Unfulfilled Potential for Alex Cascatău at Assen
Alex Cascatău’s trip to TT Circit Assen this past weekend proves one more time that motor racing can be bitterly cruel. Two retirements caused by mechanical problems curtailed Alex’s title bid in what can only be described as a miserable fourth round of the Dutch-based GT & Prototype Challenge.
Baticonsult Racing’s Cascatău and Alain Berg sat third in the CN class leaderboard with the duo effectively having no choice but aim for victory at Assen in order to stay in contention for the title. Following a less-than-ideal visit to Zolder, the team thought the light at the end of a long and frustrating tunnel of bad luck was nearing as the winding Circuit Terlamen was also the scene of the team’s second podium in 2021.
Practice and qualifying
It all got underway beautifully for Alex who found his composure straight off the bat and mastered the wet conditions that befell the competitors in the first free practice session of the weekend. The heavens opened as is often the case at Assen but the drenched track was tamed by the well-balanced Baticonsult Racing Norma M20 FC. A 1:50.065 was enough to see the No. 614 car end the session at the top of the time sheets, BMW works driver Nicky Catsburg being second-quickest in a BMW M6 GT3. The Dutchman’s 1:50.356 was almost three tenths off Cascatău’s best effort while Joosen and de Cock were a whopping five seconds slower.
The second free practice session was trickier for all parties involved as the track began to dry out, although there was still enough standing water left on the track for Baticonsult Racing to rubber in a new set of wets in case they were needed in qualifying. Towards the second half of the session, Alex returned on the course on the same set of used wets that he’d used in the first free practice session only to spin off into the gravel which was how the FP2 ended for the team.
After a premature end to the final practice session it was time for qualifying and the improving weather conditions played havoc with Baticonsult Racing’s plans with the team unable to react to the appearance of a dry line in time and send Alex back out on track on slick rubber. The end result? Some frustratingly slow laps on wet-weather tires that promptly overheated on the otherwise dry track. The 16th best time for Race 1 and the 12th best time for Race 2 was not what the team was aiming for.
The mixed conditions at the start of the first race forced many teams to effectively flip a coin on the choice of rubber and Baticonsult Racing’s decision was to give Alain a reassuring set of wets. It proved to be the right call as Alex’s team-mate rocketed up through the field in what was his best stint of the entire season.
A swift pit-stop put the No. 614 Baticonsult Racing back into contention as Berg had climbed all the way up to the edge of the podium. Thanks to the customary pitlane penalties incurred by the Deldiche Racing cars due to their podium-finishing form at Zolder, Alex was second after the stops and breathing down Tom Boonen’s neck.
Sadly, a race-winning move never happened as the throttle stuck during Alex’s first flying lap sending him into the gravel trap at the hairpin. The retirement was that much more frustrating since the team didn’t score any points as they are awarded only if you’ve completed at least 80% of the total race distance.
Berg was certainly on form last weekend and he proved it once again at the start of Sunday’s Race 2 when he made up a few spots to run third in CN ahead of Boonen. Frustratingly, mechanical gremlins re-emerged and the Luxembourg-based driver couldn’t shift into gear forcing him to crawl back into the pits where the car was parked.
With no points in the bag after the first visit to Assen, Baticonsult Racing is effectively out of the title hunt this season and this especially painful when you consider the many flashes of brilliance that tell a story of ‘what-could-have-been’ for the 2020 champs.
We were heading to Assen with quite high hopes as we knew Zolder was the home track of our rivals. Assen is a track I love and have had memorable victories last year, in my debut season. However, everything after FP1 started to go wrong and it seemed like we were fighting the windmills, as all sorts of issues prevented us from competing. For me this was one of the most difficult rounds I can remember, after Spa in 2019, and unfortunately we can't defend our title this year anymore. While the future is uncertain at this stage, I want to wholeheartedly thank my partners for sticking to me through these tough times.
2021 GT & Prototype Challenge Calendar
1. 21-23 May – Hockenheim
2. 4-6 June – Spa-Francorchamps (cancelled)
3. 16-18 July – Zolder
4. 6-8 August – Assen
5. 17-19 September – Assen
6. 16-17 October – Spa-Francorchamps
7. 29-31 October – Assen
Photo credit: Rob Blank
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