Hi, I’m Edward Sandstrom from Sweden, competing in the European GT3 Championship alongside Patrick Soderlund in the Team Need For Speed BMW Z4 Coupé. My career started at an early age with karting – after that I switched to cars and since 1999 I have been driving in many different racing series. Before FIA GT3 I have spent 3 years in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia and was the series champion in 2007.
Soon it would be time to put the helmet on and find some rhythm out on the Brno track.
Our BMW Z4 had been rebuilt after the recent 24 hours at the Nurburgring in Germany. A lot of things had reached the limit of their mileage and needed to be replaced. Engine, brakes, dampers for example. I hope they have opened the air intake – it nearly killed me when it was closed in the first stint at the 24-hours!
Brno wasn’t new for me. I was here 2004 when I was competing in Formula Renault V6. I had forgotten some parts of the track since then, but one lap walk on the track and the memory was reset again. My expectations were quite high, but I was of course worried about the uphill parts where you need a lot of torque and power. We have a very good engine regarding drivability and reliability, but we need more power. I thought at least we could make it into the top ten, but I hoped for a bit more before the first practice I have to admit.
The whole team have had a very busy time since early April and after three weeks of racing in a row they looked very tired. But all of them are racers and there's no way they were going to let themselves down. They worked hard to restore the car to mechanical top shape after the Nurburgring – and they really did a good job. Stefan Wendl, our engineer, continued to create some setups from our earlier experiences in Silverstone and testing. Of course Patrick and I have input in this from our feeling behind the steering wheel. The car is very reactive but in later stages we have been able to create more rear grip to balance out the sharp front. But we need some more to reach perfection.
This shot is when we were preparing the car for the first practice session. We have to use new tyres directly because of the regulations. It feels a little bit strange because you need at least some laps to get to grips with a new track. You need to get up to speed as quickly as possible, to be able to use the tyres when they are at their best on laps 2-4.
Out on track approaching turn one. This is a third-gear 180-degree turn with a quick entry. In the middle you have some small oversteer and then it’s about controlling it out of the corner. The car's downforce is important.
The complex between turns seven to nine. In the mid-section I was fighting against snappy oversteer, but ironically it was created from the oil leak in the second test. Some oil was still hiding and dripped onto the right rear wheel in this corner. Strange feeling, but solved later on.
I was driving when smoke started coming out of the car early into the second Free Practice session. A simple oil leak could have been a bad end when the oil hit the hot exhaust system, but the small fire was soon under control.
There was a small fire under the car. Oil and heat isn’t a good combination.
During my stint I could smell burning oil, but I thought it was from the car in front of me. When I entered the pit I realised it was our car. Of course you feel panic for a second. No one wants to see their race car burn.
The cockpit was full of smoke: Actually I got out before that so no problem.
The car was pushed all the way back to the Schubert tent. As always we push the car to save the clutch and it also saves the engine from running hot. This time it was even more necessary after the fire.
Actually the fault was easy to fix. A lid for the oil tank wasn’t fixed correctly. The work for the mechanics was to clean the car from all fire foam and engine oil.
For qualifying the conditions made the tire choice difficult. It was for sure going to dry up, but we didn’t know how fast. Patrick went out on old tyres, but the track was quite dry after three laps so he really should have had new ones from the beginning. The lap-times didn’t reflect the speed of Patrick because of the used tyres.
Here I am waiting in the pit lane whilst Patrick drove in his session. We're squeezed into the pit-lane outside the GT1 garages – of course we want to be in this garage one day. It’s very tight when all the cars are coming in for pit stop. I hoped Patrick should do a good job and have a good lap time. He had, but could have had better if the tire choice was correct. I should have convinced Stefan about that…
Patrick coming in for his stop. Patrick did great, but of course he was frustrated to not have been using the new tyres. He qualified 21st for Race 1 with a 2:04.380s lap.
Patrick climbing out so I can take over for the second part of qualifying. It's tough for me to share with such a tall driver! Actually his height isn’t a big problem because I like to have quite straight legs when driving. But the thing is that the seat is quite big and I don’t get perfect support from it. I will make some more work on this to be more comfortable in the seat. Overall it’s not a big problem, but for example at Nurburgring 24 Hours it felt worse because of the long stints.
The mechanics made a small damper adjustment before I took over to make the front grip slightly more aggressive.
My plan for qualifying as always was to get the maximum from the car and the tyres. 3-4 timed laps were planned. First I want to feel that the front tyres are coming in then I bring in the rear ones. After that it’s just about pushing hard just to the limit. I had adjusted some braking points after the free practice, so I had to focus on that as well.
Fresh sticker tyres were put on the car. Sometimes they can win you an extra second of time – it depends on the length of the track and how the surface is. But new tyres is always much faster that’s for sure. As a driver you just need to understand how to use them to get out the maximum performance.
