Caterham 270R Silverstone National Race weekend

After the winter break the Caterham 270R Championship kicked off in spectacular style on the Silverstone National circuit. The two 270R races were more akin to Nascar racing as the entire field lapped as one group. Never knew you could get 6 Caterham’s wide on a track!

It’s taken me a few days to get my head around it all but I finally lived a childhood dream and won a motor race. That feeling of crossing the line first was amazing especially against such a strong field of drivers all in identical cars.

Quali – P4

The weekend got off to a pretty good start where I managed to bag 4th place on the grid. Only 0.1 seconds off pole. Odds were that the race would be a tow fest and track position early on wouldn’t mean much. That being said I went into the race happy that I would be near the sharp end of the grid and might be part of any break away which might happen.

SILV7739

Race 1 – P1

Got a good start off the line and slotted into 3rd place. Had a simple plan of stay in the lead few cars and if possible either form a breakaway on my own or with anyone else if I could. Dan French and I nearly did it a couple of times but it was impossible to pull away from the pack. The tow effect at Silverstone is frankly ridiculous. A gap which would see you clear on most tracks made no difference at Silverstone.


Over the 30min race the lead pack change order ever corner. One lap I would be leading. Next down in sixth, couple of corners later back in the lead. Having ended up second onto the final lap I knew it would be all to play for. Out of the last corner Justin, James and I were side by side and it came down to a race to the line. One that I would win by 0.01 seconds. Which as 100mph is very little indeed!

IMG_7029

P1: Matt Sheppard
P2: Justin Heap
P3: James Murphy

Race 2 – P22 (Crash)

For the first time ever I started on pole for a Sunday race having won the Saturday race. Not that starting near the front makes any difference at this track but it was a nice feeling to lead the pack around to take the start. I fell into old habits and got a poor start but hung out with the lead few cars to start with. Not sure why, maybe I wasn’t totally paying attention but I found myself down in 18th after 20mins which woke me up to do something about it and 5mins later I was back in the lead. One of the great things about Silverstone is when everyone is in a pack you can find ways back into the fight. All was going well as I led onto the last lap and was confident of ending up in the top 5, possibly with a podium.

However it was not meant to be as one of the drivers made a last second move into a gap that wasn’t really there and took several front running cars out of the race, including me. The car wasn’t too badly damaged and I was able to get across line in a distance 22nd. Did consider parking it and not bothering to finish the race but decided that if the car would move it was worth salvaging any points I could. As they might be needed later in the year.

SILV2053

P1: Justin Heap
P2: Dan Halstead
P3: Neil Fraser

Final thoughts.

After a couple of years of almost winning it’s amazing to finally have nailed it and won a race. Hopefully it’s the first of many. Race two was a big disappointment result wise but had the pace to run at the front which is a good sign.

SILV7914

Next round is 4/5th May up north at Croft.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

2019 Caterham Motorsport 270R Calendar

It’s that time of year again. After what feels like a very long winter break it’s time to dust off the racing kit and go racing again.

This year I’ll be continuing up the Caterham Motorsport ladder and taking part in the Caterham 270R championship. What is 270R you may wonder. Basically a slightly racier version of the Roadsport car I drove last year. More about that in another post.

Like last year there will be 14 races spread over 7 race weekends. Super excited about this year since the circuit list is pretty epic.

  • Silverstone National 6th/7th April
  • Croft 4th/5th May
  • Oulton Park 1st June
  • Snetterton 29th/30th June
  • Spa Francorchamps 20th/21st July (Supporting British GT)
  • Donington Park 17/18th August
  • Brands Hatch 28th/29th September

To be honest I don’t know which race to be most excited about:

  • Silverstone National is probably the one I’m least looking forward to as it’s just going to be a towfest where we pile in 4/5 wide into every corner.
  • Croft is a fun little track and could go well.
  • Oulton Park is a really great technical track which I love.
  • Snetterton I really enjoy and some of my best races have been there.
  • Spa is a legendary track and racing here supporting the British GT is going to be the highlight of the year regardless of result.
  • Donington I got podium last time here so hope to repeat that.
  • Brands Hatch is another great track and was unlucky the last 2 years so hopefully this year I nail it.

