When Wadey met Cheesy

Meet the king of the drift from Donington… epic hold down craner curves for Dan Wade. I think there must have been some dirt or fluid down on the apex as I had a big wobble – but nothing like his! That was then followed by an extremely close encounter with my rear end!

The racing begins

It’s been quite some weekend! Firstly it’s been bloomin hot. From the test day on Friday, all the way through to the race on Sunday, the sun has shone it’s heart out and roasted a whole lot of drivers and spectators!

At the test day, I finally got to meet up with Michael Downing from Roadsport. He put together a brilliant blog last year for his Academy season and I know he’s been following along this blog from the beginning as well so it was nice to finally have a face to face and share stories!

Testing went OK and I knew I’d be on the pace come race day. This was a relief as the previous day at Donington had been soaking wet for the majority of the track time. I spent different session playing with different tactics and techniques.

Into the weekend proper and it was a long, hot, wait for the qualifying session. The nerves really began to kick in as the time approached. Getting kitted up and strapped in got the heart going like a hard gym session! My session didn’t go exactly to plan. It was looking good initially, with Nick Horton along for a play and to help each other with a tow, but Nick then had a spin, leaving me all out alone on track. I didn’t quite hook up a good enough lap in clean air, so tried for a couple more, but this left me deep in traffic as I caught up some spinners and slower cars. There was no gap on track either ahead or behind. Just as I found a good bunch of cars to work with, the session was over.

Third on the grid was the result – which was a great outcome and kept me at the sharp end for the start of the race.

I was far more relaxed on raceday itself. The party the night before had ended in a late night/early morning beer drinking session Henry and James. It was a great evening but it did take until mid morning to shake off the groggy feeling!

A couple of Uni friends joined my sister and dad to watch the race. It was nice to have them along and, as the race itself turned out to be a stormer, I’m glad we all put on a show for them!

From lights to flag, it was extremely close up front, with Nick, Henry, Dan Livingstone, Dan Wade and myself all going tit for tat. Considering it was everyones first ever race – it was pretty incredible to be a part of.

At the start, Nick managed to select reverse gear instead of second (I don’t know how you do that!) so dropped back. I got through turn one in second behind Henry and we managed to pull a gap. At that point, I really wanted Henry to work with me to solidify this gap – but he went ultra defensive and it was only a matter of a lap or two before Nick and Dan had pulled us back in and now we had a lead pack of four.

Again, the battling went on with places swapping all over the place. Dan Livingstone can, I think, could himself a lucky boy, as he overtook under yellow going through McLeans and didn’t return the place back. He was initially excluded from the results for this move but the Clerk of the Course accepted that Henry re-taking the place back at Redgate was enough to let him off.

All this shenanigans still meant we were slowing each other down and that meant Dan Wade could join in the party. Lead pack now of 5 cars.

After Dan Wade missed his braking spot into Redgate and spun avoiding my rear end, it was just the four of us left going into (what transpired) was the last lap. I completely missed the last lap board so had no idea!

Into Coppice (second last bend) I decided to take a slightly wider line in, to try and get a slingshot out onto the back straight. However, it was far more slippy out on the wider line and the back-end stepped out pretty sharply. Once I’d got that under control, the tarmac was at an end and I knew I’d be heading for the gravel. This isn’t a good thing – and I was extremely close to spinning to a stop on about 3 occasions as I tried to fight the car back to the track. If I’d spun at that point, it would have been race over, 0 points. I lost my 4th place to Dan Wade as I picked up speed once more and then, was thinking about chasing him down – when the realisation that the chequered flag was now out hit home and I knew that I’d thrown away a good chance at a podium right at the end of the race.

It was a complete mix of emotions on the cool down lap. I was initially gutted that I’d thrown away the position, I was sad that the race was over because it had been such a lot of fun but I was also incredibly happy to have been a part of such a great opening race. Everyone raced clean and fair. I only felt I’d been ‘weaved’ on once by Dan L and considering all that was going on, that’s pretty good going!

I did have an added nervous wait up at the Clerk of the Courses office. I didn’t know why I’d been called up there but there was a nervous queue of about 6 other racers all standing in a line, waiting to be called in.

As it transpired, he was just asking about a report of contact when Dan Wade outbraked himself into Redgate and spun. I think a marshal had reported that contact had been made – but neither myself nor Dan had felt any – and certainly the rear of my car was all in one piece! He also mentioned a four wheels off moment down at the old hairpin but said my race had been good and clean offered congratulations on my first signature.

So, that was the end of the weekend. A complete roller coaster of emotions. I loved the racing. Loved the fact it was hard but clean. Loved the social aspect (as ever!) But did come away feeling I hadn’t got the most out of the result. I’m happy with 5th but know more was possible.

I really want to be part of that podium celebration! It looked brilliant! Congrats to Nick, Henry and Dan on their result. Really looking forward to Brands Hatch in 3 weekends time. See you there!

On track adventures

Since Blyton, I’ve had a couple of days at tracks. One at Brands Indy and another at Donington. Both featured wet sessions – with Donington taking the crown with an absolutely soaking track. I’ve been relatively lucky so far with on track spins. However, with these last two events I’ve managed to add to my tally.

Neither ended badly! Thank goodness! Here they are, along with a couple of my closer shaves!

Getting ready to go wheel to wheel

As ever, there is a fair bit of tinkering and fiddling going on at the moment. After every track day, I’ve got into the routine of unloading the car, getting it up on the stands and taking off the wheels, nose and bonnet. Not only does it make me feel like I know what I’m doing (I generally don’t), it also means that I can give the car a good once over with a spanner check and inspection.

I’m surprised how quickly my brake pads are going down so I’ve replaced both front and rear ahead of the first race. It’s another job that’s not too tricky to achieve and you can get stuck into.

Having seen Henry’s diff carrier pictures where it had broken, I also make sure to keep an eye on that!

At Brands Hatch, Pete Basterfield pointed out that my brake lights weren’t working. I initially thought that this was a problem with the brake light switch in the pedal box, so I ordered a replacement and plugged it in. However, that didn’t solve the issue and so a quick check of the fuse box showed that you should always check the simple solutions first! A quick fuse swap later and the brake lights magically sprung into life! It’s not an easy task checking brake lights when you don’t have an assistant. My solution involved a mop.

At Donington, it also became apparent that my front left headlight dip wasn’t working. So, I ordered a new headlight and went about working out how to get it in place! It’s a simple case of undoing the allen head bolt at the top of the light, gently leaning the front of the light forward, removing the power plug, rubber seal and retaining clip. That sounds more complicated than it was in reality. It’s all fairly obvious when you get stuck in and is another job that is satisfying.

After my off track activity at Donington, I also took the opportunity to give the car a good wash and scrub. As the track time creeps every upwards, the minor dents, scrapes and scratches begin to add up. Generally, the car is in excellent shape still, but the stone chipping on the rear wheel arch and passenger side panel are beginning to show.

The cars also been back with DPR for a final pre-race check. It’s basically got a good bill of health, with only a few minor tweaks to get it back in shape.

Next step is the test day, qualification and race at Donington this weekend. The excitement spikes are getting more regular the closer it gets. I’m going to be an absolute state by the time the weekend arrives.