It was a bitter cold weekend with a hot reception for the new Associated Team line up in France. The Montpellier GP always kicks off the racing season and sets the scene for many teams and their intentions for the coming year. 2012 is no different with many drivers, teams and representatives in attendance.
For the Associated team, the purpose of this race wasn’t simply to put AE back on the map in one giant step, more to feel out what needed to be done, what we could do better, and what to work towards. We have lots to do to get this right and we are determined to do so but it will take time, effort and energy for us to build this operation up to a level we are entirely satisfied with.
With Yannick joining the team and heading up CML France, the significance of races like The Montpellier GP are increasingly important on the annual calendar, and will continue to be so in the future. It’s a very positive start and the race results are on schedule for improvement and growth. Okay, it’s nice to win, but it’s not everything! With new guys in the team it’s more about finding our feet and getting the working relationship and environment right with these guys. It’s the start of a solid relationship and we couldn’t be happier with the direction it has already taken.
For the realists out there you can see it’s a strong start to a positive future and having both Ryan Maifield and Neil Cragg attend this race shows Team Associated intentions and plans for the future in Europe. Yannick finished an impressive 5th after a tire change on lap 2 in the main. That is a fantastic result in itself and Yannick was very solid all weekend considering the pressure he was under. With 2 out of 3 of our International team in the final and both qualifying in the top 5 it was perfect start.
Craggy was unlucky not to be in the main after a unlucky qualifying session on Saturday. Neil put in a show stopping final day to win all 5 finals with ease putting him as favorite with the bookies by the time the semis came around. Neil managed to turn in three times the amount of laps of anybody else at the race up to that point on Sunday. Whilst battling with Savoya in the semi, Neil took the lead once again only to have his top end needle come loose, which caused an early retirement. As you can imagine Neil was extremely disappointed because he was super confident by this stage and was turning lap times comparable with the eventual winner.
Maifield and Cragg both took a similar but different setup approach compared to Yannick who worked in a new direction, which yielded some very interesting results.
Yannick setup is tuned to generate more rear traction and have the car easier to drive in the high speed sections, where as Neil and Ryans are more aggressive and responsive through the tighter sections but require more driving fineness through the high speed sections. The biggest difference are pistons and roll bars. Many people that have tried the Yannick stiffer roll bar setup in Europe feel that this helps with the on power traction and high speed stability.
Yannick also chooses to run a heavier front diff which is synonymous with European tracks from what I’ve seen. Again this will deaden the initial steering feel of the car but also make it more stable on power and at speed. Neil and Ryan prefer a responsive car that is quick to react and feel more like an electric car. There is no right and wrong answer when it comes to setups but having a different option is proving to be very useful and allow us to explore more setup possibilities without getting lost.
All 3 of our drivers raced their RC8.2 on different rubber, proving that the car worked no matter what black stuff it was on. I always struggle when the bite is so low and I understand why a different approach to car setup is needed when racing on European style tracks said Ryan. The car needs more feel and precision in these conditions because when the field is so closely bunched up due to the lack of traction its essential that the car is easy to drive and consistent.
This is the direction Yannick is working in and I fully understand why now. Personally I’d find switching to such a setup difficult because the car would feel completely different to what I’ve driven for years. It would take me a little time to get used to such a setup but I think overall it will would be faster. I need more experience on these style tracks because they are so different. It makes a change from my usual grip it and rip it tracks in the USA and we need to pay more attention.
Overall I am really impressed with how our small team worked and it feels like Yannick has been part of the team for years. I have worked with Neil for years now so this is nothing new for me but for us both having Yannick and his crew on our side was a nice compliment and addition to the team. They will all do a great job and I’m excited to see what changes they bring.
Yannick had this to say: I am really happy with the outcome of the race, the balance of the car and the progress I have made in the little time I have had the car. I am already ahead of where I was last year with a car that I had driven for 4 years, this is a great start and I can’t wait to do more testing. It is perfect so far and it will only get better. My team are really happy and again we have made some very positive moves forward with setup for our style tracks and everybody is really happy with the start.