What is the one thing that Le Mans, Nurburg, Magny-Cours, Spa Francorchamps, Zolder & Zandvoort all have in common. Apart from being in mainland Europe? They were all closer to home than the next round of the Caterham Roadsport championship at Knockhill, Scotland.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only competitor wondering why on earth it was decided to go way north to Knockhill. Those that decided to skip the round really missed out, as Knockhill it turns out didn’t disappoint. To mix it up the decision was taken that the event should run on the ‘reverse’ track. This meant a couple of the blind crests became blind drops which really added to the challenge.
Challenging would be the one word I would use to describe the weekend. I have to admit I didn’t finish the weekend as strongly as I would have liked. However with the long view in mind finishing races with no damage and collecting points is always a good thing. At the sharp end of the field all the drivers are strong so I just need to up my game for the next round.
The short version of events:
* Quali – 2nd place, my 5th front row start in a row 🙂
* Race 1 – Finished 6th. Too much wheel spin at the start. Made mistakes and got out manoeuvred, a bit disappointed with this one.
* Race 2 – Finished 5th. Slow reactions at start. Spent most of the race trying to go around the outside (unsuccessfully) of GMac. Gifted 5th by Oli crashing out.
Congratulations in Race 1 to Dan French (P1) , James Murphy (P2), Oli Pratt (P3). Race 2 James Murphy (P1), Dan Halstead (P2), Dan French (P3).
Race One Video
(Forgot to turn the GoPro on and only have the lower quality vbox footage)
Race Two Video
Testing on Wednesday, Thursday & Friday.
Due to the far away nature of Knockhill we got three days testing instead of the usual two. Once all the gazebos were up and the obligatory bacon baps & coffee consumed it was time to hit the track. Since the contact at the last round with Dan I got my car setup rechecked at DPR and the reasons for my turn in oversteer have been solved. This made the car stable to drive from the moment I got on track. I really can’t state how important it is to be in a car you can trust to do what you want it to. If you don’t trust the car it’s really difficult to hold it on the edge of control lap after lap.
Just like Snetterton it was the same group of drivers putting in the fast times. Only difference was Tom Allen was back so the lead group had grown. Over the three days testing we got to experience all of Scotland’s weather. Every day on track was a mixture of sunshine, rain and wind. The track itself has lots of elevation changes and on a proper quick lap you can take off to one degree or another 5 times per lap. Doing a race distance is punishing to both the car and the driver. I still have the bruises 8 days later!
Due to the short track and the fact that some drivers are slower than others it meant that back markers were going to potential be a big issue in both qualifying and the race. Over the blind crest at the chicane there was a 20mph difference between following a fast and not so fast driver. At this point on the track there is no where to overtake for a couple of corners. Which would cost the unlucky at least 2 seconds possible more in the race! Luckily the slower people in our group are a great bunch and mostly try and move over as soon as they can.
Quali Got a front row with P2.
Somehow I ended up going out on track first for the quali with the whole field behind me. There isn’t much of a tow to be taken or given at Knockhill so quali was more an exercise of trying not to get in the way of someone else hot lap. After lots of aborted laps due to mistakes or catching up with other people I only set a hot lap on the 16th out of 20 possible laps. That lap put me in P2 only 0.2 seconds behind Dan French in P1.
Race 1 P6
Starting on P2 meant I started on the outside of the track for the first corner hairpin. Getting a good start and trying to move to the left was critical to maintaining position early on. I had a bit of wheel spin but managed to survive the first couple of laps in 4th place. For some unknown reason I was struggling for grip and twice got a poor exit out of the hairpin and dropped down to 6th. At this point I admit I was a bit frustrated and having a few back markers get in my way at the wrong time I lost contact with the guys in front. But then on the last lap I saw more back markers in the mix and gained massively on Dan H. Unfortunately I lost out on 5th by 0.26 seconds.
Race 2 P5
After the frustrations of race 1 where I went backwards I was in a lot better frame of mind for race 2. I knew that providing I kept it on the black stuff P6 was at the tail end of the faster group so worse case I would only end up where I started, but I could move forward. Again I started on the outside of the track and just wanted to stay out of trouble for the first couple of corners. I managed to get a better start with no wheel spin, but worse because my reaction time was terrible. I’m not sure what I was thinking about but it wasn’t the colour of the start lights! Just to complete the poor show I then missed 3rd gear on the way out of the hairpin. What is it with 2nd to 3rd gear on these cars? At least I’m not the only driver which keeps messing up that change!
The first five minutes of the race were spent with me waving like a lunatic at both Tom & GMac that I wouldn’t attack them and we should concentrate on working together to catch up with the lead four. This plan had a couple of flaws. First Tom missed the Snetterton round so wasn’t there when all the front runner talked about hand signals and working together. Secondly GMac having come off the track on lap one and dropped from 2nd to 7th was just on a mission to overtake anything with wheels.
Having established that catching up with the lead four was not on the cards it became a fight between the three of us for the best of the rest. Unfortunately Tom went wide at one point and by the time he was back on the road it left the fighting to me and GMac. I managed to get ahead a couple of times but bailed out of making it stick as I wasn’t convinced I would come out the other side with a whole car. Watching the video I was definitely a little to cautious. Lesson learn for next time, keep my foot in and elbows out. GMac did an outstanding job of defending into the hairpin and not cracking under pressure. Due to Oli crashing out with a couple of laps to go I was lucky to get 5th.
The next round will be at my local track of Brands Hatch on the 2nd/3rd June. Really looking forward to getting stuck back into the fights for podiums.
Photos courtesy of Jon @ SnappyRacers.com