Endurance racer Alex Cascatău has returned to racing after an impromptu break due to the pandemic. Competing in his maiden outing in the Super Challenge at Assen for BS Racing, he pushed hard to land a dramatic pole and victory. It was a victory he went on to repeat a fortnight later at Assen for round two, at the wheel of his Norma M20 FC.
Alex, how did it feel to get racing again post-lockdown?
It felt incredible after such a long wait! I think this reminded all of us that racing is a big privilege, and not a right. In my case it was little over a year since I last raced officially, and competition had the same intensity and flavour to it as always. I think everyone is still a bit rusty, and you can see that the lack of running has affected people, especially drivers who need a lot more time to get confident.
Has the lockdown period allowed you to focus on making improvements to the car and yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to during a busy racing season?
Definitely. I think this was a big area to make gains if you really had the discipline and motivation and was a great opportunity to surpass others who maybe got a bit complacent during lockdown. I've trained so much on the simulator and also physically I think I'm in the best shape I've ever been. The team also did a fantastic job to prepare the car and we nailed the setup for the first race, so we hit the ground running. I even got involved in developing a sim racing version of the Norma for Assetto Corsa!
Can you tell us more about this race?
Supercar Challenge has two one-hour races on Saturday and Sunday, two free practice sessions on Friday and a short qualifying session on Saturday. The biggest challenge for me was not knowing the track. I had been to Assen before, but I never got to do a lap on the full circuit. This was further complicated when I had to miss FP1 due to a red flag being thrown out and the session was not restarted. Add that to that the fact that I had never driven the car in the wet before (the weather was mixed during the weekend: qualifying was wet, race one was dry and race two was very wet and started behind the safety car), and I think there are so many things which can go wrong.
What were you driving? And what’s it like to drive?
We race a Norma M20 FC - it's an open-cockpit sports-prototype which is similar to a Radical in appearance. It's extremely light (under 600kg) and quite powerful with a 2.0-litre Honda engine in the back producing over 260 bhp. It's got a lot of downforce and we run almost to GT3 pace over a full lap, even though we lose time on the straights. Through the corners though we were sometimes quicker than DTM cars (we were a support series for the DTM that weekend and pulling almost 3g through the corners). It's fantastic to drive. So direct and nimble and similar to a junior single-seater, where you need to push like crazy to extract the maximum out of it.
That was a great result, with a pole and two victories. How did this achievement feel for you and the team?
It definitely felt surreal for me. I didn't know exactly what to expect having never raced before in Assen but in that wet qualifying session I definitely didn't expect to be on pole. In my in-lap I was shaking my head thinking I've made a mess of my laps, only to find out that we were P1 with a 1.3s margin! We even beat an LMP3 car from a superior class so yeah, that was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. We had strong rivals with racing experience in ELMS, Formula E and GT3 cars and for us, a new and small team, beating our bigger and more experienced opponents gave us a fantastic feeling and great confidence for the upcoming races. Last weekend we were again in Assen for the second round of the championship. We were on pole, won race one but came second in race two after some engine problems.
In what way does Motul support you and how does the partnership add value to your racing?
Motul Romania kindly provides us with the engine oil we need this season. We exclusively use 15W50 300V Competition this season and so far, our engine has been running great. Our gearbox oil also comes from Motul, and we use Gear Competition SAE 75W140 lubricant and change it after each race weekend. The partnership is definitely giving us extra performance for the rest of the season.
How’s the rest of your racing season looking?
It's a shortened season due to COVID, and we have two race weekends left, one of them in Assen again, and one on the new, F1-spec, Zandvoort circuit. I think it's still too early to set objectives and, as I've said, this is my first full international season with the Norma, so I want to learn as much as possible and take the results as they come. The main priority is to improve, but obviously we'll push as hard as possible to continue to race at the front.
© Images: Federico Vecchio