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“I hope we will fight for the top positions in the general classification until the end” – the interview with Kuba Śmiechowski

Polska wersja: https://www.thepitcrewonline.net/2021/08/20/mam-nadzieje-ze-bedziemy-walczyli-do-konca-o-czolowe-pozycje-w-klasyfikacji-generalnej-wywiad-z-kuba-smiechowski

Many motorsport fans get a thrill at the thought of the LeMans 24. As every year, we celebrate this legendary race with great enthusiasm. This year we have a special honor to cooperate with a team from Poland – Inter Europol Competition.

The team  were second in the European Le Mans Series in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

On this occasion, we had the pleasure to talk to Kuba Śmiechowski. This is the third race at Le Mans for Pole and he is still hungry for successes. Currently, in the WEC classification (LMP2), the driver from Poland is 6th with 37 points. Kuba has had great success in the past – winning the Asian Le Mans Series (LMP3) in 2019 or finishing second in the European Le Mans Series (LMP3) in 2018.

Julia Paradowska: Comparing to your preparations for LM24 for last 3 Le Mans – have they changed? Have you discovered something new about you?

Kuba Śmiechowski: Have I discovered something new? I’m not sure about it.

The preparations are getting easier every year because now I know what to expect and I am more and more mentally prepared for this race. When I started in LM24 for the first time, I didn’t know what it looked like because at that time I had never competed in such a long race.

Now I know what awaits me, also the preparations are easier for me to adjust and I know better what I have to work on.

JP: What do you think about Circuit de la Sarth? Do you have a good memories from this place?

KŚ: The track is really great – it is one of the best I have ever raced at. It is truly unique, it is wonderful.

Do I have any good memories? The previous two Le Mans 24 hour races didn’t go as we planned. We had a car that was not quite able to keep up with the others, so I don’t have particularly good memories, but … The first stint was something special and at the moment it is probably the best memory of this event.

Photo credit: Inter Europol Competition

JP: This season the team has had really good form, do you think it will be an advantage during LM24?

KŚ: Yes definitely. We have an experienced team. Alex and Renger have been in Le Mans many times so they know very well how to drive in a race like this. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck during the qualifications. I believe our pace would have been good enough to make it into the Top 10, but unfortunately we weren’t able to put together a clean lap. It was especially bad in the third sector – GT cars or other LMP2 cars were jumping out in front of us, which prevented us from completing a lap that was satisfactory for us.

We are a bit disappointed after qualifying because I know we have a good car, so we should be in the lead.

JP: The forecast says that it’ll rain during the race. Do you think that It will bring more action at the track?

KŚ: Definitely – it can always mix up a lot. Especially when it comes unexpectedly.

At a some stage of the race, there are drivers from different experience levels in cars. When someone is inexperienced, they are more likely to make a mistake, but even experienced drivers do so.

Rain is especially important for such a long track – it can happen that at one part of the track is raining and the other is completely  dry. Then it is not known what to do with the tires and what strategy to choose.

JP: You said that one of the most important decisions in your motorsport career was switching to endurance racing. Why? When did you come up with this idea?

KŚ: I feel very comfortable here in endurance races and I like driving very much here. I think it’s a really great part of racing.

How did it happen? At one point, we knew we just had to finish our single seater career. We had to choose something else. By pure coincidence, we headed towards the LMP3 cars and decided that it would be the right choice.

Photo credit: Inter Europol Competition

JP: You’re really close to 4th place in championship. Do you think that this battle will continue until the end of the season?

KŚ: I hope so. It is well known – in Le Mans you can get more points than for a regular race. I have a feeling that what’s going to happen here might define the last two races of the seasons and the championship a bit, so it’s hard to say. I hope we will fight for the top positions in the general classification until the end.

I am a bit disappointed that we did not make it to the podium at Monza because during this race we lost the opportunity to fight for third place due to a very late neutralization. I hope it was not our last chance and our car here and in Bahrain will be able to continue fighting ahead.

“Mam nadzieję, że będziemy walczyli do końca o czołowe pozycje w klasyfikacji generalnej” – wywiad z Kubą Śmiechowskim.

English version: https://www.thepitcrewonline.net/2021/08/20/i-hope-we-will-fight-for-the-top-positions-in-the-general-classification-until-the-end-the-interview-with-kuba-smiechowski

Wielu fanom motorsportu na myśl o LM24 przechodzi dreszcz ekscytacji. Jak co roku będziemy hucznie obchodzili ten legendarny wyścig. Tym razem mamy szczególny zaszczyt współpracować z zespołem z Polski – Inter Europol Competition.

