CKN Driver Diary: Fred Woodley @ Rotax Euro Challenge Zuera, Spain
As many of you may know I had the privilege of taking a trip across the pond to race in the Rotax Euro Challenge series. The ECKC schedule this year had a large gap between the races in Ontario and the races in Quebec; nearly a month. It is very important for a driver to stay on their game through off seasons so Trevor and my family decided a great way to gain experience and stay in the kart would be to compete in a very competitive series elsewhere. After doing some research we decided that a Euromax race would fit in nicely!
The 8 hour flight there was the best flight I have had in my life. before we even took off, I noticed a row of three open seats which I immediately took for myself. I ended up having four pillows, five blankets, and three seats which equals: 6.5 hours of sleep!
I was briefly warned by Trevor that I will not have many of the luxuries that we do in Canada. At the time I thought he was just trying to scare me so he wouldn’t have to spend another week with me, but I soon realized that he was right! The food situation was the biggest change from culture to culture. At North American races our team will go to the grocery store and get food for the next day. In spain there were no grocery stores so we had to eat at local restaurants or at the racetrack. On the first day the team owner, Ale, took us to a restaurant in Zuera. At this small town restaurant they made meals from what the owner bought on his way to work that day. Needless to say after eating tuna salad we resorted to eating at the track for the rest of the week!
When Trevor and I were finally able to leave the track after a long day or racing, we usually spent the next 30 to 90 minutes searching for somewhere to eat, and then of course somewhere to park. I thought the infrastructure and overall layout of Zaragoza (the nearest large city to the track) would be very similar to that which we see at home. This assumption proved to be brutally incorrect. The roads are not in a “grid” formation like one could see in Toronto, most of them are twisting and very narrow. There are also few, if any, skyscrapers or large buildings. Most building are small shops or restaurants, and have apartments over them.
Also the time in which they ate was different. Spain is on the outer edge of their time zone, so when the clock reads 2pm, the sun is directly overhead, symbolizing the middle of the day and therefore, lunch. It was interesting to note that the Spanish people went by the position of the sun in the sky and not the number displayed on their wrist watch.
The temperature in Spain was much different from at home. Less humidity but more heat from the sun. Wednesday may have been the hottest day of my life. There was no wind, the temperature outside the tent was about 39C degrees, inside was roughly 48C, and the water we had to drink was 53C according to our heat sensor.
The event had an intensity like no other. Before the first session the paddock seemed to be reasonably relaxed and easygoing, but as soon as the Wednesday P1 session had begun, the intensity level rose! I had an engine failure in the first session due to some bad fuel, but I distinctly remember standing on track and watching over half the DD2 field in full tuck on the front straight!
Going into this race I knew I was going to be the “underdog.” Many of the other drivers were two or three time Grand Final participants and I am still trying to go for the first time! The skill level made the racing insane. At home if you make a small error to do with racecraft it can result in a loss of one or two positions. If a small error was made there anywhere from 2-8 positions could be lost!
This was definitely the fastest and longest track I have ever been to (yes even faster than NOLA!). This made draft very important and possibly the difference between a 1:03:40 and a 1:03:00. It also made it a track that demanded a lot of mid-range from the motor. This put a lot of stress on the tuner and engine builder (Trevor is both!). The driving style from the morning to the afternoon changed significantly. In the morning there was a lot of grip because the track was still cool. After lunch, when the sun had done it’s handy work on the track, it was very slick; dropping times by roughly 1.5 seconds!
Some cool pics from this past week in Zuera. #Maranello #Adidas pic.twitter.com/YiAtb3GoJm
— Fred Woodley (@FredWoodley) July 22, 2014
Qualifying was not one to remember for me. The whole grid left with about 7:30 left in the session and I did not put myself in a good position, which didn’t allow me to get off a flying lap. Starting in 22nd, the goal for the heats was to advance my position and get consistent results. We accomplished that goal by placing 16th, 20th, and 14th overall. For the Pre-Final I had to start in 17th position, and advanced to 9th because of a great opening lap. The final ended early because of a mechanical failure that didn’t allow the kart to start, but at that point I was not upset. Our overall goal was to learn and bring back experience that I can use for the rest of the 2014 season; a goal I definitely believe we accomplished!
Overall it was a spectacular experience, but its very nice to be back in the best country in the world! I learned so much, more than I can even comprehend at this time. I can’t wait to show off some of my new found skills this weekend at the GP3R races! I’d really like to thank my Family for supporting me through the entire trip and of course Trevor for his unexplainable knowledge and experience when it comes to karting.
Until Next time CKN Nation!