In 2021 I’m not doing a full race season due to spending my race budget on house renovations. As my racing buddies are quick to point out. “You can’t race a kitchen!”
So with that in mind I have signed up as a guest driver to take part in the 310R Silverstone GP round this weekend (3rd/4th July). Having not been in a race car since October I’m expecting to be pretty rusty. Really looking forward to racing without the usual championship pressures and catching up with friends.
One benefit of Covid is now all races are live streamed on YouTube. One thing I can guarantee is Caterham racing will be more exciting to watch than the F1 and probably the football. Races could run early or late. Great thing with YouTube is you can rewind to that start if that happens.
Racing cars what did that feel like again I can’t remember it was so long ago!
I have to confess it’s be such a long time I actually forgot I had this blog and all my plans to write more stuff on racing and do better video editing has completely go out of the window.
For obvious reasons the season has gotten off to a very late start but Caterham has done an excellent job to get us out on track for 5 race weekends which is 10 races.
Cadwell Park 1st/2nd August
Thruxton 22nd/32rd August
Brands Hatch 26th/27th September
Donington Park 17th/18th October
Snetterton 31st October
This year the car has another bunch of upgrades and I’ll be taking part in the Caterham 310R championship. Compared to the 270R power is up from 135 to 152 bhp. Combined with a lighter flywheel, higher rev limit and a limited slip diff (LSD). All of that makes for a fantastic car to drive. Most importantly I now have go fast black and yellow wheels!
Another big change is this year I have decided to join a team instead of being a privateer. So the great guys over at DPR Motorsport will be running me for the year. After three years of running myself I decided I wanted to take a break from putting up awnings and preparing the car. Allowing me to just focus on the driving aspect during the weekend.
The final round of the Caterham 270R Championship was held at Brands Hatch on the shorter Indy circuit.
I went into the race weekend on high spirits as it’s my local track and I was looking good for being in the top 3 of the championship. Unfortunately despite having a really fun weekend a crash on the Sunday ended my championship hopes. But that’s just the highs and lows of racing.
After the end of an eventful season. Dan French would be crowned champion after a strong campaign all year and despite a wheel falling off and a broken finger would end up winning with a race to spare. James Murphy would stage an outstanding comeback to secure 2nd place after string of bad luck early in the season. Justin Heap would take the 3rd place by virtue of having more victories than Greg Monks who he was tied on points with. Both Justin and Greg had jumped straight from Academy to 270R and did really well against a tough group of drivers. After my non finish on Sunday I would round out the top 5 a few points behind.
The official Caterham footage of the first race can be seen on YouTube.
Quali – P5
At Brands Hatch track position helps and starting near the front would make the race easier. Having gone out near the front of the pack my aim was to clear the slower cars and then try and put in some fast banker laps in clear air before dropping back into the pack and try and find someone to get a tow off to set a better lap.
First part of this plan when well and without a tow I managed to set the 5th best time. As I never managed to get a clear lap when trying to get a tow for most of the session. I was really glad I decided to take a risk on going it alone early in the session.
Race 1 – P9
The first race didn’t get off to a great start where I got boxed in and dropped from 5th to 8th. However luckily for me there was an accident further back in the field and the race was restarted. Lining up for a second time I was determined to not make the same mistake and this time was able to hold my ground and keep 5th place. The first 10 minutes of the race were pretty good.
The front group of cars including me had broken away from the main pack and it looked like if we sprinted ahead we could then argue out the podium towards the end of the race. Typical this wasn’t the way it went and the guys at the front started scrapping which backed everyone into the pack behind. At this point I lost ground to Dan French who I needed to finish ahead of to keep my championship hopes alive. Instead I changed tack and just aimed to stay ahead of Justin Heap who was at that point 3rd in the championship 10 points behind me. In hindsight this was a mistake as I should have focused on scoring as many points as possible and not worried about the championship outcomes.
I ended up finishing 9th my worse finish of the year but critically one position ahead of Justin which put me a little bit closer to getting 2nd in the championship. My poor finish meant that Dan French would go on to win a well deserved championship with a race to spare.
P1: Tom Allen
P2: James Murphy
P3: Graham MacDonald
Race 2 – DNF
Since Dan French had won the championship on Saturday he elected to not take part in the last race. Which promoted me into 8th place on the grid, personally I would have preferred to stay 9th as odd number are on the inside of the first corner. The danger of the outside is if the person next to you messes up they will knock you off the track. Which is exactly what happened. Luckily I didn’t get stuck in the gravel but had dropped from 8th to 23rd out of 24 cars. Given I needed to finish at least 8th to keep my second place in the championship this was a total disaster. To say I was annoyed was a bit of an understatement. At least it all went wrong on the first corner and I had 30 minutes ahead of me to drive the wheels off the car and get back near the front.
Only took me 7 minutes to fight my way back past 13 cars into 10th place. By which point there was a 5 second gap to 9th place. Now 5 seconds doesn’t sound a lot but in Caterham racing that is a huge gap to close. So it was business as usual with me having to buckle down and try and close the gap to the cars in front. After a long 12 minutes I had joined the back of a chain of cars fighting for 5th.
