Double challenge Last year, the La Rochelle-based racing team was entering 3 cars. Now, it is engineering twice as much single-seaters for 6 drivers: one Dutch, one Swiss-French, and 4 French. The young company has also consolidated its...
Last year, the La Rochelle-based racing team was entering 3 cars. Now, it is engineering twice as much single-seaters for 6 drivers: one Dutch, one Swiss-French, and 4 French. The young company has also consolidated its structure in a similar proportion.
2005 season has just begun, after numerous test sessions. Romain Grosjean established Lédenon, Val de Vienne, Magny-Cours and Nogaro circuits' unofficial lap records. Then real competition started, bringing great satisfaction: 4 podiums finishes, including one win, one fastest lap and one pole position. Stéphane Guérin, SG Formula's team principal, comments: "the general level has stepped up an extra gear, thanks to the entry of teams such as Comtec Racing and Epsilon Sport. We haven't been as successful as expected in Nogaro, but we could have won a race. Romain Grosjean was on pole position, but he had to start from the wet side of the track. In Lédenon, Franck took Sunday's race, but winning both races was a possibility. Johan Charpilienne kept the lead until his mistake a few laps before the flag. That kind of things happen: the weather conditions were really hard, and Johan had to cope with Amado's pressure on a tricky track. As a team, we cannot control everything."
The latest event was the inaugural round of the Eurocup in Zolder, Belgium. "We didn't make a proper job, all of us, drivers included, except Yann Clairay who could qualify 12th despite of his lack of training, due to an engine failure. We were definitely not where we should have been, fortunately we came back in the right pace, not that far from race 2's podium. But if we clearly aim for the title in France, it seems the challenge is tougher in the Eurocup. To my mind, there are at least 10 very fast drivers in the field and all the teams are first rate. As far as we are concerned, our European means have to be put in perspective, compared to some other teams who use wind tunnel facilities I can't afford. More, Carlo Van Dam and Yann Clairay can be proud of their lap times if you consider how often some drivers tested last winter. I don't blame those who benefit from the support of big groups such as Red Bull or Lukoil. They invest a lot of money in order to help drivers reaching the top of the pyramid. We just have to do the same. It is the major target for SG Formula, as a company: we want to find backing for our drivers and develop our work methods and research autonomy."
Nogaro, Lédenon, Zolder :
Undisputed king of winter testing, Romain Grosjean took SG Formula's first 2005 pole position in Nogaro, but hasn't won yet. Team mate Franck Mailleux managed to do so in Lédenon, leading from start to finish line in race 2. A happy week-end for him, as the first victory of his car racing career came right after a very first podium finish when he took 2nd place in race 1. Johan Charpilienne is the most consistent driver of the squad. He topped his first car racing podium in Nogaro, and scored 4th place points twice. His Lédenon flying start, straight from 8th to the lead, will probably be remembered. Julien Jousse proved fast but still waits for dividends, and had to be content with 4th place in Nogaro.
Yann Clairay and Carlo Van Dam are the Eurocup regulars of the team, and they both took championship points in Zolder, coming home 4th and 7th in Race 2, while Romain Grosjean drove a good race to finish 5th in spite of a wounded finger due to a crash during the qualifying session. In Saturday's race, his 2nd fastest lap time also impressed, while it didn't take more than 13 laps to Mailleux to improve from 27th to 13th. Considering the high level of the 38-car field and the fact that SG Formula had never raced on the Belgian circuit before, the result package is jolly good and the team can remain optimistic.
2005 : a new dimension
In the French as well as in the Eurocup series, the team entered 4 Formula Renault 2.0 cars in the opening races. To bring this mission to a successful conclusion, SG Formula invested in a second trailer truck, appointed a second young graduate engineer and a second trainee engineer, from EIGSI.
Thibaut de Mérindol, who can be seen as a "Senior" despite his 28 years of age, explains us the team's organisation evolution: "at the workshop, there is a lot more to do with 6 cars. Arnaud and I, we divided the work between us, he is in charge of the stock and prepares for the French Championship races. Personally, I care about work organization and prepare Eurocup meetings. We both come to every event, but each one of us is responsible for 2 drivers, never the same pair, to be more efficient and to react quicker."
But who is choosing the cars' set-up? Arnaud Tanguy answers: "most of the times, we agree on the choice. Thibaut has a different background. I was never given the opportunity to have a coach, because in my former team, I was alone and got a practical experience of the job, while Thibaut could enjoy more theory. We complement one another, and we make a common decision about the best solution."
The La Rochelle-established Industrial Systems Engineering School trainees concentrate on one single series: Yannick Hubert continues last year's job on French circuits, and the new comer, Cédric Boussu, takes part in the European adventure. "I am here to learn. I manage the data acquisition system, I try to get the appropriate information about the car and the driver from it and to understand the engineers' interpretation, how they use the data to improve performance. I have experience of rallycross, I discover single-seater racing, and in such a team, young and full of energy, it's just fantastic. We really have to push hard when there is a problem between a practice session and a race, for example, which isn't easy to face in a context of stress."
This kind of situation happened in Zolder, when one of the team's cars was badly damaged at the beginning of qualifying n°1 (10 a.m.) and had to be fixed at 12.35 for qualifying n°2!
Another example is the 10-day marathon ran by the team between March 21st and 30th. Stéphane Guérin explains: "on Monday, the "French Championship team" left the workshop to reach Nogaro, for two official Renault-Sport test days, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The "Eurocup team" travelled to Le Mans for Thursday and Friday's test sessions. On Friday, our drivers began the French Championship meeting in Nogaro, free practicing first, then qualifying sessions on Saturday, and races on Eastern Sunday and Monday... The next day, we arrived in Valencia, Spain, for further testing on Tuesday and Wednesday." Of course, unexpected problems sometimes occur, like this mass production default on two gearboxes. Hard job, but so amazing when it's rewarded by a victory!