With such an epic track list, of which 4 we have never raced at. I’m really interested to see how the season develops. Last years Roadsport was super close and exciting.

This year it’s the same group but with some new and old hands that are quick joining the fray. Murphy and French have a championship a piece. Macdonald, Halstead, Allen, Clowes & Mccall have wins behind them. Pratt, Sheppard & Fraser have had podiums but never the victory. Morgan who won academy is back after a year out. Heap, Moore (Academy green & white champions) & Monks (Academy white 2nd) have taken the leap from Academy to 270R missing Roadsport. Palmer is staying in 270R having skipped Roadsport last year and will be interesting to see how he fairs back in with us again.
We have a few non Caterham racers joining us. One of which has years of karting experience so in all likelihood will be fast.
By my maths that gives us 9 previous race winners and 16 drivers who fancy getting a win.

If that is not enough there are at least 5 other drivers who will be close behind and if they adapt well to the new cars could leap frog some of us.

With that lot one thing is for sure. We will not be short of on track action and any race will be an exciting one to watch!

BRSCC Winter Race Day at Anglesey

Blue sky greeted us at Anglesey for the BRSCC Winter Race Day for an end of season day of mixed class racing. Like last year it was a mix of Radicals, Caterhams and tin tops.

Race 1 video

Race 2 video in 4k 360

Also in car video: https://youtu.be/jkq_aTIAyys

Quali – P5

As it was a mixed class quali the best I could hope for was 4th. Given Dan French and I were likely to be the fastest Caterham on track it became a battle between the two of us for the coveted Caterham class pole. Our plan was to go out together and take it in turns to lead the other around to give each of us a fair tow. I totally messed that plan up by leaving the pits thinking Dan was behind me only to find out a few other cars got in between us (sorry Dan!). I decided to push on and clear the traffic to get into some clean air followed by some fast laps to see what I could do with no tow. At which point Dan should have cleared the slower cars and I would back off to wait for Dan to catch me then we could spend the second half of the quali working together. I could see Dan progress and had literally just slowed down to wait for him and the red flags had come out and stopped the session.

Anglesey caterhams2
The red flag meant we had to return to the pits and wait for quali to be restarted. The good news is Dan was now behind me. The bad news was there were several slower cars we found ourselves behind in the pit queue. So much for best laid plans! First rule of racing is plan for everything but don’t expect any of it to actually happen the way you wanted.

Anglesey Straight

After the quali restarted Dan and I made quick work of the slower cars and we had a few laps to help each other in the tow. This worked pretty well for Dan as he managed to use my tow to set a faster time. I on the other hand despite following Dan didn’t improve on my earlier time set in clear air because I misjudged the gap. Still was happy with my pace as I knew it was going to be a fun scrap in the races.

Race 1 finished 4th (1st in class)

At the start JJ got an amazing start and blasted past me while my start was pretty tardy. Annoyingly I had finally worked out my race starts but a gearbox rebuild and a new clutch has meant that the biting point has changed slightly. That’s my racing drive excuse anyway! For the first lap I followed JJ around but knew I had to get past him. Before Dan had an opportunity to make a gap too big for me to close. After getting passed JJ I set about trying to chase Dan down.

Anglesey Race 1 battle

The tow effect in a 270R is less than in the Roadsport due to the removal of the windscreen. Which means that it take a lot more work to catch up with people. I was faster in some parts of the track while Dan was faster in others. Eventually I caught him up and managed to overtake after a bit of a battle the safety car was deployed to dig poor Al out of the mud. I knew that once the safety car went in Dan would go back on the attack and I just needed to hold him off for a few more laps to take the effective Caterham 1st place kudos.

Anglesey Race 1 battle 1

On the restart we both ran wide on the first corner and I just about stayed on the track. Dan behind me was less fortunate and had a ‘moment’ which gifted me a couple of seconds lead. At this point I knew I could win the battle as long as I didn’t do anything stupid. Typical at this point some back markers started to play their part and it was a case of being forceful and getting past without losing too much time to Dan.

