Category Archives: Championship Event

Brands Indy 2018 – Rounds 5 and 6

Brands Hatch holds my best and worst memories of my racing career. It’s been the scene of my best wins and it’s been the scene of a season ending accident.

As my most local track, it’s never dull though and, as ever, I had friends and family on hand to cheer me on all the way.

I only did Friday testing this year, so some of my competitors had a bit of a head start on me. However, I managed to put in a quick time in the first session out and I felt comfortable that I had some raw speed for the weekend.

In qualification, my VBOX decided it wouldn’t pick up any satellites for the GPS, I was therefore left blind, not knowing if I was putting in good laps or not. It was actually quite refreshing to just go fast, look for tows and keep pushing on as much as I could right until the flag came out.

The result was a pole lap of 51.7s. Well under lap record pace and a 10th clear of my closest rival. A nice way to start the weekend then.

It was an important weekend as well. With the race entries being over subscribed, we ran a 3 race format. There were therefore lots of points on offer and, theoretically, one third less competition for the top spots in each of the races.

Race 1 was a normal hectic Brands Hatch slug fest. The main straight always giving a restorative tow to anyone dropping back and action a plenty with overtakes into all the corners on the track.

I lead for the first 10 minutes or so of the race, before starting to trade places with Alan Cooper and Lee Bristow. Track temperatures  were high and, as the race went on, our little trio pulled clear of the chasing pack. However, my tyres were also beginning to complain and a general imbalance in the car crept in during the closing stages. This lead to some small mistakes and I fell back from the lead pair by about a second. Third was therefore the end result.

Whilst this is a good result, I was left feeling disappointed with my performance and wanted more. We were on track again at 10am on Sunday morning. I fully expected that we would see lower track temperatures this early on and, hopefully, this would keep the tyres in good shape. However, it was already over 23 degrees by the time the lights went out and the lack of cloud cover made it feel hotter still.

I got the best start of my career to date. Everything just hooked up and the car absolutely flew away off the line. This meant I could take the standard line through the whole first lap, something which is pretty unheard of in Caterham Racing.

I kept the pressure on the chasing pack, turning in quick and consistent laps. And it worked. I broke clear of the chasing cars and managed to build over a second lead on the second placed car of Chris Rankin. This lead gap varied a little over the opening 20 minutes of racing but never felt uncomfortable. And with Chris also well clear of the battle for 3rd / 4th and 5th, we were away and gone.

However, all this hard work was rendered pointless after a very late safety car saw the gap evaporate. Although I got a small jump at the restart, I missed gear coming out of Druids (missed gears are my nemesis this year it seems) and fell back into the clutches of the pack. After some frantic, hard but ultimately fair racing, I was left ‘hung out to dry’ on the outside of Graham Hill bend and I dropped to 4th place. With no time left on the clock to fight back, it was a really sad way to end the race and I was gutted.

I felt I’d done everything I could to win at Brands and it had been taken away. But, that’s the way things go in racing. I was glad that the demons had been cast aside from last year and I’d more than proved to myself that I could still race as hard and close as ever into paddock bend.

3rd and 4th doesn’t sound too bad but unfortunately, I lost points to all my main rivals over the weekend. Everything is extremely close in the Championship now and I hope that these lost points don’t haunt me too much.

Knockhill 2018 – Rounds 3 and 4

Knockhill, Scotland, is a long way to travel for a race weekend. In fact, it takes longer than our annual European trip to get to! However, the Circuit has an absolutely stunning location with a backdrop to rival Mugello in Italy.

The forecast for the weekend was mixed and we arrived in miserable rainy conditions on Wednesday. It looked like it would be more of the same throughout the 4 days but come Thursday morning, the sun was out and the temperatures were rising.

I would go so far as to say it got positively balmy in the sun on Friday and was tropical by Saturday.

Testing had gone well. I’m running with DPR Motorsport this season and the team sorted me out a good setup and I’d gradually found good speed over the Thursday and Friday test sessions. Championship leader and DPR teammate Gordon Sawyer was running exceptionally well all weekend but I wasn’t far behind.

