Donington Park is a fantastic track to drive. It’s extremely fast and flowing and requires a real rhythm and balance to hook the lap together properly. It’s also a track that enables huge slipstreams in a Caterham. Fast entries into long straights (or near straights) means that the lead car is running out of puff pushing through the air, whilst those following in the tow can gain another 6-7mph.
Getting in that tow is vital and the grid tends to bunch up in the races as people can’t escape down the road.
Donington Park is a fantastic track to drive. It’s extremely fast and flowing and requires a real rhythm and balance to hook the lap together properly.
Testing went well, and come qualification on Saturday morning, I found myself in the perfect position on track to be able to set good lap times. During qualification, you don’t know what’s going on around you with times, but I knew I’d got a good banker lap in early so I could push at the end. This I did and I just managed to hold onto pole position with my last lap, ahead of Will Smith and Tim Dickens.
Race 1 was a similar story to Snetterton. A bad opening to the lap (this time, running wide in turn 1) saw me having to get back through the field to the front. 7th out of turn 1 then converted a lap later to 5th, then to 3rd and finally into the lead… but only briefly!
The battles that ensued felt epic in car! I was working as hard as I could to keep a surging Lee Bristow behind for the second half of the race. Lee was obviously hungry as he took bit out of the Cheesemobile going down Craner Curves for the last time – one rear wing gone! Tim and Will had disappeared up the road a little because of this but a move by Tim going into the chicane for the final time left an opportunity to make up another spot. 3 wide into the Melbourne loop and I just managed to nip into second and hold on through Goddards.
Here’s race one for you in all it’s muck and glory!
An early start for race 2 on Sunday morning and a bad weather forecast with ominous clouds saw me go onto tyres with higher tread blocks to hedge bets on whether we were going to get wet. Having also pumped extra fuel into the car to ensure I wasn’t as close to the weight limit as I had been at the end of race 1 (with no rear wing, I was only just over the minimum weight allowed…) and using the older style, heavier wheels meant (as it turned out) that I was 10kg over the ‘safety margin’ at the end of the race!
Mud and water brought on to the track by other racers meant that corner grip was changing hugely lap by lap.
None of that would have mattered had the rain fallen, but it never did. It was very much a race of two halves for me. The start was OK – although Will understeered into me going through turn 1. By the end of the lap I’d got to the lead and wanted to work with Will to try and gap the field. However, it didn’t work out and an on fire Jack Sales consumed the very small gap we had in a couple of corners!
As the race developed, things dried out in general, but mud and water brought on to the track by other racers meant that corner grip was changing hugely lap by lap! Coppice caught out many people as water had been brought onto the braking area and also the apex.
And that’s where things changed. A windscreen full of mud from a three wide group of cars the lap before through the chicane and Lee Bristow attacking from behind saw me brake late into the Melbourne loop. Once that decision had been made, I was heading up the inside of Henry with nothing I could do about it at that stage. Unfortunately, the tight line that I was therefore on didn’t let me scrub off enough speed (looking at the data, the apex speed is the same as previous laps – but the tighter approach meant that was around 5 mph too fast) and, although I tried everything I could to avoid it, Henry’s sweeping line and my understeering line crossed and I hit the side of his exhaust with my front left tyre. It was heavy enough contact that it bumped Henry out wide and he lost 2 places as a result. It also started a string of events where he span at the next corner trying to save a further place.
Lessons to learn for me there. It took the spirit out of my drive as well and from then on I was in a relatively quiet 4th place up to the chequered flag.
I’ve spoken to Henry since the race and I’ve offered my apologies for the incident. You have to trust the people you race against to keep you safe and to be fair on track. I’m sad that I’ve used up at least some of that trust with Henry and I’ll be doing what I can to get it back going forward. The fact we all race so close means a slightly later brake mark, where on your own you’d just wash out a little wide, can cause you much larger problems. As I say, lessons to learn for me – but that is part of the process for everyone.
Here’s the race in full.