Short term pain. Long term aim.

This is a hard post to write. In early 2012 I finally signed up to go racing with the Caterham Academy. In October 2012, I spent a fun, frustrating, annoying, exciting and ultimately very satisfying 3 weeks putting together my race car with my family.

On Sunday morning at Brands Hatch this year, the car had never looked so good. By the afternoon, I’d broken it in the biggest way possible. Sadly, it’s not economically viable to repair the car.

After much soul searching, and talking with friends and family, I’ve called an end to racing for this year.

However, I’m determined that this isn’t the end of racing for me. One of the factors in coming to this decision is that some time off from racing will allow me to recover damaged finances and the aim will be back on a grid for 2018.

It will be strange not being in the paddock for the rest of the year. I wish all my racing family the best of luck and I will, of course, be following along closely and will hopefully see everyone at the awards dinner, if not before.

Making a b-line for Brands

We’re headed to Brands Hatch this weekend for rounds 5 and 6 of the Official Caterham Motorsport Ladder. The paddock is joined this weekend by the Olympic Legend – Sir Chris Hoy. He’ll be racing with the 310R boys and girls but will certainly add a bit of fame to the #CaterhamFamily

Timetable

Supersport race times this weekend are:

  • Quali Sat 3rd June 09:25 – 09:45
  • Race 1 Sat 3rd June 12:20 – 12:50
  • Race 2 Sun 4th June 14:05 0 14:35

Live Timing:

http://tsl-timing.com/event/172231

Live comms should also be available on the Live Timing page over the event. If not, the Brands Hatch App used to have this feature – so you could try there!

Time to kick the bucket list

This one is on most racers bucket list. The chance to drive around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. However, I’m lucky enough to not just be driving there, but indeed racing it!

Qualifying: Sat 13th May – 10:00 – 10:20
Race 1: Sat 13th May – 13:05 – 13:35
Race 2: Sun 14th May – 10:25 – 10:55

I’m hopeful that the Live Timing will be available at: https://livetiming.getraceresults.com/spa

As a treat – there’s also a live webcam of the spectacular Eau Rouge – which should also allow you to see some of the action as it takes place! http://webcam.spa-francorchamps.be/

Videos to follow of course! Watch this space.

Sold: Caterham 8-Spoke Anthracite 13″ x 6″ Wheels (4)

Now Sold…

I have a set of Caterham 8 Spoke Alloy Wheels (4) for sale. 13″ x 6″

I’m looking for good offers somewhere around £340.

Pictures above tell the whole story as I’ve taken shots of any paint delamination, stone chips or scuffs.

They are all in good condition and a lot of the delamination is on the extreme edge or on the rear inside edge and so is completely invisible once a tyre is fitted.

The wheels are available for pickup in Storrington, West Sussex.

You can use the contact form at the bottom of my Sponsorship Page to contact me about the wheels or contact via Facebook / Facebook messenger.

Snetterton Scorcher

You would have been perfectly justified to assume we’d arrived in Norfolk in high summer based solely on the weather. It was bright, sunny and hot all weekend long at the Snetterton circuit.

The spectators were certainly appreciative. The tyres, less so!

Having been largely used to 2 days of testing in the past, this was one of the first times I made do with just the Friday test ahead of the weekend. It means everything has to be compressed into half the time I’m used to but it really doesn’t take long to get up to speed nowadays, and overall, I think I rather liked the added pressure of getting on it from the off.

Qualifying

I usually enjoy the Qualifying session and not too often have I felt like I didn’t get everything out of the car. However, in this session, I definitely left my best back in the locker room. I made mistakes and didn’t manage the traffic and tow very well. Something that’s essential at Snetterton. My fastest lap included overtakes in compromised places and avoiding cars left right and centre!

After all that, 6th on the grid was actually not a disaster and I’ve learnt a few more lessons to add to the playbook going forward. Even into my 5th year of racing, there are still so many things to learn and adapt to.

The front 8 cars on the grid were the expected gaggle and were covered by the expected close margins. The order was perhaps less expected with Alistair Weaver putting in a great show to grab the first pole of the season. In general, the LFP motorsport team were flying with 4 of the top 5 spots filled.

Race 1

Caterham Supersports were running in the graveyard shift for this weekend so by race time, the sun was low in the sky and visibility was reduced. However, the temperatures were still high and the grip levels therefore low!

For the first race of the season it was certainly frantic up front. Mostly it was within fair bounds but there were some chops and jinks that would politely be termed as ‘borderline’ as well.

