Silverstone 2018 Birkett 6hr race

The Caterham Roadsport season might be over but there are still some end of season racing to be done.
One of those is the 750 Motor Club Birkett 6 hour relay race at Silverstone. I did the race last year in a team of six Roadsport cars we came 48th out of 60 on the road and 31st in the handicap race. We got the band back together with most of the original team to have another go with 270R cars. From this years Roadsport drivers we had John, Adam, Mark and I. Matt C & Paul were both back on track having missed a year of Caterham racing. Mark unfortunately broke his car at Thruxton so was not racing but kindly still came along to help my dad out with the team management stuff and running the pit wall.
Birkett 3
Both Mark and my dad deserve a lot of credit and thanks for standing out in some pretty abysmal weather to time our laps and hold out the pit board. It must have rained for 4 hours straight. Before that it was wasn’t what I could call warm either!

Summary

Out of the 66 teams we started 44th would run as high as 22nd and finish 25th. In the handicap we finished 17th. However we were 3rd at one point and if it wasn’t for a stop and go penalty we could have potentially got on the podium for the handicap race. Given most of the race was wet and most of the team haven’t done much wet racing it was a great result. The stop and go was unlucky but that is racing.
So big improvement on last year… along with a reason to come back next year. Each year we get better with the tactics of endurance racing.

Highlights video 

Race

The team agreed I would go out first and pull a double stint doing all my track time in one go. The logic being that at the start in theory all the cars in front of me should be faster and there will be a lot of them. Which meant I should be able to use those cars to get a tow and fight my way forward. Unless a safety car came out and it made sense for me to pit earlier.
Birkett 2
In the Birkett the starting order is based on your team predicted speed and it’s a rolling start. I found myself in the middle of a pack of tin tops so being seen was going to be my biggest challenge.
I was lucky in my stint as I had a dry track while everyone else in the team got very wet. The 270R was brilliant and it turned into a busy race where I got past around 20 car less than an hour. My session got cut short due to a safety car and I spent the rest of the day being a mechanic for the rest of the team. Given the amount of rain outside I was more than happy to hang up my racing boots for the day!
The rest of the team did a great job of keeping the fast pace.
Hopefully will be able to do the race again next year.

Silverstone 7th and Final round of the Caterham Roadsport Championship

The Caterham Motorsport family descended on Silverstone a few weeks ago for the final round of the Roadsport Championship. Silverstone always provides some close racing as the all mighty tow means if you are in a pack there is no escape.

Summary

The weekend was the epitome of my Roadsport season. In testing showed a good turn of speed. Failed to capitalise on that pace in quali followed by a good start. Then part way through the races making a careless mistake and having to fight back through the field again.
On the positive side I have learnt a few new things at Silverstone.
  1. I can do decent starts now and actually are making places up instead of losing them off the line.
  2. When others try to crowd you off the track instead backing out or moving closer to the grass. Just let the other driver hit you… They soon move back over the other way.

Results

  • Quali – 12th place. Don’t drive a dry setup on a wet track.
  • Race 1 – 7th place. Very wet race, Great start up from 12th to 7th, spun off back to 13th. Then fought back to 7th.
  • Race 2 – 6th place. Almighty battle between 10 people over 2nd to 11th. Had a moment off the track on exactly the same corner as last year!
Congratulation to the podiums in both races.
  • Race 1 = James Murphy (P1), Dan French (P2) & Toby Clowes (P3)
  • Race 2 = Dan French (P1), Oli Pratt (P2) & Neil Fraser (P3)

Championship outcome.

Congratulations on James for winning the championship by one point over Dan F. Both drivers would have been worthy champions having made the least mistakes year. Also great job by GMac on 3rd place.
I would end up 6th in the Championship 2 points behind Tom A (P5) and 7 point off Dan H (P4).

