Lars Viljoen competed in the SPEED Euroseries event at Spa Francorchamps supporting the WEC on the 4th and 5th of May 2012. Finishing both races in the points and was classified 8th and 11th which was considered a great result in an older and slower car than the rest. These extraordinary results were awarded the ‘Sunoco Driver of the Weekend’ by the SPEED Euroseries making it a great come back after a year away from the track.
After a year out of racing it was a baptism of fire for Lars as he arrived at a circuit considered one of the toughest to master and indeed one of the scariest, the famous Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. You could forgive Lars for feeling slightly rusty.
A late deal was put together thanks to YPI Crew coming onboard as a partner; they are the leaders in Super yacht crew placement and recruitment and are a vital partner to Lars as a Captain taking the stress out of finding crew.
For this weekend at Spa in the SPEED Euroseries Lars pencilled a deal with leading French sport car team Springbox Concept. Lars would be racing in a Ligier JS51 one of a few aluminium chassis now considered slower than the newer carbon fibre cars. Lars was sharing his race car with Christophe Burrick, a Belgium gentleman driver.
With a lack of testing due to a few technical problems in practice every lap in qualifying and both races were going to be an extended practice session with each lap getting more use to the car and track blowing away the cobwebs.
Lars would qualify his car in 12th position; this was a solid result considering the lack of running and being in an older car. Lars was slightly disappointed with the result knowing he could extract more from himself and the car.
The weather all weekend was very unpredictable with rain showers coming and going making it typical Spa weather in the Ardennes forest.
For race 1 the weather was kind and the rain stayed away. Lars would start the one and half hour race, at the start Lars initially lost a few places due to hitting the rev limiter dropping him down to 14th by the first corner. Lars shrugged this off and with some committed moves ended the first lap in 10th position. Within 7 laps Lars had made some great overtaking moves to end up 6th place racing the quicker carbon cars that should be a lot quicker than is own, it was hard to move up anymore due to the performance advantage the other cars had.
After a great first stint Lars handed the driving duties over to his team mate Christophe Burrick. Unfortunately on the last lap Christophe lost 7th place ending up a well deserved 8th position.
Lars Says; ‘That was a great result considering I have not raced or even sat in a race car for over a year. Before the race I thought a top 10 finish would be impossible but during the race I managed to increase my pace with every lap, I got familiar with the car and towards the end of my stint I was right on the pace. We were always at a disadvantage against the carbon cars and regular drivers but I think I proved I have the ability to compete at the top’.
On Saturday morning for race 2 the heavens opened as predicted and the circuit was in a delouse of water creating the cars to aquaplane making it very dangerous for all competitors. Spa Francorchamps is considered a fast and difficult circuit to master in the dry but it really does set the men from the boys in the wet.
Lars’ team mate would start race2. This did not go to plan from the outset when the car refused to start, while waiting to go out on track water got into the electronics and prevented the car to start. The team set to work and fixed the issue with seconds remaining before the start of the race. The problem was a small wire connection getting water into it, this was sealed and the car started. Due to the time lost Christophe had to start the race from pit lane meeting he would be in last place. After Christophe’s first stint in very tricky conditions he handed the car over to Lars in last place.After a quick pit stop and driver change Lars headed out to make up time on the leaders. After half an hour in the car Lars raced up from 18th position to 11th overall with a slowing car due to a broken exhaust making the car cut out and loss power. A great result in very wet conditions were a small mistake could have been very costly.
After a mountain to climb this weekend Lars was extremely happy with the results and his efforts were recognised and rewarded by the championship organisers rewarding Lars with the ‘Sunoco Driver of the Weekend’ for his most overtaking moves in both races and the fact he had been out of the seat for so long.
Lars say; ‘this has been an amazing weekend and it was important I showed my speed and ability, which I did and in the process receiving a great reward which makes it all worthwhile. I was really up against it this weekend with no testing or preparation and being in a slower car at a very tough circuit but it all came back to me and in the end I enjoyed every minute of it. A big thanks goes out to YPI Crew for making this happen and the team for working hard to get the car fixed and making it fast. To finish both races in tough conditions in the points is more than I could have expected. Bring on the next race!’