Tag Archives: Race

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.

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!

 

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.

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.

Seaside racing at Anglesey

There’s no denying that Anglesey is an awfully long way from most places. It took around 6 hours to get to the track for 2 days of testing ahead of the weekend. However, there’s also no doubt that the effort is worth it.

The track is perched right on the coast of the Irish Sea and it takes all the weather that is thrown at it. We experienced it all, from strong winds and heavy rain, through to barmy summer sun.

Testing highlighted how tricky the track was to master. With increasing temperatures, the times actually got slower on track as the weekend approached. I therefore set my best time on day 1 testing and didn’t match it again until race 1. That’s rather off putting and dispiriting. However, it all comes out in the wash in the end and I went into qualification with no knowledge of where I was going to end up.

It was raining right up until we left assembly in qualification. The track was therefore damp, but with much higher ambient temperatures, it quickly became obvious that my completely wet setup wasn’t ideal as the track dried within a few laps. Most others were in a similar situation though, so not all was lost.

As ever in Caterhams, the tow was extremely important for lap time. However, with a red flag interruption to the session, there were gaggles of cars all fighting to take – but not give – a tow. Several people backing out of laps mid corner, or making space for themselves at the end of the lap, meant that I didn’t have a good lap on the board as the clock approached zero. However, the final lap was a good one and I snuck 5th on the grid. Better than expected. It wasn’t a session without excitement though, with possibly my closest near miss to date taking place just after the restart after the red flag.

Boosted by a good performance. race 1 dawned and although the weather was changeable through the day, by the time our slot came up, it had dried out fully.

After a good start, the race settled in and I was following nose to tail with Andres Sinclair. I felt comfortable and fast and felt I had something in hand to go for 3rd at the end of the race.

However, a fast recovering Christian Szaruta put the pressure on as the clock counted down, and when I tried to make use of the additional pace I felt I had at the start of the race, it wasn’t there any more. On the second last lap, Christian took full advantage of a poor piece of track positioning by me to take away 4th. That left me in a comfortable 5th at the flag. Happy with the result but certainly feeling I’d left something on the table.

Sunday was a scorcher. This isn’t a good thing on the Avons we run on currently. They seem to have an ideal operating temperature, beyond which they lose grip and begin degrading really fast. In the car, the grip feels low and what can only be described as ‘squelchy’! (You never hear that said in F1!)

Still, conditions were the same for everyone and it all led to a pretty epic battle. Another reasonable start saw me in 4th. However, it wasn’t a lonely affair and I had battles with Andres, Christian, Tony Mingoia and Alastair Weaver variously through the course of the hot 30 mins.

I was relatively pleased to end up in 6th at the flag. That could easily have been 8-10th place if circumstances had played out even slightly differently.

It was a weekend of good points. But it was also one that I would have liked to have gone slightly better. The other lead rivals in the championship had brilliant weekends and so gaps are starting to appear in the points. With some others having had bad starts to the year, it’s also going to be important to make hay whilst the sun shines.

Next up on the calendar is Zolder in Belgium. I got on well with the track in Roadsport when we were last there and so I’m looking forward to returning. However, I’d also like it to be a few degrees cooler than last time.

Oulton Park Promise…

Oulton Park is a long way away from home for me. I’ve not raced there before this weekend and have only made the trek up once, earlier this year, to turn some testing laps. However, the track itself is worth the effort.

I think it’s largely regarded as one of the best in the UK and you can see why. It has gradient, demanding corners, it takes no prisoners but is ultimately extremely satisfying to hook together into a good lap.

Testing still wasn’t looking ideal with my lap times some way off the ultimate pace. However, a very lose rear balance on the car wasn’t helping and a setup change going into qualifying felt a lot better.

Unfortunately, an abbreviated qualifying issue due to fog only left 3 laps to put a time in, and I succeeded in not doing so! That left me in 10th for race 1. But with the feeling that more performance would be available for the race.

A reasonable start and a fair opening few corners saw me in good position. Unfortunately, I was in completely the wrong position for a spin by Max going through turn 1 on lap 2. The inevitable carnage that resulted left me further down the order as people took advantage of the situation.