Knockhill is only 1.3 miles long and with 34 runners over the weekend in the Caterham 310R Championship , the track was extremely busy. It was hard to string the perfect lap together but I got a couple of reasonable bankers in place before saving the best for a last lap wonder. 2nd on the grid, a couple of 10ths behind Gordon was the end result.

Even though the Race didn’t start until after 5pm, temperatures were still very high. A reasonable get away was a bit scuppered by an absolutely lightening start from Alan Cooper from 3rd on the grid. I had to yield to him as he shot up the inside of turn 1. I slotted into 3rd place. A massive lockup going into turn 1 on the second lap saw Alan slide down the order but I god distracted by the massive plumes of smoke and also missed my apex. That let Lee Bristow onto my tail and we had a few laps of close battling before Alan recovered from his earlier issues and came back to join in the fun.

Gordon Sawyer had checkout out ahead and was pulling away. A combination of raw pace and the fact that Alan, Lee and myself were battling hard. We all shared out the places over the coming laps but I made a mistake coming out of the last corner at a critical point and Alan and Lee pulled away gradually.

Back markers made things highly fraught in the second half of the race but I just wasn’t able to make a significant impact on Lee and Alan. 4th was the result over the line. Whilst that’s not bad thing, I have to say I was a touch disappointed that silverware wasn’t possible.

The morning of Sunday was absolutely soaking wet. Heavy rain over night had lingered on and so the track was soaked as we drove across the hillside roads to the track.

However, our race was not until lunchtime so there was plenty of time for things to get sunnier, warmer an drier. And indeed, this happened.

As race time arrived, the track was bone dry and we at least had the consistency of knowing what to expect rather than the proposition of learning a track in the wet whist trying to race.

Off the line, I made a great getaway. This time, Alan Cooper was boxed in and so had nowhere to take his super speed. The result was getting from 4th to 2nd off the line. A quick peek in the mirrors saw that Christian Szaruta had made an epic start from 7th to 3rd. I stuck with Gordon through the early parts of the race and working together, it looked like we were going to get a gap. Indeed, to nearly everyone we dod. However, Alan Cooper made his way past Szaruta and then bridged the gap to Gordon and myself over a number of laps.

As soon as Alan arrived, I had to start defending and this let Gordon pull another race winning gap. I stuck with Alan for the majority of the race, although he had a touch more speed than me. A missed gear by him later in the race left me thinking that 2nd was possible, but then some unfortunate back marker encounters meant I dropped back once more.

Lee Bristow was looming ominously in my mirrors. However, I saw him coming and by the time I’d put a few more back markers between us and got my head down for some fast laps, that threat faded.

Into Parcferme in 3rd place then. However, track limits infringements against Alan Cooper saw him receive a 15 second penalty and 3rd changed to 2nd. I feel bad for Alan on losing a well earned 2nd place but I’m not giving it back, that’s for sure!

After the slight disappointment of 4th in race 1, 2nd was a brilliant result.

Gordon is on fire over the opening part of the season and is the man to catch. 2nd in the Championship is all to play for. I expected nothing less than close, competitive racing and that’s what we’ve got.

Next up is Brands Hatch in June. A scene of highs and lows for me! Looking forward to it though and maybe I can sneak another step up the podium for the next one.

Snetterton 2018 – Rounds 1 and 2

A new season starting is always an exciting proposition. For me, it’s the first time that I’ve started a race weekend in another car from the one I built back in 2012.

The Caterham 310R is not a radically different animal from the Supersport we waved goodbye to in 2017 but additional engine grunt and a different gearbox mean that things feel subtly different.

I would normally settle for a single day testing at a track I am as familiar with as Snetterton, however with only one shake down run in the new car in the off season, I decided to go for 2 days testing ahead of the racing. I’m glad I did as a gearbox issue on the first day of testing meant that I didn’t get track time on Friday morning whilst a new one was slotted in.

