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.