I might have ‘only’ finished 4th on the road behind 3 fast quicker cars but to be first in the Caterham class felt like the victory I had failed to get all year. Also got the fastest Caterham lap as a bonus.

Race 2 finished 3rd (2nd in class)

One of the faster cars didn’t take part in the second race which promoted me to 3rd on the grid along side Dan French in 4th. It was pretty cool lining up behind two radicals.

Anglesey Race 2 start

Despite getting a better start than race one, JJ still managed to rocket past me. Not wanting Dan to get away I got past JJ on the first lap and decided to sit behind Dan for a couple of laps so we could get in some fast laps and build a gap from the rest of the pack. Once Dan and I had gapped the rest of the Caterhams it was time to play. The rest of the race was an epic battle where we traded places multiple times a lap and it was one of the most fun races this year.

Anglesey Race 2 battle

Dan ultimately beat me after I overcooked an overtake on the last lap and locked up. Slightly annoying to mess up but that is motor racing. It turned out one of the Radicals has been disqualified which promoted Dan into 2nd and I got 3rd. Picking up a trophy was an added bonus. I did lose out on the fastest laps kudos to Dan by 0.001 seconds. Which really showed how close it was!

Anglesey Race 2 battle2

Silverstone 2018 Birkett 6hr race

The Caterham Roadsport season might be over but there are still some end of season racing to be done.
One of those is the 750 Motor Club Birkett 6 hour relay race at Silverstone. I did the race last year in a team of six Roadsport cars we came 48th out of 60 on the road and 31st in the handicap race. We got the band back together with most of the original team to have another go with 270R cars. From this years Roadsport drivers we had John, Adam, Mark and I. Matt C & Paul were both back on track having missed a year of Caterham racing. Mark unfortunately broke his car at Thruxton so was not racing but kindly still came along to help my dad out with the team management stuff and running the pit wall.
Birkett 3
Both Mark and my dad deserve a lot of credit and thanks for standing out in some pretty abysmal weather to time our laps and hold out the pit board. It must have rained for 4 hours straight. Before that it was wasn’t what I could call warm either!

Summary

Out of the 66 teams we started 44th would run as high as 22nd and finish 25th. In the handicap we finished 17th. However we were 3rd at one point and if it wasn’t for a stop and go penalty we could have potentially got on the podium for the handicap race. Given most of the race was wet and most of the team haven’t done much wet racing it was a great result. The stop and go was unlucky but that is racing.
So big improvement on last year… along with a reason to come back next year. Each year we get better with the tactics of endurance racing.

Highlights video 

Race

The team agreed I would go out first and pull a double stint doing all my track time in one go. The logic being that at the start in theory all the cars in front of me should be faster and there will be a lot of them. Which meant I should be able to use those cars to get a tow and fight my way forward. Unless a safety car came out and it made sense for me to pit earlier.
Birkett 2
In the Birkett the starting order is based on your team predicted speed and it’s a rolling start. I found myself in the middle of a pack of tin tops so being seen was going to be my biggest challenge.
I was lucky in my stint as I had a dry track while everyone else in the team got very wet. The 270R was brilliant and it turned into a busy race where I got past around 20 car less than an hour. My session got cut short due to a safety car and I spent the rest of the day being a mechanic for the rest of the team. Given the amount of rain outside I was more than happy to hang up my racing boots for the day!
The rest of the team did a great job of keeping the fast pace.
Hopefully will be able to do the race again next year.

Silverstone 7th and Final round of the Caterham Roadsport Championship

The Caterham Motorsport family descended on Silverstone a few weeks ago for the final round of the Roadsport Championship. Silverstone always provides some close racing as the all mighty tow means if you are in a pack there is no escape.

Summary

The weekend was the epitome of my Roadsport season. In testing showed a good turn of speed. Failed to capitalise on that pace in quali followed by a good start. Then part way through the races making a careless mistake and having to fight back through the field again.
On the positive side I have learnt a few new things at Silverstone.
  1. I can do decent starts now and actually are making places up instead of losing them off the line.
  2. When others try to crowd you off the track instead backing out or moving closer to the grass. Just let the other driver hit you… They soon move back over the other way.