Qualification was a reasonable affair but the vital nature of a tow around the track and my relative lack of knowledge on competitors and their speed meant that it took a while to put a whole lap together correctly. The end result was sixth. Far from shabby, especially given that the 310R grid is stacked with race and championship winning talent. However, it would have been nice to be just a touch higher up the order, especially given my two DPR teammates were on the front row together.

On the first race start, I went from 2nd gear to 5th gear accidentally. That robbed me of momentum and I slipped a little down the order. However, the first attempted start didn’t last long and a red flag meant a full restart.

On the restart I hooked everything up well and after a couple of bungles starts by other front runners, I found myself following Gordon Sawyer and Christian Szaruta out front.

Their pace had been good all weekend and I clung onto their coat tails for all I was worth in the early stages and we eventually pulled out a comfortable gap back to 4th place.

I was happy to sit in tow for the majority of the race keeping everything under control and maintaining the tyres as best I could in hot weather. Come the last 5 minutes the racing got a touch more frantic and come the last corner, I was right on the tail of the leaders with a great run up towards the line. However, another bungled 2nd to 5th gear change saw me drop off and have to watch as they crossed the line ahead.

A podium is a great finish to any race, especially the first one of the season and even more so when in a new car. It was also a fantastic result for the DPR team with a 1,2,3 so a great job by everyone to start the season in the best possible way. There was also the tantalising prospect of higher steps of the podium had I not made some errors along the way.

Race 2 the following day and at the start, the dreaded 2nd to 5th gear cockup happened again. The new gearbox has a subtly different action from the old one Supersport one and under pressure situations, where the mind is pre-occupied with many other factors – I reverted back to the old style and fumbled. Again, this saw me drop places and I was in 5th place around the first lap.

It wasn’t long before this slipped again to 6th place. I wasn’t able to properly attack the group but hung on well and the 6 cars all moved away from the following pack quite comfortably.

At the end of the race, I made a strong push to gain a couple of placed but sadly, the race was cut short by a red flag and so I crossed the line in 6th.

Whilst I was firmly with the front pack and had a podium the day before, I still wanted more from this opening round. With other, unfamiliar, tracks on the calendar this year, it was always going to be important to make hay while the Norfolk sun shone. Having said that, the points were good and other Championship hopefuls suffered far worse.

Next up is Knockhill in Scotland. My first trip up across the border and one I am looking forward to.

Crest of a wave, bottom of a trench

It’s taken me a long time to post this write-up from Brands. It was a weekend I’m not going to forget any time soon.

From the first laps of the circuit on Friday, I could tell that the car was super quick and stable. All the hard work to reduce my weight and get back to the weight limit had finally paid off in full.

Due to my normal support crew (my parents), being away on holiday, I was running the weekend out of the DPR awning. Having to prepare the car myself through testing and the weekend just proved to me how much I now rely on mum, dad, family and friends. Seemingly large gaps between sessions on track soon got eaten by cleaning, refuelling and general preparation work. I lean on everyone around me and I missed their support.

However, DPR were always on hand for any questions and, vitally, to check pressures and change settings in the pit lane. I’ve never before carried out an in session back-to-back test of a front anti-roll bar and boy, was that eye opening.

Every time you take a car out on track, you learn something, and being able to feel a direct comparison between one setup and another has changed my outlook on testing. All possible because of the DPR boys.

It’s one thing to turn in some speed in testing, quite another to convert that into a good grid spot. And for the majority of the qualification session, it looked like I’d blown it. I spent too long out front in clear air trying to get a good banker and catch the tail of the field for a tow. I dropped back to find some traffic to use for a tow but there was a fair amount of gamesmanship out on track, with plenty of abandoned laps costing time. I wasn’t alone in being affected for sure and there were some grumpy faces in parc ferme after the session. However, on the last lap, I managed to put a decent lap together, including a tow and 2nd on the grid was the result. A few thousandths of a second behind Henry Heaton.

Given the last minute nature of the lap and the track temperature, it was definitely a rescue and a good start to the competitive element of the weekend.

Come race time, the track temperature had risen massively. This is always a bad sign for our tyres, which don’t like it when things get hot. I made a reasonable start off the line and was ahead of Henry going into turn 1. However, Mike Evans made his normal spectacular start and was in the lead from 3rd on the grid going into Druids.

