So, the LONG off season wait was finally over this weekend and we were up at Snetterton, in Norfolk, for the opening round of the 2014 Caterham Roadsport Championship.
Everyone has bee playing their cards very close to their chests over the winter and so there were nervous side-ways glances around the paddock, as well as one or two rumours about certain people finding a lot of speed in their newly upgraded cars.
As the red lights went out for the race, I completely forgot to go! A fraction of a second is all it takes to be swamped by the pack.
From testing on the Friday, it quickly became clear that as well as the front runners from the Academy season, at least 4 other drivers were now fast enough to keep up and keep ahead. That meant a block of about 8 drivers all in with a chance at victory.
Qualification on Saturday morning was an extremely tricky affair. The opening lap was dry but then the rain started. It looked as if the opening lap might have been the only fast one and, having missed out on getting a clear run, I was looking in a precarious position. Thankfully, it did just dry enough by the end of the session to allow one final fast lap and I duly put the cheesemobile in 3rd on the grid.
Come the afternoon and the race, the sky had cleared and we had sunshine. As the red lights went out for the race, I completely forgot to go! A fraction of a second is all it takes to be swamped by the pack and after also bumping into Tim Dickens and missing a gear, I ended up going through the early part of the race in 10th place.
It took some strong battling and defensive driving to pass and hold off Max McDonagh and Richard Osgerby. However, I had just enough speed to break their tow and leave them to their race-long epic battle.
However, the gap to the lead group was now big enough to miss out on the tow. It took 4 laps to chase back onto this gaggle of cars. Another fun battle with Dan Gore and Tim Dickens ensued before I found myself behind the lead 4 of Lee Brostow, Henry Heaton, Jack Sales and Will Smith. Unfortunately, by the end of the straight, there was a coming together between Henry, Lee and Jack as they found that 3 into 1 doesn’t always go to plan. It was a nasty, high speed, accident and Jack was very lucky not to roll his car. Sadly, Lee’s race ended there. Jack was able to limp home. The accident had also caused me an avoidance spin, and this left me back down in 7th place again.
I had 2 laps left to try and catch Max and Richard still battling for 5th and 6th. Head down, I managed to very nearly get back on terms but couldn’t quite get there. However, as a consolation prize, I managed to pick up the Caterham Roadsport Snetterton 300 Lap Record. Now that’s not bad!
Here’s the race in full…
Race 2 took place on Sunday morning. If the first race was one of highs and lows, this one was destined to completely blow that out the water.
The rain started in the holding area and proceeded out into the green flag lap… the track quickly became very slippy! Starting 7th on the grid is my farthest back into the field yet. I have to say, it’s a very different experience seeing cars all around. It motivated me to make a better start than race 1 and I made spaces, rather than lost them. The early laps were very much a tentative affair, with everyone searching out the grip and trying to work out how much of it there was! The rain was still coming down and so conditions were changing corner by corner.
Over the opening laps I made up positions and it wasn’t long before I was fighting for, and taking, the lead. By this stage, the track had once again started to dry again. The lead passed back and forth between myself, Will Smith and Henry Heaton over the following laps. However, the lead bunch was now comprised of 11 cars nose to tail! Watching some footage back, it was a sight to behold! It was about this stage that I spied Cedric Bloch in his blue car. Cedric has very little practice out on track but is an absolute natural in the rain. Able to find out grip – and have the confidence to use it. I watched him move through the pack and into 3rd place. However, I was able to hold him back and then make my way back up to Henry who had slipped off the front just a little.
The lead bunch was now comprised of 11 cars nose to tail!It was a sight to behold!
The race was then between the two of us. We swapped places a few times here and there…. I decided I was going to leave it to the last corner to make my move. It’s worked plenty of times before but unfortunately, the rain fell once more and I picked up unexpected understeer which meant I didn’t get onto the straight fast enough.
So second place it was… or at least it was for a short while. Scruteneering was an agonising time as both Henry’s and my front left camber were adjudged to exceed the allowed 3 degrees angle. Several agonising minutes later, and several measures and re-calibrations, my car was found to be inside the regulation, but Henry’s was outside.
It was such a sad end to a wonderful race. It meant I ended up with the win and fastest lap, but it’s just not how anyone wants it to happen. I was genuinely gutted for Henry and the emotional turmoil that feeling of elation on the podium followed by absolute depression in parc ferme was almost too much to take.
Here’s the second race…
It’s only 3 weekends till the next race at Donington Park. I will need to go back to have my setup checked once more… That was too close to call and I never want to be in that position again. It’s good to be back on the racing band wagon!