Results

  • Quali – 12th place. Don’t drive a dry setup on a wet track.
  • Race 1 – 7th place. Very wet race, Great start up from 12th to 7th, spun off back to 13th. Then fought back to 7th.
  • Race 2 – 6th place. Almighty battle between 10 people over 2nd to 11th. Had a moment off the track on exactly the same corner as last year!
Congratulation to the podiums in both races.
  • Race 1 = James Murphy (P1), Dan French (P2) & Toby Clowes (P3)
  • Race 2 = Dan French (P1), Oli Pratt (P2) & Neil Fraser (P3)

Championship outcome.

Congratulations on James for winning the championship by one point over Dan F. Both drivers would have been worthy champions having made the least mistakes year. Also great job by GMac on 3rd place.
I would end up 6th in the Championship 2 points behind Tom A (P5) and 7 point off Dan H (P4).

Race 1 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulEIT0T5ji0

Race 2 video in car

4K 360 (Annoying blur): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2tH2eRBqQY

Quali 13th

So quali didn’t go close to plan and I had my worse result to date. Which was massively frustrating and my fate was sealed based on a choice I made an hour before we even got onto the track. I looked at the forecast and amount of rain falling at the time and decided that the track would start off damp and get dryer. Therefore decided to go out with a dry setup. The rain never got heavy but it was enough to keep the track damp and cold. I was left tiptoeing around the track unable to get enough heat in the tyres to make them grip.
I knew I was in for a shocker when drivers I would normally race are disappearing into the distance. Other drivers who I would normally breeze past were catching me up.
Silverstone quali 1
Another important motorsport lesson learnt about the effect tyre temperature has on the car handling. On the road the majority of people wouldn’t be able to tell if one of the 4 tyres on the car was a psi or two out. In racing the difference is huge and the closer you get to the limit the more you feel it. If you can’t get heat into the tyres they don’t stick and you might as well be driving round with van tyres.
With a wet race forecast and it being easier to overtake at Silverstone I was looking forward to a good race. I just needed to stay away from any midfield mishaps in the first few corners.

Race 1 – 7th Place

By the time our race started the track was soaking wet. Starting in 12th due to Neil having a grid penalty I knew it was going to be an exciting race. In the wet I could go pretty well and make up some places. Things got off to a great start and was up to 9th by the first braking point. By the last chicane I was 7th and feeling pretty happy with myself.
Typically it was short lived and I managed to lose the backend on the upshift taking the last corner at 90 degrees taking up half the track width. Luckily everyone behind me managed to avoid me and I was back to 13th! I really have to stop doing this to myself!
The rest of the race was a lot of fun as I picked my way past various drivers. Progress was curtailed by yellow flags to clear up an accident from Stowe to Club for several laps. Which left Abbey & Village as the only 2 corners to overtake. All the way to the end I was catching up with the cars in front so it was a shame I threw so much away on that spin early on. Due to all the spray and poor visibility I had no idea what place I was in so 7th was a pleasant  surprise.

Race 2 – 6th Place

Race two was well just a bit bonkers and I really don’t know where to begin. So many overtakes, near misses, four or five abreast into corners. It really was a showcase in everything which makes Caterham racing exciting to watch and I’m sure the crowds watching loved it.
In the car it was fun but in a lot of ways frustrating. Dan F was able to walk away in front while five of us behind scrapped over 2nd. All this scrapping lead to us lapping a couple of seconds slower than we could. Later on in the race this pack of cars had increased to ten of us constantly battling.
Unfortunately the inevitable happened and a few people collided which gifted me three places on the last lap. I also gain a place when Simon missed a gear out of the last corner. Which was ironic since he had got past me two corners earlier when I accidentally went from fifth to second instead of fourth.
Great photos from Jon @ snappyracers.com

Thruxton 6th round of the Caterham Roadsport Championship

Thruxton is the fastest track in the UK where we would average 94mph over the 2.3 mile circuit. In a Caterham we only have to brake twice the rest of the time we are trying to slipstream each other to get the all important slingshot effect. All leading to a exciting scrap every lap into the last chicane where ‘3 places forward 2 places back’ was a common outcome.

