Tag Archives: Caterham

Thruxton Thriller

I don’t think I’ve ever been at a race weekend that could be described as boring, however, Thruxton was the complete opposite. An absolute roller coaster of a weekend with high highs and low lows.

Due to noise limits, the race ‘weekend’ actually started on Wednesday with an early track day, so I was stationed in Andover for an extended period of time.

The Championship was very tightly poised going into the weekend and so the pressure was on to produce a strong set of results to keep in the running for the overall Championship trophy.

DPR Motorsport had a different driving coach on the truck this weekend as Darren Burke was racing at Silverstone. It’s always interesting having a new view of your racing style and I spent the majority of Friday testing tweaking my technique, trying new things as well as resurrecting techniques that I’ve lost over time. It all came together, just in time, during the last session of testing.

Could I put it all together in qualification the following morning? Well, ‘not really’ was the answer. It was a pretty diabolical qualification session to be honest. An early lap wasn’t anything particularly special but unfortunately, with a whole lot of drivers abandoning laps, parking on apexes and generally easing back to create gaps, I never got another lap together and it was only good enough for 9th on the grid. My worst performance ever I think.

With Christian and Gordon on the front row, I was left with a lot to do in race 1 to keep the championship alive. However, the huge tow on offer at Thruxton meant that it wasn’t the end of the world.

I held position early in the race. Roughly 8 laps passed before I began to make progress above 8th place. However, through the middle part of the race I did start ticking off places to move into the top 4.

There was a settling in period where positions for the top five cars regularly changed lap by lap. This routine was broken with around 4 laps to go, when Gordon out braked himself going into the last chicane and span. This also compromised Christian and the chasing pack and so Lee Bristow and myself pulled clear. It looked like it could be enough of a gap but unfortunately, the chase pack did get back in contention with a lap to go.

It was therefore a fight with five cars on the final lap of the race. It was always going to be a lottery and on the way through the final chicane I found myself in 2nd place, just behind Christian. However, the race wasn’t quite over as Christian made the dreaded 2nd to 5th gear mis-change on the way out of the chicane. I JUST squeezed past the slowing car and took the win, ahead of David Yates, with Christian coming home in 3rd.

I couldn’t believe it. It’s not over until the fat lady sings – and Christian was singing merrily away out of the final corner. I did feel a BIT bad but, heck, that gear change mistake has cost me a lot this year as well.

It was brilliant to see David Yates on the podium. I’ve been racing David for 6 years and this was his first podium. He’s threatened many times and has been getting closer and closer this year. So it’s great that he finally made it all stick and held it together.

I had lots of friends and family down for the weekend, so it was another amazing post race feeling sharing the win with everyone. I really don’t do this alone and it’s so rewarding to be able to reward all the help and support from friends, family and DPR Motorsport.

Half the race weekend done then and a fantastic start. But there was still half a job to do.

I got a good enough blast off the line in race 2, enough to be leading around the first part of the lap. And the early part of the race went largely to plan. The standard drop of places every other lap at the chicane, then picking them back again a lap later.

It looked as though things had settled a bit in the race and there was even a chance that the front pack of four were slightly pulling clear of the chasing pack. Certainly, the chicane started to calm down and was generally under control, rather than a complete madhouse.

However, any hopes that this would continue was scuppered by contact lower down in the field, causing big car damage and enough carnage to require a safety car. At the time, I was in second place behind Christian and at the restart, things got going again and, of course, the chicane turned into a madhouse once more.

With only 5 minutes remaining the tactics of where to be in the queue of cars started. I managed to get to 4th place on the final lap, which is where I was aiming for to get the super tow. However, everyone did a good job of getting themselves in a position where they could win the race and at the chicane, the pack went in 6 wide.

It was never likely to come off without a hitch and sadly, I had contact with Tom Grensinger, who had slightly outbraked himself and his recovery line through the chicane clashed with my more natural line. It resulted in a spin for me and by the time I’d fired up the engine once more, I was left down in 15th place over the line.

Really not the end to the race I’d hoped for and also one that uses up a ‘get out of jail free’ card with the drop scores we have in the championship. I could really have done with a podium to make things slightly more comfortable going into the final round at Silverstone.

That being said, once drop scores are taken into account, I actually go into the final meeting ahead by 1 point to Christian and 2 points ahead of Gordon.

It’s always been heading towards a crichendo and it’s only fitting that we won’t have an outcome until the last lap of the last race of the season. I am extremely hopeful that we can get this whole thing sorted out with some brilliant racing at Silverstone. It’s what this season deserves.

Double rescue at Castle Combe

The last time Caterham were at Castle Combe was in 2015 and I was racing in the Tracksport Championship. It coincided with the height of my car problems I suffered from at the time and I have some fairly poor memories of two races where all I could do was hang on to top 10 places.

