Hungaroring, Monday, Sep 15th, 2013:-
The fourth round of the European Le Mans Series took place at the 4.38km European track of Hungaroring, in the penultimate race of the season.
The country of Kuwait stamped the history books in this prestigious endurance Championship for the first time with racing driver Khaled Al Mudhaf.
Joining the Belgium based Boutsen Ginion team in the #4 Oreca-Nissan LMP2 car, Khaled joined the team for his debut in the three hour endurance race.
“I’m so proud to have completed my first LMP2 endurance race, it wasn’t easy to be honest as the race conditions were really challenging, but I’m so happy to have made this first step to International endurance racing for Kuwait, it’s a historical moment, but I’m trying not to let it overwhelm me,” commented Khaled.
Newcomers Khaled and Alex were informed they would both enjoy their debut in the Oreca /Nissan LMP2 racing as a duo, without their more experienced driver John Hartshorne who unfortunately could not race, so it was down to the two rookies to make the best of the situation.
“Practice went well, we had two twenty minute sessions to get to grips with the car and the demanding circuit layout, the weather was bright sunshine and we were confident, running sixth fastest, only a couple of seconds from the leading car.”
“I completed seven laps in the first practice session and eight in the second session and I was really impressed with the car, I was taking it easy to learn all the controls but at the same time conscious not to get too enthusiastic as it’s a really sensitive car and not one that I’m used to.”
LMP2 class qualifying was on Saturday morning at 10:30am as dark clouds hovered above, the rain was torrential with lots of standing water on track. The session was interrupted by several red flag situations as cars aquaplaned off the circuit.
Alex maintained a steady pace through the session trying to avoid most of the water and didn’t take any chances, qualifying in fifteenth place overall for the race later at 4pm.
“We couldn’t believe the weather had turned so quickly, it was torrential rain during qualifying and as Alex took the wheel for the qualifying session I felt a bit relieved it wasn’t me going out in the rain for the first time,” said Khaled.
The Boutsen Ginion team, as did many other teams, opted for wet tyres for Alex’s race start. It proved the right decision, but after a while the track started to dry out a little as the rain subsided and Alex became more comfortable in the car taking it to fourth position.
“I was taking my first stint in the car just as it was getting dark at about 5pm and the track was still wet but beginning to dry out in places so we went with new cut slick intermediate tyres, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best decision for my first race start in wet weather. We are not allowed in the regulations to use tyre warmers, and I spun off on the first turn out of the pit lane, my heart was pounding as I sat there in the middle of the track but I managed to get going again off the raised kerb, I spun immediately again on the next turn and just touched the wall, it was at that point I thought there is definitely something wrong with the car, then I checked the settings and found I had no traction control, it wasn’t re-set on the driver changeover and so I went tearing out of the pits on cold tyres with no traction control, in the wet, It was like skating on ice. I quickly re-set the traction and the car was back to normal, I was back in the race,” said Khaled after his first stint in the race.
The rain maintained its grip on the race causing many cars to come off track in the slippery conditions as teams swapped continuously between full wets and slicks during the 3 hour race.
Khaled took his last stint in the car at 6:15pm and steadily improved on his lap times he managed to equal his best lap time from the dry practice session, finally taking the chequered flag at 7:00pm in seventh position in class and 16th overall.
“I really want to thank the Boutsen Ginion team for this chance to race in the team, they were really professional and I learned a lot from them. It was a fantastic experience and I am already dreaming of my next race in LMP2,” concluded Khaled.