Summary

After the accident at Castle Combe I wasn’t sure if I would have a car to race. Caterham Crawley did an outstanding job to rebuilt the car and I was just happy to be racing. As an added bonus Totally Dynamics in Redhill managed to fit in a last minute car wrap so it was almost like I never had an accident.. apart from the hole in my wallet!

  • Quali – 8th place. Had some bad luck with traffic and failed to get a clean fast lap.
  • Race 1 – 4th place. Great race and led for a while. Lost out in the last chicane.
  • Race 2 – 4th place. Another great race and managed to hold onto 4th.

Congratulations to the podiums in both races.
Race 1 = James McCall (P1), Graham Macdonald (P2), James Murphy (P3).
Race 2 = James McCall (P1), James Murphy (P2), Dan French (P3)

It was great to see James McCall do the double and pick up two wins.

Race 1 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm1Ll-cIvmk

Race 2 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO625T6b4cs

Testing

I will admit my testing plan went out of the window after the crash at Castle Combe. It was only because of an awesome job by Caterham Cars who rebuild my car just in time for me to collect on the way to Thruxton I was able to race at all. Luckily Thruxton is a very simple track to learn and having done a track day there in April I was reasonably sure I would be somewhere near the front as usual.

As my car was getting rebuilt and I have a better idea of car dynamics I decided to take a gamble and have my car setup differently than before. To be honest I prefer the way it was and it took me a while to get close to the speed I was before with the old setup.

Quali

It was always going to be a mixed up quali at Thruxton due to the massive tow effect and lack of braking zones. 2nd and 10th would end up split by 0.5 seconds.
Like the last couple of rounds I failed to put a lap together when I needed too or met slower cars at the wrong points of the track which caused me to abort my faster laps.

In the end I lined by 8th which is one of my worse quali results but I knew that where I started would be academic to the race later that day.

 

Race 1 – 4th Place

Had a ok start and moved up into 6th place by the first chicane and narrowly missed the carnage at the start of the following lap. Where Oli, Dan H and Tom A tried to all occupy the same spot on the track. As Oli speared across the track towards me ‘please not another chassis’ was the my first thought before narrowly avoiding him. By the time the inevitably red flags were out and the race was stopped I found myself in 3rd.

After all that effort I was slightly disappointed with the 1st lap restart rule which meant they put everyone back to their original starting points.

On the restart the front of the field had a few cars missing. I didn’t get a great start and lost a few places. Nothing to worry about since at Thruxton the slip streaming effect is massive. Pretty much all the overtaking happens once per lap into the final chicane where it was easy to gain or lose several places.

Thruxton_race1_3
Found myself in 6th for the first few laps happy following the lead pack waiting for my tyres to balance out. As the half way point passed I started to work my way forward and soon found myself battling for the lead few places.
With one lap to go I made a critical mistake… I took the lead a lap early. Right position to be on just not on the correct lap!

Thruxton_race1_4
I knew I would be mugged into the last chicane. My best hope would be to try and pull a small lead and sit on the inside on the run up to the chicane. The spectators must have gotten a good show as the eight of us arrived as one into the last chicane. The inside line proved to be a good choice as managed to hold onto 4th. Still annoying to have lost the lead on the last chicane but that’s motor racing.

Race 2 – 4th Place

I went into the second race with high hopes of a better finish but knew it would be just a close as the first race. After a good start I slotted into 4th place and waited for the inevitable towfest into the final chicane. Again there was a bit of carnage, this time it was Neil who had a nasty airborne moment but got out unhurt unlike the car.

Thruxton_race2_0

The next lap around there were waved yellows at the same point. Several drivers didn’t notice them and overtook me and several others around me. At the time it was annoying but by the end of the race all of the guilty party ended up behind me so I cared less about it. Now back in 11th place with 15 minutes to go I knew I had some work to do.
The rest of the race was a cat and mouse game to try and come out on top of the chicane games every lap. It really was a case of make up 3 space go back one. Every lap.

Mark Tredwin was the surprise driver in the mix who drove his heart out and it was awesome to have a proper tussle with the purple car. Such a shame he a moment on the last corner. As he deserved a top 5 finish.

