My story in words and images: Cyndie Allemann Racing diary.
Episode 2012.06: Sepang: the heat is on.
Friday, 2012-06-08. Sepang, Malaysia.
Fast times in Malaysia.
The time period between mid-May and mid-June is most likely the busiest for the racing community, with major races all over the world. And as usual with Cyndie, everything goes even faster. After a busy week back at her karting shop in Switzerland, attending her team and different corporate events, she is back to Sepang for her second visit in only two weeks. Indeed, she came here at the end of May to get some practice time at the challenging Sepang International Circuit, racing in the Malaysian Super Series. Well, not only she did get some practice time, but she ended up winning the race in the process, becoming the first ever female driver to win a race in Malaysia, and most likely in Asia.
She was now back for the real deal, to race in the third round of the Super GT 2012 season. It was with a lot of confidence that Cyndie arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Friday morning (at 6!). Once out of the airport, it was straight to the sea side city of Port Dickson for an early check-in at her hotel. Over there, Cyndie took a little bit of time for herself to relax and enjoy the swimming pool. Down time was short though, and in the afternoon, Cyndie headed to the track as the real work begins.
“My spirit is very positive coming here this weekend, especially because of my race win in the MSS two weeks ago. I’m familiar with the track, now. Also, I really like this second trip to Malaysia. Two weeks ago, my hotel was in Kuala Lumpur. This time, I’m on the sea side in Port Dickson in a beach resort. It’s a very cool place with a swimming pool and the beach, a very beautiful area. I had some business to do in Switzerland this week, so I’m arriving here a bit late, on Friday morning. It’s important for me to be able to relax a bit before the weekend craziness, if only for 3-4 hours.”
Saturday, 2012-06-09. Sepang, Malaysia.
A day of contrasts and mixed emotions.
Saturday would prove to be a day of contrasts and mixed emotions for Cyndie: car speed issues on one hand, and a huge popularity on the other hand. But first things first: after a night of rest and a Malaysian breakfast at the hotel, it was time to hit the road and head to the track for Saturday morning practice session. Heat and humidity were already a problem on Saturday morning, but both were (still) nothing compared with the real issue Cyndie and her teammate Aki would have to face throughout the weekend: lack of pure speed. In fact, their Audi R8 LMS was 15 kph slower than the fastest GT300 cars. Both are extremely talented and combative drivers, so they had to push as much as they can to compensate this handicap, but it was not enough to go in the Super Lap qualifying session.
On a more positive note, Cyndie soon realized that her popularity in Japan also followed her in Malaysia and Saturday’s fan pitwalk (as well as Sunday’s, too) was an never ending flow of fans asking for autographs and photos. One can really feels the genuine interest and passion that they have for Cyndie, so it is with the same feeling that she obliged to all those requests.
“On track, we immediately realized on Saturday morning that our car was not fast enough because of the balance of performance that is not quite in our favor. Straight line speed is definitely an issue with our standard R8 LMS. On the pit straight, we were 15 kph off the fastest cars, which is a huge handicap. We had to battle in the braking zones and in the corners to try and get our time back, but even that was not enough to score a top-10 in qualifying. My teammate qualified the car in 19th position, after a few setup issues because we changed our tire compound.”
Sunday, 2012-06-10. Sepang, Malaysia.
An exceptional athlete going beyond the limit.
Race day would be one of extreme limits for Cyndie Allemann. She experienced the brutal Sepang heat two weeks ago and things got even worst for the Super GT race. The whole day and more specifically the race was a physical and emotional roller coaster ride for the Swiss race car driver. Starting 19th, she went through a stop-and-go penalty (actually, two...), a spin (after being pushed by another car), and passing many competitors in dog fights to work her way back in the field. Despite all this, she and Aki finished 14th, much better than their starting position, thanks to the work done on the car setup in the morning warmup.
But even more impressive: she did one of the longest stints of all the drivers at Sepang and when she gave the wheel back to her teammate after 1 hour and 15 minutes, she was in a state of dehydration, which forced a visit to the track medical center. Being a top professional athlete, she pushed herself to her extreme limit, and even beyond. She demonstrated to everyone that nothing will ever stop her, even extreme weather conditions. This is Cyndie, an amazing athlete and determined to become even tougher.
“In the cockpit, it was more than 55C. I could feel getting burned all over, especially at the feet and legs, and even more important at my head. I didn’t have any air to breathe. The hardest to manage was coming out of the car when I really felt dizzy and my head was spinning. I’ve never experience those symptoms before and I was quite surprised. In fact, I had to go to the medical center. As soon as this week, I’ll make a few researches for a new physical workout so that at the next race where it’s very hot, I don’t find myself in this type of situation.”