The Belgian circuit of Zolder was the stage for Alex’s final NASCAR Whelen
Euro Series race weekend, which turned out to be a tale of two halves.
Alex’s final weekend started off on Thursday night with a drive in the traditional NASCAR
cavalcade, which left the Zolder circuit and completed the short drive on the public road into the town centre. With thirty NASCARs in full song on the local roads the residents had a real treat and a large number turned up to wave the cars past and then grab autographs and images with the drivers in the town centre.
“Driving the NASCAR on the local roads was great fun. The drive initially started off as a
convoy but eventually the train got broken up a little so we could have a bit of fun on the
road with the local fans.” remarked Alex
Friday started the race weekend with two practice sessions. This was the first opportunity for Alex to drive on the circuit, the former home of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix, and the site of the sad death of Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve in 1982.
A very technical circuit with a number of difficult curves and chicanes, achieving a fast time takes bravery and a high level of skill. Many of the drivers racing with Alex, had raced at the circuit many times and counted the numbers of laps they had completed in the hundreds, against Alex at zero!
However, Alex did have one joker to play, his Braxx’s team mates. As a local team they have a lot of experience of the circuit so would be perfectly placed to help Alex with advice on lines and set-up.
“My first lap of Zolder was very slow as it was completed on foot early Friday morning
when I walked the circuit with my Dad, something we used to do a lot when I was karting. This enabled me to get a feel for the track, the kerbs and work out some lines. This really helped in the first free practice to enable me to set the 12th fastest time of the
28 cars on track. With one session under my belt and some further help from my
team I was able to find more speed and ended the second free practice session in 8th overall,” commented Alex
With practice over the next challenge was qualifying on Saturday morning and to try to maintain his 100% Superpole record since joining the Braxx team. Qualifying saw the lap times tumble as the experienced drivers used all their knowledge to find extra speed and try to secure one of the 12 places in Superpole, and a chance to go for the overall pole position.
Alex set a number of good times and then as the 10 minute session draw to a close he posted the 11th fastest time, staking his claim to a place in the Superpole shoot out, and maintaining his 100% record.
Now Alex had three laps to set a time, which would determine his starting position for the first Elite 1 race. One warm up lap and then a flying lap, which saw Alex set the 9th fastest time of the twelve drivers.
“It was great to get into Superpole and maintain my 100% record, not bad for somebody
who had never driven the circuit before. My team mate Marc shared some “track secrets”
with me and my spotter Jan shared his knowledge of the circuit as well, which was a great
help,” shared Alex.
With double points at stake the first race was going to be hotly contested by all drivers, and the 2018 champion was still to be crowned. As the twenty-nine cars started the green flag lap, Alex was perfectly positioned in ninth place at the front of the field.
One warm up lap, and the cars lined up in the traditional rolling start. Alex got a good start and pulled away with the front pack of cars, holding his position. As the sixteen laps ticked down Alex maintained a strong position until the driver in front of him out braked himself and spun at the Gilles Villeneuve chicane, causing Alex to take avoiding action and dropping him a number of positions.
A strong drive then saw Alex move back through the field to 10th place as the last lap board was displayed, right on the tail of the 9th place car. A good run out of the penultimate corner saw Alex side by side into the last corner, where the car next to Alex turned to the right, forcing him off the track and on to the grass.
Being forced off the track allowed a number of cars to also pass Alex as he fought to control his car and get back on the track resulting in him dropping down to thirteenth place as he crossed the line.
“If a car tries to overtake you, it is their responsibility to make sure they leave enough
room for you to stay on the track. Then to deliberately turn into you forcing you off the
road is crazy. This stupid move ruined my race. Race control also agreed as the driver
was handed a thirty second penalty,“ reflected Alex.
In the second race on Sunday, Alex had everything to play for to secure a strong finish to the
season. Having completed one less round than the other drivers he started the race in 11th place in the championship, just 28 points off 10th place and 29 points from 9th place.
A twelfth place starting position would mean Alex needed a good start to get towards the front of the pack as quickly as possible. Avoiding a spinning car at turn 1 saw Alex drop a couple places but, he was quickly on the rebound as the cars raced through the Gilles Villeneuve chicane towards the end of the first lap.
However, as he crested the rise in the track towards the hairpin the rear suspension broke on his car. Quick reactions enabled Alex to avoid the wall and he was able to muscle the car up the escape road.
Having to pull out of the last race of 2018 with less than a lap completed was not what Alex had hoped for. When the car was recovered after the race it was found that the centre watts link bracket had sheared, a similar fault was also experienced by a couple of other drivers over the weekend.
"This year has really been split into thirds, the first two rounds with MRT, finding my feet, hitting my stride with Braxx, being able to gain four podiums in four races, and then the final third, with bad luck getting in the way of our impressive pace both at Hockenheim and Zolder. Overall, it has been a fantastic year and, with luck on our side I know we will be right up there in 2019!"
Now the work starts to get back on the grid in 2019 and with a year of experience, go back with one objective, to win.
In less than a year, Alex has created a platform within the series which has resulted in a high level of media coverage across both Europe and the USA, which has helped to establish him as one of the fans favourite drivers, not bad for a nineteen year old from the UK.
if you would like to find out more and discuss any sponsorship ideas for 2019, please contact us via alexsedgwickracing.com/contact