Fresh from his two podiums at Brands Hatch, Alex headed to France for a new challenge with his first oval race.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series has been a whole new experience for Alex and each round provides a new challenge. The six-hour drive through France to the Oval World Challenge at Tours looked like it would present one of the biggest challenges to date of Alex’s racing career.
Sitting in the grounds of the Tours Exhibition Centre is a 650 metre oval track with two banked sections at each end. Add to this over twenty 400+ hp NASCAR Stock Cars and, just to spice everything up further, an average ambient temperature of over 35 degrees.
“This is the first time I have raced on an oval and it was just amazing going out for the first practice session. As usual Braxx gave me a fantastic car and to be able to set a time just behind my teammate, Marc Goossens, first time out was unreal. My driving style seems to suit oval racing and I just seemed to click with the circuit and how to drive an oval,” commented Alex.
Click, perhaps underestimates what a fantastic job Alex did. In free practice on his first run he set the 5th fastest time overall in Elite 1, beating many experienced oval racers.
As the outside temperature climbed in to the high thirties on Friday, Alex set a sizzling pace in qualifying with the 9th fastest time, just two tenths off pole position, with an average speed around the oval of over 80 mph.
This put Alex on to the 3rd row of the grid for his first semi-final on Saturday, and the important inside position, right behind reigning NWES champion Alon Day.
As the temperature continued to climb on Saturday, the cars lined up for the first semi-final under the blazing French sunshine and the start to Alex’s first oval race. The race started with five warm up laps behind the safety car before all the cars lined up two by two for the rolling start; current championship leader Frederic Gabillon led the field to the green.
A good start from Alex saw him gain a position as the cars commenced the thirty-five laps ahead of them.
“Wow, I should have done this ages ago,” said Alex.
These few words, however, did not fully sum up what a great drive it actually was. Alex’s first oval race and he finished in 4th place just behind team mate Marc Goosens and, in the process, set the fourth fastest lap time.
The final would be contested by all the Elite 1 drivers who would battle for the 5000 Euro prize money and the honour of winning the first Oval World Challenge final. Alex’s group from his semi-final were to start on the inside line of the rolling start and the qualifiers from the second semi final starting on the outside.
This meant Alex would start his first final on the fourth row of the grid, but on the inside, the favoured position. With the tight confines of the 650-metre oval, the final was going to be an exciting and challenging race. For the fans packing the stands it did not disappoint. A fast and action packed start saw the cars battle each other at every corner until the caution flags came out and from that point, the saying ‘Cautions breed Cautions’ rings true.
With multiple cautions periods and even a red flag after an unfortunate racing incident for Alex’s teammate Marc Goossens and Anthony Kumpen, the race was hotting up as it neared the conclusion. From a 7th place start Alex worked his way through to 3rd before some contact on a late restart dropped him back to 5th.
“Just missing out on an outright podium position is frustrating but that’s racing. However, the bonus is I was the second placed junior driver so getting on the podium made up for the disappointment,” reflected Alex.
A fantastic first day of oval racing on Saturday was just the start to a Sunday that would bring even more challenges to Alex and the Braxx team!
On Sunday, the order changed with the Elite 2 drivers racing before the Elite 1 drivers, unlike on Saturday. This would mean Alex’s car would first be driven by his Elite 2 teammate Pedro Bonnet. Like Alex, Pedro qualified well in his semi-final and earned himself a front row start for the final.
In the final, a strong start saw Pedro running in the top four until a move from the car behind resulted in a heavy hit for Pedro, putting the car in the wall, and bringing the caution flags out.
An extremely damaged racecar was recovered from the track and the severity of the impact saw Pedro require medical assistance.
With under 3 hours before the start of the first Elite 1 semi final, Alex’s team were faced with the challenge of repairing the damaged car to enable Alex to race in the semi final and then the final.
The Braxx team made the decision to focus all the team on repairing just Alex’s car, a decision that would result in Alex being the only Braxx car to race in the Elite 1 races on Sunday.
A super-human effort from the team saw a patched up car roll out on to the grid just in time for Alex’s semi-final. The early rain had long gone and now the track was once again baked in the hot French sunshine.
Alex duly paid back the team for all their hard work by finishing 3rd in the second semi-final and setting the 2nd fastest lap time.
“When I saw the car hit the wall and then the damage when it was recovered back to the garage I did not think I would be racing again. What can I say about the Braxx team, they are just amazing and I cannot thank them enough for getting the car repaired. It might not have looked at its best but it was fast!” commented Alex.
The final did not disappoint with some of the best oval racing seen in Tours and, after 50 laps run in a temperature of 37 degrees, Alex took the chequered flag in 5th place and again, the second placed junior driver.
So Alex’s first oval racing weekend came to an end, a successful weekend of racing alongside the best and earning the respect of the other experienced drivers with his hard but fair racing.
Winning two podium places was also a nice way to say thank you to the Braxx team for all their hard work over the weekend. The strong points’ haul now sees Alex move in to 11th place in the championship, just one point off tenth place, three points ahead of Bobby Labonte, and the highest placed Braxx driver in Elite 1.
Now Alex has a break before the next round in September in Hockenheim, Germany, where he will be pushing hard to get in the top ten in the championship and get back on the podium again.
You can find out how Alex gets on at next round of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Series via @alexsedgwick9, or if you would like to find out more and get involved with Alex and the team, contact Alex via his web site www.alexsedgwickracing.com