Seaside racing at Anglesey

There’s no denying that Anglesey is an awfully long way from most places. It took around 6 hours to get to the track for 2 days of testing ahead of the weekend. However, there’s also no doubt that the effort is worth it.

The track is perched right on the coast of the Irish Sea and it takes all the weather that is thrown at it. We experienced it all, from strong winds and heavy rain, through to barmy summer sun.

Testing highlighted how tricky the track was to master. With increasing temperatures, the times actually got slower on track as the weekend approached. I therefore set my best time on day 1 testing and didn’t match it again until race 1. That’s rather off putting and dispiriting. However, it all comes out in the wash in the end and I went into qualification with no knowledge of where I was going to end up.

It was raining right up until we left assembly in qualification. The track was therefore damp, but with much higher ambient temperatures, it quickly became obvious that my completely wet setup wasn’t ideal as the track dried within a few laps. Most others were in a similar situation though, so not all was lost.

As ever in Caterhams, the tow was extremely important for lap time. However, with a red flag interruption to the session, there were gaggles of cars all fighting to take – but not give – a tow. Several people backing out of laps mid corner, or making space for themselves at the end of the lap, meant that I didn’t have a good lap on the board as the clock approached zero. However, the final lap was a good one and I snuck 5th on the grid. Better than expected. It wasn’t a session without excitement though, with possibly my closest near miss to date taking place just after the restart after the red flag.

Boosted by a good performance. race 1 dawned and although the weather was changeable through the day, by the time our slot came up, it had dried out fully.

After a good start, the race settled in and I was following nose to tail with Andres Sinclair. I felt comfortable and fast and felt I had something in hand to go for 3rd at the end of the race.

However, a fast recovering Christian Szaruta put the pressure on as the clock counted down, and when I tried to make use of the additional pace I felt I had at the start of the race, it wasn’t there any more. On the second last lap, Christian took full advantage of a poor piece of track positioning by me to take away 4th. That left me in a comfortable 5th at the flag. Happy with the result but certainly feeling I’d left something on the table.

Sunday was a scorcher. This isn’t a good thing on the Avons we run on currently. They seem to have an ideal operating temperature, beyond which they lose grip and begin degrading really fast. In the car, the grip feels low and what can only be described as ‘squelchy’! (You never hear that said in F1!)

Still, conditions were the same for everyone and it all led to a pretty epic battle. Another reasonable start saw me in 4th. However, it wasn’t a lonely affair and I had battles with Andres, Christian, Tony Mingoia and Alastair Weaver variously through the course of the hot 30 mins.

I was relatively pleased to end up in 6th at the flag. That could easily have been 8-10th place if circumstances had played out even slightly differently.

It was a weekend of good points. But it was also one that I would have liked to have gone slightly better. The other lead rivals in the championship had brilliant weekends and so gaps are starting to appear in the points. With some others having had bad starts to the year, it’s also going to be important to make hay whilst the sun shines.

Next up on the calendar is Zolder in Belgium. I got on well with the track in Roadsport when we were last there and so I’m looking forward to returning. However, I’d also like it to be a few degrees cooler than last time.

Time to head to Wales

Next weekend is another race weekend. Having to post this early as it’s in Anglesey – which is approx. 1 million miles away.

Quali: Sat 7th May – 1150 – 1210
Race 1: Sat 7th May – 1555 – 1625
Race 2: Sun 8th May – 1430 – 1500

Follow everything along on TSL Timing: http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/161832

Think one of the days is being recorded and I’ll post TV times when available.

Back in the mix at Brands

Two days of testing and two days of race action draw to a close on the first weekends racing of the 2016 Caterham Supersport Championship.

It’s fair to say that my 2015 campaign didn’t exactly go without issue and so the first round was always going to be one of discovery. With 44 cars entered for the first event of the year, there were too many cars to run on a single grid. We therefore had to run a split grid format.

parc-ferme

That’s never ideal and it’s a shame that we haven’t yet seen all the lead drivers together on track. From the four races that took place at Brands, that’s an extremely tasty proposition. Fingers crossed, Anglesey will see everyone together.

