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.

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