Caterham 270R Spa race weekend

I have raced at Spa how cool is that! The Europe away round of the Championship is always a highlight of the year and being at Spa supporting the British GT was such a great thing to be part of.

I had another solid points weekend picking up a P5, P2 and a fastest lap point.

The official TV footage from Caterham is on their YouTube channel.

Quali P8

Since the 270R’s and Roadsport’s would be racing together it meant that quali was always going to be a lottery and trying to get anything resembling a clean lap in was going to be a challenge. What didn’t help was some of the Roadsport drivers treated the quali as a race where they could try and beat a 270R by dive bombing us into the corners. Which general screwed both drivers laps.


After a very frustrating 20 minutes I eventually managed to string together one poor lap a couple of seconds off the pace. Luckily for me everyone else had the problems and I bagged P8. To be honest this wasn’t the end of the world as Spa has a lot of long straights and overtaking would be easy enough.

Race 1 – P5

In the build up to the first race everyone took a gamble that it would remain dry. What a mistake that was! The worsening weather led to the race starting as a rolling start behind a safety car instead of the usual standing start. In all honesty this was probably a good thing as we all spaced out. If we had all piled into La Source in a group it would have ended in tears.

The race was one of the most scary but fun things I have ever done in a car. I was fortunate to avoid any collisions and apart from a spin just before the red flag I had managed to work my way up into 4th place. Annoyingly the red flag meant that the rules state the order on the lap before the red flag is the finishing order so I got demoted back to 5th place.

Podium

  • P1: Tom Allen
  • P2: Neil Fraser
  • P3: Dan French

Race 2 – P2

After the terrible conditions in race one everyone was relieved to see a dry forecast for race two. Starting in P5 gave me the inside line at the first corner. Which hopefully would turn out a safe place to be. I wasn’t paying attention at the start again! and took a second to notice the lights were out and everyone else was moving, muppet. By the time we got through the first corner I had dropped to 10th. What happened next was just all a bit odd. For the first 10 minutes the car just felt so slow. I was easily being out dragged by everyone and dropped down to 15. I was starting to think I might have a fuel pump issue. Andy one of the other drivers had the same issue in testing. Caterham fuel pumps are a bit fragile and as a general rule you replace them after a heavy rear impacts. Being a bit of a cheapskate I didn’t do this after the Croft incident and had forgotten to look at it.

I was sure my race was going to be a disaster and was just about to lose interest when I hit a curb hard and down the next straight I was able to keep up with people again. Still not sure if it was all in my head or really a mechanical issue but the sudden dose of speed transformed the race for me and started to make a effort to claw my way back through the field.

A few close calls later avoiding other peoples mistakes I managed to get myself to the head of the second pack of cars. With what looked like a gap to the lead group that was going to be hard to close. Dan Halstead, Greg Monks and I started working together to close the gap. Luck was on our side as lead group started scrapping and after they tripped over each other at the bus stop chicane it bunched the field back up.

Going onto the last lap I got a great tow down the Kemmel straight and jumped from 4th to 1st. Which would leave me a sitting duck on the long drag back to the end of the lap. I quickly hatched a plan to leave the door wide open after Pouhon in the hope that Justin would be unable to help himself and dive up the inside. Then the plan was to be slow out of Stavelot so that Tom Allen could also get past allowing me to drop back into 3rd and get a double tow down the last straight and catapult back into the lead.

As it was the plan was half a success. Justin took the bait while Tom ran wide on the exit of Stavelot. Cruising past Justin I knew I would have the fast charging GMac alongside me into the last chicane. GMac had the inside and I tried to get him on the outside of the last corner but I couldn’t quite make it stick without risking the car. Would have been pretty embarrassing to take us both out on the last corner so decided to settle for 2nd and take the points. Great finish being on the podium at Spa and also for GMac to make it back on the podium in style.

Podium

  • P1: Graham Macdonald
  • P2: Matt Sheppard
  • P3: Justin Heap

Final Thoughts

Racing at Spa was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Standing on the podium while the British GT cars were lined up on the grid was just so cool.

Next race is at Donington Park 17th August. No one has raced their since our Academy year. Going to be interesting to see how it goes. In all likelihood it’s going to be another close race at the front of the pack. Personally I’m just looking to score solid points. Ideally more than the drivers closest to me in the championship.

Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.

Caterham 270R Snetterton race weekend

Snetterton for me as always been a bit of a strange place. I like the circuit and have always been fast here. However I’ve never been able to convert the pace to a good result. Having been here in the Academy year where I spun off and fought from 23rd to 7th. Then in Roadsport year I threw away a podium going from 5th to 2nd gear. I was hoping for 3rd time lucky on this visit to Snetterton.

It would turn out to be a solid point weekend with a P3, P5 and a new lap record. In all I was too cautious and something I need to rectify at the next round.

The official TV footage from Caterham is on their youtube channel

Testing

Only mentioning testing for the drama off track. Dan French dropped his car on axle stand Friday morning. Which under normal circumstances isn’t a big deal… Unless you finger happens to be holding the axle stand! Ouch! doesn’t cover it. You can read all about it on his blog.

Quali – P2

Bizarre is all I can say about quali. It was a total disaster. Everyone got in everyone’s else way. When I came into the pits I was not happy and assumed I would be lucky to be in the top 10 and a P15 was more likely. When I found out I was P2 I think I went back to my car to check if the vbox said the same or it was a timing glitch.

