What goes through the mind of a 16 year old as they approach Eau Rouge at over 100mph for the first time? Damani Marcano, our resident 16 year old racing driver, finds out.
Driving the Legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was an absolutely amazing experience. I donâ€™t know if I can even put into words how I felt just thinking about it. Driving it was something else! Located in Belgium, it is the home of the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix. And I got to drive the full GP circuit! Itâ€™s not the first F1 circuit Iâ€™ve driven, Silverstone was the first, but the fact that it was my first ever international track made this special.
The weather was the best I have ever experienced during a race weekend. The track had so much grip. Driving the car with that much grip gave me more confidence in the car than I have ever had. One of the reasons why driving Spa is so awesome is because you remember that your favourite F1 drivers of all time have been driving around the same track as you.
I feel very lucky to have made it to Spa at all because, for a while, it was looking like I wasnâ€™t going to make it. If you have read about the reliability issues from the start of the season, youâ€™ll know that I didnâ€™t complete several races. Because this is my first year in cars this meant I didnâ€™t have enough race experience to upgrade my racing license. To race at Spa I needed a National â€˜Aâ€™ MSA license. This meant I needed an extra race weekend in the VAG Trophy to get the license upgrade.
My racing budget didnâ€™t cover that. If I raced in the VAG Trophy thereâ€™d be no money to race at Spa. If I didnâ€™t race in the VAG Trophy then my license would mean I couldnâ€™t race at Spa.
Somehow I had to do it. Local newspapers heard about my situation and immediately published a story. I thought that there would be a company somewhere that would step in. I visited local companies with my brochure. Showed them all my local and national press and media coverage. I even contacted larger companies based in the area. There were several that wanted to help but felt they couldnâ€™t spare the cash. I was really down and confused at the end of this. I thought it was all over.
Then, my existing sponsors, The CleverBaggers came through with some extra funding, Team HARD gave us extra support so that it was nearly enough to get me on track and RiverGlide covered the difference. It was going to be tight but it was enough. I was going to Spa! I canâ€™t thank them all enough!
Driving through Eau Rouge for the first time was spectacular. This corner is possibly the most legendary corner of any track, anywhere in the world and to know that I've driven it, especially at such a young age, is just crazy. It is something that I thought I would experience much later in my racing career but to think that at only 16 Iâ€™ve actually done the same thing as many legends in motorsport is astonishing. I still canâ€™t get used to it!
It is such a fast complex of corners through Eau Rouge, itâ€™s hard to go into it without feeling like you should touch the brake just before you start the first left. Thanks to my experience on the simulator at Pro-Sim I felt like I knew the track inside out. The fact that they now have tuned a physics model of my car made me feel like I knew exactly what to expect. It meant that I was able to go into Eau Rouge for the first time fully committed, without touching the brake, just a slight lift of the throttle and the car was able to go into the corner almost at its full potential straight away.
Thatâ€™s when I realised how different it was doing this for real! I don't think anyone can understand how amazing it is until you drive it in real life. On a simulator or video game it seems like a simple corner, but it's so much more than that.
The car grips so much as the track begins to go up hill. This means that massive amounts of speed can be carried through the corner. The car compresses down and the rate the hill climbs means you are almost looking into the sky. On my first run through, the car broke traction. I corrected as it slid sideways a little bit too much onto the exit kerb. I lost a little speed there but none of the thrill. Lap after lap I played with carrying more and more speed. There is nothing like it!
Spa is definitely the most exciting track I have ever driven in anything and I can't imagine another corner giving me the same amazing feeling as Eau Rouge.
Want to drive a car like Damani's? Check out Damani's racing experience track day where you find out for yourself how it feels to take a current Volkswagen Racing Cup car around Brands Hatch!
You can follow Damaniâ€™s journey here on VWROC via his regular monthly column. Day to day, keep up to date via Twitter (@DKMRacing), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. To help keep Damani on the grid, you can back him via his crowd funding campaign and via his Patreon page.