I managed to get back out in front in fairly short order and lead an opening stint of the race. An incident at druids saw the race red flagged. It was looking like Mike was going to be able to get back past at the point the flag was shown, so it may have been a turning point. A re-grid of the race was the decision of the steward for a 15 minute blast.

Another reasonable start off the line but another screamer by mike saw him in paddock bend first.  I was able to get past into druids and got me head down as fast as possible to try and spring a gap.

It’s a rare thing to manage to pull a lead over a field of Caterhams, but over the course of a few laps, I was able to pull away enough to be able to take the full racing line consistently. Battles further back then meant I was able to consolidate that lead.

With around 5 minutes to go, I had a gap of 2.5 seconds and knew, subject to not cocking things up, I could bring this one home. Even the sight of Christian Szaruta taking second place and gradually getting closer wasn’t enough to put me off in that race! And I took the flag with a comfortable gap back to the rest of the field.

Four long years it has taken to finally cross the line in first place again. Four years. Boy did it feel great. It was such a shame I didn’t get to share it with my family, but my friends inside and outside of the paddock were all carrying me on the crest of a wave. A feeling that never grows old.

Sunday was another scorcher. Any threat of a thunderous downpour slowly ebbed away through the day and we were in for another hot, dry race.

I made a good start from pole and the early part of the race was similar to race one; fighting with Mike Evans and trying hard to try and spring a gap. However, that wasn’t to be in this race and it was a much more traditional clump of cars through the first 10 minutes of the race. Into the middle phase of the race, Henry Heaton, Tim Dickens and myself all had good battle, with Henry and myself swapping positions on a number of occasions.

Just as things looked like they had settled down a little with Henry and myself pulling a slight gap on Tim, I was preparing to try and solidify that gap. However, I was caught out by Henry braking earlier than I expected for paddock bend and, following very closely to him at the time, I did what turned out to be a bad job of avoiding his car. My front left tyre hit the rear right of Henry’s.

What followed was a big accident. After the initial contact, the front of the car skipped in the air and initially landed interlocked with Henry’s car. It then launched again, this time with both the front and rear wheels contacting at the same time. The car pitched up at about 45 degrees and I was close to rolling. Thankfully, when the car landed, it righted itself and I skipped across the gravel and made heavy contact with the barrier.

As the dust settled and I caught my breath, I was thankful that everything felt in one piece and I could see Henry jumping out of the car.

It was such a sad end to what was shaping up to be a great battle between Henry and myself. We’ve had some great battles in the past and we’ve shared a racing journey for the past 5 years. In the cold hard light of day, I made contact with a friend out on track whilst he was leading the race. Nothing’s going to change that now.

The contrast in emotion was, and is, enormous between the highs of Saturday and the lows of Sunday. Motoracing gives and motoracing takes away.

Making a b-line for Brands

We’re headed to Brands Hatch this weekend for rounds 5 and 6 of the Official Caterham Motorsport Ladder. The paddock is joined this weekend by the Olympic Legend – Sir Chris Hoy. He’ll be racing with the 310R boys and girls but will certainly add a bit of fame to the #CaterhamFamily

Timetable

Supersport race times this weekend are:

  • Quali Sat 3rd June 09:25 – 09:45
  • Race 1 Sat 3rd June 12:20 – 12:50
  • Race 2 Sun 4th June 14:05 0 14:35

Live Timing:

http://tsl-timing.com/event/172231

Live comms should also be available on the Live Timing page over the event. If not, the Brands Hatch App used to have this feature – so you could try there!

Flat through Eau-Rouge

I’m back on UK soil after the Caterham Motorsport’s yearly foray into Europe and I’ve just about had enough time to reflect on what was an awesome visit to the legendary Cirquit de Spa-Francorchamps.

We only had two sessions testing ahead of the race weekend; far less than normal for a new track. Everything was compressed into a very tight schedule. It’s a track full of fast, committed corners where you have to settle the car quickly and get back to the throttle. The kind of corners I go well around.