A novelty for me, was the ability to actually move forward and compete rather than being consumed by the whole field. A few driving tweaks and some dieting over winter have made me more able to race and signs are good that this will help through the season.

I had some good tussles but our groups inability to work together properly meant we lost touch with the lead pack of 4.

Part way through the race, we had our first Code 60 period to clear away a very nasty accident for Gary Weatherall, who ended up sliding on his roof from pit out all the way to the turn 1 gravel.

Code 60 is new this year for our race meetings. It was originally designed for endurance racing as a way to neutralise a field without the need for a safety car to bunch everyone up. The idea being that everyone slows to 60 KPH and sticks there until the flags are put to green once more. The advantages over a safety car being that, theoretically, the gaps between cars are maintained and the incident can be cleared quicker and everything get back to racing sooner.

I made a great restart, overtaking Christian and Henry who didn’t pick up on the green flags quite so quickly. I’m not sure I’ll get that advantage again going forward, but I was smiling in my helmet I can assure you!

At the tail end of the race, I didn’t manage my positioning very well, failed to capitalise on contact between Henry and Christian and failed to make a decent exit out of the final bend. So a potential 4th was instead a 5th place over the line. Still, not a bad start and one place improvement on qualification.

Race 2

Race 2 was to take place on the hottest day of the year so far, with barmy 25 degrees and bright cloudless skies. This is never a good thing for the tyres or engines but I know what to expect and that makes it easier to manage these days.

Another hectic opening section of the race saw me mired with Mike and Ben arguing figuratively – and literally – on track. This pushed me backwards to a hungry Henry, Christian and Dan and our failure to work together also saw Alistair Weaver catch up on a recovery drive from the back of the field.

At that point, It was always going to be damage limitation and again, lessons learned to store away for future reference.

It was nice to get the final turn correct and overtake over the line for 6th place, just to prove I can actually do it. I can’t recall a last lap where I have managed it before!

So, a weekend that promised much going forward and, although reasonable results, I feel there is more in the tank and I was certainly a whole lot more involved than I was through the whole of the 2016 season.

My only problem is that I know there are at least 4 other drivers who also feel exactly the same and will be looking to rectify things next time out.

Talking of next time out, we’re headed to Spa Francorchamps to race at what has to be a bucket list track for every race fan. Brilliant! I can’t wait to give it a go and will report back how it is in just over a months time.

Let’s go!

It’s time for 2017 to begin

So, we’re fast approaching the first weekend of the 2017 Caterham Motorsport season. We are headed to Snetterton in Norfolk on 8th and 9th April.

Everything is bright, shiny and renewed once again and the 2017 Caterham Supersport series is once again looking to be ultra close and ultra competitive.

Caterham Supersport Timetable

  • Qualifying is 12:20 to 12:40, Sat 8th April
  • Race 1 is 17:55 to 18:25, Sat 8th April
  • Race 2 is 14:55 ti 15:25, Sun 9th April

Live Timing

Follow along with live timing and full results at http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/171431

Videos / Commentary

As ever, these will follow on shortly after the race weekend. They’ll be going on my YouTube Channel, so if you’d like to keep up with the whole season, I’d appreciate a click on the YouTube Subscribe button on the top right of this page!

Caterham Motorsport 2016 Season Review

Academy Green

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The early season form of the green group continued into the tail end of the season. The same super fast triplet of Tozer, John and Spencer were rarely out of the podium spots and always picking up the additional point for fastest lap.

The Championship went right down to the wire at Donington. It really wasn’t clear who was going to clinch it as a win would have taken it for any of the threesome. As it goes, the climax was largely spoilt by a long safety cad period. It was a sad end to a great season but Tozer was a worthy champion, Spencer a spectacular runner up and John a solid 3rd place – which he tried to throw away multiple times through the season. All three were split by 2 points come the final flag.

Walters, Rawlinson, Johnson and Grahame made a fast chasing pack. Sometimes enthusiasm caused a few issues and some mistakes held some of them back from ultimate victory. However, if past seasons are anything to go by, this is the group of drivers who will find their feet in Roadsport specification. Watch this space.

Varney, Gray and Graebert put in solid seasons as well. They are sure to be a big part of a strong mid field when both groups combine in 2017 to form Roadsport and will be chasing hard for podiums.

Academy White

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Where the Greed group had a threesome of contenders, the White group were a speeding duo of Gillias and McCormack. Between the two of them, they pretty much took everything going when the circuit racing started and would often leave the pack behind to fight between themselves for the scraps.

McCormack brought a super chilled approach to racing. Tooting his horn as he passed by  spectators on the banks. You could tell he was smiling behind his visor in the car and his speed was undeniable, however, it was a couple of fastest lap points from Gillias that ultimately handed him the championship.

