What a weekend. Well, nearly a week by the time you take into account travelling and testing! Now that we have the pre-requisite National A licence, we can race abroad and Caterham take full advantage of that by offering up one European round each year.
This year, we went to Zolder in Belgium. It’s a track with oodles of history and the place echo’s of past glories. Very few of the drivers present at the weekend would have driven the circuit before, and certainly none of the Roadsport brigade.
There was no doubt about a podium spot – just which one would it be!
I thought that this would lead to a spread out grid – but how wrong I was! If anything, the gaps were smaller than ever. Numerous drivers ended up top of the times through testing and it quickly became clear that it wasn’t clear who had the ultimate pace!
That would all be sorted by the time Qualification arrived. My banker lap was good enough to hold onto the top spot for nearly the whole of qualification, but it was bettered on the final lap by Jack Sales who was suffering from a lack of tow until the final seconds. Will Smith was in 3rd having chosen to go it alone out front and didn’t even need a tow!
Come the race, the three of us pulled away from an extremely hard fought 4th place, who tripped themselves up enough for a gap of 14 seconds by the flag.
So, apart from the possibilities of a stupid mistake or a safety car, there was no doubt about a podium spot – just which one would it be!
It was a race of 2 halves. Off the line, Will shoved it down the inside of Jack and myself. I was able to make it past Jack into the hairpin and then we proceeded to go flat out for lap after lap. Will made a suitable sized whole in the air out in front and I was able to keep up and even make up a little ground on him. Jack was just behind. The gaps yo-yo’d as small mistakes here and there happened. But the pace was fast and consistent. No quarter given! From the outside, it probably looked routine. But in car, it was anything but – with every last bit of grip being screeched out of the baking tarmac.
Just after half way, and just before my little toe finally blistered from the heat in the foot-well, I made a small mistake out of the final chicane and Jack took 2nd place going into turn 1 up the inside. By the end of the lap, I’d got the spot back when Jack locked up his rears going into chicane no. 2. The place swapping meant that Will got a small lead that we never managed to pull back. So, the race was going to be between myself and Jack for 2nd. Another slight error saw Jack pass me round the outside of turn one.
Into the final chicane on the second last lap, I was able to re-pass Jack but the lack of speed out of the corner meant that we were side by side into turn 1 again. This time, I returned the favour for Jack previous move and held on around the outside.
Just the last lap to hold on then! The longest lap of course! I was able to defend all the way to the last corner. However, an over cautious approach and exit saw jack along side out of the corner and on the drag down to the line, I had no idea who had crossed first. In fact, I believed that Jack had nicked it. However, come the podium, I had held on by 0.009s!
Race 2 was a very different affair. Starting from P2 again on a circuit which had just had a soaking meant that nobody knew what the conditions were going to be like. I was on a completely dry setup and, as it transpired, the rear end was very lively with the lack of grip!
Jack took the opportunity to shove it up the inside of turn 1 off the start, leaving Will in 2nd and me in 3rd, defending from a hard charging Henry. I wasn’t able to hold Henry back for long and so slipped into 4th place – looking forward to a drying track which would hopefully come back to my car setup.
However, a nasty accident through turn 1 between Tommo and Christina saw Tommo’s car catch fire dramatically, and a safety car was rightly deployed. With fuel and coolant on the exit of turn 1, it took a long time to clear everything up. The majority of our race was therefore behind the safety car, but the hard working marshals got everything ready just in time for a one lap blast to the flag.
A nasty accident between Tommo and Christina saw Tommo’s car catch fire dramatically.
I made a poor restart but was able to pull back Will through the early part of the lap. I was alongside into the first chicane, but not enough to make a move stick. Into the second chicane, I was again alongside, although the inside line was still very damp and there wasn’t the grip to make anything happen.
Unfortunately, the last move saw me compromised on the way out of the chicane and that meant Max was tight on my tail, looking for a way through. I defended hard for the remainder of the lap and held onto 4th place over the line.
I was pleased with my weekends work. Unfortunately, I finished one place behind Will in each race, and that saw me lose the championship lead. However, I’m only 2 points back, and I quite like the idea of chasing a championship for once!
It was an expensive weekend for some, with 4 cars heading back home in varying states of brokenness. However, for many, it was a great trip across the channel and certainly an experience!
The next round is Rockingham – so it’s time to lay some demons to rest. Feels like time for a win again!