However, it’s also got the two longest flat out sections of any track we visit. From La Source all the way to Les Combes and from Stavelot right up to the bus stop.

In a Caterham, this means the track is all about managing the slipstream and racing tactically. Outright pace is not actually required!

I felt comfortable with the track after the first session out and was putting in times at the top of the timing-sheets quite comfortably.

I therefore went into Qualifying putting a little more pressure on myself than I have been used to recently. I knew pole was possible but trying to manage the ideal time when you only have 6 laps to do it is far from easy. This was also complicated by us sharing our qualifying session with the 420Rs.

Extremely early on, I got a super tow from Dan Gore up the Kemel straight. I was squeezed through Les Fanges between Dan and an 420R. This put me off and I made mistakes at the tail end of the lap. However, this lap was good enough for 2nd on the grid and for Dan, was good enough for pole. Without those mistakes… could have had Spa pole on my racing CV – which would have been very nice indeed!

Pole could still have been on, but sadly, a great lap was written off by a very slow car in the bus stop. (preparing for their own lap no doubt, but annoying none the less…)

My ideal lap in Quali was 1.4 seconds faster than the time I ended up with but that just shows how powerful the tow is around this track.

The weather through the whole weekend was threatening and forecasts changed from minute to minute. However, the sun shone down on Race 1 and an earlier cloud burst that caused havoc in the Roadsport race had completely dried by the time we got out on track.

There were over 50 cars set on the grid as the 420Rs were also lined up with us. It’s the first time we’ve run split grids at a Caterham weekend and seeing the sheer amount of cars ahead was pretty daunting. Getting through La Source on the first lap was always going to be a bit of a lottery and so it was for Ben Tuck and Roy Gray who were out after just 400m or so of racing.

I made a great start and was hooked onto the tail end of the 420Rs going up Kemel. But for a safety car due to the first corner incident, it felt like I had the chance at a break from the group.

The safety car seemed to drag on forever and the race only got going again with under 16 minutes remaining of the race.

There followed 16 minutes of frantic action working the tow and trying to figure out how to finish the last lap in the lead. I didn’t quite get it right, sadly, and missed out on the win by just a couple of car lengths but was extremely pleased with 3rd place. Back on the podium after an absence of over a year and it felt great. What was even more encouraging was I felt I had more to bring to race 2.

Sunday was another threatening day according to the forecasts, however, race time was sunny and it certainly looked like we’d be dry throughout.

This time, everyone got through turn one without incident and I settled into the lead pack. A much larger lead pack this time and one that just grew as the race went on.

There’s over 10mph difference between a Caterham Supersport running on it’s own as opposed to running in the tow; so again, the management of this process along the two hugely long flat out stretches of track was an art form.

For 90% of the race, I managed this process OK. I’d switched around my rear tyres ahead of the race to manage the tyre wear and ensure they remained legal after the race, however, they didn’t bed in very quickly so the rear of the car was very lose throughout. I also had one missed gear which sent me tumbling down the field; and one unlucky run up the Kemel straight that also cost me 6 places due to the tow. With, just a touch of patience and planning, I did manage to get back to the front on each occasion. Things were certainly looking good!

As the 30 minutes race period elapsed, Ben Tuck and myself broke very slightly clear of the pack and up the final straight into Balnchimon, I was able to take the lead. I crossed the line thinking I’d finally won another race. However, no chequered flag was waved and it dawned on me that we had another lap to go. Sadly, this lap went badly and while trying to go side by side with Ben Tuck through Pouhon, my rear tyres ran out of grip and I ran out of talent. That left me out wide scrabbling to get back to the track and the whole lead pack through. I was back in 10th or 11th at that point with only 3 real corners left to go.

At Blanchimont, Mike Evans cut across Henry and Christian causing some wings to go flying and a cascade effect of braking and swerving within a pack of 10 drivers. I was at the rear of this and had to jink right around the flat out left hander. I was closer than I would have wanted to having a big accident in the tyre barrier and also no further forward up the field and now with only one corner to go.

