We continue our GP3 long goodbye series with this trip down the memory lane: Tony’s visit to GP3’s standalone race at Valencia’s permanent circuit in 2013. The Sage took full advantage of the situation and promptly interviewed Conor Daly on the spot, probably our fave GP3 driver of all times. Some of the kids who raced in Valencia that weekend faded away (be it due to running out of talent or financial support), some are still going strong in F1 or in other categories. So is Tony (going strong): these days he can easily turn a back-somersault in at the door or can be seen driving his mighty V8 Rover somewhere at an undisclosed location in Southern Spain. Enjoy!
GP3 Series Round 2 Valencia – Spain
Circuito de Ricardo Tormo 15 – 16 June 2013
The GP3 series visited the beautiful city of Valencia, Spain located on the Mediterranean coast. The city until recently hosted the Formula One European GP on a specially adapted street circuit around the busy port (where we did a bit of F1 driver photo hunting back in 2010, gr8, LOL!).
This weekend (15 -16 JUN 2013) the GP3 event comprising of free practice, qualifying, race 1 and race 2 was held at the Circuito de Ricardo Tormo, named after a local famous GP motor bike racer. The track was built in 1999, holds up to 120.000 spectators (60.000 seated) is 2.5 miles in length and has 14 corners. Famous names who have been associated with the track are two time world champion Fernando Alonso (he basically started his F1 career here), Adrian Campos (ex-F1 driver and now team owner of Campos Racing) Hector Barbara, MotoGP rider and many more.
[censored] this particular GP3 event is classed as a stand-alone meeting. Yes, it means what it says, no support races – just GP3. I must confess, apart from going to F1 testing which is just F1 cars running on track throughout the day, this is the first time I have been to such an event and probably the [censored]. We had to wait 4 hours between the end of the practice session and qualifying and on Sunday, race day, over 3 hours. Why am I [censored] at least I got my ‘fix’ of fast cars, loud noise, smell of oil and rubber and pretty women.
Talking of women, GP3 has two talented racing drivers Carmen Jordá, a local Spanish girl (Bamboo Engineering) and Samin Gómez from Venezuela (Jenzer Motorsport). Carmen started racing when she was 10 years old and has competed successfully in quite a few championships including Indy Lights in 2010 with Andersen Racing.
Now you’re getting into the mood to read more, GP3 Series comprises 9 teams (all GP3 illiterate people! make sure you pay close attention): ART GP, MW Arden, Carlin, Jenzer Motorsport, Marussia Manor Racing, Status Grand Prix, Bamboo Engineering, Trident, Koiranen GP and 27 young talented drivers from around the world all wanting to win the 2013 championship and get a Formula One drive in 2014 (well, I hope you have a very rich family or sponsor because I [censored] you’ll get a paid drive in Formula One the way it stands today and that’s a [censored] reflection, speed and raw talent [censored] count for much……..[killing them softly! never give up, folks!!!]).
Let us talk about this GP3 event: The Circuito de Ricardo Tormo is an hour’s drive for me and really my local race track. It is spectator-friendly with good views of 90 percent of the track from any of the stands. It has hosted the final round of MotoGP and we have seen DTM (German touring car championship), WTCC (World Touring Car Championship), Ferrari World Finals (which included them bringing their current and past F1 cars plus vintage racing cars going back to the 1930s and they raced them, great to see and appreciate those bygone racing times).
The 2013 GP3 car is made by Dallara, it has a 3.4 litre V6 400bhp naturally aspirated engine, fly by wire throttle system, 6 speed sequential gear box with steering wheel paddle change, including the clutch. Top speed around the 190mph, basically they are a mini F1 car (oh yeah, TV doesn’t make GP3 machinery any justice, go and see them live!).
This weekend which started in a fun way with a few GP3 drivers going up against some press guys on the karting track. Those drivers that took part were Carmen Jordá, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Nick Yelloly, Melville McKee and Patric Niederhauser. Everybody that took part had fun but, of course you guessed it, the fastest times were all GP3 drivers (and I reckon they used the time as a little bit more of ‘unofficial’ practice).
