Patrik Sandell’s FlatOut Friday: Barbados and Las Vegas
On each Friday through January, Bryan Herta Rallysport driver Patrik Sandell presents FlatOut Friday—a celebration of all things fast in Red Bull Global Rallycross. Each week, Patrik will take you on an on-board lap of each of our 2015 tracks on our Facebook page, or explain what it took to find speed on each course here at RedBullGRC.com. Today’s is the last of four articles where Patrik discusses our visits to Barbados and Las Vegas.
Once again, it was a big course in Barbados, the largest the series had ever seen, and once again you were fast. We’ve talked about the chassis movement of the M-Sport car before—is it an advantage on the larger tracks? If not, what was the biggest factor?
I would say that the combination of everything on the M-Sport car is good on a faster track. The movement on the chassis is actually the most difficult part, because on the faster tracks I really want the car to feel like a racecar. We were struggling a bit with too much movement, but the chassis worked really well anyhow. And it felt really good when we had long straightaways, because you have to have a lot of power on the top.
I also think, just for me, I have so much confidence in driving fast. That’s not a concern for me. It was a fun race, I really enjoyed it, but it was a turning point in the wrong direction for me—the incident with Scott Speed—and that was a close call, I would say!
Of course, the biggest moment of the weekend—and maybe the defining moment in the points race—was the incident with Scott. Take me through the decision to take the Kobalt Tools Joker Lap at the very end and the contact when you came out of it. How did the contact on Saturday affect the drivability of the car on Sunday?
First of all, when we looked back on it just an hour after the race, we realized we should have taken that joker earlier because my tires were fading away a bit, but we didn’t. It was pretty clear to us with five or six laps to go that I could take Scott Speed, and have an easy second place, but my team was racing me so hard that weekend because we really felt we had a car that could win, and we really wanted to win. We were doing everything to win. So that was a mistake—we should have taken it a bit earlier when my tires were better.
When we came in that lap, on that left corner, there was so much gravel where we didn’t expect there to be any gravel. That was a corner I had never cut myself, but when you come to the final, every driver cuts every corner! I should have learned that by now, three years into the series, and even I do that… 🙂
But anyway, when I came into that corner, I didn’t expect that gravel. So the speed was good, but I had no grip, and I just sent Scott into the air hard from behind.
Las Vegas threw a wrench in everybody’s plans when the rain came and drivers had to use the wet Yokohama tires in a race situation. Did you have any experience at all on those tires? If not, how did you have to approach feeling the new rubber out?
It was the very first time for me on the tires, and the very first time for me in that car on the wet. It was the very first time for me with everything in that situation, so it was hard for us. From our perspective, the guys around my car, they were working so hard—I think I was fastest in first round qualifying, and second fastest in the top six.
But then, when I was warming up my tires for the first heat, my clutch broke! So I didn’t do the first race. Then my boys were just flat out changing the clutch, so we didn’t have any time to adjust the setup at all. So we just put on the new tires, did a few clicks on the dampers, and went out. And that didn’t work at all.
That was one of the downsides of having a new team: we don’t have all the experience, and we especially didn’t have all the experience of rain. That came kind of as a shock for everybody, and everybody knows that we need to set up for rain, but we didn’t have a solution for it. So that’s going to be one of the things we test for in this offseason—test in rain, and make sure we know what to do.
Unfortunately your day came to an early end in the finale. What happened between you and Sverre Isachsen to keep the car out of the LCQ and thus the main event, and was there anything you could have done to avoid it?
If we would have had a faster car, we wouldn’t have been in that situation. But in that situation, he was missing the final corner by far, and I was just sneaking past on the inside, until he hit the tire barrier on the outside. And he just came straight back onto the track and hit me in the side. I didn’t even see him. It was just very unfortunate, being in the wrong spot at the wrong situation.
With all the adversity you faced this year—and nobody dealt with more of it on-track than you!—what’s the most important thing you can do to make another charge for the crown in 2016?
You know, it was the first year for a new team, so we were struggling on a few things, but we were really fast as well. So it was a good season. I think it’s a learning curve—the level in the sport now is so much higher than a few years ago when I came in. But I think that if we can just learn from our mistakes this year, we will have a really good chance to fight for the title.
Photo credit: Larry Chen (1-2); Louis Yio (3)