Unfortunately, the rest of the race was spent trying to get the places back lost from the lap 2 incident. I never really got to use the pace I felt I had. Having said that, the battle at the end with Christian was great fun and was nice to come out on top. 6th was the result. Much better feeling than past few race meets and still a feeling of more to come.

Because of Oulton’s noise restrictions, everything happens in one frantic day’s action.  That leads to inevitable brain ache as you try and process that you’ve got to do it all again a few hours after race 1 finishes and not with the normal sleep in between!

I guess things weren’t too bad though as I got one of my best starts, coming out of turn 1 in 4th place. And what was most pleasing was that for the first half of the race, it was a legitimate place and I was right with the lead pack and we were gapping the rest.

Henry and Dan didn’t work together well though and at around the half way point, they were slowing our groups progress and letting Jack Brown disappear in the lead. I could also see Christian and Max closing up behind. I took advantage of some more Dan / Henry battling to move forward and I was looking to get past Tim when a combination of waved yellows and fluid down on the track meant I overshot the second chicane.

Normally, this isn’t such an issue, however, to go off under waved yellows and subsequently past marshals pushing a car is an extremely bad thing.

These marshals put their lives at risk for us and so I was absolutely gutted to have let them down. I let it get to me and spent the rest of the race trailing Max as we caught up the lead pack – but the fight had gone. I was sure I’d be out of the  results after the inevitable trip to the clerks office.

An end result of 8th BUT with so much more promise that I’ve seen for the past 6 races that I couldn’t help but be fairly hopeful for the coming races at Silverstone.

And the meeting with the clerk? Well, watching the video back, there was no stationary yellow ahead of the double waved yellows and from the first point of being able to see the flags, I took the only course of action open to me. The reason for the run on was fluid down at that corner from another incident and I went by the marshals at around 20mph. No further action taken and so a positive end to a positive weekend.

Ups and Downs in the Sand Dunes of Zandvoort

The long wait for the next race after Donington finally came to an end on the wet and windy Dutch shores at Circuit Park Zandvoort. A truly historic track, perched on the Sand Dunes.

Two days of testing didn’t get off to a very good start. Off the pace in the morning and then a failed gearbox wiped out most of the remainder of the day.

My engine power also seemed to be getting worse. It’s not felt spritely since the off season testing and the hills of the Zandvoort circuit seemed to really emphasise its lack of grunt.

I knew qualification was going to be a struggle and so it proved. 8th was the absolute maximum I could get out of the car and that’s my worst quali result to date.

Unfortunately, whilst pushing to stay in contact with the lead group, I ran wide early in race 1. This put me further down the order and I spent the rest of the race trying hard to maintain positions.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t survive the long straights and slipped further and further down the order. I ended the race in 12th.

That didn’t leave me in the most positive outlook for race 2. However, Sunday dawned wet and windy. In those conditions, engine power wouldn’t be such a problem.

A relatively timid start to ensure no incidents in the early stages followed by trying to be as opportunist as possible to work through the field.

It took a while to get past a few drivers, which ultimately meant that I couldn’t get right to the front whilst the conditions were still wet.

The drying track at the end of the race meant I couldn’t catch Jack or Max, but a final lap spin by Max going for the win gifted me second.

That was some medicine for the disappointment of the opening few days of the weekend and it felt like a win for me.

Time to get the engine and gearbox sorted ahead of Castle Combe. Get back stronger and back on the pace!

 

Finally, some silverware!

Back to Donington again. This time for the second race weekend of the 2015 season.

Testing was positive and my speed carried through to qualifying with the second pole of the year. This time by a margin of nearly 0.5secs. Head winds meant tow was all important down the back straights and I lucked in.

Race 1 had 3 distinct phases. There was an early ‘sorting out’ phase. Some great battling with the lead pack. Around 10 mins into the race, Henry and I managed to break clear of the pack and worked together to build a gap over the rest of the field.

Unfortunately, all hell broke lose elsewhere on the track causing retirements, trips to the gravel and parts of Caterham strewn all over the track. This lead to a safety car period and the lead that Henry and I had built,  evaporated.

The final phase of the race began at the restart and didn’t relent until the flag. Unfortunately, I found myself in the wrong place at several times, suffering from the mistakes of others. This saw me slide from the lead, right back to 8th place.