Gillias was focussed all year but looked genuinely surprised at times that he was able to compete so well on the track. However, compete he did and win as well. He was a worthy champion and it will be great to see how they both progress onto the Roadsport grid in 2017.

Behind this duo, a spectacular group of Beardwell, Bianchi, Tiv and Wright would regularly change spaces and fighting hard. All of them suffered from a lack of consistency which saw them drop away from the front but they never had a dull moment.

Come Roadsport, they will be right in the mix with a little more experience under their belts. Beardwell in particular showed regular speed and, arguably, was the reason McCormack couldn’t match Gillias in the tables. But for some spins and excursions, he will do well.

It’s genuinely exciting to see everyone grow through the Academy year and it looks like there will be another really strong Roadsport grid to watch in 2017. It’s going to be exciting for sure.

Roadsport

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The 2016 Roadsport championship was definitely a coming of age season for a lot of drivers. With some absolutely fantastic racing through the season. The banks at the trackside were often the places to be through 2016. The on track action started fast and close and ended with a final round showdown.

Pre season I called Dan Quintero and Rui Ferrera as championship favourites with Russ Olivant also a strong contender with a run of form at the tail of the Academy year that you couldn’t help but make note of. So it proved that these drivers would all feature. Rui probably suffered a lull in form more than most and was sometimes seen lower down the field than he was accustomed to through the year. This affected his championship challenge. However, Russ and Daniel took it all the way to the last round of the year. Unfortunately, contact would rear it’s head and Russ would end up champion after the stewards had had their say.

It was a deserved win, and Russ has turned into quite the racer. He’s going to be a favourite for the 2017 season.

There were some other notable improvements made through the field and it was brilliant to see Rob Watts, Chris Aubrey and Alan Cooper all compete so strongly on a regular basis.

David Bevan and Will Lloyd continued to have strong showings but couldn’t maintain the ultimate pace at all the rounds.

Sometimes the pack got a little too complacent with their close racing and several rounds were marred by incident. Snetterton being the most notable of the lot. However, the pack responded well to this adversity and brought everything back under control.

Perhaps the surprise of the whole Caterham paddock was the immediate speed of Greg Hyatt. He missed the beginning of the season, but as soon as he joined the grid, he began winning and taking fastest laps. Had he done the full season, it’s likely he would have challenged for the championship. If he continues into 2017, the rest of the field better watch out.

Tracksport

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With small grids early in the season, it was hard to know how the tracksport season would go. Barnes was a hot pre-season favourite and he duly delivered on that promise. Indeed, it was only Dan Bremner’s setup up to tracksport that gave barnes any competition. The two would generally streak away from the rest of the field and have a race all of their own.

As the season progressed, we saw some return appearances from the likes of Paul Aram and Al Calvert, some of the gaps began to close and the lead train sometimes swelled. Snetterton was a highlight and showed what Tracksport could have been with a larger field.

Steve McCulley was often best of the rest through the year and seemed to avoid the bad luck that’s dogged his racing seasons to date. It was great to see Barry Moore finally getting on the podium and regularly competing at the sharp end of the field.

Milkins would likely have been a strong 3rd place contender in the championship but a couple of missed rounds meant he slipped down the order. Peter Rimer had another good year but still needs to find a little more consistency to move yet higher up the order.

Mention should be made for Andy Ebdon and Paul Wells, who consistency saw them riding high in the championship and only really being held back by the drop scores system that doesn’t fully reward consistent results.

Finally, it would be wrong to finish this report without a mention for team Labert. Richard making way for son Matthew at Snetterton. Richard was often at the sharp end of the grid, just behind the Barnes / Bremner rocket ships. However, Matthew perhaps made the biggest splash by winning both races at Snetterton. If Matthew gets his own car and a full season in 2017, he’s sure to do very well.

From the sounds of it, the Super Dooper Sport championship in 2017 will see an injection of some younger blood into this reduced field and the numbers should once again see strong battles and exciting tussles. Can’t wait.

Supersport

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I am biased, but the Superposrt championship this year was absolutely unbelievable. The 2015 Tracksport season was close but this was another level. With the addition of the 2015 tracksport grid to those staying on from Supersport it took a grid where 10 people could stand on the podium with ease and expanded that to 16.