Hmm, in the drying conditions we for sure had a big problem with the tyres. They seems very much too soft and they overheated very fast. It felt like driving with steering on the rear wheels as well! In the dry we had good tyres in the race. Maybe we need better performance for the qualifying. We will test that before the upcoming race in Spain.
This is me leaving the pits for me qualifying run. Focus focus. It isn’t just tyres you have to be aware of. Also to get a good spot on the track without traffic is very important.
The car felt well balanced and I set the quickest time in the team. Of course we want to be further up in the list then 15th. It will come, but in general the balance was neutral. I like when you have sharp front end and really can point the car. And that feeling was there.
Coming back into the pits at the end of the session I thought maybe I missed out 2-3 tenths of the tyres' potential because of being too late due to traffic on my best lap, which was number 3. Otherwise I thought my performance was okay.
Patrick took the start for the first race. Half of the track was completely wet, half of it was dry. So difficult to do the right choice of tyres! Patrick chose right together with our engineer Stefan Wendl. We started on rain tyres, and when the lights went green the rain started to fall on the other part of the track.
Spots of rain were falling on the formation lap, and when the green lights came on the rain became more intense. Patrick has limited experience in the wet, but had a really impressive first lap, taking the Z4 from 21st to 13th.
There was lots of standing water around the track. Patrick was shouting for rain tyres after the warm-up lap! The picture tells the story…
I took over after 25 minutes. The track was drying every single lap and the rain tyres was cooking. Actually the car was really difficult to drive and the performance was bottom level.
I had a good fight with our sister car, #77. We lost out to them in the pit stops, but then after a lot of trying I managed to pass them on the main straight into the first corner. Of course you want to be in front of your team mates, but when it's for 18th then it's not too much risk.
Of course we share all the information with our sister car to be able to go faster. They can test one thing on their car and we one another on ours. We did better this weekend, as at the last race they were beating us. Both Claudia Hurtgen and Csaba Walter are good drivers, so we can’t relax if we want to keep being in front.
The BMW Alpina was recovering after an extra pit-stop at the start of the race: I couldn’t do anything when they caught me with their Michelin wet tyres. My rain tyres where since long destroyed. I just wanted to see the chequered flag!
I took the start for the second race. I have a routine before every drive: I put the socks on first! I was much more motivated because the track was dry. The team are always with you on the grid to make sure everything is okay with the car and driver. Maybe you need some water or ask for something else.
There was an early safety car because of a Porsche and the Ford GT going off into turn one. The start was okay and I passed 4-5 cars on the first lap. The Porsche and Ford GT where trying to battle for the same room on track and collided. I think it was a normal racing incident.
My stint was going well and in the end I could match the pace of the front runners. In the middle I struggled when small drops of rain were making the track slippery in some spots. The Brno track is beautiful and exciting: not so many fast corners, but it is technical with a lot of load-changing chicanes. There’s lots of gradient, and the backdrop of the forest makes it look interesting.
This is at the fast left-hander of turn 4. Our car suffered a little bit on the uphill section at the end of the lap, so I couldn’t really enjoy that part so much this time. More power is needed. I like the first corner best. It’s a fast entry where you have to work the steering through the complete turn to make the car balanced.
A word on some of our competitors in GT3. Heavy is the word for the Audi R8 LMS. Unfortunately for them I think FIA have penalised them too hard.
On the straight the Ferrari 430 is maybe the quickest car and it was also quick in the turns. We hope they continue to make bad pit stops!
The Corvette Z06 is super fast and it looks easy to drive. We have to work really hard to beat this monsters.
The Lamborghini Gallardo: so light, so fast, but we could nearly beat it. Probably the fastest car at the moment.
The Ford GT is sometimes quick, but didn’t manage many laps in Brno – the same as the Ford Mustang. The Aston Martin DBRS9 looks amazing and is reasonable quick. We will beat them soon! The Porsche 911 looks cool and goes fast. Porsche is always a contender. In Jarama I want us to be at least as quick as them in qualifying. In race we already are quite close.
Patrick was closer to my times in the better conditions of the second race, and had to deal with a lot of traffic. He is he improving as a driver – he really starts to catch up. Since Silverstone race 2 and the Nurburgring he has made a lot of developments. Now he can quicker analyse how to approach the track and how he should handle the car.
The next round is at Jarama, which I haven't been to before. I have seen some on-board films on YouTube, and it look really interesting and should be a good challenge. It has quicker turns than Brno and a lot of gradient. For sure the Need For Speed team are working hard at the moment to create more performance. They have been testing the Z4 on a shaker rig and even more development parts are in the pipeline for Jarama. I’m looking forward to testing there next week and seeing the result of our hard work.