Every year, we get the opportunity to travel to Europe and race on some of the best circuits the continent has to offer. This year, we returned to the Zandvoort circuit in Holland. I had mixed results here in 2015 when the Caterham’s were last here.
Struggling in the dry with a slow engine and rescuing the weekend in the damp on Sunday with a 2nd place from deep in the pack.
This weekend was anything from damp, with scorching temperatures. So it was going to be down to me, DPR Motorsport and my support crew (parents) to get on the pace.
After a nervous first day of testing on less than ideal tyres, I had a restless night knowing that if the pace wasn’t there in the morning, I was going to be mid pack once more.
However, come Friday morning, the race tyres went on and I was immediately out in front on the timing sheets. I nearly threw all that away with a spin in a very tight section of the track which could easily have ended in the barriers and with significant damage. But something was keeping the luck on my side this weekend and I missed hitting anything but my pride.
I made the decision to go it alone in qualification. However, I didn’t string a good lap together and a wind direction change meant that the tow was going to be vital. I returned to the pits and rejoined when I saw a gaggle of cars.
The clock was running down fast and it was all going to come down to one last lap effort. I got pole by 3/10ths of a second and rescued what could have been a start from low down the top 10.
Race 1 started well, with a good get away and a fairly good lead going around the first lap. However, I didn’t quite manage to break away fully before the pack had sorted themselves into their early order. They gradually pulled me back in with the tow.
I happily traded some places with the lead group at the front until a missed braking point by Alan Cooper meant I had to take avoiding action and this let Lee Bristow pull a slight gap in the lead before I could get up to speed again.
At the same time, my DPR teamate Christian Szaruta had finally made his way through the pack from a lowly qualifying position and took away my 2nd place. However, after his epic comeback drive, he was fast and hungry and we both pulled Lee back in together.
On the last lap, Christian moved to the lead and I was left waiting in 3rd place. However, all weekend I had been fast out of the final turn and with the tow being so large, I felt comfortable that I was in the best position possible.
I got a double slingshot out of the final bend and JUST managed to cross the line in 1st place. 0.014s was the winning margin and the top 3 were covered by 0.064s.
It’s such an amazing feeling for me when I win a race. It may be only amateur motorsport at the end of the day but the whole of the grid work extremely hard to race hard and fast. To come out on top is both unfathomable and unbelievably rewarding.
A fun evening of drinks and food with friends and family; watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean topped off what was a brilliant day,
Back to reality and time to do it all again on Sunday. Nerves jangling, I managed to fluff my start somewhat, with too much wheel spin. However, a bit of late braking into turn one saw me regain the lead. A slight clip to the rear from a Bristow lockup could have been worse (and probably would have been if it hadn’t been Lee) and only saw me lose a bit of my rear wing.
It also gave me a very small gap back to the pack and today I was in no mood to give up the lead. I raced absolutely flat out for 15 minutes. Qualifying lap after qualifying lap. It’s not often in a Caterham race that you get to race for so many laps absolutely flat out. With the ambient temperatures so high, it was energy sapping.
All the DPR motorsport squad were once again right at the front of the pack and, in my mirrors, I noticed Christian had once again managed to make his way though and clear of the chase pack.
It took him a while, but he did eventually catch up. A few cautious periods through yellow flag zones and a botched gear change eventually saw to that. But we then worked together to make sure the gap to the chase group never reduced.
With just over 2 laps to go, Christian took the lead coming into the chicane. At other tracks, this would have been a worry but he was not able to pull away and it was my turn to patiently follow along.
He tried hard to prevent the inevitable tow to the line but, ultimately, it was too strong and I managed to draft by to a relatively comfortable win (0.054s).
It was my dad’s 71st birthday and I was able to gift him an absolutely well deserved trophy for all his efforts.
For the DPR Motorsport team, it was also a brilliant weekend. But for a track limits infringement, Gordon Sawyer would have made it a top 3 lockout in the 310Rs and Will Smith managed the double in 420Rs. Testament to the whole team’s hard work.
We move on to Castle Combe next. A track with mixed memories again for me but one I’m really looking forward to.