Like the first race it came down to a manic last lap where I was in 5th by the time we got to final straight and in the run up to the chicane the race could have been anyone in the front 5. After a 3 into one moment at the chicane I managed to just out run Dan H to the line and walk away with 4th.

Thruxton_race2_4
The final round at Silverstone is only a week away. I’ve gone well there in the past so looking forward to another fun race.
As ever photo credits go to Jon @ Snappy Racers.

Castle Combe, 5th round of the Caterham Roadsport Championship

Castle Combe was a race weekend that I’ll never forget. “Race fast don’t crash’ has become a bit of a saying between the drivers before we head out on track. Unfortunately after a long period of ‘getting away with it’ I ran out of luck. But more on that shortly.
Combe is a very ‘old school’ track which predates the discovery of gravel traps or run off. In most cases you are either doing well on track or hugging a tyre barrier. If your having a lucky moment you might be dancing between the two. Looking like a driving god as you drift within inches of the barriers and rescue the car. Some really gifted drivers even managed to fit in a cheeky 360 spin without hitting anything.

Summary

Straight to the point. I totally smashed it. Not a lap record or a win but the car.
  • Quali – 5th place. Had some bad luck with traffic and failed to get a clean fast lap.
  • Race 1 – DNF. Monsoon wet track. Great start and into 3rd off the line. Lap 2 got into 2nd place. Then hit a puddle and ‘floated’ into a tyre wall.
  • Race 2 – Did not start.
Congratulations to the podiums in both races.
Race 1 = Dan French (P1), Graham Macdonald (P2), James Murphy (P3).
Race 2 = Dan French (P1), Tom Allen (P2), Graham Macdonald (P3)

Race 1 crash video in 4k 360

Race 1 video in 4k 360 (well just under 5 mins or 3 laps)

Testing

I ended up testing the Tuesday and Friday. Neither day was what I would call a typical test day. I was fast on the Tuesday but my testing buddy James had a big off early on which was a big shock. At that point I admit I lost interest in the day and spent as much time helping James take his car apart ready to be fixed as I did on track.
That one of the things I love about the Caterham Family, everyone helps each other out.
Castle Combe test
On Friday it was very wet to the point the track got closed. Between that and the red flags I only did 10 laps over the whole day. Which is less than I would normally do a 15mins test session.

Quali – 5th Place

All of the front runners managed to get to the front of the queue for a dry quali and I was hopefully for a good position. With quali you have to work with people to get good lap times as the tow is everything. Ultimately I didn’t do a good job of managed this and failed to string together a good lap. I was far from alone and there were quite a few ‘grumpy’ drivers around. One day I’ll get around to writing that post of the art of quali games because it gets more tactical every race weekend.
Castle Combe Quali1

Race – DNF

By the time we started our race in the afternoon the stormy weather had returned. After a flying start I had moved up to 3rd place by the first corner. With just two cars ahead of me I couldn’t see much in the spray. I dread to think what it must have been like back in the pack. I almost found myself in second place at the start of lap 2 but I backed out of it as I could feel the car floating towards the wall. Deciding that crashing out on the start of the second lap would be a daft thing to do. A few corners later at Dan H made a mistake and I was able to get into 2nd place. It was short lived as I hit a puddle and slide off the track hitting the barrier. As I bounced off Dan H had made the same mistake and he smashed into me.
Castle Combe Race1
The impact was huge however Dan and I were both uninjured which is a testimony to how tough Caterham 7’s are. The track marshals and medics were amazing and at the scene really quickly. They really are the unsung heroes of motorsport who volunteer for free to pickup the pieces when us drivers make a mess.

Aftermath

I have to thanks all my fellow drivers and the Caterham staff for their support after the race. Without them all I would have been a lot more grumpy than I was!
The car was badly damaged and will need a new chassis and a total rebuilt. It was just really unlucky that Dan H followed me off and we collided. The initial barrier hit wasn’t too bad. It was the second impact which finished the car off. Just one of those unlucky things.
I’m hoping the car will be built in time for the next round at Thruxton but it’s going to be really close.
As ever photo credits go to Jon @ Snappy Racers.