The right hander of the Bus Stop Chicane also had a yellow flag for Ian Sparshott’s stranded 420R. However, I noticed that the left hand part of the chicane was showing a green flag. Dan Gore was spun out of the pack ahead of me, having been overtaken under yellows and I just about managed to squeeze through to take a wider line into the left and cut up the inside of several drivers to make it to 7th place over the line. In the stewards office afterwards, Richard Noordhof was unfortunately excluded from the results. I therefore came in with a 6th place finish. Certainly a lot better than it could have been with 3 corners to go but also a huge part of me knew I’d blown another great result.

In my head, I’d won the 30 minute race of Spa – but clearly my old bones can’t cope with 35 minutes!

Well done to everyone for largely keeping it clean and tidy under immense and sustained pressure. I loved the weekend at Spa and am extremely happy to be able to say I’ve not only raced at Spa, but I’ve also had a podium there.

Next up is Brands hatch in just 3 weeks time. Can’t wait!

 

Snetterton Scorcher

You would have been perfectly justified to assume we’d arrived in Norfolk in high summer based solely on the weather. It was bright, sunny and hot all weekend long at the Snetterton circuit.

The spectators were certainly appreciative. The tyres, less so!

Having been largely used to 2 days of testing in the past, this was one of the first times I made do with just the Friday test ahead of the weekend. It means everything has to be compressed into half the time I’m used to but it really doesn’t take long to get up to speed nowadays, and overall, I think I rather liked the added pressure of getting on it from the off.

Qualifying

I usually enjoy the Qualifying session and not too often have I felt like I didn’t get everything out of the car. However, in this session, I definitely left my best back in the locker room. I made mistakes and didn’t manage the traffic and tow very well. Something that’s essential at Snetterton. My fastest lap included overtakes in compromised places and avoiding cars left right and centre!

After all that, 6th on the grid was actually not a disaster and I’ve learnt a few more lessons to add to the playbook going forward. Even into my 5th year of racing, there are still so many things to learn and adapt to.

The front 8 cars on the grid were the expected gaggle and were covered by the expected close margins. The order was perhaps less expected with Alistair Weaver putting in a great show to grab the first pole of the season. In general, the LFP motorsport team were flying with 4 of the top 5 spots filled.

Race 1

Caterham Supersports were running in the graveyard shift for this weekend so by race time, the sun was low in the sky and visibility was reduced. However, the temperatures were still high and the grip levels therefore low!

For the first race of the season it was certainly frantic up front. Mostly it was within fair bounds but there were some chops and jinks that would politely be termed as ‘borderline’ as well.

A novelty for me, was the ability to actually move forward and compete rather than being consumed by the whole field. A few driving tweaks and some dieting over winter have made me more able to race and signs are good that this will help through the season.

I had some good tussles but our groups inability to work together properly meant we lost touch with the lead pack of 4.

Part way through the race, we had our first Code 60 period to clear away a very nasty accident for Gary Weatherall, who ended up sliding on his roof from pit out all the way to the turn 1 gravel.

Code 60 is new this year for our race meetings. It was originally designed for endurance racing as a way to neutralise a field without the need for a safety car to bunch everyone up. The idea being that everyone slows to 60 KPH and sticks there until the flags are put to green once more. The advantages over a safety car being that, theoretically, the gaps between cars are maintained and the incident can be cleared quicker and everything get back to racing sooner.

I made a great restart, overtaking Christian and Henry who didn’t pick up on the green flags quite so quickly. I’m not sure I’ll get that advantage again going forward, but I was smiling in my helmet I can assure you!

At the tail end of the race, I didn’t manage my positioning very well, failed to capitalise on contact between Henry and Christian and failed to make a decent exit out of the final bend. So a potential 4th was instead a 5th place over the line. Still, not a bad start and one place improvement on qualification.

Race 2

Race 2 was to take place on the hottest day of the year so far, with barmy 25 degrees and bright cloudless skies. This is never a good thing for the tyres or engines but I know what to expect and that makes it easier to manage these days.