At this point I thought game on I’m just 2 positions short of getting the 8th place I needed. I was so caught up in the fight back and the fact I had a run on the cars ahead I forgot about the wet patch of track on the exit of clearways and spun the car into the pit wall. Hero to zero in one gear change! The car was drivable and I managed to get going again. It was obvious something was wrong with the car having hit the wall pretty hard and I was forced to retire.
Failing to finish the race resulting in me dropping from 2nd to 5th in the championship which was pretty gutting after such a successful season. Hey how that is motorsport so much fun but can all go wrong in an instance.
P1: James Murphy
P2: Greg Monks
P3: Oli Pratt
Wow what a season. Sure I didn’t get the 270R championship podium finish I was aiming for. But a top 3 finish was clearly within reach and I’ve learnt a lot this year about putting together a championship campaign. I started the year with my first win, managed to get 6 podium finishes, 3 fastest laps and a lap record. All things considered my best season so far.
Next year I’ll be trying my luck in the 310R championship which is the next step in the wonderful world of the Caterham Motorsport ladder.
Over the winter there might be some other exciting races I will get involved in. More on those shortly…
A few weeks ago it was time to go racing again at Donington Park for the penultimate round of the Caterham 270R championship. I really like Donington as it’s a great flowing track. It was also the place I got my first podium back in my academy year. So was hopeful for a couple of good results.
Overall it was a pretty good weekend where I picked up a 4th and a 3rd. Strangely disappointed in some ways. A better quali plus if a couple of on track moments had gone my way I could have come away with bigger trophies. Still a 4th and 3rd gives me another set of consistent points towards the championship.
Qualifying was just an amazing 20 minutes. Dan and I have worked out a pretty good system around sharing the benefits of the tow. This being the 6th race weekend of the year we have pretty much got the system nailed. Generally it works better for one of us that the other, that is just life. But this quali was just a masterclass in how to totally messed it up. Not just once but on every single lap. Missed gears, missed braking points, confusion over who was leading who and where.
At the end of it I was amazed I was as high as 10th on the grid. Words can’t describe how annoying it is when you are way up on the sector times for most of the lap only to push too hard and throw it all away.
Race 1 – P4
Before starting the race I was joking with someone that starting at the tail end of the faster pack (10th) is pretty much the story of my Saturday races this season. I went on to predict that I would lost a few places on the start. Eventually I would fight my way up to 4th place by which point the front 3 would have pulled away. There would then be a few laps where I would get to stretch my legs setting some faster laps and close on the lead group towards the end when they start fighting. Turns out that was exactly what happened. I did waste too much time in the pack fighting which meant I ran out of time toward the end and had to settle for 4th place.
Having started from 10th I was pretty happy with that result. Especially as I finished ahead of Dan French and Justin Heap who are the two people closest to me in the championship. It was also great to see James Murphy (1st) back on the stop step having had a terrible year of bad luck with people driving into him. Greg (2nd) and Tom Allen (3rd) rounded off a close fight for the podium which could have gone either way.
P1: James Murphy
P2: Greg Monks
P3: Tom Allen
Race 2 – P3
Finishing 4th in race one put me in a far better position for race two. Starting on the outside of the second row. I got an ok start and held on to 4th to the first corner. Ended up conceding a place to Justin Heap on the run down to Old Hairpin as it wasn’t worth fighting that early in the race. After a few laps I settled into 2nd behind James Murphy and the two of us worked together to pull a gap on the rest of the pack. Annoyingly we were just on the cusp of making the breakaway when the yellow flags were brought out. Yellow flags always pose a challenge especially when marshall’s are on track retrieving a car. If you don’t slow enough race control might rightly decided to bring out the safely car which then bunches everyone back up again. If you are in the leading cars this always a problem as there is no written rule to say how much you have to slow down by. In this situation James and I slowed down more than the people behind us and our slender gap was gone.
It was always going to be close through the chicane on the last lap and unfortunately I ended up on a compromised line had a bit of a slide on the marbles and dropped from 2nd to 6th with two hairpins to go see the video at 30:37. I was luckily able to quickly find some space down the inside and recover to 3rd. After spending most of the race either leading or in 2nd place I was a bit disappointed with the 3rd place to be honest. However again from a championship point of view it worked out well as again I finished ahead of Dan French and Justin Heap which helps my championship cause.
P1: James Murphy
P2: Greg Monks
P3: Matt Sheppard
Caterham Motorsport finishes it’s 2019 season on the 28/29th September at Brands Hatch. For most of the Caterham championships including 270R the championship podium has come down to the wire. If the season so far is any indication the racing should be spectacular to watch. Brands Hatch is by far the best race for a spectator as you can see the whole track from some places.
As for my championship hopes I’m currently in 4th place overall. However when the final results are calculated the worse two results are dropped which promotes me up to 2nd place going into the last 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.
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.
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.
P1: Graham Macdonald
P2: Matt Sheppard
P3: Justin Heap
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.