Huge grid numbers and ultra close lap times were the hallmark of the season and while most drivers ebbed and flowed up and down the grid as time went on, it was Wiliiam Smith who absolutely nailed the championship with win after win. Most of the time, it wasn’t clear to see how he was able to win under such duress but win he did and he is a deserving champion. Having said that, there were multiple people deserving of the accolade and but for a few bad results, or bad luck, at least 4 people could have sealed the deal at one point or other.

Henry Heaton and Jack Brown had a stellar fight for runner up spot in the standings. In the final race of the year, the vice champion went back and forward between the two drivers multiple times. It was Jack Brown that came out on top in a tie breaker and Henry was left with 3rd place. After a great season for both, they should be happy with their performance.

Christian Szaruta often imposed himself on the front pack and only an off round at Snetterton meant he wasn’t also right in the fight for a championship podium.

Max McDonagh finally clicked with the car in Supersport specification. The limited slip differential allowing him to fully express his oversteer tendencies.

Sinclair, Dickens, Evans and Hutchinson also had their moments in the sun through the season and were always ready to pick up the pieces if the front drivers left any scraps.

My surprise of the season was the consistent front running form of Richard Ainscough. He came late to the paddock, starting in tracksport, and has quickly secured himself a spot right at the front of the grid. He’s going onto R300 next year and I see no reason why he can’t nail that and compete for a top 3 place.

Ben Tuck was a young gun addition to the grid – singularly focussed on winning. Although he didn’t have things his own way at the start of the year, the pace was always there and by the tail end of the season, once Will Smith was protecting his points, Tuck took over as the strongest racer with 4 podiums over the final 4 events, including 2 wins. Tuck is likely to move to more expensive racing categories soon but he’s sure to do well and the 2016 Supersport championship can feel satisfied that he was far from running in and sweeping all before him 🙂 I wish him well in his onward Career.

R300

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Aaron Head was pre season favourite. He delivered on that promise with a dominant season. But for some poor starts off the line, protecting his drive shafts from failure, he would have absolutely stormed every round. As it was he won all but a couple.

At the season finale at Doningon, Aaron didn’t even have to compete as the Championship was sewn up. However, he did race and although on Saturday he ended with a DNF, on Sunday, he stormed through the entire field to grab second place. Had the race been one lap longer, that could easily have been the win.

Lee Wiggins did his normal bridesmaid act, another exceptional season where he was marginally bettered. Another runner up spot in the championship. Jack Sales showed potential, the only other driver regularly able to compete with Aaron and Lee. A few off results where he got stuck behind trains of cars ultimately cost him more points but to come away with 3rd place in your first season of R300 is impressive indeed.

Nuttall failed to score 5 from 5 this year and it’s good to see that he is human. However, he also showed great speed at times and 4th place in the Championship is far from appalling. He’s sure to be strong coming into season 2 of R300 in 2017.

Clive Richards played his part in the season as well. His experience and calmness under pressure was a sight to behold from the banks. I’m sure he would have wanted a few more podiums but it was another strong campaign for the veteran.

Other drivers didn’t quite have the season they’d wanted. With Matt Dyer finishing lower than his speed would have him at times. Some mechanical failures also causing problems.

Overall it was a great season for the fastest class of Caterhams and it’s a great sign that 2017 is already oversubscribed and looks likely to take a further step up in competitiveness.

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Donington Downpoor

And so, the season has now run its full circle. It only seems like yesterday that we were heading out on track for the official test back in March. There were a few front running drivers not present on the Supersport grid and so a good result was possible, however, with 37 cars on the grid, that’s never guaranteed.

This was the first event of the season that I’ve only done the Friday test ahead of the weekend. Most of the time, by the morning of Friday I’m just turning in laps pretty much for the sake of it and often times not using all the sessions on offer. It was a strange feeling to try and compress my normal routine into one day but, in reality, it was more than enough to get up to speed.

As ever, I was around 1 second off of the ultimate pace on track, which was disappointing as I tend to go well at Donington, but I wasn’t too worried as I tend to keep to myself over testing and don’t try to chase a tow.

Come qualification, I knew there was a bit more to be had on track and with some careful traffic management, I managed to bag 4th place. It was a great feeling to be back at the pointy end of the field and it was almost a little strange to only see one row of cars ahead on the grid. Brings back good memories!

I made a reasonable start but Mike Evans and his normal rocket ship went down the inside into turn one. I didn’t compensate enough on the speed and, on cold tyres / track, drifted a little wide on the exit. This left an opening for few more cars and cost me some momentum.

By the end of lap one I was in 6th place and in a queue of cars from 1st down to 8th place. I was able to keep up nicely and felt strong. Some battling with Tim Dickens and Mike Evans ended when Mike lost the rear of his car into the old hairpin. I was therefore in a lead pack that was clear of the chasing drivers.

