- I can do decent starts now and actually are making places up instead of losing them off the line.
- 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.
- 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!
- Race 1 = James Murphy (P1), Dan French (P2) & Toby Clowes (P3)
- Race 2 = Dan French (P1), Oli Pratt (P2) & Neil Fraser (P3)
Race 1 video in 4K 360
Race 2 video in car
4K 360 (Annoying blur): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2tH2eRBqQY
Race 1 – 7th Place
Race 2 – 6th Place
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.
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 lead 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
Race 2 video in 4K 360
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Race 1 crash video in 4k 360
Race 1 video in 4k 360 (well just under 5 mins or 3 laps)
Quali – 5th Place
Race – DNF
One of my fellow racers summed up Zandvoort pretty well as ‘If Carlsberg did race weekends’. Caterham Motorsport put on a perfect weekend of sun, sand and slipstreaming. I’m pretty sure regardless of the results all the drivers went home happy having had a fantastic few days on track. Being next to an amazing beach and perfect weather helped!
The circuit was a stones throw from the beach bars and a gem of a place with lots of fast sweeping corner which demanded a lot of commitment to get the best lap time. With a couple of long fast sections the tow was going to be all important again.
I went into the race weekend with high hopes of getting back on the podium. Which is a lot easier dreamt about than actually delivering. The battle between the first 7 in every race is really close and now at least 3 more people are joining that fight. So it’s only going to get tougher. Looking back at the videos it’s now easy to see how decisions you make at the start on which side to be on or how much space to give other people can make or break your race.
Still such an amazing buzz to race with such a great group of friends.
- Quali – 9th place. Worse result so far. Took a tactical decision on tyres to sacrifice quali and have a better set for races.
- Race 1 – 5th place. Fun race. Could have been better if I hadn’t come off early on.
- Race 2 – 6th place. Poor start and struggled with tyres. Had some great scraps.
Congratulations to the podiums in both races.
- Race 1 = Dan French (P1), James Murphy (P2), Tom Allen (P3). Dan Halstead was really unlucky with a penalty dropping him from P2 -> P6
- Race 2 = Dan Halstead (P1), James Murphy (P2), Dan French (P3)
Race 1 video in 4k 360
Also in car video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc49tmaACTQ
Race 2 video in 4k 360
Also in car video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuJwnuqWY24
The saying goes ‘all good things must come to an end’ springs to mind with quali. After being one of the fastest two people for six quali’s in a row that streak always had to end at some point. Like all the best racing drivers I have a ‘racing driver excuse’ or two in fact… Traffic and tyres. They are just excuses as 8 people ahead of me did a better job!
Normally the fastest group of drivers are the ones that start the quali queue but some drivers were super keen and started queuing early. In hindsight we should have joined them but instead the fast crew decided to stay in the shade and go out last. The plan was leave enough of a gap and trying to do some fast laps early on. Then pick off some slower drivers before getting clear air and working together to do some more faster laps. The plan failed. After 1 flying lap the traffic started and continued till almost the end of the session. You know it’s not gone to plan when you look back at the video and notice that there was more overtaking in the quali than the race!
I won’t go into the (not) exciting world of tyre rules and what effect tyre depth has on lap times. Short version is I made a tactical decision to save my better ‘dry’ tyres for the two races and qualify on the ‘wets’. We call them wets, drys but they are the same tyre with different amounts of tread left. It can be worth 1-2 seconds a lap. I knew this would lead to a tough quali. Where only a good tow was going to get me near the front as my best time on the ‘wets’ in testing had been a 2:03. While the ‘drys’ were good for a 2:01.
I would eventually end up 9th by far my worse quali result so far. Not an ideal spot to start but the highest I expected to be was 7th and after a lot of scrappy laps I wasn’t expecting any better if I’m honest. On returning to the paddock I couldn’t get those ‘race’ tyres on quick enough.
Race 1 finished 5th
The first race was really just about moving forward so I would be in a better position for race 2. I knew with the worn tyres on my race pace would be far better than it was in quali and was looking forward to some good battles. It all started well as I got past three people in the first couple of laps. Pushing my luck I ran wide off the track out of the last corner giving up two of 2 places I had made up!
