“Went to a party
I danced all night
I drank sixteen beers
And I started up a fight.”1
Except that I did not go to a party. Merely a barbecue. And I sure as hell did not start up a fight. Even if I mightily feel like doing so right now. Sitting on yet another sullen grid.
Impish had been the twinkle in the eyes of the two damsels inviting me to a barbecue in the dunes. Resisting had therefore been a cause long lost before those girls had even winked. So I tagged along with those two lovely creatures. Tell me, who would not? You can hardly expect a man to go racing on an empty stomach, can you? So yes, I had a few beers, but certainly far less than sixteen. Three maybe. Four at most.
Yet, one of those few had not gone unnoticed by race control. Leading them, at first, to deny me starting the race. The urge to start up a fight became near irresistible. My agitation at that point soon grew into another thing that failed to escape race control’s attention.
So, to put it all quietly to bed and avoid the argument turning into an ugly row, a compromise was made. I was allowed to start, be it dead last. Notwithstanding the 22nd time I had clocked.
Tempers receded and came to accept a baleful compromise. Which was a good thing really, with al that HSO press coverage around. Even if I did not succeed in making much of a secret of how appalled I was at the decision. Race control being something of an artificial humanity, they did however not reverse a made decision. That would likely unsettle their limited logic and was thus to be avoided. So dead last on the grid it was. Which felt as punishment for a crime not committed.
Anyway, 22nd or last, what is the difference? I try to kid myself while revving the engine for the imminent start. Well, I would soon find out what the difference was.
As Grant Riddall is about to find out how it is to start from second place. The Fastest has indeed not managed a lap faster than Thiago Canola’s incredible 1.23.516 pole time. Still, Grant is not looking to worried. Even if Thiago wins, second place will still secure him the championship.
Zandvoort has an old schooled 3-2-3 grid formation. Jaques, who clocked the 3rd fastest time, is thus on the front row with Grant and Thiago.
Nothing of all that succeeds in unsettling Grant though. As the flag drops, he storms of into an easy lead.
Another blazing start is Janik’s. From the second row, he has a look at 2nd. But it is Jaques who ends up grabbing second. Mr Detroit Panic then has a serious taste of third, but Canola holds on to that through the Tarzan corner.
Jundt mounts high onto the sloping dunes out of Zijn Veld but rejoins without major damage. Just some places lost.
Riddall is soon blasting off into his second lap, followed by Jaques, Canola and Janik.
I, for now, opt for the wise-ass approach. Just let whole field get on with it and follow from behind. Staying behind just a tad, ready to avoid all the mayhem that is bound to occur in Tarzan and Hugenholtz. John Hugenholtz… what a wanker. Not content with appointing himself as track director without particular qualification whatever, he had to go one better. And stick his name to one of the bends on the track… megalomaniac Dutch wanker.
Still, the mayhem around Tarzan and Hugenholtz fails to materialize. The one time they all decide to be disciplined throughout the entire first lap, has to be the time I have been relegated to last on the grid by some shady race control decision.
As we near the Panorama-Pulleveld-Bos Uit complex, I am running behind a little train of Acerclinth, Ibanez and harder than steel Chacon. Still dead last.
We are soon thundering out of Bos Uit, on to the long straight. Acerclinth puts his left wheels on the grass and has a hard time getting the power down. He already looked slower through the right-left-right section. Really leaving only one option for me. Slipstream. Move out of the slipstream. Brake late for Tarzan… and execute the pass.
Only problem is that Acerclinth braked later than me and is still ahead. But maybe he braked a bit late, as he is now struggling on an outside line. And I am still on the inside, slowly getting the advantage. Acerclinth’s situation is not helped by the fact that bloody Remmen has spun on the outside of Tarzan. And is now somewhat blocking Acerclinth’s trajectory.
The Swede tries to revert to an inside line, steering clear of Remmen. But that is where I am. There is contact. Acerclinth is not backing off. We are now accelerating towards Gerlach. And the Swede is still bumping and bouncing off my left side. It feels like he is just trying to push me off… Well, I have no clue as to what Acerclinth is trying to rub my nose in, but I am in no mood to be rubbed the wrong way. So I stay where I am and grab 27th. Which is actually 26th courtesy of Remmen taking a master class in spinning.