Castle Combe is also a track where the event team run things their own way and very differently from all the other tracks we visit. Frankly, their communication on testing and track day organisation was downright poor this year, not helped by very difficult conditions out on track and drivers failing to keep away from the famously unforgiving Castle Doom barriers.

Thankfully, the race weekend organisation was faultless and all the frustrations of testing melted away once the real action got under way.

I got a good lap in early in qualification but never bettered it and it was only good enough for 4th on the grid. The correct end of the grid but the first time I’ve been off the front row since the opening round of the year. More frustratingly, looking back at the data, I gave up my first flying lap of th session and that could well have been good enough for a higher spot. My DPR Motorsport team mates, and championship rivals, were first and second on the grid so there was everything to play for.

Whilst the rain did threaten before the start of race 1, it never materialised fully. I got a brilliant initial start, but in the excitement of thinking I was going to come out of turn 1 in the lead, I managed to do the dreaded 2nd-5th gear change once more. It seems I can’t do a race weekend without at least one of these mistakes and it’s becoming increasingly irksome.

So, I ended in 4th through the first lap. I felt strong, like I could make up spaces. However, an over exuberant throttle application down at tower on lap two saw me slide wide and onto the damp grass. The dirt on the tyres then meant I locked up and wasn’t able to make the next corner.

A bouncy trip across the grass dropped me down to 12th in the queue. Memories of 2015 came flooding back! However, my DPR Motorsport car this year is top notch and I immediately got my head down and started to make up spaces.

The 30 minute race went by in a bit of a blur and I slowly clawed my way back up through the field. A small gap had appeared to get back to the top 6 and it took several laps to make up the distance. Was there enough time left to get back through the front of the field? JUST was the answer. Although Gordon Sawyer had a gap out in the lead, some exciting dicing with Christian Szaruta and Tom Grensinger eventually bagged me 2nd place in the race to the flag.

The fight for 2nd with Tom was extremely tight but ultimately very fair and all the more fun for that fact. Tom has jumped straight from Academy to 310R and he raced like someone with far more experience.

Whilst closing the gap to the lead group, I also set the fastest lap of the race, bagging the additional point and dropping the advantage of Gordon’s win to just a single point.

It was a great result from what could have been a championship changer after the mistake early on and it’s a result I am proud of.

Sunday was always forecast to be a wet race and it delivered on that promise. Initially, I felt strong in the soaking conditions and held onto 2nd place for a couple of laps. However, I was never able to maximise my braking and I lost a spaces, initially to Christian Szaruta and, after a mistake which dropped me back from the lead battle, I also lost out to Nathan Bell.

A safety car intervention brought everything back together but even that stroke of luck wasn’t able to move me forward. I was relatively safe from the attack from behind, so it looked like 4th would be the end result.

However, incidents with cars ending in the barrier caused yellow flags and eventually the chequered flag was thrown 5 minutes early, crucially, just after Christian had spun at the second chicane and fallen back behind.

A very sad / sore end to his race was a gift of a podium for me. A lucky result indeed but one that also means the championship battle is ridiculously close going into the final 2 events of the year.

Just two point separate the top 3 positions in the championship.

Next up is Thruxton, a track that is famously fast. It only has 2 braking points and will be the ultimate game of chess as the tow will play an incredible part in the racing.

The season is getting closer to its conclusion and it’s building very nicely to a climax. It really is anyone’s to win at the moment and you can be sure that it will be as hard fought as ever for the podium spots.

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.

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!

Time to kick the bucket list

This one is on most racers bucket list. The chance to drive around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. However, I’m lucky enough to not just be driving there, but indeed racing it!

Qualifying: Sat 13th May – 10:00 – 10:20
Race 1: Sat 13th May – 13:05 – 13:35
Race 2: Sun 14th May – 10:25 – 10:55

I’m hopeful that the Live Timing will be available at: https://livetiming.getraceresults.com/spa

As a treat – there’s also a live webcam of the spectacular Eau Rouge – which should also allow you to see some of the action as it takes place! http://webcam.spa-francorchamps.be/

Videos to follow of course! Watch this space.

Sold: Caterham 8-Spoke Anthracite 13″ x 6″ Wheels (4)

Now Sold…

I have a set of Caterham 8 Spoke Alloy Wheels (4) for sale. 13″ x 6″

I’m looking for good offers somewhere around £340.

Pictures above tell the whole story as I’ve taken shots of any paint delamination, stone chips or scuffs.

They are all in good condition and a lot of the delamination is on the extreme edge or on the rear inside edge and so is completely invisible once a tyre is fitted.

The wheels are available for pickup in Storrington, West Sussex.