Qualification was fully wet and generally went to plan. There’s always ‘the lap that got away’ and this session was no different. However, 3rd fastest in session was a good result and with the combined qualification times and the way the grids were decided, I would start 2nd on the grid for race one.

I made a good, initial, start at the lights but second gear bounced out briefly, so I settled in behind Jack Brown and keeping an eye on the swarm of cars in the mirrors. The fairly traditional lap one safety car came out after Max Robinson was caught out by a spinning Andy West and left immobile in the gravel.

At the restart, Jack went almost as soon as the safety car lights went out. This was a stroke of genius as we pulled a huge gap on the whole field – with the exception of Richard Ainscough, who was slightly stuck in the middle ground. As I was clinging on to Jack Brown’s car for all I could, Richard slowly caught me and as soon as we started dicing for position, we gave Jack the perfect opportunity to tootle further up the road.

The rest of the race was a too and fro battle with Richard for 2nd place. Fantastic close racing. The back-markers certainly played their part in proceedings. One driver being lapped perhaps four times in a 20 minute period – the speed differential through the corners meant that it was hard to judge how and where to try and get by without compromising race position.

The final run to the flag was an equally tight affair, with Richard pulling alongside early on the straight and I wasn’t sure whether I’d managed to hold him off over the line. As it goes, I just managed it by a few thousandths. 2nd place. Back on the podium and back in contention.

It was a superb feeling and quite a relief after 2015.

Race 2 took place on the Sunday and was a much sunnier and far more blustery day. Half of the grid were made of new drivers compared to race 1 and all, as ever, eager for a good result.

I made a reasonable start, although a slightly cautious 2nd gear change meant I slipped to 3rd behind the fast starting Mike Evans by turn one. Christian Szaruta lead early doors as everyone else tussled for their running order behind.

It became quickly apparent in my car that the rear end grip wasn’t what it had been through the rest of the weekend and I struggled to get the power down and control the cars backside. This left me without much attack once things settled down as I was constantly having to defend along the back straight rather than move forward.

Ultimately, this saw me gently fall through the front pack as the race went along. I did briefly make it to the front of the field but it wasn’t to last.

To cut a long and extremely exciting, close and frantic story short, I ended up 5th over the line, with a missing rear wing, curtesy of Adam West – who clearly fancied a nibble of cheese on his way to 4th place! Sadly, it was one of my original Academy wings – so now I’m down to just one remaining!

For all the excitement that the races brought to the table, there was always a feeling of ‘what will it be like when we’re all together?’ That’s an extremely enticing prospect and one which we’ll hopefully get to see at Anglesey in May.

I’ll have just turned 38 by then…. I’m getting too old for all this!

Round 1 Ready to Go

So, we’re rapidly approaching the first race weekend of 2016 for Supersport. We’re heading to Brands Hatch on the 9th and 10th April for what’s surely going to be a fantastic and chaotic weekends racing.

The Supersport grid is over-subscribed for racing at Brands, so we’re having to run a split grid format. That means there will be plenty of Supersport action on track, with 2 qualification sessions and 4 races. Each driver will be part of one qualification session and one race on Saturday and one race on Sunday. The exact races I’ll be in will not be known until after quali and race 1.

Qualification: Sat 9th April 0950 – 1005
Race 1: Sat 9th April  12:00 – 12:30 / 13:45 – 14:15
Race 2: Sun 10th April 12:10 – 12:40 / 16:35 – 17:05

Live timing will be available over the weekend if you want to follow along: http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/161431

The racing on Sunday is being recorded for TV and will air on Motors TV – normally the week following the race meeting.

There are a lot of variables this year, with plenty of extremely competitive drivers – some new to our grid and many who’ll be familiar.  Who’ll come out on top? We’ll soon find out.

2016 Caterham Supersport is go

Finally got my first outing in the 2016 Supersport version of the Cheesemobile. It’s got a touch more power, a touch less flywheel and a good deal more sideways potential with the limited slip differential.

I got to try it out in all manner of different conditions through the day – which was ideal. No real setup work possible due to each session having completely different conditions but I loved how the car felt.

My neck and shoulders are killing me after such a long period of no driving – but hopefully they will all be fixed in time for the next outing at Snetterton.

Counting the days!

