on their hearts, miraculously staying on the track, then Gregory Guilvert made the same... And it was happening in the same La Chapelle turn. Each of the above mentioned drivers did all his best on the last lap to take a place in the hearts of the action loving viewers: Gounon was turned having touched the Beltoise's car, and Guilvert almost overran Jim Pla with the powerful dash before the finish and... performed a spectacular turn in front of him having lost the position.
A concluding cord was a 30-second penalty with which the stewards decided to distinguish a vigorous style of driving of Vincent Beltoise.
And what about the Division B? Here Cristophe Lapierre was forging ahead, and, as it could be seen, Roar Lindland and Egidio Perfetti were going to keep him a company on the podium. But the real racer should have warm wheels, hot engine and cool head. Perfetti went overboard with the speed in the turn, he was turned and Oleksandr Gaidai took his pace on the podium!
The first cup to the Tsunami RT collection in this season was not very gladdening for our driver.
O. Gaidai: "There was no grip, I was driving as on ice. I felt that I was seriously losing. And my third result is my great piece of luck, just because my competitor slid and escaped from the track. I usually not happy with the third result, but today my result is better than it should have been in the race. It was so difficult that there wasn't even any pleasure from driving. It's good that tomorrow will be another race!"
Porsche Carrera Cup France 2015, round 2, Le Mans
Race 1 (overall)
1. JOUSSE Maxime (Sébastien Loeb Racing) 17 laps
2. JAMINET Mathieu (Racing Technology) +12.029
3. DE NARDA Joffrey (Sébastien Loeb Racing) +14.551
...13. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) +1:11.464
...15. DIAZ-VARELA Daniel (Yvan Muller Racing) +1 lap
Race 1 (Division B)
1. LAPIERRE Christophe (Sébastien Loeb Racing) 17 laps
2. LINDLAND Roar (Sébastien Loeb Racing) +21.363
3. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) +31.328
... 5. DIAZ-VARELA Daniel (Yvan Muller Racing) +1 lap
The Sunday morning brought us the shower rain again. It was again slippery and hard to drive. The team is carefully studying the telemetry after the qualification.
O. Gaidai: "My main problem is the accelerator, I push it in a very aggressive way. And if it doesn't bother on the dry track, when it's wet, harder pushing of the accelerator sometimes causes skidding of rear wheels and a lot of time is lost due to that. I drive well on the more high-speed part of the track, with turns on 3-4-5th gear. And when I turn on the 2nd gear, I lose time."
Oleksandr Gaidai finished the qualification with the 12th result. There were several hours before the race. The rain was ceasing but continuing to drizzle. The start of the second Porsche Carrera Cup race was scheduled for 2:05 p.m. And our driver will tell us better about the following events.
O. Gaidai: "I am sitting in the car, 5 minutes to the entrance on the starting grid. No wheels on the car. It seems that the sky became clearer, but it's still raining. We decide which wheels to install with Côme Ledogar and our engineer, Anja Golz. There was a feeling that the rain tires were needed. I thought some time, watched the clock and told: let's take slick.
It is easier for me to drive with slick on the wet track than with overheated rain tires where there isn't a lot of water. I must thank Igor Storchak for that. We were practicing the driving on rear drive with bald tires under the rainy conditions on the proving ground 6 years ago. It is very hard but gives the feeling of a car. That's what I can do better than others. The credit of today's race goes to Igor.
On the warm-up lap I saw that there were some places of dried up asphalt, not dry, but dried up. I was driving like a positive fool: searching the dried up places on the whole track, pulling up and accelerating, then passing the wet part slowly, then pulling up and accelerating again, steering the wheel... Maybe, people behind me were thinking: what a Ukrainian stupid! But I came to the starting grid with the tires warmed-up enough..."
The start of the race was much more intense than in the previous one. Steven Palette was out of the track just after the start, Jim Pla was turned around, Gregory Guilvert made a mistake and lost his position. Oleksandr Gaidai tried to attack but was turned on the fifth lap and he took the 14th position.
And here the unforgettable show started. It looked like the Porsches of various colors were driving according to road regulations and speed limit, and the firefighting vehicle with buzzer and flashing light was shooting at the sublight speed, and others were only shrinking from it giving the way. This is a common picture for the cinema, with stunts driving, having each of them his own role, and the shoot in ten doubles. But in real race, among the competitors, each of them striving for finish and is not going to take it lying down... But it's not about the competition. Gaidai didn't notice how many drivers he had overrun.
O. Gaidai: "And I started to overrun. Soon I understood than I can finish with the 5th or 6th result. I saw three drivers ahead and thought that if I had enough time (I was in the car and didn't see how much time left to the finish and I didn't see it on the panel), if I had two more laps, I would overrun them. And I made this. Than I saw one car and nobody in front of it. And then I understood that I am the second and the leader is in front of me. So I reached and overran him too. I started to aggravate the gap.
I was driving and thinking: just like Mugello. I had to do my best because the rain could start in a minute. And it started raining! It wasn't a shower rain, but it still was the rain. I asked how much time left to the end and I was told that there were 4 minutes. I decided to pass the lap as fast as possible when the track is rather dry, and to drive the last lap carefully if it was a heavy rain.
And I pulled up late in the last turn and was turned. I thought that I had to be careful and I was."
And I was. It sounds very simple and calm. But it isn't even close to the team's emotions... and not only those of the team. There were applauses of the live broadcasting announcers in microphone. Managers and observers from various cities and countries communicating in Skype with exclamatory marks only. Mechanics and engineer screaming with joy. Come Ledogar who was commenting the race and then was hoppingly precipitating to the finish to greet the driver. Who said that the boss couldn't cry? She cries all right with happiness on the shoulder of Manos Pantalos, our team's friend.
O. Gaidai: "I was so happy seeing the finish flag! But it wasn't because I wanted to finish the race sooner but I understood that my dream came true. When I started to participate in Porsche Carrera Cup in 2010, I was on the Division 2 podium in Brno two times, but both times I had the third result, and I wanted to be the first in the absolute classification so much! I understood that it was a long journey, that I was so far away from the first place, but I knew: there was nothing impossible. So I wanted to learn from the best drivers – Kevin Estre, Patrick Pele, Côme Ledogar. And if I could win the race in Le Mane, I can do something better than others. That's all.
And the coolest feeling is that we are a real team with a good car prepared by the engineer, good mechanics having prepared the car before, during and after the race, good coach – Côme Ledogar who helped me so much and who was worrying about me together with Kevin Estre. I am very grateful to people who believed in me!"
Porsche Carrera Cup France 2015, round 2, Le Mans
Race 2 (overall)
1. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) 14 laps
2. JAMINET Mathieu (Racing Technology) +19.457
3. PALETTE Steven (Martinet by Almeras) +25.628
...14. DIAZ-VARELA Daniel (Yvan Muller Racing) +1:20.869
Race 2 (Division B)
1. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) 14 laps
2. LINDLAND Roar (Sébastien Loeb Racing) +49.119
3. LAPIERRE Christophe (Sébastien Loeb Racing) +49.890
... 5. DIAZ-VARELA Daniel (Yvan Muller Racing) +1:20.869
We express the special gratitude to the live broadcasting directors who didn't demonstrate the Gaidai's turn before the finish out of humantarian considerations of course. They help to prevent several heart attacks in front of the screens. So we are ready to continue watching Porsche Carrera Cup races and remain Oleksandr Gaidai's fans. He has some more Dreams. So he has definitely the room for improvement!