Drużyna zajęła drugie miejsce w European Le Mans Series w 2018, 2019 i 2020 roku.

Z tej okazji mieliśmy przyjemność porozmawiać z Kubą Śmiechowskim, dla którego jest to już trzecia edycja Le Mans i cały czas jest głodny sukcesów. Obecnie w klasyfikacji WEC (LMP2) zajmuje 6 miejsce z dorobkiem 37 punktów. Kuba w przeszłości odnosił wielkie sukcesy – wygranie Asian Le Mans Series (LMP3) w 2019 roku oraz  zajęcie drugiego miejsca w European Le Mans Series (LMP3) rok wcześniej.

Julia Paradowska: W porównaniu do Twoich wcześniejszych przygotowań do LM24 – czy zmieniły się w jakiś sposób? Odkryłeś coś nowego o sobie?

Kuba Śmiechowski: Czy odkryłem coś nowego? Nie jestem pewien.

Przygotowania są coraz łatwiejsze, ponieważ teraz wiem czego mogę się spodziewać i jestem coraz bardziej mentalnie przygotowany na wyścig. Kiedy startowałem pierwszy raz w LM24 nie wiedziałem jak to wygląda, bo w tamtym momencie jeszcze nigdy nie brałem udziału w tak długim wyścigu.

Teraz to już wiem co mnie czeka, także też przygotowania łatwiej mi dopasować i wiem lepiej nad czym muszę pracować.

JP: Co myślisz o Circuit de la Sarth? Masz dobre wspomnienia z tego miejsca?

KŚ: Tor jest naprawdę świetny – jest jednym z najlepszych, na których miałem okazję się ścigać. Jest faktycznie unikalny, wspaniały.

Czy mam jakieś miłe wspomnienia? Poprzednie dwie edycje nie poszły nam tak jak planowaliśmy. Mieliśmy samochód, który nie do końca był w stanie nadążyć za innymi, więc nie mam szczególnie miłych wspomnień, ale… Pierwszy wyjazd to było coś specjalnego i na ten moment to chyba najmilsze wspomnienie z tego obiektu.

  • Photo credit: Inter Europol Competition

JP: Ten sezon jest naprawdę dobry dla Waszego zespołu. Czy uważasz, że regularna forma zespołu będzie atutem podczas LM24?

KŚ: Tak, zdecydowanie. Mamy doświadczony zespół. Alex i Renger byli wiele razy w Le Mans, więc doskonale wiedzą, jak powinno się jeździć w takim wyścigu. Niestety podczas czasówki mieliśmy trochę pecha. Uważam, że nasze tempo wystarczyłoby na dostanie się do czołowej dziesiątki, ale niestety nie byliśmy w stanie złożyć czystego okrążenia. Szczególnie źle było w trzecim sektorze – co chwile samochody GT albo inne LMP2 wyskakiwały przed nami, co uniemożliwiało nam złożenie zadawalającego nas okrążenia.

Trochę jesteśmy zawiedzeni po tych kwalifikacjach, ponieważ wiem, że mamy dobre auto, więc powinniśmy być czołówce.

JP: Prognoza mówi, że podczas wyścigu będzie padać. Czy myślisz, że wprowadzi to więcej akcji na torze?

KŚ: Zdecydowanie –deszcz zawsze potrafi dużo przemieszać. Szczególnie jak nadejdzie nieoczekiwanie.

Na danym etapie wyścigu w samochodach są kierowcy na różnym poziomie. Kiedy ktoś jest niedoświadczony, to jest większe prawdopodobieństwo popełnienia błędu, ale to robią nawet kierowcy z dużym doświadczeniem.

Deszcz ma szczególne znaczenie na tak długim obiekcie – może być tak, że na jednej części toru pada, a na drugiej jest sucho. Wtedy nie wiadomo kompletnie, co zrobić z oponami oraz jaką strategię wybrać.

JP: Powiedziałeś, że jedną z najważniejszych decyzji w twojej karierze było przejście na wyścigi długodystansowe. Dlaczego? Kiedy wpadłeś na ten pomysł?

KŚ: Bardzo dobrze odnajduję się tutaj, w wyścigach długodystansowych i bardzo mi się tutaj podoba. Myślę, że jest to naprawdę świetne ściganie.

