Caterham 270R Croft Race weekend

After the highs of winning my first race at Silverstone I had high hopes going into Croft. Along with the hope of actually staying out of trouble and finishing both races.

Croft is one of the few circuits in the UK that I’ve not done much track time on apart from a track day back in my Academy year. It used to be known for the bumps and the high tyre wear. However the whole track had recently been resurfaced with silky smooth tarmac dropping the lap times by several seconds.

Caterham-270R-croft3
The track was a lot of fun to drive and a proper old school track with a mix of technical sections with very little runoff rewarding the smooth and the brave. After the tow fest at Silverstone it was great to be back on a narrower track where technical ability was more useful than just getting a tow off the car in front.

Quali – P9

Like Silverstone a few of us had a plan to work together in quali. It worked pretty well at Silverstone and we were all hopefully we could repeat the success. The problem with these plans are they generally never workout for everyone involved and this time around it was my turn to be the unlucky one. Every time I was on a flying lap I ended up aborting it due to someone getting in my way. Worked well for Dan who got pole, Graham got 6th. While I was stuck back in 9th. Not an ideal place to start but I knew my race pace would be good.

Race 1 – P4

My 9th place start on the 5th row of the grid did come with one advantage. Odd numbers on this track start on the right hand side. Giving me the inside for the first two corners. Generally a far safer place to be than the outside. Looking at those ahead of me there was a real risk that the front group would get away and I needed to clear a group of cars before the pack split. If I was to have any chance of getting into a podium slot.

Caterham-270R-croft7

After an ok start I was P7 by the second corner and my plan to sit on the inside had paid off. Midway through the second lap Neil spun gifting me P6 for a brief second before I had to slam on the brake to avoid Chris who was avoiding Neil. In the confusion Toby managed to sneak by leaving me still in 7th. A couple of laps later I had possibly my luckiest lap ever. Sneaked past Chris before the chicane, Graham overcooked it through the esses & Toby missed a gear. Within a minute on track I had got from 7th to 4th!
At this point I had time to workout where the lead pack had gone. Turns out my fear had been realised. The front 3 had pulled out an 8 second lead. However with 24 minutes left in the race it was a long way to go and if the front group started fighting I could be back in the fight.

Caterham-270R-croft2.jpg

After a lap I had pulled a gap on everyone behind me and knew there was no need to drive defensively and could concentrate on closing the gap. The next 20 minutes were pretty uneventful as I lapped the track on my own but could see I was closing in on the 3 cars fighting for the lead. Annoyingly at some point they must have seen the yellow spec getting larger since they stopped fighting as much making my job harder. Just when I was about to catch them up Justin spun in front of me. Which was great as it gifted me 3rd but not so helpful as I had to go around him on the grass and lost track of the two Dan’s battling at the front.

Caterham-270R-croft6.jpg

With 2 laps to go I knew all I needed to do was keep it on the track and I would bag a podium. First rule of racing never say that to yourself it’s inviting trouble. As I found when I came out of the hairpin backwards… moron.
By the time I was pointing the right way and missed a gear I was back in 4th. Since it was the last lap I decide that 9th-4th would do and it wasn’t worth trying to kamikazes
Justin on the last lap and settled for 4th.

Congratulations to the front 3.

  • P1: Dan Halstead
  • P2: Dan French
  • P3: Justin Heap

Race 2 – DNF

So every time I step foot in a race car on track and in all the preparation on the car. There are all sort of possible outcomes I consider. No matter how many permutations of results I could have thought of what happened in race 2 was not in the script.. any script.

Due to my 4th place finish in race one I was on the outside into the first corner and lost out to Toby initially. Managing to get the place back a few corner later. The first 9 minutes were very uneventful for Dan F and I watching the Justin & Dan H show scrapping over the lead. As normal this gets a bit frustrating when you are at the back of the lead 4. Since I could see we had dropped 5th place and beyond. If the front 4 just drove the fastest line for 10 minutes we could have a gap that wasn’t closable. Ensuring that of the 4 people 3 would get a podium and we could fight that out later. When the lead 2 fight it just allows everyone to catchup making a 4 way fight for a podium an 8 way or something worse. Maybe I’m just thinking too tactical for sprint racing!

Caterham-270R-croft4

Anyway while I was thinking this the lead 2 trip over each other leading to Dan F to get along side Justin, I briefly considered making it a three wide run through the esses, then decided coasting behind and overtaking once the other 2 were no longer on the track was a better plan. Which worked and I got past Dan F into 3rd. Didn’t last since I had a problem getting a gear on the main straight and Dan F got past me.

Caterham-270R-croft5

What happened next was just not what I ever expected in a million years. Going through the chicane, which had tyre stacks each side and from a driver eye height is taken blind and flat out. I went from 3rd to 4th and the car just revved with no drive. I reached down to make sure it was in 4th and the gear stick wasn’t where my hand expected… What the hell where is it? Oh it’s in my lap.. WTF? In the little under 2 seconds between when I attempted to change gear and later found the gear stick it was long enough for an unsighted Tom A & James M to pile in the back on me ending all 3 of our races.

Caterham-270R-croft-broken-gear-stick

Feel so bad for ending Tom and James races and if that gearstick had snapped at any other point on the track we would have probably been fine. Also still annoyed that a stupid snapped gear stick happened in the first place. There are so many parts on the car you replace in case it breaks. The gear stick wasn’t even on my radar as something that needed to regularly be replaced!

Congratulations to the front 3.

  • P1: Dan Halstead
  • P2: Dan French
  • P3: Neil Fraser

Final thoughts

Any sport has it highs and lows and elements of luck. Having had mostly no accidents (except Combe) for 2 years. While within a month this year had 2 big ones in the first 2 race weekend I’m hoping for some better race results next time.
One interesting thing with our Championship is you are allow to drop your worse 2 scores. After drop scores I’m joined 3rd with Dan F on points. However I have a win so I think that might mean I get the 3rd. Just need to finish every race well for the rest of the year. Humm interesting challenge.

Next round is at Oulton Park on Saturday 1st June.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s