The weather was scorching, yes bloody hot. Pirelli (no, that is not a dirty word although some may think so!) brought medium compound tires for the event. Without wanting to be too [censored], I somehow felt with the temperatures as high as they were the tires were going to be at their limit. Each car/driver was allowed three sets of tires for the weekend. Have an accident or do heavy braking and flat spot your tires, hard luck – you will have to use one of the other remaining two sets of tires (and no, you cannot mix and match…. a set is a set).
I know someone will say but it is the same for all the drivers so what’s wrong with that? I will tell you what’s [censored], I thought these young drivers and fast cars were all about speed and who can go the fastest, real close bumper to bumper racing, now it’s all about ‘[censored] management’. The same goes for Formula One and GP2 who all use Pirelli tires. Now I ask you ‘Is the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog’? You can be sure many of the great drivers of F1 will be [censored] over in their [censored] at such a change or pretend they never had anything to do with [censored]. My opinion for what it is worth, get [censored] of [censored] rubber and bring in proper tires that the drivers can race on. Being [censored] to by a tire manufacturer is just [censored] (although to give Pirelli some credit, they “decided to make more use of the harder compounds for the GP3 races so that the drivers can push their cars closer to the limit but still learn about tyre management”).
Saturday morning saw the free practice session get under way. All the teams and drivers had 45 minutes to test the cars set up and learn the track which was resurfaced last year. As I walked up and down pit lane and looked in the garages, I got the same feeling that all the drivers were saying the same thing, the tires were taking a lot of time to get up to temperature and the grip levels were not there. The engineers were attaching their computers and looking at the data and mechanics would make small changes to the set-up but at the end of the session. The talk was all about tires.
Fastest in practice had been Kevin Korjus (Koiranen GP) then Nick Yelloly (Carlin) and third was Patric Niederhauser (Jenzer Motorsport), fourth was the local hero Carlos Sainz Jnr (MW Arden).
Now came the long wait I mentioned earlier. The teams had over four hours until qualifying started so plenty of time to make any adjustments to the cars settings because once the cars had completed qualifying they would be in parc ferme conditions and could not be worked on.
I did make use of my time. I was clearly aware that as I was covering the race event for various US-based publications, I should try to interview Conor Daly. I am pleased to say that not only did I get to speak with Conor, I also got to meet his dad who acts as Conor’s manager. Derek Daly competed in F1 back in the late 70s till the early 80s and raced alongside the likes of Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell and Eddie Cheever. He then went on to Cart racing until 1990. Not being satisfied with that, Derek also competed in the Le Mans 24hour endurance race for 3 consecutive years. If Derek has racing in his blood you can be sure that Conor has.
As Conor was getting ready to qualify I had a chance to talk to him, here is what he said.
Tony: Firstly congratulations on your first Indy 500 race. How did it feel to finish the race?
Conor: It was great, the race was awesome, we had a few problems but we were able to finish the race.
Tony: Tell us about the accident hitting the wall at such a high speed, were you hurt at all or bruised?
Conor: For sure, it was the biggest accident I’ve had in my career but I was unhurt fortunately.
Tony: Did AJ (Foyt) have anything to say, did you get told off for damaging the car so badly?
Conor: No, the team were very good, the car was repaired for the following day, they even said ‘sorry, we’re still not sure what happened’ but I don’t think it was my fault.
Tony: Now back in Europe and GP3, I bet you notice the difference in power between the Indy car and GP3 car?
Conor: Well, not really so much. Over there the speeds are more constant but when you are doing over 220[iberian]mph you sure know it!
Tony: What are your plans for the future, go up to GP2 or try to skip that and straight into F1?
Conor: Well, I’d like to win the GP3 this season and yes, if an opportunity came up for F1 that would be great but it costs a lot of money.
Tony: Is it good having your father with you on race weekends?
Conor: “He acts as my manager but yes he is a big help and has a lot of knowledge.
Tony thanks Conor and wishes him best of luck for qualifying and the two races.