A jak to się stało? W pewnym momencie wiedzieliśmy, że po prostu musimy skończyć karierę w oneseaterach. Musieliśmy wybrać coś innego. Czystym przypadkiem skierowaliśmy się w kierunku samochodów LMP3 i uznaliśmy, że to będzie odpowiedni wybór.

Photo credit: Inter Europol Competition

JP: Jesteście naprawdę blisko czwartego miejsca w mistrzostwach. Czy myślisz, że walka potrwa do końca sezonu?

KŚ: Mam taką nadzieję. Wiadomo – w Le Mans można zdobyć więcej punktów, niż za zwykły wyścig. Mam wrażenie, że to co tutaj się wydarzy, może trochę definiować ostatnie dwa wyścigi i punktację, więc ciężko powiedzieć. Mam nadzieję, że będziemy walczyli do końca o czołowe pozycje w klasyfikacji generalnej.

Jestem trochę zawiedziony, że nie udało nam się zdobyć podium na Monzy, ponieważ podczas tego wyścigu przez bardzo późną neutralizację straciliśmy możliwość walki o trzecie miejsce. Mam nadzieję, że to nie była nasza ostatnia szansa i nasz samochód tutaj jak i w Bahrajnie będzie mógł dalej walczyć z przodem stawki.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Juju Noda

We are not afraid to say that in last few years, Juju Noda has become a huge name in motorsport – We passionately believe it is not the last time we are going to hear this name. The young Japanese driver is proving that her place is in the highest echelons of racing.

For International Women’s Day 2020, we spoke with Juju. You can find the interview from 2020 here: http://bit.ly/3bWkZPe

Juju got into racing because she had grown up around race paddocks, a result of her father, Hideki Noda, a former Formula 1 driver. However, would she still be a part of the motorsport community if she had not grown up in racing family? Absolutely yes.

“I was influenced by my father, for sure but I really believe that even without my father, I would still have developed an interest in motor racing. I naturally love driving. That is why I would feel very natural for my life to go in this direction.”

For the 2021 season, Juju is joining Jay Howard Driver Development for the upcoming US F4 championship for what is a big step-up for the 15-years-old Japanese driver.

“Everything will be new again for me. The car, the team, the circuits, the place to live… I have to learn and go through so many things. My father and team told me to just take it easy at the beginning of the season. And then, gradually move up to a higher level.”

Although, the upcoming US F4 championship is her only race programme in 2021 and the 15-year-old driver is hungry for more challenges.

“I would like to learn as much as possible during the year both inside and outside the track, as well as bringing my own abilities to a higher level. Any experience I get will make me stronger.”

 

Because of Noda’s age, she was unable to develop her driving skills in Japan, causing her to leave her motherland. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) regulations are strict and drivers under 16 years of age cannot take part in Japanese championships.

The 2020 season was Juju’s first season in Danish F4 championship (there is no minimum age for participants) – her first in Europe. The best memory from this experience is on her debut race.

“I took the pole position and led the whole race, pole to win. You only get one chance at achieving that and I couldn’t believe how I managed it. I also qualified 100% on pole position in every qualifying session. That was never going to be easy to do, so I was very happy to do it.”

The opening race of the Danish F4 championship was not the only success she was to have. Noda went on to score every pole position and achieve 3 podium finishes (1st race – 1st place, 4th race – 2nd place and 5th race – 3rd place). She finished the season 6th place in championship.

It will not surprise anybody that 2020 changed the entire world. But how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rising star?

“The effect was very big, and it was obviously disappointing because I was supposed to have 24 races in total and it ended up being only 9 races. I was really confident to win more races and to challenge for the title.”

The 2021 US F4 championship will start on 26th of March at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It will be the first race week for Juju this year.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen launches the C41

Alfa Romeo become the latest team to officially launch their 2021 F1 challenger – the C41, during an online media event in Warsaw.

Scheduled during a week of official car launches, it joins the current trend of online hosted events, rather than its traditional reveal usually unveiled at Winter Testing.

The team went all out to impress the tens of thousands of fans, using music and dance to portray a classy, elegant and cultured impression of Alfa Romeo.

The Alfa Romeo C41 car breaks from sequence, given the team raced with a C39 in 2020. However, the team wishes to skip the C40 name in favour of a title that aligns the chassis number with the year of racing.

The team  also underwent a livery change with a white on red style, the inverse of the last few years.