You can use the contact form at the bottom of my Sponsorship Page to contact me about the wheels or contact via Facebook / Facebook messenger.

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:

Feeling the slide at Snetterton

It’s been a short while since Snetterton. Certainly a little longer than it normally takes me to write up my report. I left after Saturday’s race feeling quite down and annoyed with my performance. Some of this eased after Sunday but it’s taken a little while to try and process and work out a plan of action for the rest of the season.

Testing had gone OK. My ultimate pace at the moment isn’t setting the track alight but the car was really balanced and I was feeling good that I could turn in a good lap quickly when it came to qualifying.

When qualifying arrived, the track temperatures had increased and the car was slightly less balanced as a result. Until the end of the qualifying session, I’d not got ‘one in the bag’ having made mistakes or getting caught up in traffic. However, my last lap all came together and I set my best lap time of the weekend by a margin.

Sadly, it was only good enough for 8th place on the grid. But given the time I was expecting, I considered this a bit of a rescue and actually higher than I would have expected.

13717986_10153642833621512_1799285867_o

Into race one, and the temperatures rose throughout the day. I made a great start to the race and was in 5th place a few corners in. However, I was immediately aware that the car balance was now way off. I struggled with oversteeer from the off and this only got worse as time went by.

This saw the gradual slip from 5th to 11th in a very frustrating 30mins of racing. I don’t care so much about position so long as I feel like the car and I are able to compete. Sadly, I was only able to hold onto the coat tails of people around me. It all left me feeling frustrated.

One of my bonnet catches also came undone part way into the race – which was distracting at times.

13699325_10153642833676512_331823355_o

Sunday dawned hotter again that Saturday and I made a tweak to the setup to try and help with the oversteer I’d had on Saturday. I made another storming start and was again in 5th place by the end of the first lap.

I couldn’t keep hold of the front runners but this time, I was able to keep in the mix with others and the front of the race remained in sight.

The higher temperatures seemed to help as others started to suffer. I had a great battle with Dan Gore through the race. I expect Dan felt I was a nuisance to his progress to the front of the field, but the racing was close, fair and generally a pleasure to be part of.

I got close to the 3rd 4th battle but just wasn’t able to get on their pace once their battle settled down.

A mistake 1 lap from the finish left me across the grass at Brundle and stuck in 6th. After the frustration of Saturday, I was much more enthused by the performance. Still not quite where I want to be on ultimate position but closer again.

Onwards to Oulton.

 

Hot and Bothered in Zolder

Zolder holds some great memories from my Roadsport year in 2014. It was a hot hot weekend but I also had one of the most hard fought races to date.

I was therefore looking forward to my return to this iconic Belgian track. With bad flooding all over Europe and with thunderstorms and heavy rain predicted all weekend, I wasn’t too sure what to expect out on track. But with 2 days of testing ahead of the weekend, there was going to be plenty of time to get to grips with the place once more.

As it transpired, the threat of rain disappeared over the weekend and we were left with a hot, sticky weekend on the continent. Unfortunately, hot and sticky seems to be the worst conditions for me and my car at the moment.

The tyres we run overheat and quickly cause the car to become unbalanced. Some drivers seem to cope with this OK but I find it doesn’t suit my driving style at all.

Qualification was damp to begin with but was always going to dry out by the end of the 20 minute session. I set a good banker time early on and had ‘the one that got away’ late on. However, 7th on the grid wasn’t too shabby and I matched my fastest testing times.

However, come race time, the temperatures had risen out on track and a fairly aggressive setup choice meant that as we got under way, it was only a couple of laps into the race before I started to suffer from the tyre related oversteer issues. About half way into the race, the car was also running hot and seemed to suffer with lack of eagerness in 4th gear.

All this saw a gradual slipping down the order throughout the race and an ultimately disappointing 12th place at the flag.

The second race took place in slightly cooler conditions and with a tweaked setup. This did see an improvement in the cars performance, and I was running well early on. However, the rot did eventually set in as the car got hot again and I made silly mistakes trying too hard to defend positions and push to maintain speed.

Again, this saw me dropping down the order and even say a high speed trip across the gravel at one point. Certainly not my finest hour.

I crossed the line a disappointed 11th place.

I said ahead of the year that there would be very little in it across the top 15 or so drivers in the championship this year. Being slightly off the pace means you inevitably finish down the order. Zolder was confirmation of this. Qualification saw the majority of the field covered by a second and in race 2, the top 11 cars were nose to tail at the flag after 30 minutes of frantic racing.

Being in such a competitive field is both a blessing and a curse.

I like Snetterton as a track and we’re headed there next. I’m really hoping that we get some cool weather – dare I even hope for wet conditions! Perhaps unlikely for our July event! But whatever happens, I’ll be out on track, pushing hard as ever.