I bided my time early on, happy to wait for the carnage to ensue up front. Donington always leads to close battles and it’s almost impossible to break away due to the effect of the tow. However, the lead drivers kept it all clean and tidy and so there was no option but to try and move forward through the group.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated how much additional speed I would need to do this and also misjudged a few corners which left me too much to do. Tim Dickens found some of his Tracksport magic, and judged these last 10 minutes of his race to perfection. From a position behind me with 10 minutes to go, he’d managed to get to 3rd place by the chequered flag. This is something I’ve got to get better at and will work on my head over the winter to see what I can do.

6th over the line was the result but nose to tail with the entire lead group is better than I have managed this year to date. Although it was a little disappointing coming from the 4th in quali – I knew that was mainly due to other drivers getting blocked and me managing to get a good lap in.

The forecast for Sunday was for rain. I was really looking forward to the race and really felt positive about moving forward. A wet track is something I love and it’s the first propper one we’ve had this year. Off the line and around the first few bends, the visibility was absolutely dire. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I literally couldn’t see the track and the only marker for the correct direction was other cars around me.

Once the queue settled down, I was in around 8th place. I moved forward to around 6th place but at that stage I realised that my car setup was hopelessly understeery around Donington. I’ve made changes through the year to correct oversteer in the car and unfortunately, by doing so, I’ve created a car that can’t corner in the wet. I was something in the order of 5mph slower than I needed to be mid corner and so wasn’t able to compete as I’d hoped.

Whilst others were throwing the car off the track, I was just holding on hoping the track would dry a touch. That wasn’t to be and by the flag I ended up 6th again.

Whilst this was still an OK result, it was a missed opportunity and by the time all the scores had been totted up, I ended the year in 8th place. A couple more points would have seen me in around 5th…

Not a bad season overall and certainly the most competitive grid by a long way in my career to date.

Although funds are now non-existent and debts are growing – I have also decided to do one more year before likely having to hang up the gloves and recover my finances. This now means some busy winter time getting ready for 2017 and I’ve promised myself that I’ll do more to be competitive next year. I much prefer fighting for podiums – I know I have it in me and I want to get back up there spraying the champaign and taking home more pots for the shelves.

Clinging on in Croft

September saw the Caterham paddock head up North to Croft, in Yorkshire. Croft was a mixed weekend for me last time we visited in Roadsport.

It was probably the end of my Roadsport Championship campaign, I threw away a podium on pretty much the last corner of race 1. But a return to form for race 2 saw me just missing out on a win and keeping a glimmer of hope that the Championship could still happen.

I like the track and coming back with the Supersport car now hasn’t reduced the enjoyment.
It’s got, probably, the tightest hairpin of any track in the UK as well as a long section of fast and flowing corners. So there’s a bit of something for everyone.

After a couple of days of testing, my neck was really feeling the strain. Come qualification, things were as competitive as ever. All the normal front pack within a second of pole. 7th for me was a fair result and kept me in the right region coming into the race. However, the gearbox started to feel week through the session and Croft has a reputation for eating gearboxes in Caterhams.

Race 1 started OK. I was able to make some spots up on the start and was holding onto the train of cars. However, on lap 2, through the fast chicane, something went awry inside the gearbox and after a horrible period of grinding crunching, I did get the gear. However, the damage was done and I lost places.

Some of these were made back quickly with mistakes coming from other drivers. I also managed to lose a wing and damage my exhaust at Tower. It was fortunate the contact didn’t end worse off. From the sound of the exhaust, I was sure that it had come off.

The majority of the rest of the race was spent battling with Mike Evans. We swapped places a number of times but as the race wore on, I was able to break free. I very nearly caught up the battle for 4th but ran out of laps.

Race 2 was another hot one. We’ve had a whole season of scorchers this year. Only race 1 at Brands has been even damp. With a failing gearbox, I had to go into the race with some mechanical sensitivity. Not ideal but necessary to ensure a finish.

The start went well and I found myself in a good spot, fighting Henry Heaton for 4th place. However, I was unable to cling on as Mike Evans and Max McDonagh began fighting for spots. It was a great race with plenty of swapping. Nice to get back involved. However, I wasn’t able to hold onto the end of the race and I slipped to another 8th place.

With the gearbox on its last legs, I am happy that I got to the end of the race in one piece. Although not spectacular results, both races were fun and some of the battles were great.

Final round of the season is next up – at Donington. A track I generally go well at. Let’s see if we can finish off the season on a high.

Taking to the track with the Caterham Academy