Another hectic opening section of the race saw me mired with Mike and Ben arguing figuratively – and literally – on track. This pushed me backwards to a hungry Henry, Christian and Dan and our failure to work together also saw Alistair Weaver catch up on a recovery drive from the back of the field.

At that point, It was always going to be damage limitation and again, lessons learned to store away for future reference.

It was nice to get the final turn correct and overtake over the line for 6th place, just to prove I can actually do it. I can’t recall a last lap where I have managed it before!

So, a weekend that promised much going forward and, although reasonable results, I feel there is more in the tank and I was certainly a whole lot more involved than I was through the whole of the 2016 season.

My only problem is that I know there are at least 4 other drivers who also feel exactly the same and will be looking to rectify things next time out.

Talking of next time out, we’re headed to Spa Francorchamps to race at what has to be a bucket list track for every race fan. Brilliant! I can’t wait to give it a go and will report back how it is in just over a months time.

Let’s go!

Donington Downpoor

And so, the season has now run its full circle. It only seems like yesterday that we were heading out on track for the official test back in March. There were a few front running drivers not present on the Supersport grid and so a good result was possible, however, with 37 cars on the grid, that’s never guaranteed.

This was the first event of the season that I’ve only done the Friday test ahead of the weekend. Most of the time, by the morning of Friday I’m just turning in laps pretty much for the sake of it and often times not using all the sessions on offer. It was a strange feeling to try and compress my normal routine into one day but, in reality, it was more than enough to get up to speed.

As ever, I was around 1 second off of the ultimate pace on track, which was disappointing as I tend to go well at Donington, but I wasn’t too worried as I tend to keep to myself over testing and don’t try to chase a tow.

Come qualification, I knew there was a bit more to be had on track and with some careful traffic management, I managed to bag 4th place. It was a great feeling to be back at the pointy end of the field and it was almost a little strange to only see one row of cars ahead on the grid. Brings back good memories!

I made a reasonable start but Mike Evans and his normal rocket ship went down the inside into turn one. I didn’t compensate enough on the speed and, on cold tyres / track, drifted a little wide on the exit. This left an opening for few more cars and cost me some momentum.

By the end of lap one I was in 6th place and in a queue of cars from 1st down to 8th place. I was able to keep up nicely and felt strong. Some battling with Tim Dickens and Mike Evans ended when Mike lost the rear of his car into the old hairpin. I was therefore in a lead pack that was clear of the chasing drivers.

I bided my time early on, happy to wait for the carnage to ensue up front. Donington always leads to close battles and it’s almost impossible to break away due to the effect of the tow. However, the lead drivers kept it all clean and tidy and so there was no option but to try and move forward through the group.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated how much additional speed I would need to do this and also misjudged a few corners which left me too much to do. Tim Dickens found some of his Tracksport magic, and judged these last 10 minutes of his race to perfection. From a position behind me with 10 minutes to go, he’d managed to get to 3rd place by the chequered flag. This is something I’ve got to get better at and will work on my head over the winter to see what I can do.

6th over the line was the result but nose to tail with the entire lead group is better than I have managed this year to date. Although it was a little disappointing coming from the 4th in quali – I knew that was mainly due to other drivers getting blocked and me managing to get a good lap in.

The forecast for Sunday was for rain. I was really looking forward to the race and really felt positive about moving forward. A wet track is something I love and it’s the first propper one we’ve had this year. Off the line and around the first few bends, the visibility was absolutely dire. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I literally couldn’t see the track and the only marker for the correct direction was other cars around me.

Once the queue settled down, I was in around 8th place. I moved forward to around 6th place but at that stage I realised that my car setup was hopelessly understeery around Donington. I’ve made changes through the year to correct oversteer in the car and unfortunately, by doing so, I’ve created a car that can’t corner in the wet. I was something in the order of 5mph slower than I needed to be mid corner and so wasn’t able to compete as I’d hoped.

Whilst others were throwing the car off the track, I was just holding on hoping the track would dry a touch. That wasn’t to be and by the flag I ended up 6th again.