Race 1 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulEIT0T5ji0

Race 2 video in car

4K 360 (Annoying blur): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2tH2eRBqQY

Quali 13th

So quali didn’t go close to plan and I had my worse result to date. Which was massively frustrating and my fate was sealed based on a choice I made an hour before we even got onto the track. I looked at the forecast and amount of rain falling at the time and decided that the track would start off damp and get dryer. Therefore decided to go out with a dry setup. The rain never got heavy but it was enough to keep the track damp and cold. I was left tiptoeing around the track unable to get enough heat in the tyres to make them grip.
I knew I was in for a shocker when drivers I would normally race are disappearing into the distance. Other drivers who I would normally breeze past were catching me up.
Silverstone quali 1
Another important motorsport lesson learnt about the effect tyre temperature has on the car handling. On the road the majority of people wouldn’t be able to tell if one of the 4 tyres on the car was a psi or two out. In racing the difference is huge and the closer you get to the limit the more you feel it. If you can’t get heat into the tyres they don’t stick and you might as well be driving round with van tyres.
With a wet race forecast and it being easier to overtake at Silverstone I was looking forward to a good race. I just needed to stay away from any midfield mishaps in the first few corners.

Race 1 – 7th Place

By the time our race started the track was soaking wet. Starting in 12th due to Neil having a grid penalty I knew it was going to be an exciting race. In the wet I could go pretty well and make up some places. Things got off to a great start and was up to 9th by the first braking point. By the last chicane I was 7th and feeling pretty happy with myself.
Typically it was short lived and I managed to lose the backend on the upshift taking the last corner at 90 degrees taking up half the track width. Luckily everyone behind me managed to avoid me and I was back to 13th! I really have to stop doing this to myself!
The rest of the race was a lot of fun as I picked my way past various drivers. Progress was curtailed by yellow flags to clear up an accident from Stowe to Club for several laps. Which left Abbey & Village as the only 2 corners to overtake. All the way to the end I was catching up with the cars in front so it was a shame I threw so much away on that spin early on. Due to all the spray and poor visibility I had no idea what place I was in so 7th was a pleasant  surprise.

Race 2 – 6th Place

Race two was well just a bit bonkers and I really don’t know where to begin. So many overtakes, near misses, four or five abreast into corners. It really was a showcase in everything which makes Caterham racing exciting to watch and I’m sure the crowds watching loved it.
In the car it was fun but in a lot of ways frustrating. Dan F was able to walk away in front while five of us behind scrapped over 2nd. All this scrapping lead to us lapping a couple of seconds slower than we could. Later on in the race this pack of cars had increased to ten of us constantly battling.
Unfortunately the inevitable happened and a few people collided which gifted me three places on the last lap. I also gain a place when Simon missed a gear out of the last corner. Which was ironic since he had got past me two corners earlier when I accidentally went from fifth to second instead of fourth.
Great photos from Jon @ snappyracers.com

Thruxton 6th round of the Caterham Roadsport Championship

Thruxton is the fastest track in the UK where we would average 94mph over the 2.3 mile circuit. In a Caterham we only have to brake twice the rest of the time we are trying to slipstream each other to get the all important slingshot effect. All leading to a exciting scrap every lap into the last chicane where ‘3 places forward 2 places back’ was a common outcome.

Summary

After the accident at Castle Combe I wasn’t sure if I would have a car to race. Caterham Crawley did an outstanding job to rebuilt the car and I was just happy to be racing. As an added bonus Totally Dynamics in Redhill managed to fit in a last minute car wrap so it was almost like I never had an accident.. apart from the hole in my wallet!

  • Quali – 8th place. Had some bad luck with traffic and failed to get a clean fast lap.
  • Race 1 – 4th place. Great race and lead for a while. Lost out in the last chicane.
  • Race 2 – 4th place. Another great race and managed to hold onto 4th.

Congratulations to the podiums in both races.
Race 1 = James McCall (P1), Graham Macdonald (P2), James Murphy (P3).
Race 2 = James McCall (P1), James Murphy (P2), Dan French (P3)

It was great to see James McCall do the double and pick up two wins.

