Snetterton 100 Sprint, Caterham Academy 213

A quick visit to DPR on Friday morning for an oil change and a weight check confirmed that I’ve shifted enough weight now that I’m running at minimum. That’s a great milestone for me and an overall drop of car/driver weight of 21kg. And, by golly, I needed that weight saved. The sharp end of Group 1 is a very competitive affair.

I arrived at the circuit late afternoon and, much to the bemusement of my dad, set up my tent. There were a hardy group of drivers who’d made the decision to camp out – at differing levels of comfort – and it was a great evening spent chatting and joking over some pretty ropey BBQs and enjoying the shelter of James’ fantastic shelter (Pfaff to Action Ratio of 189 – but Reward Offset Constant of 1200). Very glad I stuck it out through the rain.

The morning was gray, overcast – foreboding even – and everywhere was damp. However, the forecasts were now all agreeing that we wouldn’t see rain through the day, so things were going to dry out pretty quickly. However, as Group 1 were first out on track, it was extremely damp tarmac that we used to familiarise ourselves with the corners.

My first run was a poor affair. It didn’t put me in the best of moods and really, with the conditions, was an irrelevance in the day. We’d already been told that we would only get 2 timed runs, so that left just one practice run in the (nearly) dry. I made the decision to just assume everywhere was dry and go for it. That paid off and I got down to 105.59. Game on. Only Henry Heaton ahead by a few 10ths.

Into the first timed runs – my first attempt saw my time drop by 1.3s to 104.27. This was a great banker lap to have on the board but again, Henry was showing us all the way forward and cracked into the 103’s with a 103.85. That was very impressive. He had been on top form all day and was showing us a flavour of the pace we have to look forward to when the racing proper begins. James Houston wasn’t far behind, just missing out on the 104’s. And Nick Horton, who had set good times in the morning, span – so he was also one to watch out for in the final run.

As I lined up for the final run, I had the words of David Da Costa running through my head “Chris, you’ll find those 4 10th by being neater – not more aggressive”. And that proved to be the case. It was a vary neat and tidy couple of laps and it did result in a time of 103.86. I knew I’d bettered my time from the previous runs from the feeling on-board. I also knew I’m left a little bit out on the track around Agostini and Oggies. It turns out that Henry wasn’t going to be denied today and he’d moved the benchmark onto 103.60.

Considering the lack of relevant running through the day, I was extremely pleased with the result and Henry absolutely deserved the win. He was a step ahead on every round. James did move his time down, but couldn’t crack into the 103’s. Nick had to be slightly conservative after the first run spin.

So, it was a second place on the day for me. Another great result. I left the track wanting another run to find more time but on reflection, I know that James and Nick would have been right in there as well, and with Henry on such good form and likely to nail even more of a lap together, I think it may have been a bad idea!

We’ve got a 4 week gap to the final sprint of the season. It’s going to be hard work waiting for that to come around.

Caterham Writeup of Aintree Sprint

Aintree hosted the British Grand Prix five times during the fifties and sixties and this year it played host to another season opener for the Caterham Academy.

The far reach of Aintree circuit is a wonderful location to begin proceedings of the Academy season. The drivers get the opportunity to learn more about their cars and their limits in a safe, friendly and enjoyable environment. During the day the camaraderie around the paddock strengthens between the competitors along with the competitive streak within them. Tips and hints become more guarded as the lap times decrease and competition intensifies whilst they try to establish a pecking order for the forthcoming season. Satisfaction can be rewarded to all the drivers as they look back at the improvement throughout the day. During the practice runs both groups were split by about eight seconds although after the timed runs the majority of the field were within three seconds of the leaders.

Last year the more mature gentleman took an early lead whereas this year the flirty thirties were fighting back. Grp 1 started out how they meant to go on with Chris Hutchinson, 35 breaking into the 53 second mark on his first practice run. James Houston, 30, Nick Horton, 35 and Lawrence Barwick, 42 (ok not technically in his thirties but you would never know) all set times in the mid 54’s which is impressive for a first attempt.

Grp 2’s quickest drivers were even younger, Will Smith, 26, Lee Bristow, 20 (a Caterham technician based at the Dartford factory) and Dan Gore also 20 all started off by setting times within the 54 second mark.

The same names appeared at the top of the listings for the timed runs with the exception of Henry Heaton in Grp 1 who pushed his way in and Houston and Barwick out with a low 53 second time on his first timed run. Heaton, 22 from Leeds would have been much happier if the proceedings had stopped after three timed runs as he lay in third position. However as there was time for a fourth run we decided to count it and low and behold Hertford based Houston snatched third by one hundredth of a second from under Heaton’s nose. A driver who I am sure will have been delighted that we decided to count the last run is London based Frenchman, Alexis Dusserre, a 37 year old Banker. He improved his time by over 3.5 seconds between the first and last timed run jumping from 26th place up to 12th.

New Sprint record – Chris Hutchinson 53.13

Group 1

1st Chris Hutchinson 2nd Nick Horton 3rd James Houston

Group 2

1st Will Smith 2nd Dan Gore 3rd Lee Bristow

Tic Toc, Tic Toc

The wait is painful! And this one is only for 3 weeks. Having stepped out the car after the last timed run at Aintree, the next time I’ll be back behind the wheel is the first practice run at Snetterton.

That’s not entirely a comfortable thought! I’d love to have done another track/test day but funds and time haven’t allowed it. If Snetterton doesn’t go well, I’ll have to review my debt mountain and see if I can get out before Blyton!

Oh – and I’m a stone down since my Rockingham track day on April 1st. That’s one thing that all this waiting around is good for. Plenty of time to eat salad and go to the gym. The pace of others in the group (you all know who you are) was enough to convince me that carrying additional spare tyres in the drivers seat wasn’t a good idea. I don’t know if I can shift them all – but I’ve at least shed one of them.