SA Touring Cars

Rackstraw’s East London GP rollercoaster

As a professional racing driver in South Africa, there are fewer thrills than hauling a Global Touring Car through Potters, the fastest corner in South African circuit racing. Andrew Rackstraw did just that and some this weekend at the East London Grand Prix Circuit.

Rackstraw carefully navigated his 1.4-ton Audi S3 Touring Car through high speed, flat-out corners, incredibly long straights and the technical complex section with great skill. Quite simply put by in his own words during the press conference. “I shat myself”

Onto the weekend’s racing.

Overall it was another tough weekend for Andrew as he endured many a challenge. Every step forward lead to a few steps back. Unfortunately, that’s how racing goes sometimes. Nonetheless, his die-hard attitude shone through and when all aligned, there were moments of pure performance worthy of a podium challenge. Sadly, as the complete package continues to come together, we can only wonder what could have been.

Free Practice Issues

Friday practice was marred by a mechanical failure where the front splitter broke off, limiting Rackstraw to only three laps in FP1. At a high-speed circuit like East London, you need your aero parts to be doing their best. Unfortunately, this was not the case as the splitter dragged itself along the track while he brought the car back to the pits.

The damage was quite severe and a new splitter was required. As the WCT Engineering Team got to work, they came across even more gremlins under the hood and as a result, Rackstraw was unable to get in any FP2 running.

Having missed two very important practice sessions, Rackstraw found himself firmly on the back foot going into FP3.

In an effort to get out on track, the Team had to compromise on the setup resulting in a less than ideal ride height to avoid any risk of the car bottoming out. Having raised the rear, their fears were confirmed when after just a few laps, Andrew’s Audi was clearly still too low and could be seen dragging the newly fitted front splitter along the main straight. The altered setup also made the car very unpredictable through fast corners and under braking as the rear grip was just not there.

So after barely any practice and an all-important qualifying session ahead, Rackstraw found himself well off the pace.

In  Global Touring Cars, all the cars have open ECUs and their own engine maps. So one of the continuous challenges is to get the average turbo boost as close to the limit as possible. This is enforced from qualifying onwards. In the official session, each driver is entitled to three Joker laps per year where they can up the boost in order to gain an advantage. It has to be within a certain parameter though and they can’t over-boost to any amount they want.

During the Friday evening debrief, Rackstraw and the Team strategised in order to hit the ground running the following morning. Changes were discussed and Rackstraw remained optimistic that they could change their fortunes around after a tough day in the seat.

Race Day

Come race day it was all about getting the car running competitively. As expected some cars used their Joker lap in qualifying while Rackstraw opted to not use it and rather focus on dialling out the other issues. The car went better but still nowhere near the level it should be. He had to settle for P7 a fair way off the pole time.

Starting race 1 from P7, Andrew bravely went side by side with his teammate through Turn 1 and remained there all the way to Turn 3, Beacon Bend. Rackstraw held firm on the inside line and took the position as he slotted in behind the pack. The initial pace looked good and the car seemed to be where it should be. In the first 3 laps, Rackstraw found himself only 3 tenths off the best lap time set and in the top 3 in terms of pace.

Unfortunately, with the extra weight onboard, the tyres started to fall off and going onto lap 4 they were overheating. This happens in all the cars but due to the heavier Audi package, it falls off a lot quicker.

Pushing through, while trying to keep the tyres somewhat in an optimal window. He ended in seventh, right up there on pace and in the train where he should be.

With the top 6 from race 1 getting reversed for race 2. Rackstraw found himself starting from P7 once again. With some more setup changes made, fingers were crossed that it would be better.

Lights went out for Race 2 and the GTC pack flew through Turn 1. Initially, what looked like a clean first lap quickly changed when 2 cars collided up ahead and Rackstraw was collected in the mess despite his best efforts to avoid it. Finding himself stranded trackside as the GTC Super Cup cars came through, he had to wait until it was safe to rejoin, effectively rendering his race over. All he could do was give it his all as he nursed his damaged Audi S3 to the finish line.

It was not the weekend Rackstraw had planned but there were some positives which Andrew will carry into the next round at his home track in Cape Town.

“Another tough weekend. We really struggled to get the car working, with missing most of Friday’s testing due to issues. Saturday we were on the back foot, but we had a never say die attitude no matter what was thrown our way. We’ve got to keep our heads up high, focus on the positives and move forward. I’m very much looking forward to the next round of GTC. Being back at my home track will be amazing and might just be the morale boost we need with some home support. As always thank you to all the sponsors and to my family for their support. Onwards and upwards from here. See you guys in Cape Town!”

Until then, stay safe and we will be back soon with more GTC action.

Andrew Rackstraw

Issued by Racebook – Like, Comment, Share on behalf of Andrew Rackstraw
Image by Jeff Latham Photography

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