Whilst this was still an OK result, it was a missed opportunity and by the time all the scores had been totted up, I ended the year in 8th place. A couple more points would have seen me in around 5th…

Not a bad season overall and certainly the most competitive grid by a long way in my career to date.

Although funds are now non-existent and debts are growing – I have also decided to do one more year before likely having to hang up the gloves and recover my finances. This now means some busy winter time getting ready for 2017 and I’ve promised myself that I’ll do more to be competitive next year. I much prefer fighting for podiums – I know I have it in me and I want to get back up there spraying the champaign and taking home more pots for the shelves.

Clinging on in Croft

September saw the Caterham paddock head up North to Croft, in Yorkshire. Croft was a mixed weekend for me last time we visited in Roadsport.

It was probably the end of my Roadsport Championship campaign, I threw away a podium on pretty much the last corner of race 1. But a return to form for race 2 saw me just missing out on a win and keeping a glimmer of hope that the Championship could still happen.

I like the track and coming back with the Supersport car now hasn’t reduced the enjoyment.
It’s got, probably, the tightest hairpin of any track in the UK as well as a long section of fast and flowing corners. So there’s a bit of something for everyone.

After a couple of days of testing, my neck was really feeling the strain. Come qualification, things were as competitive as ever. All the normal front pack within a second of pole. 7th for me was a fair result and kept me in the right region coming into the race. However, the gearbox started to feel week through the session and Croft has a reputation for eating gearboxes in Caterhams.

Race 1 started OK. I was able to make some spots up on the start and was holding onto the train of cars. However, on lap 2, through the fast chicane, something went awry inside the gearbox and after a horrible period of grinding crunching, I did get the gear. However, the damage was done and I lost places.

Some of these were made back quickly with mistakes coming from other drivers. I also managed to lose a wing and damage my exhaust at Tower. It was fortunate the contact didn’t end worse off. From the sound of the exhaust, I was sure that it had come off.

The majority of the rest of the race was spent battling with Mike Evans. We swapped places a number of times but as the race wore on, I was able to break free. I very nearly caught up the battle for 4th but ran out of laps.

Race 2 was another hot one. We’ve had a whole season of scorchers this year. Only race 1 at Brands has been even damp. With a failing gearbox, I had to go into the race with some mechanical sensitivity. Not ideal but necessary to ensure a finish.

The start went well and I found myself in a good spot, fighting Henry Heaton for 4th place. However, I was unable to cling on as Mike Evans and Max McDonagh began fighting for spots. It was a great race with plenty of swapping. Nice to get back involved. However, I wasn’t able to hold onto the end of the race and I slipped to another 8th place.

With the gearbox on its last legs, I am happy that I got to the end of the race in one piece. Although not spectacular results, both races were fun and some of the battles were great.

Final round of the season is next up – at Donington. A track I generally go well at. Let’s see if we can finish off the season on a high.

Oulton Park Came and Went

It’s been a while since the long trip back from the Oulton Park race weekend. It’s unlike any other race meeting we do in that everything happens on Saturday. Due to noise restrictions, no racing is allowed on Sunday.

That, therefore, compresses all the Caterham championships qualifying and racing into one action packed, hectic, bonkers 9 hour period. It’s no small feet for the organisers, marshals, teams and competitors to make it through but everyone was on top form and the day passed without major drama.

The two Supersport races were absolute classics. Starting with qualification, where 3rd to 9th on the grid were split by a whisker over 1/10th of a second. That’s a serious clump of cars all recording the same time in quali and the race proved that nobody had an edge.

For the majority of both races, the top 12-16 cars all circulated nose to tail – and more often than not, side by side. That there were no major incidents is testament to some great driving. It’s not something that should be taken for granted though and everyone played their part.

For me, both races followed a similar pattern. Clinging on! At times, I thought I could hang onto the front pack but in both cases, when it got to battling, I dropped backwards somewhat into the secondary pack. The racing was fast, close and fair and although the finishing positions weren’t stellar, I came away feeling I’d at least had some good racing.

Next up is Croft – not too far away now. A track I enjoyed in Roadsport. Let’s see how things go in Supersport trim.

Race 1:

Race 2: