Frustration in Fuji for Olli and his teammates

As is typical of the region at this time of year, typhoon conditions soaked the track through much of Thursday and Friday and Olli and his teammates battled against the elements to make the most out of their track time.

September 11, 2023

Under the shadow of the majestic Mount Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture of Japan sits the race track that echoes the mountain’s infamous name - Fuji Speedway. The impressive 4.563km circuit carved into the landscape features a 1.5 km long straight, high-speed corners and tight and twisty sections, providing a thrilling experience for all who races there. 

Typhoon season reigns 

As is typical of the region at this time of year, typhoon conditions soaked the track through much of Thursday and Friday and Olli and his teammates battled against the elements to make the most out of their track time. 

Jumping aboard the A470 for the penultimate qualifying run of the season, the Alpine Academy driver anticipated a tricky battle against the clock following their learnings in the practice sessions. 

With a wet track declared as the session waited to go green, out on track Olli went about exploring the limits of what he could do. Finding there were a few damp patches on the track but the racing line was relatively dry, everyone began swapping to a slick tyre. With fresh tyres bolted on his Alpine machine, Olli improved with every lap but ultimately found the team’s pace just wasn’t strong enough. An unfortunate error on his part on the final lap meant he was unable to match the pace of the sister car and had to settle for charging from the back of the pack.

Feeding back to the engineers, the French team set to work and looked to make adjustments ahead of the race. 

“We struggled with pace today unfortunately. A small mistake on my side prevented me from matching the lap time set by the #36 car, but I think we extracted all we could out of the car today”

Brighter conditions emerged on Sunday morning as the teams took to the grid, however with changeable conditions predicted throughout the 6 hours it was clear the loyal and dedicated Japanese fans were in for a treat as they watched on from the grandstands. 

Resolutely racing on

 Powering over the line as the clock began to tick down, Memo Rojas expertly kept his nose clean where others faltered and set about applying pressure on the cars ahead. Until an early safety car was called to recover the stricken GT car that had span into the gravel on the opening lap. Gambling on their strategy, the team opted to make an early driver swap as the race hit the one hour mark and it was Olli’s turn to jump aboard for his opening stint. 

With the team setting a target lap time of 1m 35, Olli focused on reeling the pack in to put themselves in the best possible position. Before too long a slight hit from a PREMA car, caused Olli to radio through to the pit wall reporting damage. With the team reassuring him that it wasn’t critical, he continued to manage the issue, before pulling into the pits on lap 86, slightly earlier than originally planned, to hand over driving duties to teammate Andre Negrão. It was at this point the team opted to change the nose ahead of the Brazilian’s planned triple stint, with a longer stop than usual the squad hoped for a safety car period to bunch the pack back up.

After further green flag running in the six hour race, Olli took the reins for his third stint, working closely with his engineers and communicating with the team to manage their race and adjust the settings as best they could. The 21-year-old team player expertly continued to assist the sister car in their challenge by allowing them to pass by easily, whilst controlling the #35 squad’s own progression towards the chequered flag. 

A disappointing result for the #35

Peeling into the pits for a splash of fuel on Lap 194, Olli headed back out on track, fully fuelled for his final run to the flag. Reflecting on a disappointing weekend, Olli looked ahead to the next round:

“A frustrating weekend for us overall, we were managing some issues during the race. We were hoping for a safety car that could bring us back into contention but it never came.  I’ve really enjoyed racing at such an iconic track and my first visit to this beautiful country has been really enjoyable. Our full focus is now coming back stronger in Bahrain, it’s a track I’ve raced at many times before in single seaters so looking forward to ending the season on a high.”

With an impressive 5:54.51 of green flag running throughout the six hour race, it frustratingly halted any chance for the Alpine squad to make their advances on the field, but saw the championship run one of the cleanest races in history.

Olli Caldwell will be back on track with the Alpine Elf Endurance team in November for the season finale in Bahrain, where together with his teammates they will look to finish their season on a high. However it won’t be too long before the eager racer will be back battling in the European Le Mans Series at 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in just 3 weeks time. 

Next Event

Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari

4 - 7th July 2024