Thanks to SnappyRacers for picture.

Insurance 2016

Every year I get quotes for racing cover. This year is no exception. The most competitive quote I got was from BlueFin insurance. It may save some of you some time / energy from asking around.

The BlueFin deal covers all 7 race weekends plus all testing and track days up until the end of October. You don’t have to notify them if you’re going on a track/test day in advance.

Just to give the casual reader an idea of how much it costs to insure a race car for a season (remember this is a good deal I’ve found…)

Premium: £3.2k
Excess: £2k
Cover: £12k
Includes reinstatement clause (if you make a claim, the cover will return to £12k up to twice in one year.)

Speak to Richard Pellegrini (Richard.Pellegrini@bluefingroup.co.uk ) if you’re interested in a similar deal and please mention Cheesy sent you!

If you’re an Academy driver, why not try for a better deal with them as you’re only doing 7 competitive events rather than 14? Let me know how you get on if you do enquire.

If you’re currently insuring your car on trackdays via your road insurance, just be aware that any claim made will affect your no claims bonus and that’s not always made clear!

Best one make series of the year, 2015

downforce-award

Thank you to everyone who voted in the Downforce Radio awards. We have been crowned the 2015 One Make Series of the Year!

This is a great acknowledgement of a fantastic years racing by the whole of the class of 2015. Regularly having packs of 10 drivers competing for the race wins, never a dull moment anywhere up and down the grid.

Credit to all that go into putting this show on the road and here’s to more of the same in 2016 in the Supersport category.

Please vote for Caterham Tracksport!

The Caterham Tracksport Championship has been nominated for One Make Championship of the Year 2015. Now, I am biased of course, but I think the whole grid deserves recognition for a great years fast, frantic and hard fought racing.

We’d really appreciate it if you’d help us out by voting.

http://downforce-radio.co.uk/awards/

Whilst on there, the Championship winner, Tim Dickens, has been nominated for club racer of the year. He won out above everyone else in this tight and fast grid – and it would be great to cast your vote his way.

Promising end to a difficult season

Not one Tracksport race has gone by this year where I haven’t made a mistake or had some issue or another. Compared to Roadsports, where I had a lot of luck, this year has been tough.

I headed to Silverstone knowing that I had gone well there in the past and had strong hopes to take home some silverware. It would have been a nice end to a difficult season.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to fulfil that ambition – missing out by 1000’th of a second in race 2… however, the season ended on a high note and with a car that felt back on song after a mid season slump.

I started race 1 from 6th on a very close grid and I was able to continue the starting form of Oulton Park, moving into 4th and keeping it near the front over the beginning period of the race.

I then got shuffled backwards a touch, into the clutches of Cedric Bloch, Mike Evans and Max Robinson. Cedric and Mike tend to race moment to moment, rather than looking at the bigger picture. It leads to some opportunistic passes in unusual places but sadly, is not conducive to keeping pace with the front runners.

I eventually broke free of this tussle and the majority of the rest of my race was spent trying to close down on the battle for 3rd place. At one point, I didn’t think I would make it, but with a couple of laps to go, I managed to breach the gap and got to play with the group. I didn’t have enough time to make up spaces though and so I ended up 7th but happy enough with the result.

Race 2 began with a storming start. 7th to 2nd place! I love damp and greasy conditions and generally show good pace when everything gets slippy. But that start was probably my best ever. Early doors I also had great pace but unfortunately, got caught out by Christian being a touch cautious into Stowe. With locked fronts, a horrid closing speed and a touch of luck, I avoided Christian but ended up in the gravel. Not stuck though!

I rejoined in about 14th place and settled in for a long fight back. In the tricky conditions, I was fast. It was drying all the time but remained tricky to the end. I went into the last lap in a strong 3rd place but I completely missed the last lap board.

I didn’t defend a last lap dive-bomb from Richard Ainscough and that dropped me to 5th going onto Hanger Straight.. Going into the last few corners I managed to get past Christian once more and was alongside Richard going over the line. Sadly, I lost out by 1000th of a second. Had I known it was the last lap…. who knows!

Great fun racing. Great to be back up to speed. Good way to end the season.

Taking to the track with the Caterham Academy