Kowalski has hit trouble somewhere and has been passed by Chacon and Ibanez. I start reeling them in. Kowalski gets suckered into the Scheivlak mystique like a debutant. He shoots straight ahead, over the curb, all across the tarmac and into the dunes. And in one sweeping movement also seals Ibanez’ fate, taking the Spaniard off with him. I shoot by and set out for Chacon.
Under braking for Tarzan, Acerclinth is back on my tail out of nowhere. He is in no position to overtake however and stays behind on the run through Gerlach towards Hugenholtz. And then it is… BANG KABOOM! The Swede has just slammed my entire behind to shreds. This is all out war declared on me. My rear is sliding wildly and I go full opposite lock on the steering wheel. That keeps the car pointing in the right direction. And ahead of Acerclinth.
The car is messed up though. The rear is bitching and bolting towards oversteer on every turn-in. It wags worse than a junked up trailer park tramp parading her stiletto legs all through the bar on a Saturday night. It is almost impossible to get a handle on it. Luckily though, this is not the first time I have to manage hussies in a Saturday night bar… With some luck, I will also survive this time.
Prusa, first of the Prussian Magi, is looking for a way past Ray Riddall but finds none.
Hlavac has a better shot at Miller’s 11th into Tarzan. The Czech gets the advantage by braking later on the inside line. But the Brit refuses to let go and now holds on on the outside. All through Gerlach and Hugenholtz they stay side-by-side. But then the Czech gets ahead.
Chacon is terribly slow through the sweeping stuff that leads back onto the main straight. I close in with the speed of light and am right on his tail as we fly onto the start-finish straight. I move inside, brake later for Tarzan and pull slightly ahead. But then my now wayward rear train tries to step out of line. I slide all through Tarzan, but keep it pointing the right way and am ahead of Chacon. If this is not a textbook pass, then I no longer know Jack from Black.
Steve Parker is working his way back to the front. He easily late brakes past Juha Bos into Tarzan, taking over 6th. Bos looses speed and now has Riddall the Wiser up his ass, who in turn has to deal with increased pressure from Prusa. Bos gets a tad out of shape for Hugenholtz. It slows him further down and forces Riddall Senior in some avoiding action. It is all Prusa needs to storm into 8th.
I am hunting Magnano down and catch him as we head for Pulleveld. I anticipate to go for some more drafting along the main straight when Magnano looses the rear of his car in Bos Uit. He slides backwards, away from the apex to the outside. I have nowhere to go and miraculously avoid him. But only by going onto the grass. Where I struggle to keep the car straight and not slam into the fencing. But this man is on a roll now. And even succeeds in doing that.
Still, as I finally rejoin the track, Chacon, Kowalski and Acerclinth flash by. All that work for nothing; back to square one.
I accelerate into a new pursuit, any remaining eagerness sinking deep into my shoes. But heavy shoes help to put the pedal to the metal. So all is good… probably.
Ray Riddall tries to recover 8th from Prusa. He has purchase on the approach to Tarzan and starts moving to the inside. Prusa defends the position, maybe a tad overly confident by also moving to the inside. Both cars touch and shoot off the track. Ending up in the catch fence curving itself around Tarzan atop the dunes. As Ray Riddall is plowing through high helms of dune grass and even more loose sand in a bid to rejoin the track, I flash by. Prusa is less lucky. His race ends there.
An even better surprise awaits me out of Hugenholtz. Acerclinth has parked his car on the side of the road, nose straight into the Armco. It is Jonatan’s first more or less sympathetic gesture coming my way this race. Still, a gift horse should not be looked in the mouth. So I just storm by.
Kowalski seems to have learned nothing from his earlier Scheivlak-antics with Ibanez. He now tries to muscle his way past Chacon on the inside. With all the finesse and the restraint one would expect from the odd elephant in the china shop. He may be a Cossack, that Kowalski, but he certainly developed a taste for the finer art of kamikaze moves. He slides off the track again at Scheivlak and spins Chacon while at it. The Brazilian can obviously not spare anyone a second before going again; with his samba honour under siege and all. He starts accelerating in the middle of the track… very very slowly… Making sure to block the entire track.
