Chapter.2.- First races
The first race with the SRC Toyota TS050 Hybrid was presented with all the unknowns in the world. After “the tests”, our cars had improved, but they were still 2-3 tenths off our reference times.
It was the first endurance test after the pandemic and there was desire… Also, some nerves. The stage, the SUPERDOME of Igualada. For the occasion, the organizers had extended the usual circuits, and the layout was large and very fast.
The LMP grid did not have many entries (perhaps a certain reluctance in the category was noticeable) instead the GT were the majority, and as the regulations were made they could even have options for victory.
We faced the race with some variations with respect to the series model, logically, although not many; the engine by regulation, some ballast to comply with the 15gr of bodywork, wide rims at the back, low-profile “zero-grip” tires on the front axle, a standard side suspension configuration, slot.it-type magnets at the back, as well as the gear ratio; In these two cases, it seemed more practical to me to go with what was known and already tested, as well as with the braids, which I replaced with the ones I trust in endurance races.
In training, after a few first bars in which, due to the lack of “grip”, the GTs were the ones that set the best times, and for a few moments it seemed that a surprise might occur, little by little the LMPs prevailed and it was confirmed that they were going to be the candidates for victory.
As main rivals, the other SRC team, the one from Asturias, with Javi and Sergio in the lead, and with Toyota of course, who had been developing the car even longer than us. The other, ARREPLEGATS, one of the best Catalan teams, with one of the reference models in the category so far, a Lola LMP and with an offset bed, of course.
From the beginning, the 2 Toyotas took the lead with the Asturias driver ahead, since they had opted for a more aggressive start configuration (lower), whereas we, going higher, could not approach their times. ARREPLEGATS, with some problems, was delayed from the beginning. As the car gained “grip” we began to set the best times that made us take the lead, and that we would not give up until the end, without any setback. A complete success, with a double in the debut of the SRC Toyota. It is true that there was a lack of competition, but the sensations were very good, and the result was much better than expected, considering that it was phase 1 of the project.
Logically, the result helped a lot to continue believing in it. Both in the factory and in the 2 SRC teams, there was a change from the illusion of expecting good results, to the optimism that these were really possible and that the objectives could be very ambitious; the work done so far was beginning to bear fruit.
The next test we had not planned. In December we were invited to the “Murcislot” at 12:00, in Murcia logically, one of the classic endurance tests that take place in Spain and which I had never attended. It was clear that we would have to face it with the Toyotas, and do it on a different surface than the one on which we had carried out “the tests” and the first race; on track Ninco. Selective and bumpy layout, as usual in this type of track. Would the Toyota be up to par again?
Our hosts, the boys from Elda, Jose, Edu and Abel with whom we were going to share a team and who did not hesitate for a moment to accept the challenge of racing with the Toyota.
I adapted some cars to the characteristics of the Ninco track, especially with softer suspensions, but what was my surprise that the best times in practice were made with the same Toyota from the first victory. The car had behaved wonderfully on the flat and rigid surface of the “Scaleauto” track, but would it do the same on a track with more “grip” and more magnet effect?
The test also had another incentive and that was that half of the race was going to be carried out as a night stage, that is, with lights, which would be another test for our car.
In the race, after some first trial runs, we had no rival, and the Toyota once again proved to be far superior to the rest of the models, which, in the hands of the home teams, were very fast, most with 3D chassis, even some Toyotas.
It should be noted that even our car suffered a small incident, almost at the end of the race, when a fault in the control of one of my teammates caused the car to launch at the end of the straight, with a very strong impact against the fence. The result is a cracked dome and a bent rim. It was clear that the Toyota had passed its first “crash-test” and the whole was very resistant.
In this race we had the pleasure of meeting Marco and Dovile, from SRC, in person, who came to see “in situ” how “their” Toyota performed on the track, and if the impressions through telephone conversations were already very good, in person they were no less.
Two overwhelming victories in the first 2 endurance events made us look very optimistic about the season that was about to start.
To be continue….
Josep M.ª Molins “NEO”