A few laps passed before I managed to get the double tow and overtake Simon & Oli down the inside of turn one. One lap later I got Neil around the outside of turn one. I was then surprised to find GMac in front of me, who had started on pole but looked like his car was struggling. After the race it turns out his tyre strategy was the reverse of mine. While I was going forward on ‘drys’ he was going backwards on ‘wets’. So I’m really happy I made the choice I did on that dilemma.
With 6 minute to go the lead 9 were nose to tail and it was shaping up to be anyones race. Tom overcooked it into the chicane and bounced back in front of GMac and my path narrowly missing Dan F in the process. All of this lead to one of the most ‘exciting’ moments in the race where we piled 4 wide into the hairpin at the end of the main straight. It’s the times like that I love where you put all your faith in the drivers around you that no one will screw up and everyone came out the other side. Annoyingly I was the guy on the outside and lost a place.
A couple of corners later GMac ran wide after hitting the kerb and I was up to 6th. I would remain in 6th for the rest of the race and be gifted 5th by Dan H who had an unlucky post race penalty for track limits.
Given I had started in 9th I was happy to get 5th. I obviously would have preferred higher but after coming off it was a good save on points.
Race 2 finished 6th
Sloth like is how I would describe my reactions when the lights went out and it’s something I really need to work on! The first couple of corners I got squeezed and fell back a couple of places. This put me on the defensive trying to ensure that the gaggle of cars behind me stayed there.
Having suffered with my tyres overheating in race one I dropped the pressures a little to much and it took several laps for the grip to return. 8 minutes in and the car started working and I was able to start attacking the guys in front. Within a couple of corners I had got past Neil and followed GMac past Simon into the fast 4th gear corner later in the lap.
At this point I had to chuckle as GMac and I were on track together again. Which has been the case pretty much every race since we started the Academy. Having learnt from our past mistakes we set about working together try and bridge the gap to the lead 4. Alas the gap proved too large to bridge. I missed the last lap board and just failed to nab 5th place over the line.
Next round will be at Castle Combe on the 11/12th of August. Combe is a bit of fiddly track and really not sure how it’s going to go. At this point I’m assuming the usual suspects are likely to be near the front and hopefully I can pick up a podium.
Photos as always from the excellent Jon @ Snappy Racers.com. Except for the blurry one. That was someone else 😉
Brands Hatch will always hold a special place in my motorsport career as it was the place it all started. From watching BTCC with my dad as a kid with dreams of being a racing driver. Right though to it being the venue of my first ever race in last years Caterham Academy
Overall it was an outstandingly fun weekend. For a whole host of reasons. The banter and friendships in the paddock. Every round feeling more at home racing the car closer and closer to each other and the limit. It’s basically just really cool being a racing driver!
- Quali – 1st place. My 6th front row start in a row and my second pole.
- Race 1 – Finished 5th. Started ok. Found GMac again and we did our normal thing of entertaining the crowds. Just when I thought I was going to get him there was a red flag and lost the last few laps of racing.
- Race 2 – Did Not Finish (DNF). Started well, was happy pace with the front group of cars. Got hit by another car going for a smaller than a Caterham size gap. Resulting in damage and a retirement after a third of the race.
Congratulations to the podiums in both races as you really had to work hard for them!
- Race 1 = Dan French (P1), Dan Halstead (P2), James Murphy (P3).
- Race 2 = James Murphy (P1), GMac (P2), Dan French (P3).
Race One Video
Race Two Video
The full race once I dropped out was epic to watch and worth seeing some other peoples point of view. A lot of people said it was the best Roadsport race they could remember.
James Murphy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI0kiSftM4E
Tom Allen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu3DlYbn63k
Dan French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54W4a0e2pkI
Great spectator footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X1vaI0rLOY
Quali & Pole position
Brands is a short track at only 1.1 miles. Which meant with 30 cars lapping at under a minute per lap trying to get some clear was always going to be a challenge. During testing the usual seven suspects were the faster drivers. However if anyone failed to get a clean lap there could easily be someone very disappointed in their position for the start of the race.
Some slightly slower people basically started an earlier than expected quali queue. Mostly that wasn’t a problem as they let the faster cars past so they could then follow us to benefit our tow. A couple of drivers were less willing to let the faster cars through which is their right but it did mean the first 15mins of the 20mins quali session were a bit of a write off just trying to get some clear air.
Finally I managed to find some clear(ish) track. I was closer to the car in front than I wanted but far enough away that I hoped to improve. I ended up setting a 54.87. At the time I was disappointed and thought that is me stuck at the back of the fast group. Since that time was over half a second slower than we had been in running around in testing.