I have no option but to hit the brakes hard. And almost end up with Martinelli, who has rejoined after an earlier off, up my back. But Lady Luck now seems to be on my side. I manage to round Chacon without contact. And Martinelli is still behind as I spear out of that damned Scheivlak. The entire train of Acerclinth-Kowalski-Chacon is behind again.
Further to the front, Sabre is being courted to dance by Hlavac. In Tarzan, Sabre’s rear sweeps around his head, stranding David onto the inside kerbstone. Hlavac promptly forgets all about tango and escapes into the distance.
At the front, the deck is meanwhile shuffled. Jaques goes ahead of Riddall the Faster into the lead. While Canola hits rock-bottom. His electronics go AWOL and all a distraught Thiago can do, is park the car in the dunes. Riddall silently sniggers. As things stand now, he is champion.
With Thiago out, Janik Panic is now running 3rd. Verily, a podium spot.
Czlapinski has a big moment exiting Bos Uit. Magnano goes kissing the barriers in Tarzan. The Argentinian’s love affair with the Armco distracts Janik just enough to have him spin around Tarzan. The Detroiter loses two spots to Thim and Parker and is off the podium. For now…
Janik has caught up with Parker and has been shadowing the Brit’s car for the best part of the three last laps. The Detroiter is clearly faster but lacks the edge to make a move.
I now enjoy a decent gap over Chacon. Who now has demented versions of Martinelli and Ray Riddall to deal with. In my mirrors, I notice that old Bruno is again not easy to pass. Which, in this particular situation, is a welcome quality of the Brazilian. By the time Riddall is past Chacon, I should be far ahead and out of reach of the Wiser Riddall.
But things obviously pan out differently. For a lap or two, I seem to be edging away, be it very slowly. But then I completely cock up Bos Uit. I shift back to third, while I would ordinarily tackle the corner in fourth. The time loss is minimal however; the worse has yet to come. Exiting the bend, I fail to get fourth engaged. The engine idles high into revs, without any traction being delivered. It is like punching holes in the sky.
By the time I finally get some acceleration in the Beemer, Chacon is all over my rear. And we now have an interminable long main straight ahead. Chacon has the momentum and without defensive driving of some sort, he will swallow me alive. So defensive driving it is.
I move right to protect the inside. And stay there, leaving the entire outside for the Brazilian. He predictably moves alongside. And then ahead. But he is still on the outside. And their looms Tarzan, for which I am now on the better inside line. Riddall fully lives up to his accolade the Wiser and reads the entire situation like an ace. Rather than moving ahead of me, he sticks to my exhaust pipes. Leaving no doubt as to his intentions. I am the bait that will pull him ahead of Chacon.
Things turn out rather differently though. Chacon somewhat overshoots the corner, allowing me to slip through on Tarzan’s inside rather smoothly. But by the time I have moved ahead of Chacon, for the third time in not even a half race, the Brazilian has gathered his wits again. He now firmly tries to protect the inside line on what remains of Tarzan corner. But Riddall is already alongside. In my mirror, I see how they go for a little of the good old rubbing and slamming of fender benders.
As wise as Riddall’s move may have looked, it turns sour. Chacon stays ahead and their fighting has allowed me to get some kind of a gap on the both of them. My plan is thus back to what it was two laps earlier. Get as far ahead of Chacon as possible before Riddall makes it past the Brazilian.
Jaques is meanwhile still leading Maximus Grantus, the Absolute Ruler of Beemer land. But the Canadian’s streak of bad luck this season is about to strike. As he steams down the front straight, Riddall the Faster hot on his tail, his engine lets go once more. Another day at the races is done.
Grant moves up into the lead. Thim is now running second, with the duo Parker and Janik closing in on him.
It has required the other Riddall, the Wiser one, exactly one lap to dispense with Chacon. I saw it all happen in my rear-view mirror. Under braking for Tarzan, Ray would simply no longer accept being denied a pass.
