Dan McMullen Formula Renault Racing Update Toronto, ON, July 15, 2002 - The schedule for the FFSA Formula Renault Championship is now in full swing with races coming back to back following the last event at Pau. The most recent races were held...
Dan McMullen Formula Renault Racing Update
Toronto, ON, July 15, 2002 - The schedule for the FFSA Formula Renault Championship is now in full swing with races coming back to back following the last event at Pau. The most recent races were held at Val de Vienne and at the ex-F1 circuit at Dijon, the site for those who don't remember of what has become simply known as "THE LAP" by another famous Canadian, Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari against the Renault of Rene Arnoux in the 1981 French GP.
At Val de Vienne hopes were high for a good result following the previous race at Pau where car damage to the rear suspension in qualifying forced Dan to start way back on the grid and then had him fighting his way through the field in the race, getting more attention from the track announcer than even the eventual race winner Eric Salignon.
Practice at Val de Vienne did not yield the result the Hexis Racing Team had hoped for. They had been experimenting with setups on the car and this caused a problem with the overall grip going away after only six laps. At the end of the session Dan was only 17th fastest and improvement for qualifying was needed.
Going into the twenty-five minute qualifying session had Dan uncertain. The night before the team spent much time thinking of what was the problem with the car and what to do to correct it. Changes were again made in the hopes of gaining a little extra grip and in turn more speed. As the session started, Dan found the balance of the car quite good but realized after six laps again that the grip was going away. Also a problem in such a short session is the number of cars on the track, thirty-one, and trying to get a clear lap. A gap in traffic opened up on lap seven and he put in his best time of the session, placing him eighteenth for the race, with each additional lap getting slower and slower as the traction of the car got worse and worse. It was clear to Dan that more work on the setup was needed before race time.
Going into the race, Dan was set for a good race saying that "it is going to be an exciting race as positions 7th to 20th were covered by only 1.0 seconds in qualifying". As the lights went green, Dan got for him what was an average start, moving up to 16th by the first corner. On the run up the hill to corner one Dan felt that something was a little different in the way the other drivers were acting, far more aggressive than in past races, and sure enough it happened. Going into corner one he was pushed to the outside of the track and eventually contact from the inside put him off the track, resulting in severe damage to his front wing as he would find out after the race. After regaining the circuit he was pushed off the track by fellow competitors a further two times on that wild first lap but still managed to stay in 16th position. As the laps counted off, Dan noticed that the handling of the car was quite bad and also that he was having problems under braking, as both front tires would lockup far too easily going into the corners. As well he was experiencing a great deal of understeer throughout the race hindering his efforts to move forward. Even so, he managed to gain a few more positions by the 10th lap and moved up to 12th spot. Over the final few laps he had his hands full trying to retain his position. He had Davis Laisis right behind him hounding him at every turn. Finally being unable to get by cleanly, the Pole Services driver hit Dan from behind forcing him wide to take the position. In the end Dan wound up finishing a very respectable 13th. The Hexis Racing Team were very impressed and excited that that he finished as high as he did with a car so badly wounded, with a damaged front wing and the front wheels well out of alignment, both severely toed to the right as a result of the contact on the first lap. All of the hard work the team put in over the weekend was worth it in the end even though there were no points to show for it. Dan stated after the race, "this was the most difficult race this year and it taught me a lot."
The next race was the following week at the historic Dijon circuit. It would again prove to be a frustrating weekend for Dan and the whole Hexis Team as during the practice session the car was oversteering in fast corners and understeering in the slow corners. This did not instill much confidence in the car for Dan, especially since this was also a new circuit for him to learn.
Following several changes to the setup, Dan went into the qualifying session hoping once again for a balanced car that he could get the most out of. Instead he found that the car was still much the same as it was in practice, a handful. As well Dan found that he was well down on power, as car after car would pass him easily on the long straight. He said after the session, "it was like I was standing still out there." In the end he qualified in 19th position, not what he expected considering how well he managed to drive this difficult and fast circuit.
Once again Dan proved that he is one of the best at standing starts, something that he has become known for this season in the French Formula Renault Championship. After the start by the time he reached corner one he had already made up three positions. By the end of lap two he was up to 14th and charging hard. He then made a pass that he was told was impossible by the team. On the very fast and blind downhill Pouise Corner leading onto the front straight Dan went around the outside of a fellow competitor and drove off past him! As the laps wound down he managed to catch up to the car of Marc Walz and passed him in the tighter sections of the circuit only to be re-passed by Walz on the straights. It went on like this for the rest of the race, the two drivers swapping positions several times a lap as Dan would get him in the corners but the straight line speed of Walz's car would allow him to drive around Dan quite easily on the straights. At the checkered flag Dan finished in 13th place, just over ½ second behind Walz. It was a very hard fought race but once again there were no points to show for the great effort put in by Dan and the team. Following the race and upon inspection of the engine it was determined that there were problems with it being way down on power, which explained why Dan was passed so easily on the straights. For the next race at Croix En Ternois there will be a new motor in Dan's car.