Returning home to sunny Florida after a 25 hour flight Jonathan was ready to talk about his 3 week trip down under. "New Zealand is a beautiful country, the people are friendly and really polite. We had a lot of fun there. Going bungy jumping...
Returning home to sunny Florida after a 25 hour flight Jonathan was ready to talk about his 3 week trip down under.
"New Zealand is a beautiful country, the people are friendly and really polite. We had a lot of fun there. Going bungy jumping was great even though they nearly drowned me by lengthening the bungy so it dunked me in the water; but it was a lot of fun," said Jonathan.
"On arrival at the track I generally try to walk it with my engineer where we try to analyze the corners and various ups and downs that may cause issues."
The practices with A1GP allow for a couple of rookie sessions. This helps the engineer shakedown the car and find a rough set up. Then the driver has 2 practices in the Team USA car.
"In the first practice we found the track very slippery but we still managed a top 5 time which was good. In the 2nd practice we tried different configurations and finished that session 11th. Qualifying is awesome as the pressure is on. We have the clock ticking down on each 15 minute session. Most teams try to wait till the very last minute before going out as this allows the track to be less sandy and also more rubber down. We go out on a warm up lap getting heat into the tires and as we come into the last corner we are going as fast as possible so we can start the timed lap at top speed. For the next minute we just focus on driving the perfect line and fastest lap possible. In A1GP one slight error and you are back in 20th as the teams are becoming so competitive. Our first run gave us a 15th fastest. In the 2nd qualifying, which is basically the grid position for the sprint race, we got the car hooked up and went up the sheets to a 6th fastest which was the highest so far this year."
"Now for the feature qualifying; again 2 fifteen minute sessions where everyone leaves it till the last second so they get the best track. In addition the engineer has to decide if he wants to use one of his sets of new tires so we can gain time on the new rubber. At the end of the feature qualifying we managed a credible 10th fastest. The team now try to analyze all the data so they can stratagise for the races tomorrow. With the A1GP car we have data that tells when I turn the wheel, brake, accelerate, suspension, along with engine data on temperatures and a lot more."
"Sunday morning is race day. We arrive at the track early so we beat the crowds and warm up the engine. Many A1 races have 80,000 or more spectators which is an awesome feeling and atmosphere. It gives a great feeling on the grid to see excited fans each cheering for their own country, and, for the New Zealanders to have their driver on the pole was even better. The sprint race is a rolling start where we line up and coming round the last bend the lead car decides when he is going to go racing. So, every driver tries to anticipate that moment. As we cross the line I am sure several drivers lose their minds trying to make passes that haven't a chance causing chaos going into the first corner. Each driver is trying to make a few places while looking where the others are going and watching their rear view mirrors to see what's happening behind as other cars are trying to overtake them. Sometimes you get a break, and others you don't. My start was good. However, on turn one I was pushed wide by Netherlands allowing Ireland to pass and that is the way the race finished.
For the feature race Jonathan started from 10th gaining 2 positions. As he turned into the first corner Jonathan was hit from behind and had his tire cut by an out of control car . Jonathan then had to do 3 pit stops against everyone's 2, and managed to race his way from the back of the field up to 8th position only to find out the rules contradict themselves.
"We were penalized for pitting on the lap we were supposed to but we had to cross the start line on track which is unidentified in the rules."
After the race the team have to pack up all the equipment, have the cars and all their stuff ready for flying out to the next race by Monday evening. The organizers then fly all this equipment in 2 specially prepared Jumbo Jets to the next event.
"This is a mammoth task; all the logistics involved, including government red tape, must make it a night mare."
"With the Down Under trip most of the team stayed in New Zealand for that week which was fun to see the guys off duty in a more relaxed setting. That soon came to an end as Sunday we were back on a plane and headed for Australia. On a map this looks a short distance but it is still a three hour flight. "
"Arriving in Sydney and having a couple of days to sightsee allowed me to visit the famous Sydney Opera house and go sightseeing around the city with some of the team. On Wednesday it is back to work, By then all the equipment is at the track and the team go about setting up the pits and all their stuff. For me it is also time to start walking the track to try and learn it. It is also another chance to continue my work out, running around the track. I try to work out most days for about 2-3 hours a day."
"By Friday we are ready to go racing. In Australia we missed out on the rookie sessions as Charlie couldn't make it. So, first practice for me was partly taken up with bedding brakes which is good as it helps you to drive the track at a slower speed and you have more time to think about each corner. In the first practice I lapped the 9th fastest. With the 2nd practice the track was dry so we tried changing the car set up which didn't work leaving us basically last on the time sheets. We were now under pressure to find that best setup for the qualifying."
"The team really is coming together with these trials as for the sprint qualifying we reached 8th in the first lap and 6th, our best qualifying, less than 2 and a half tenths off the pole."
"In the Feature qualifying we pushed really hard and were faster than the pole sitter in the first sector." Then, in the middle sector I went off the track but managed to have the fastest last sector securing a 7th even after going off the track in the qualifying."
Sunday morning the rains had come a little late causing it to start raining halfway through the sprint race. Jonathan had a good start and was running in 6th. When the rain hit Jonathan managed to work his way up to 5th by the end passing around the outside.
The Feature was another story. The rain came down hard just at the start and continued throughout the race. Jonathan had a bad start due to his first start in the wet in the A1 car but managed to gain back more places by the time he came around after the first lap. He was having a great race running in 5th. He came into the pits and had a problem with a tire but managed to get out in 7th place. He was running well and looking like he had a great shot at finishing in the top 5 but was hit from out of nowhere by the French car who tried taking Jonathan out and succeeded in doing so. Jonathan was very unhappy about this and said, "I feel that it was a stupid move and he had no chance at passing me. He needs his eyes checked before he drives a car again. The car was so good and we easily had a shot at the top 5. I am really disappointed finishing the race from the flat bed truck."
"I am really looking forward to Durban and know we have a car that we can finish on the podium."
Next race will be Durban in South Africa which is like the Miami of USA, a beautiful city sandy beaches.