Whether Conor got some inspiration from our interview I’m not sure but he went out and qualified on pole position in the 30 min session. There were two red flags during the period the last one being in the final minutes. When the track was clear and the lights went to green there was just 1min55 sec remaining, which meant just one flying lap for those intent on knocking Conor off pole position. He had remained in his garage hoping his time was fast enough not to be beaten and to save tires. The decision had been a good one and his time held up. Conor Daly had secured a debut pole position. Second and third went to Daniil Kvyat (MW Arden) and Nick Yelloly (Carlin). Unfortunately Yelloly in car 8 was disqualified when his car was found to be too low to the ground and infringed the rules. He would be allowed to start from the back of the grid.
During the press conference Conor explained that the team (ART) had worked hard on improving the car’s setup since the last race in Barcelona and clearly the work had paid off but of course the race would be all about conserving the tires and not making them go beyond their limit (yes, you got it, that means [censored] racing [censored] going fast [censored] for the tires [censored]…..great,eh?).
Sunday and [censored] day. Normally GP3 race events are held alongside GP2 and F1, it’s a supporting event so the timetable is different. Practice would be on the Friday, qualifying on the Saturday as would race one and race two would be on the Sunday. Not this weekend, the drivers were going to have two races, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Again the weather was just perfect, hot and sunny and not a cloud in the sky. The cars formed on the grid with Conor on pole. The lights went to green and the cars were off, Conor led into the first corner and he never looked like losing the lead. His team-mate Facu Regalia was second and clearly wanted to attempt an out-braking manoeuvre on Conor but thought better of it due to the track not being very wide and really not a lot of areas where safe overtaking can be attempted. I know the F1 drivers, when they visit for winter testing, say that the track is like an over-sized go-kart track. Mind you, I like it as it is close to home.
After 18 laps, Daly took the chequered flag in first place, Regalia coming in second and Korjus third. I am sure dad Derek was proud of his son. I think the best drive had to have been that from Nick Yelloly (Carlin) who started from the back of the grid and clawed his way up to twelth. Who said you couldn’t overtake here at Valencia?
Race Two which followed in the afternoon has what they call a reverse grid. You may think it strange but basically the first eight placed drivers change grid positions for the second race, ie P1 to P8, P2 to P7 and those who finished outside the top eight start the second race on the grid position they finished in the first race. Also, the points awarded for the second race are less than for the first.
So the order for the first race was Daly, Regalia, Korjus, Kvyat, Sainz, Ellinas, Vainio and Visoiu. Change them around and you’ve got yourself the starting order for race two.
As the race approached the cars which had been in parc ferme following race one were released and the mechanics were all over them, one unfortunate team (Carlin) had to change the gearbox on one car and repair a broken gear on another. The mechanics did a fantastic [censored] and got both cars out and onto the grid (kudos).
Temperatures were soaring with a track temp almost 60ºC and air temp 35ºC, inside the cars it must have been those two temps combined together, yes very hot. The race got under way and again we saw the pole man Visoiu (MW Arden) (from the reverse ordered grid) go into the first corner in the lead closely followed by Vainio (Koiranen). The rest of the field followed with only Carlos Sainz Jnr being able to move up the order in the first eight starters but the race again really went to Yelloly who gained 3 places to finish 9th but outside the points. He will surely be a driver to watch this year.
Overall my opinion of GP3 is that it is a good series, the car is good, fast and noisy just what the fans want to see and hear. The majority of the young drivers are good and have confidence in the drivers around them so are happy with close racing, especially the start of the race.
Now I do see a [censored] ahead. In GP3 there are 27 drivers all wanting to make it into F1, we also have the GP2 series which again has about the same number of drivers all wanting the same thing but F1 currently only has 22 drivers, some who have contracts until 2016, others (the [censored] drivers) are there until their [censored] runs out, then maybe one of these drivers with lots of [censored] will get a drive, we will see.
All pics by @TonyJaveaF1
Funny/witty comments by Cyril.
Explicit version: HERE