Martin shooting to be in a league of his own
Buoyed by a strong test session, John Martin heads into his Superleague Formula debut at Magny Cours this weekend with measured confidence.
The 24-year-old Queenslander completed 21 laps of Zolder last Thursday, primarily as a shakedown of his Alan Docking Racing (ADR) engineered Rangers FC machine. The test also provided an opportunity for Martin to familiarize himself with the 750 horsepower, V12 powered beast at the 4.011km track before it hosts round two of the series on July 18/19.
“Normally you have little issues on shakedown,” said Martin. “But it was a good day; the car ran perfectly, nothing fell off or broke.”
While the aim of the short test was to perform a system check rather than chase lap times, Martin was delighted with the car’s pace.
“The circuit wasn’t in the best condition as motorbikes had been testing and they lay rubber in weird places,” he explained. “But I got a good lap time that was only about one second off a quick Superleague Formula lap around there. So that wasn’t too bad really.”
With precious turnaround time between the trip to Belgium and this weekend’s opening round in France, the ADR crew elected to run the car in its Magny Cours setup, including gear ratios.
“That alone would be worth one second,” revealed Martin. “So I am quiet pleased with how it went. We changed a few little things to make the car even better and while it wasn’t a lot of track time, I learnt a lot more about the car.”
“I have been around there a few times in Formula 3, so I know the circuit, but it is weird how it feels in such a big car. It is definitely a psychological advantage if anything because I can go away now and do as many laps of the circuit as I like in my head the night before first practice on July 18.”
Also testing at Zolder was the PSV Eindhoven entry of Dominick Muermans, with Martin comfortably quicker.
This weekend’s opening round at Magny Cours will also provide Martin with a touch of déjà vu, for he covered over 80 laps of the 4.411km track during a Superleague Formula engine test on April 28.
“It wasn’t really a test for us as such, but more to give the engine guys (Menard Competition Technologies) some data on the new specification engine they have produced for this season,” explained Martin.
“But I got to drive the car in the wet and the dry, so I feel we should be able to his the ground running on Saturday. There are a few guys who raced Superleague Formula last year making a return and obviously (ex-Jordan Formula One driver and 2008 GP2 Champion) Giorgio Pantano will be quick.”
“I am really looking forward to this weekend. As far as cars goes the Superleague car is really fun to drive. It slides around a little bit, but it has so much grip and with such a long wheelbase it is so predictable. The car tells you it is going to breakaway long before it does.”
“It has plenty of power with the 4.2 liter V12, the engine sounds awesome. I think fans back home will be blown away by how good a field of 26 of these cars sound.”
“The hardest thing to get used to has been the brakes. The car brakes on a dime. I can’t believe just how deep you can go in the braking zone before you need to hit the pedal. It is such an impressive car.”
Martin’s Superleague Formula campaign begins on Saturday with a 45 minute free practice session, followed by a second 45 minute free practice session, a 1 hour rookie session and then a 10 minute warm-up before the unique qualifying system (described as motorsport’s version of a penalty shoot-out) begins.
The field is split into two groups for two separate 15 minute qualifying sessions with the top four cars from each group proceeding to the knock-out ‘quarter final’ stage where they do battle in a time attack format.
Cars will queue in pit lane and the first two (of the eight) cars will be sent off as a pair with a pre-determined gap maintained on the warm-up lap. The two cars will then complete a single flying lap, the fastest of the pair going on to race in the ‘semi final’. This is repeated three more times with four cars qualifying for the ‘semi final’.
Two ‘semi-final’ shoot-outs then take place to decide the final two cars that will then do battle in the 5 minute pole position ‘final’.
Even the two races on Sunday are similar to soccer matches, both conducted over 45 minutes, with the qualifying order reversed to determine the grid for Race 2.
A special six-car ‘Shoot-out’ or ‘Super Final’ third race for the top three finishers from the first two races will decide the overall ‘Weekend Winner’ at Magny Cours.