I was shocked and happy when the session ended and I had managed to get pole. It would put me in a good position for the start of the race. I just needed to try and stay ahead during the race.
Race 1 finished 5th
It’s always a great feeling leading the pack around to line up on the front row. I got a ok start but had dropped to 3rd by the second corner. On the run down to Graham Hill I decided it wasn’t worth fighting hard with Dan F as I knew he would be quick enough and settled into 4th place. During the first few laps I was happy saving my tyres and letting the cars in front do all the work. The four of us started to pull a small gap away from GMac and the pack behind. Typical just when I thought it was going to be a easier race Dan H attacked James into Druids and had a bit of a slide. Bunching the whole group back together and allowed GMac to attack me into Paddock Hill. I didn’t close the door quick enough on the run up to Druids allowing GMac to sneak through.
GMac I swear has a wider car than most as he seems to know exactly where to put the car. Making it difficult to get past and the rest of the race was spent trying the outside of most corners try to find a way past. Eventually I did manage to get him down the inside of Paddock Hill but he had a better run up to Druids and some how I ended up getting pushed onto the grass in the braking zone. Lucky it was only a gentle nudge with GMac and we both managed to carry on. Annoyingly at this point Sam had broken down on another point of the track and the race was red flagged a few laps short of full race distance.
When you get a red flag the final result is decided by where you were placed a lap ago which means I ended up with 5th. Not the result I was looking for but Brands was always going to be a tough race.
Race 2 DNF
I started on the 3rd row in 5th place. I didn’t mind this as it gave me the inside line for the first 2 corners. All I need to do was get an ok start and defend the inside line and I should be ok. Dan H got a poor start from 2nd and I got promoted to 4th place. For some unknown reason the Sunday race always seems a little more closer than the Saturday one. I guess it’s because the drivers are more in the grove. Possibly in some cases it’s because they know they don’t need to finish well for the second race and are more willing to take risks.
Like the previous race the front 4 started to pull away again and I was happy sitting in 4th biding my time and tyres ready for a fun race later on. Right on cue it all got a bit chaotic as Dan F who was leading managed to get stuck in gear. At race pace this meant that Graham went it the back of Dan F, James hit GMac and I had to back off. Within the space of a straight Dan F had gone from 1st to 9th. GMac I think was now 5th. James was 1st. With both Tom and I alongside him coming into the first corner. At this point I didn’t fancy being the middle of a Caterham sandwich and decided that 3rd was a safer choice. Annoyingly Dan H was behind James on the inside which cost me 3rd. However in the grand scheme of things it was only 3mins into a 20min race so plenty of time to move forward. GMac was the next car all over me and eventually he got past me.
What happened next was really unlucky. I could see Dan F behind me who was on a charge from his early gearbox issues. Now I knew that Dan F might try a really late inside move into Paddock Hill. So I made an extra point of driving closer to the edge of the track down the main straight and I thought made it pretty clear that I was going to be on the inside an if he wanted past he would have to use the outside which was plenty wide enough for 2 Caterhams and a bit. While the inside line I left myself about a 1/3 of a Caterham width or less to give me some space to manoeuvre. Dan F on the other hand thought the inside was the way to go and we hit each other.
Normally Caterham wings get knocked off all the time and you just carry on. Annoyingly mine got wedged back in on itself and started to burn off the tyre tread. I carried on for a couple of laps with white smoke billowing out the back of the car hoping it would fall off. That never happened, at this point I didn’t know how much tread I had left so decided to retire the car instead of risk a high speed blow out. Not quite the finish I wanted but the rest of the racing from everyone else was epic and people will talk about how close the finish was for a long time. Just a shame I didn’t finish it!
It’s very easy to get annoyed or disappointed about racing results. Especially the closer you get to the front. However at 100mph+ everyone is making split second decisions and things will go wrong for everyone at some point. If everyone can shake hands and have a beer afterwards that’s all that really matters. After all we are doing this for fun and will in years to come look back on these years and reminisce about when we were racing drivers.
Next round will be in Zandvoort which I’m really looking forward too. Since I generally always do better on the longer faster tracks than the tight twisty ones. Hoping to get back on that podium!
Photos as always from the excellent Jon @ Snappy Racers.com