It then took Riddall about two more laps to reduce any distance between him and me to in essence nothing at all. Ray is now about chewing at my exhaust pipes and we still have about half the race to go. For a brief while, I trick myself in believing that I will manage. But you have to be realistic about these things. Riddall has already clocked laps over a second faster than my best laps. It slowly dawns on me that keeping all that solidly experienced determination behind will be near impossible.
And so, when Ray moves to the inside and draws even on the main straight, I do not make it hard on him and almost wave him by. Maybe, I think, there is more to be gained from having a strong pacesetter just in front of me. Maybe, I can lap faster in Riddall the Wiser’s trail. And gain some spots that way.
Parker and Janik have caught up with John Thim. This is now a battle for the two lower podium spots. And Janik has an appetite for podium. He is looking for every possible hole in Thim’s and Parker’s armour. It all looks frantic and spectacular, but it does not yield much result… yet.
For a few laps, my plan to stay on Ray Riddall’s tracks has worked. I keep up with the wiser Riddall, more or less… Even if the lack of balance in the rear of the car, courtesy of Acerclinth’s bump on lap 3, sometimes calls for desperate corrective action. The kind that reeks of last minute, end-of-the-line and final resort. And is always very desperate.
I keep up the game for about 4 laps. Then, the damage to the rear gets the better of me. The rear first slides wildly out of the initial left part of Hondenvlak, pushing the nose of the car in the wrong direction. I manage to control that with a snap of sharp opposite lock. But the car is nowhere near stable enough to tackle the ultra-fast right-hander at Hondenvlak.
Still, I try to hang on. To no avail, as the car now goes into a solid four-wheel drift at well over 200 k per hour. It is impossible to hold and I plunge into and through the low slated dunes on the inside of the track. As by miracle, I hit nothing and can continue the race. But Chacon and Kowalski have flown. And I lack the courage to launch into yet another pursuit.
Maybe those beers at the barbecue were really not the best of ideas. But at least, I enjoyed them. Who says race control would not just have invented another reason to kick me to the back-end of the grid anyway?
I soldier on without conviction. What’s the point?
Hlavac joins the train of Thim, Parker and Janik. Riddall the Fastest is about a zillion light years ahead of them. All alone at the summit of yet another crushing lead.
Chacon goes off somewhere, and I move one up. Parker, Janik and a set of other fast movers put me down a lap. I try to keep in their wake and maybe slip past Kowalski as they lap him.
The fight for 2nd to 5th goes into berserk mode. As Thim shoots onto the main straight, back-marker Kowalski moves to the right side to let the faster car past. Parker is straight onto Thim’s tail as they both shoot past the black Scheutz car, the Brit catching some additional tow from Kowalski’s car.
Does that hand Parker some extra speed on the approach to Tarzan? Or does the Brit just brake later? No one knows. Certain though is that Parker pulls alongside Thim under braking for Tarzan. And that Thim then slightly moves over in a bid to secure his position.
Both cars tangle and round Tarzan rubbing and bouncing of each other. The two of them go very wide on the exit of the turn. Out of his box shoots Jack Janik, past Thim and almost ahead of Parker.
Thim is so perplexed that he looses the rear of his car and spins off.
I am meanwhile making up for lost ground fast. But out of Tarzan, there is Thim rejoining the track in a hurry, blinders firmly over his eyes. He deals me the final blow. Thim cuts onto the track with me in full heavy-acceleration-out-of-the-bend mode… it leaves me nowhere to go but head-on into Thim’s car.
On top of the Acerclinth inflicted damage on the rear, the front is now also completely bend. The car feels like a total bag of shit. But there is nothing else to do but continue and drive. Just drive.
Grant Riddall, the fastest man this side of the moon, brings his car home for yet another crushing victory. Securing the Procar title with it. Parker and Janik complete the podium. With Hlavac taking a strong 4th finish.
I nurture a heavily battered beemer home in 18th. Plenty of disillusions gained and in dire need of someone to fund what will doubtlessly be a heavy repair bill. Heck, I do not even have a towel to throw in left.
Full broadcast of the race is HERE. Still worthwhile watching.
Standings after round 7 – courtesy of Lukas Vydra