The start of a new season is always a fantastic mix of emotions. There’s excitement, nervous energy and a massive air of anticipation that hangs around the track. More than ever this year, the sense of ‘family’ and general paddock spirit was palpable. Having had to say goodbye to Pete Fortune far too soon earlier in the year, the feeling of attachment between drivers and the paddock as a whole was closer than ever.
Coming into the pre-event testing, I’d been off the pace. However, Snetterton is a track I really enjoy and I appeared to have taken a step forward. This was confirmed by the time qualifying arrived with my fastest ever lap of Snetterton, very nearly 1 second below lap record pace and nearly 0.4s quicker than Jack Sales in 2nd place.
A great start to the weekend.
The long wait to our first race was punctuated by an extremely poignant and entirely fitting slow parade lap in memory of Pete Fortune. A massive train of Caterhams snaked it’s way around the Snetterton track in a show of respect and it was a very choking experience and one I am extremely proud to have played my part in.
Come the race, I was determined to make a reasonable start. 2014 had been a hit and miss affair with my starts and so it was a relief that the car surged forward well when the lights went out. Jack Sales and Tim Dickens managed to overhaul me in the opening corners however, the tow down the Bentley straight was as important as ever and the only guarantee was that coming onto the straight in the lead was not a good idea.
What followed in the next 28 minutes of racing was simply phenomenal to be a part of. Countless lead changes. Countless overtakes. 4 wide racing. It was a joy to be a part of it and a joy to experience the skill, judgement and downright talent of the drivers I get to race with.
Judge for yourself in the video.
It’s hard to pick yourself up again after a race like that. Spending the evening with everyone at a local pub was a great way to start the process.
It was grey and overcast for day 2. Even though we had a long time till our afternoon race, I rocked up nice and early and watched Will Smith have a fantastic recovery drive in Supersports.
When we finally reached our grid time, a few whisps of white smoke coming from under the bonnet indicated issues to come. I put it down to oil dribbles from when I’d topped up pre race. The early race was great. I made it from 5th to the lead in short order and stayed there, on and off, for 5 laps. However, oil spraying out of my car was indicative that more was wrong than a slight spillage when topping up the oil. I’d left the oil filler cap off.
At around lap 5 the car began sliding on it oil and by lap 8 I was suffering with a serious lack of grip. I slipped to 10th but managed to make a couple of places back before the flag. Jumping out of the car at the end I was surprised by just how much oil there was. A post mortem by the Caterham team confirmed that the impossible is possible… the engine had survived. I was left with oil at the minimum level and no apparent damage.
I left Snetterton with mixed emotions. Sad that a silly mistake during prep meant I couldn’t figure in the standings… but absolutely blown away by just how competitive everyone is.
Finally, given that I entered the weekend off the pace – I was proud that this old man can still rock it with the young guns.
Donington is only 3 weeks away. What the heck will happen there!!? Looking forward to finding out.