The 7.004km long circuit which weaves through the Ardennes forest features the infamous uphill Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex, leading on to punishing long straights offering up a thrilling yet technical challenge for all who race there. Throwing in changeable conditions as is typical style for the Ardennes, the weather played its hand for most of the weekend. But fired up from his previous podiums and summer training, Olli was ready to mount the attack.
With rain appearing towards the end of free practice on Friday morning, qualifying was a damp affair that rewarded those who managed to find any inch of dry track as the session ticked down. Ready to put in a hot lap in the final minutes of the session, keeping his car clean as he entered his fastest time of the session, a late red flag for a car spearing off into the wall meant that Olli was forced to abandon his lap with the session called short. Disappointed with the way it had played out, qualifying in 18th, Olli turned his focus to making the most of the overtaking opportunities when racing got underway.
Rain delays play
Following a delayed start to Saturday morning’s race due to more treacherous rain, the pack took to the track for the first 3 formation laps, but soon headed back into the pits with the Stewards deciding that there was too much rain to continue. Eventually the weather subsided just enough for racing to get underway. Starting P18 with a visor full of spray, Olli had a battle just to stay on track as the conditions still proved to be tricky. Despite struggling with balance issues from the off he was able to better his position to cross the line in P16.
Returning to the track on Saturday afternoon, the conditions marginally better. With lessons learned and adjustments made, the resolute racer was determined as ever. Starting P16 he immediately began to pressure his rivals, attempting a move at every opportunity whilst trying to keep his car under control. Battling hard with Nannini, Olli improved to P15 but his charge was halted by a late safety car taking them to the chequered flag. With confidence renewed in his Prema powered car, he looked ahead to Sunday’s feature race.
“In race 1, we struggled with the pace on the wet, but we made a good step for race 2. With slightly dryer conditions, the car felt much better and we were able to fight. Unfortunately, we got set back by the safety car and the rain at the end, but we moved in a positive direction, which is good.”
Pushing for Points
Whilst Sunday’s outlook was no brighter, Olli’s definitely was, as he put his head down ready to give it his all in the hunt for points. Pushing from P18 as the safety car peeled into the pits, he soon made up places to run in 16th as the pack looped through the historic Belgian circuit. Fighting hard against the slippery track and his rivals, the Brit made further moves raising himself to 14th, before picking off more places as the laps ticked down. With points in his sights, unfortunately he narrowly ran out of time, crossing the line in P11 just shy the point scoring positions. However with a herculean effort to claim seven places in such tricky conditions. Olli certainly impressed with his racing skill, despite not being awarded for a hard-fought recovery drive.
Speaking of his final race, Olli remained his positive outlook:
“Even if we didn't manage to score points, I think we showed how much we improved throughout the weekend. It was another tricky race with lots of action and some really challenging conditions. We managed to make the most out of it, and it was great to fight and gain so many positions. Now we hope for a less troublesome weekend at Zandvoort!”
Olli Caldwell currently sits seventh in the championship standings with 86 points, as he looks to bounce back to fighting at the front, he doesn’t have long to wait as racing returns in just a few days time at Zandvoort.