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Team

Alfa Romeo will be aiming to bounce back after a difficult 2020 which saw the team score just eight points as drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi struggled to compete with the midfield teams further ahead.

However, with a new and improved Ferrari power unit, fired up earlier this month, Alfa Romeo can find plenty of optimism surrounding their hopes for an improved campaign.

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Team

On the changes made to the C41, technical director Jan Monchaux said:      “[We had to] Invest our tokens on a new nose […] front suspension, front wing and the bargeboard deflector. The rest of the effort was spent on the floor and the diffuser where due to the regulations we lost a lot of downforce.”

Due to changes in the technical regulations, teams are restricted to what they can develop. Many parts of the 2020 cars are carried over to this year.

“The chassis is the same, the gearbox is obviously the same and the rear suspension as well because of the regulations”

“Then for return-on-investment reasons we decided to carry over radiators and some part of the body work to really in the short time we had to concentrate on the areas we were expecting to provide the highest return on investment.”

Speaking of the team’s hopes, Fred Vasseur said: “For sure the expectations are high,” he explained. “It is an exciting time for the team at the launch of a new car.”

“The most important is to try improve so to put a goal is limiting. Step by step we have to come back. It is a long path but we will improve.”

“We will see in Bahrain in a few weeks time where we are exactly.

Many factors are being considered for Alfa Romeo’s long term plan back to the front including investments on infrastructure such as a new wind-tunnel and simulator. “We’ve invested a lot of money and energy to the simulator. We are at an early stage at the project. I am really convinced on it.”

On preparations for the season, Kimi  underplayed it explaining that it has been: “Very normal life, nothing special. We are excited for the year.”

“There’s rules changes, but in a few weeks we will see from testing how things are running, how things are feeling and roughly in one months time we will see roughly where everybody is.” 

 I enjoy the racing and the challenge to try to improve things and to get better”

Both drivers will be retained for the 2021 season supported by reserve and test drivers Robert Kubica and Tatiana Calderon.

On his 2021 European Le Mans program Kubica said: “It’s a great opportunity I will have to discover a new car, new series, but also a bit of different way of racing”.

“From a performance point of view the field is very competitive in European Le Mans Series. But of course we are working on getting ready and first of all will be to learn as much as I can and try to do something good.”

“You always want to do your best and I think this will be a goal.”

On the driver line-up, Vasseur stated stability and continuity was key: “We only have three days (testing) this winter, we won’t lose time to know each other and to build up a relationship. The relationship between the team and the drivers is a good one and this is crucial.”

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Team

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

Verva Street Racing 2019 – photos

Robert Kubica: The season started very hard

In 2019, Robert Kubica returned to racing in Formula 1. The 34-year-old Pole was the main star of this year’s edition of Verva Street Racing in Gdynia, Poland.

“I am glad that I am here and I am part of this event and I can once again present myself in an F1 car, although in compromised conditions,” Kubica said about the event.

“I think that for fans this is a great opportunity and I hope that I encourage new fans to watch motorsport and instil a passion for this sport into them.”

Before returning to F1, Kubica was to be the driver of the ByKolles team, which competes in WEC in the LMP1 class. The Pole gave up being part of the team, which cancelled his starts in this series. He commented his chances to start in the legendary 24-hour Le Mans race were as follows:

“My adventure [with ByKolles] ended quite early, actually before it began. At the moment I am focusing on my work and I don’t know what will happen in the future. I think the situation, where I was in three years ago and now where I am, is completely different.”

Robert Kubica during Verva Street Racing 2019
Photo Credit: Julia Paradowska/ThePitCrewOnline

The 2019 season hasn’t been the most successful for Williams so far. The team from Grove for a long time was the only team which hasn’t scored a point during the first half of the season. After the rainy German Grand Prix and a penalty on both Alfa Romeo drivers, one point appeared on Williams’ account.

“I think the season started very hard,” Kubica said. I think that there were a lot of problems not only when it comes to the performance of the car, but also other problems that unfortunately disturbed the racing process and I think that it had the biggest influence of later driving and the result .

“The most emotional race so far was definitely in Australia, because it was the first race after a really long break, and when it comes to driving, I think the coolest ride was on the streets of Monaco.”

This week F1 returns after the summer break and the 13th race of the 2019 season will take place at Spa-Francorchamps. There are a lot of rumours about the future of 34-year-old Williams driver. When Kubica was asked about being in F1 in 2020, he answered:

“We will see.”