29 August 2009
Q&A: Thomas Couyotopoulo.
After a weekend to forget in Valencia, the Fat Burner Racing Engineering Team arrived at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps Circuit with optimism and ready to continue fighting for points.
Sporting director Thomas Couyotopoulo took time out to explain that the problems and incidents suffered by both Lucas di Grassi and Dani Clos a week ago were beyond the team's control but now, after five days of hard work to try and fix both cars, the squad was prepared to face another challenge.
Thomas, the weekend in Valencia was not as expected. Has the team already analyzed what has happened?
Yes, we did. The weekend was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for us. It started off really well on Friday. Lucas qualified third and Dani was able to put himself seventh on the grip for the Saturday race. But from Saturday on, we were all but lucky. Dani was hit from behind and his race was soon over, and he faced the same fate on Sunday, although a bit later during the race. Lucas, on the other hand, suffered from a gearbox problem on Saturday. We found out that it has been caused by a gear ratio failure, damaging the hydraulic system and, unfortunately, causing the car to stop. It's unusual to happen, as this gear ratio was within recommended mileage and has been controlled by the team. A fatigue crack of one tooth may have been enough to start the stripping off of all gear teeth, and the metal parts falling in the gearbox casing have then destroyed the other elements. It's a shame as we know that our cars are fast and competitive, but for some reason, this season, it seems we are not lucky enough to bring the points home. If I am not mistaken, our team never had such a bad result like in Valencia. I feel sorry for all our crew as they are doing a fantastic job. Valencia has actually been our first mechanical failure since the 2007 season, and even this one was outside our influence. We have complete confidence in our engineers, who have made Giorgio (Pantanto) win last season and are putting an equally fast car on the track this year.
What has been done to ensure that this type of failure (like on Lucas' car) does not repeat itself in the future?
Like mentioned before, there isn't really much you can do about such mechanical problems. The gear that broke on Lucas' car was far from the recommended mileage for change. And when it did break, there were many bits and pieces in the gearbox, which simply continued their path of destruction through the system, including the hydraulic pump. It's nothing we could possibly see before the race. Everything we can check on our cars is being revised and that is also the reason why we have this outstanding record of reliability. It is hard work and it maybe is more costly, but it guarantees you that your cars make it to the finish line. Well, if there are no accidents on track, but again, there is little we can do as a crew on the pit wall to avoid this.
How do you get two damaged cars ready with so little time between the races in Valencia and the next round in Belgium?
Things are always slightly harder and more complicated with “back to back” races, but we have planned the servicing of the cars from before already, anticipating the stock of parts needed, but unfortunately, three accidents and a mechanical failure during one single event like Valencia have changed the plan. The team started to repair and service both cars in Valencia on Sunday afternoon. In Spa, we mounted the pits Tuesday night to gain some time and use the Wednesday to prepare both cars for the scrutineering on Thursday. We will try to recover the stock of spare parts and painted bodywork in Spa, as far as possible. In this kind of situation, the work of every member of the team is important to get back to the normal level of preparation, but I'm sure that we will achieve this quickly and am confident as we have a great crew of people, who have made an extraordinary job during the entire last week.
Up to Valencia, Fat Burner Racing Engineering has been showing a very promising pace. Do you think that at Spa-Francorchamps we will see you fighting for points again?
Definitely. We were very fast in Spa last year and I see no reason why we should not this year. We have the car to do so. Valencia was a street circuit but with a fast profile, nothing like Monaco, and both cars were fast until there incidents. Spa is a great track, highly rated by many drivers and engineers and with a lot of different type of corners. The drivers and the entire team will make their best to show the real performance again and then the results will come.
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