An accident caused by a, frankly ridiculous, move by Cedric into the final corner saw Dan taken out of the race and I had to fight to avoid being involved – I missed by millimeters… However, Max McDonagh was able to sneak past on my inside and I crossed the line in 5th.

A last minute brake pad change on Sunday morning, just ahead of the race, focused my mind and got the adrenaline pumping.

Another race of 3 phases. A similar shorting out phase at the beginning of proceedings with jostling throughout the lead pack. Again, Henry and I managed to just sneak a lead over the chasing pack as Mike Evans, Jack Sales and Dan Gore made amazing progress to the lead group from the back of the grid. The pre-safety car period the day before had been a good rehearsal and Henry and I built on our lead for the next 15-20mins of the race.

A couple of silly errors on the early parts of the final lap saw me drop away from Henry a little too much and make my attempt for the lead a little more difficult than it needed to be. I gave it a good shot but ultimately crossed the line second.

That top step remains elusive. But taking silverware home and getting to stand on the podium again is brilliant and the feeling will never grow old. I said ahead of the season that these podiums would prove much harder to pick up. However that makes the achievement all the more sweet.

As ever, thanks to all my friends and family for their support and help over the weekend. I hope I repaid that just a little 🙂

Is it really all over already?

Ridiculous that we’re already at the end of the 2014 season. Yesterday I was at Snetterton shaking everyone’s hand before the season started and today, I’m home from Silverstone having competed 14 races of relentless battling.

I’m not overly keen on Silverstone International as a track. It’s fun to initially learn but once you’ve found the commitment it needs, ultimately, the pace is not found with driving skill, but with following someone. However, that does lead to some truly epic battles being fought out as clumps of cars circulate and can’t shake each other off and, sure enough, the Roadsport grid put on a great show for the large crowd of spectators that had all turned up to support.

Qualification was soaking wet. Having not driven Silverstone in the wet wince the monsoon of our final Academy race last year, the first part of the session was figuring out if there was any grip anywhere… (there isn’t.) Having made the call at Snetterton and Croft to leave the car very stiff on setup, I again plumped for that decision. However, the front end of the car just wasn’t prepared to grip enough in these conditions and I struggled to get turned while retaining any speed. That left me in 6th on the grid and off the pace. Half way through the session, I was down in 12th.

It was a great battle. It’s always a great battle. One day, I will figure out how to win!

6th is my worst starting position ever. Rockingham would have been 6th but for the fact we had a split grid. However, the track was drying fast in the afternoon and the left side of the grid was far drier than the right. As the lights went out, my car shot forward, whilst those on the right of the track bogged down with wheel spin. That immediately saw me in 3rd place. Once a frustrating combination of yellow flags went away in the early stages, I was free to push on and having made it to the lead I pushed as hard as I could to try and break away from the mob of cars still fighting it out.

That worked, to the tune of 1.5 seconds lead. However, that wasn’t enough to shake off Jack Sales, who had also broken clear out of the pack. Over the following couple of laps, the DRS like tow pulled Jack back to my car and he sat there, waiting! All the time, we were pulling away from the battle for 3rd and all the time, I knew that Jack was just waiting for the last lap board to show!

Last time down hanger straight, I tried to double bluff him and we went into Stowe side by side. But Jack had his nose ahead coming out of the corner. Into Vale I was on the outside. I braked as late as I dared and, as it transpired, too late. I went wide at the corner, but Jack had gone wider, and off the track. However, I couldn’t pull it back around as there wasn’t the space and the outside of the track was still wet. Around club I tried another cut back but the line at Silverstone comes very quickly out the final corner and I ended up a 10th back.

It was a great battle. It’s always a great battle. One day, I will figure out how to win!

Will ended up finishing 7th. This saw the Championship close up dramatically. It was all going down to the last race of the season. That only seemed right after the year we’ve had.

Race 2 saw a very damp track again. This time, the early morning sun and lack of cars running around hadn’t had a chance to create a dry line. But, as the sun got stronger, it was only going to get better as out race went on.

