Callum Ilott is a top driver in European Formula 3, supported by Badger GP for the 2016 Championship with our logo on his car and exclusive updates from the man himself, right here on BadgerGP.com
Hello Badgers! It’s good to back on here. I’ve had nine races with the Badger GP stickers since the last blog so it’s about time we caught up!
Let’s start with Norisring in Germany. If you don’t know this event, it takes place on the streets of the German city of Nuremberg in the former Nazi party grounds! A bit random for a venue but it’s a really good circuit for F3 cars in low downforce spec with plenty of chances to overtake. Check out the vids here, you’ll see it’s nothing like Monaco, although, the fans can get pretty close here and with the DTM supporting us, we get lots of fans watching.
I had high hopes of getting back in touch with the championship leaders at Norisring but (another) engine failure meant three 10 place grid penalties. I’ve talked about this before but as this is my column, I’m going to mention it again and hope Adam doesn’t notice! I feel this is too severe and punishes the driver for something that is out of their control. That’s 30 places over the weekend you’ve got to claw back and that’s only to get you back to where you started. In context, you get one 5 place penalty for causing an accident…..
With a fresh engine we were flying and would have had P2, P1 and P1 for the three races but with those penalties (OK, enough now Callum – Ed) it was 12th, 11th and 11th grid slots. Race 1 and I was fired up. Wide long straights and plenty of slipstreaming meant I was up to P3 and it felt good to be back at the sharp end. I really had the pace in the car but pushing a little too hard, I made a mistake and locked up at the hairpin taking out the race leader Joel Eriksson. Hands up, it was my fault and it ended both our races. Oh and another penalty for me in the next race.
Race Two and I moved up from P16 to P7 over the course of the race. I was more cautious after the accident and was mindful of another P word. I was more patient but it meant I got a seventh. It was more of the same in the third race on the Sunday with another seventh as my rivals seemed intent of crashing into each other. I had a good view of most of these but I reckon with the pace we had I could have easily had three wins from that weekend, so to come away with not too many points was really a shame.
Next up was Zandvoort in Holland and my team’s home track. I struggled at Zandvoort last year, so this time I approached it differently with car setup. It’s actually similar to a street track like Norisring in a weird kind of way because there’s not a lot of room for error. Practice was good and I got promoted to pole for Race Two.
In Race One, I got a good start but a couple of guys went around the outside into Tarzan. I was then stuck behind Max Gunther for the whole time. We had a great race together but I just couldn’t get past the WHOLE time. Zandvoort’s notorious for it’s lack of passing opportunities for the modern race car with lots of downforce with the wing on the front.
Race Two and I was on pole, but I was on used tyres and there just wasn’t the traction to beat Nick Cassidy off the line. Max was also through and I got stuck behind him AGAIN and finished third. Back to the podium was good but it really should have been a win. Sunday we were back out for the final race and this time I got a sixth. The track had really changed after the DTM cars had been hammering around and the car was developing more oversteer so it was just hold on to the place to the flag. After those two events, I just had my hopes on doing well at Spa and had all my fingers crossed all my bad luck was done for the season…
That positive feeling had completely gone after 20 minutes of quali and I was still sat in the pit lane. I lost nearly the whole session as the team identified a problem with an oil sensor on my engine. I just got three laps in at the end, enough time to qualify err, 20th. You’ve heard it before I know, but again it was a lost opportunity as we’d been P2 in Free Practice. That first race was really wet and just like F1 at Silverstone, we started and stayed behind the safety car for a long time.
It stayed out for nearly half the race so any chance to get up the order was lost. When we did finally get racing, visibility was poor and it wasn’t worth risking the car and we finished 17th. It dried up for our second race, but once I got going I realised that the car was unbalanced. Sixth on the grid became fifth and stayed fifth as I just focused on keeping us on the track. We decided to make some changes overnight for the final race on Saturday and starting fourth it was my turn to make a good start and progress off the grid into La Source. I was up to second going up Eau Rouge and felt finally we might get a result. Onto the Kemmel Straight and the drag race started. Ben Barnicoat edged ahead but I could hold the inside line into Les Combes. Unfortunately Ben was focussed on the leader , not where I was and we collided. I hoped the car was OK but the floor and sidepod were damaged and I had to park it a few laps later, game over.
I was really disappointed. Before the weekend we had been closing the gap on the leaders in the championship. Three races later and I’m down in fifth. It’s gutting and it could be easy to get downhearted but what I am learning this season is you’ve got to put it behind you and just focus on the next weekend. Things can turn around. Luckily my next event is at the Nürburgring. It’s where I got my first podium last year so I’m sure we can do a good job and make you Badger GP fans proud.
The Summer Break
Away from the track I’ve had a good start to the summer getting involved in some interesting off track activities. First off the BT Sport guys, who are now covering F3, wanted to do some filming with me about my season so far. We ended up filming at Strakka Racing, the sports car team. I raced for their kart squad in 2014 so know a few of the guys. I’m interested in R/C cars and the guys at Tamiya sent a retro buggy down for me to muck about with. Pretty cool!
Next up was more filming but this time at Ansible Motion. These clever guys, based in Norfolk, make very high end simulators, including for three F1 teams. Ansible’s founder used to work for McLaren and Lotus and had previously designed an F1 gearbox.
I’ve not always rated sims up until trying that one, and often dismissed them but I think I’ve been too hasty. That’s because most of them just don’t have the feel that I’m used to in the car, but I have to say the Ansible sim was really good. Under braking for La Source it actually felt realistic which is rare on a sim from my experience. On that day we were filming for ITV Anglia with GT driver Alexander Sims. We were both racing at Spa the following weekend though he went on to win his race, the 24 Hours. Well done mate!
Next up for me is a bit of holiday so I’ll sign off here but I’ll be back out flying the Badger colours at the Nürburgring next month. Please keep in touch and if you’ve got any questions about F3, send them across and I’ll try to answer them!
You can tweet Callum via @Callum_Ilott