Here we are! It is (finally) time for Jordan's first race in World Endurance Championship in a prototype car. For a beginning, Sebring is not the easiest track, by far. With its 3.7 miles and a track known for being extremely bumpy, it is a big one to start with.
Arrived in Florida on Friday evening, Jordan had all the week-end to get used to the jetlag and the warmness. However, the three drivers being motorsport fans, they decided to go to Daytona for the Supercross. Unfortunately, they were not lucky with the weather as it was pouring down of rain while they were seated in the grandstands...
The private tests started on Monday. A lot of teams were already on site to take part in these sessions which meant there was traffic, already. Nevertheless, everything was going well for the Signatech Nissan team. Olivier and Jordan had a long driving time as Franck already knows the car and the track. In the afternoon, Jordan drove a whole stint, the team wanting to test his physical resistance. He said: "The stint test went well, even though it was interrupted by a red flag. I did 26 laps and I really feel fine despite the hot weather. The goal will clearly be to double-stint during the race so we need to be ready."
The driving time is more limited on Tuesday because the teams have only two hours allocated. Anyway, this doesn't stop Jordan to gain more experience behind a LMP2 steering wheel. We can guess he is satisfied when we see his big smile and his constantly improved lap times.
Wednesday is a day off so the drivers can rest. But this is not in the mind of the drivers from the car 23 as they decide to go for an half an hour long jogging in order to stay fit. But they didn't thought that the local geography was so complex forcing them to run 1h20! When he came back, Jordan told: "We went further and further again from the hotel because we refused to make a U-turn. At least, we suntanned a bit! Now I need to hurry or I will be late for my interview." At the end of the day, the three drivers met in a bowling to have a bit of fun and change their mind.
The really serious things started on Thursday with the two first practice session and the night session. Day-time sessions both went well, the team working on the car setup. Jordan's lap times continue so improve and are now really close from his teammate's ones. Unlike the practice session, the car suffers from starter motor issue and the team has to change it, shortening the driving time of the three drivers. But the Signatech team is more than ready for any issue and manages to change it quickly, allowing the drivers to do a couple of laps each.
Only one practice session is scheduled on Friday. The team takes this opportunity to confirm the setup that will be used during the race and make sure it satisfies all the drivers. Jordan testifies: "The car is not perfect to drive but easy to control and smooth with its tires and this is very important for the race."
The qualifying session is held at the end of the afternoon. Franck did a great job, qualifying the team in 4th position. It's not the pole position but everyone is pretty satisfied with this result as Jordan explains: "The pole position was clearly not on sight for us as Franck is 1'6 seconds slower. However, we are the 1st Oreca chassis and the 2nd Nissan engine which proves we have the pace of the teams having the same equipment. Now, we need to wait for the race to see if our work pays."
On Saturday, after a really early breakfast because of the warm-up, the three drivers don't have much time before the race. Franck will start, followed by Olivier and then Jordan.
Franck has a good start and stayed on 4th place during the first fifteen minutes before the Safety Car comes out to remove a car that broke down. Now comes the moment of the first pit stop of the season that goes well as Franck managed to go out in 3rd place. When Olivier jumps in the car, the Signatech team climbs again in the ranking and is now 2nd. And only four cars remain in the leader's lap.
But a fateful thing happens: Olivier goes out of the track because of oil due to a broken engine. Hopefully, he manages to keep the car under control and stops in the grass, without touching anything. But a Ferrari following him also slides out and crashes into the Oreca-Nissan #23. Despite that the car is brought back to the box with a tow-truck, the damages are too heavy to be fixed. This is then the end of the Floridian adventure for Jordan, Franck, Olivier and all the Signatech team. Jordan, obviously very disappointed says: "That's the end for us. F***! Everything was going well and we are knocked out by fate! Unfortunately, that's motorsport and this kind of things happens. The most frustrating is not to drive in race conditions. Scoring zero point is not the best way to start a world championship but everything is not so dark because I managed to collect a lot of experience during this week. We will now focus on Spa, hoping that we will be luckier this time."
To change their minds, the team decides to play bowling during the evening and to watch the F1 Grand Prix held at 2 a.m.! They prove that they are passionate!
Coming back from Florida, Jordan's deception is still there: "I think of what happened and I remake the race with "what if...". This doesn't change anything but I can't stop myself. I will need to stop quickly and focus on Spa that will be here soon. I know that the team will fix the car and make sure that we have what we need to win in Belgium. Spa is a track I do really love and nearly a home race for me, I hope we will shine there! I give you an appointment on Saturday, May 5th as the Signatech-Nissan will need your support!"
We will definitely be there Jordan!