Again, I made the decision to keep the car stiff and at the start of the race. Off the line, I got too much wheel spin and immediately dropped to 6th. Through lap 2 that had seen me slide down to 8th and on lap 3, I started in 9th place. The car was not enjoying the conditions and I was trying too hard to make up the difference. However, as I learned the track conditions and as the drying line appeared, I picked up the pace. Once I’d got back past James and Will, I was able to span the gap that had formed to the battle for 3rd. I used the tow that had been used by Jack the day before to skip past and get to 3rd. However, Dan wasn’t going to sit down and take that and we swapped places once more before I finally got a small gap.

It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve had a brilliant time. There’s nothing I want to do more.

That gap just hung on through the race and although I was catching Jack and Tim out front at the end of the race, I couldn’t get back in contention and I crossed the line in 3rd.

Jack had once again won the race and with Will having only recovered back to 5th, that saw them tied on points. However, countback on number of wins saw Jack take the title. I ended the season 4 points back from the top two. Stats are a bitch! I had a great weekend, with great results, but I still managed to lose 2nd place in the Championship!

It’s been a fantastic year. I’ve had a brilliant time. There’s nothing I want to do more. Best of all, I get to share every weekend with friends and family who love it just as much.

Thank you to EVERYONE who makes this happen. See you next year for more of the same!

Long haul racing – Caterham Roadsports visit Croft

The emotional rollercoaster continues. It’s an incredibly long way up to Croft. Next stop is Newcastle if you overshoot! The circuit is properly old fashioned. Not in a bad way – in a ‘what club motorsport is about’ type of way. Testing went very well and I found the pace quickly. A best of 1:37.29 wasn’t bettered all weekend – although, there are no points for being fast in testing!

Qualification

I found my sea legs and turned in a great final lap to take pole by 0.6s.

No points for qualifying either, but we were all due medals for getting out on track in soaking wet conditions. I haven’t been on track in conditions that bad throughout Roadsports so it was a voyage of discovery!

However, I found my sea legs and turned in a great final lap to take pole by 0.6s. That’s a pretty good start to the weekend.

Race 1

Come the race, the conditions were mainly dry but with some fully damp areas on track. I got  good start and remained side by side with Will through the first section of the lap. I took the outside line at Tower and got my car ahead, however, a damp inside to the corner saw Will slide me off track on the exit and that meant immediately dropping to 5th and the next lap Lee put me back to 6th.

I never managed to shake Lee Bristow from my tail for more than a corner at a time

At this point, things weren’t looking at all good. Through the race, I managed to haul back up to 4th, which turned to 3rd when Jack missed his brake pedal at Sunny in and spun out. I never managed to shake Lee Bristow from my tail for more than a corner at a time and the relentless pressure eventually told on the last lap. Going into the complex, I managed to clip my accelerator and ran wide – letting a podium slip away and ending up 5th. Queue bad mood.

Race 2

Starting 5th and with the top 10 cars all capable of circulating within a few 10ths of each others times, this was always going to be a hard race! Another good get away but nowhere for the car to go saw me slip behind Tim Dickens into 6th. Jack Sales didn’t take long at all to get up to 7th from his 10th place start and the usual balancing act of trying to attack ahead and defend behind started in anger.

Starting 5th and with the top 10 cars all capable of circulating within a few 10ths of each others times, this was always going to be a hard race!

At least 4 times, Jack and I went side by side for extended periods. He’s a master behind the wheel and is a pleasure to race with. It took everything I had to keep him at bay and an opportunistic move around the outside of Tim going into  turn one at least took the relentless pressure from the red machine away for a bit. Not that Tim wasn’t shoving his nose in all the wrong places!

The Roadsport train never really relented but a slightly missed overtake move by Dan meant I could take some speed through the Jim Clark esses and get through to 3rd. Almost immediately, the Sea’s parted as Henry missed his braking point at Sunny in and I got through to 2nd.

I chased down Will and sat on his tail for 2 laps – trying for moves where I could but alway mindful of the previous day and not wanting to throw another result out the window. That left me in 2nd at the line and MUCH happier than the previous day.

With his double win and a fastest lap in race 1, Will has almost two hands on the trophy now. I haven’t done the maths but I’m sure I’ll have at least a mathematical chance at Silverstone. Whilst there’s still a chance – never give up hope!