Snetterton 270 Quali

In this case I think the problem was too many fast people on track together. We had this in Roadsport. At that time the lead pack of 8 would go out together at the front and trip over each other. This year all the fast teams have gone out first with the fast privateers at the back. This has meant two fast groups of 6ish split by half the track. So the tripping over each other hasn’t happened. At Snetterton most of the fast teams and privateers were out in a big group at the back. So it was a mess.

Still P2 can’t complain 🙂

Race 1 – P3

Wow what a race. Despite ‘only’ finishing P3 in the race I think it was one of the most enjoyable races ever. It really was a master class in why working together can control a race to guarantee a good result. The race really was a 3 part act.

Snetterton Caterham 270R Race 1 start

Act one was a fight from the start which lasted a couple of laps or 5 minutes. I was happy in 4th playing the long game when Justin overcooked it and ran off the track. I assume he would just drop in behind me so the leading pair wouldn’t get away… But instead he didn’t brake in the normal place, trying to get the position back and force us both wide letting the lead pair get away. At this point the engine was drowning out my cursing. Ironically this was the defining point of the race. On the next straight it meant that Tom was able to get ahead of Justin and I could leave the two of them to argue over every corner while I tried to close the gap to the lead two.
I have to admit I love chasing there is something about having a target in front of you and just driving at the absolute limit without crossing it.

Snetterton Caterham 270R Race 1 trio

Act two.. wait patiently for the moment to strike. Once I had caught up with James and Dan they could see exactly what my intentions were. Sit at the back of the trio allowing us to get the biggest lead possible before fighting over who got which of the 3 trophies. While I was there and it was a long 20 minutes left I decide to have some fun and try and get the additional point for fastest lap. So every lap I would drop back.. Then go for it and catch up the gap.

Snetterton Caterham 270R race 1 side by side

Act three.. strike. With none of the other cars in sight and 5 minutes to go it was time to attack. As the person at the back of the train with the most to gain it was obviously going to be me that started the battle. After several laps of going 3 wide down the straights it was Dan who won (despite the broken finger) by the length of a wheel. Ahead of James who beat me by roughly the length of a car. This Caterham racing is close!

Snetterton Caterham 270R Race 1 post race

The victory lap was pretty cool with the 3 of us running side by side past the main bank of spectators and our families. It’s the moments like that I will remember when my racing stops. Silverware is great but it’s the other drivers, the battles and the long suffering families who turn up rain and shine to watch us that make the weekend. As are the unpaid marshals who without them there wouldn’t be motor racing to watch or take part in.

Podium

  • P1: Dan French
  • P2 James Murphy
  • P2: Matt Sheppard

 

Race 2 – P5

After the ‘relaxing’ controlled race one it was obvious that race 2 would be a completely different race and more like our typical 270R races. I do find it slightly assuming how you can generally gauge what a race will be like within the first few corner based on which drivers are where in the order and how their previous race went.

Snetterton Caterham 270R Race 2 start

I started P3 and didn’t get a great start slotting into P5 where I would sit for most of the race. This time we had a lead group of 5 cars who had obviously learnt from the race the previous day as most of the fighting was more sensible and we managed to pull a lead of the group behind.

At this point I made a bit of a tactical error. I had set a lap record the day before and got preoccupied with trying to better it as I could see Chris catching the lead 5 up and I didn’t want him to beat it. So I was also trying to beat it. As it was in the end I got 2nd fastest and Chris got the point for the fastest lap in race 2. A little be slower than the new record I set the day before.

Snetterton Caterham 270R Race 1 end
In hindsight I should have gotten more stuck into the battle in front of me. By the mid point of the last lap I was 4th just behind James M. Which with 2 overtaking points to the finish line. Left us both in the best positions to jump ahead with a double tow down the two straight. Unfortunately James had a tad oversteer onto the back straight which meant we both had to back off which destroyed our forward momentum. This allowed Greg to jump us both and I was just about to hold Chris off and keep 5th place.

Podium

  • P1: Justin Heap
  • P2: Dan French
  • P3: Greg Monks

Final thoughts

Racing is a funny old sport. Compared to last year walking away with a P3, P5 and a new lap record would have matched my best result last year in Roadsport. However excluding mechanical issues this is actually my worse weekend this year for points. Funny how a little success means you expect more and anything but a podium is frustrating.

This year’s 270R driver line up is crazy competitive. Anyone who get a podium or a win really had to work for it!

At the halfway point in the Championship it’s all to play for. On the outright points I’m ‘way down’ in 6th but once everyone drops their worse two scores my situation is a lot better. However I’ve in effect already used my ‘two lives’. Meaning I really need to keep my nose clean while trying to get podiums. Almost everyone else still has poor races they can drop. All this means by the time we get to Brands Hatch in September I can easily see going to to the last race to decide the final order.

Spa
Next up is Spa Francorchamps on the 20th July. Supporting the British GT and F3 Single seaters as part of SRO Speed week in the build up to the 24hrs of Spa on the 27th July.
Which is going to be amazing as not only are we the support race for the proper race cars. Spa is an historic amazing track which is on every drivers top tracks to race on.
Excited doesn’t come close to covering it!
Photos from Jon @ Snappy Racers.