Race 1 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm1Ll-cIvmk

Race 2 video in 4K 360

In car https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO625T6b4cs

Testing

I will admit my testing plan went out of the window after the crash at Castle Combe. It was only because of an awesome job by Caterham Cars who rebuild my car just in time for me to collect on the way to Thruxton I was able to race at all. Luckily Thruxton is a very simple track to learn and having done a track day there in April I was reasonably sure I would be somewhere near the front as usual.

As my car was getting rebuilt and I have a better idea of car dynamics I decided to take a gamble and have my car setup differently than before. To be honest I prefer the way it was and it took me a while to get close to the speed I was before with the old setup.

Quali

It was always going to be a mixed up quali at Thruxton due to the massive tow effect and lack of braking zones. 2nd and 10th would end up split by 0.5 seconds.
Like the last couple of rounds I failed to put a lap together when I needed too or met slower cars at the wrong points of the track which caused me to abort my faster laps.

In the end I lined by 8th which is one of my worse quali results but I knew that where I started would be academic to the race later that day.

 

Race 1 – 4th Place

Had a ok start and moved up into 6th place by the first chicane and narrowly missed the carnage at the start of the following lap. Where Oli, Dan H and Tom A tried to all occupy the same spot on the track. As Oli speared across the track towards me ‘please not another chassis’ was the my first thought before narrowly avoiding him. By the time the inevitably red flags were out and the race was stopped I found myself in 3rd.

After all that effort I was slightly disappointed with the 1st lap restart rule which meant they put everyone back to their original starting points.

On the restart the front of the field had a few cars missing. I didn’t get a great start and lost a few places. Nothing to worry about since at Thruxton the slip streaming effect is massive. Pretty much all the overtaking happens once per lap into the final chicane where it was easy to gain or lose several places.

Thruxton_race1_3
Found myself in 6th for the first few laps happy following the lead pack waiting for my tyres to balance out. As the half way point passed I started to work my way forward and soon found myself battling for the lead few places.
With one lap to go I made a critical mistake… I took the lead a lap early. Right position to be on just not on the correct lap!

Thruxton_race1_4
I knew I would be mugged into the last chicane. My best hope would be to try and pull a small lead and sit on the inside on the run up to the chicane. The spectators must have gotten a good show as the eight of us arrived as one into the last chicane. The inside line proved to be a good choice as managed to hold onto 4th. Still annoying to have lost the lead on the last chicane but that’s motor racing.

Race 2 – 4th Place

I went into the second race with high hopes of a better finish but knew it would be just a close as the first race. After a good start I slotted into 4th place and waited for the inevitable towfest into the final chicane. Again there was a bit of carnage, this time it was Neil who had a nasty airborne moment but got out unhurt unlike the car.

Thruxton_race2_0

The next lap around there were waved yellows at the same point. Several drivers didn’t notice them and overtook me and several others around me. At the time it was annoying but by the end of the race all of the guilty party ended up behind me so I cared less about it. Now back in 11th place with 15 minutes to go I knew I had some work to do.
The rest of the race was a cat and mouse game to try and come out on top of the chicane games every lap. It really was a case of make up 3 space go back one. Every lap.

Mark Tredwin was the surprise driver in the mix who drove his heart out and it was awesome to have a proper tussle with the purple car. Such a shame he a moment on the last corner. As he deserved a top 5 finish.

Like the first race it came down to a manic last lap where I was in 5th by the time we got to final straight and in the run up to the chicane the race could have been anyone in the front 5. After a 3 into one moment at the chicane I managed to just out run Dan H to the line and walk away with 4th.

Thruxton_race2_4
The final round at Silverstone is only a week away. I’ve gone well there in the past so looking forward to another fun race.
As ever photo credits go to Jon @ Snappy Racers.

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.

Zandvoort, 4th round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

One of my fellow racers summed up Zandvoort pretty well as ‘If Carlsberg did race weekends’. Caterham Motorsport put on a perfect weekend of sun, sand and slipstreaming. I’m pretty sure regardless of the results all the drivers went home happy having had a fantastic few days on track. Being next to an amazing beach and perfect weather helped!

The circuit was a stones throw from the beach bars and a gem of a place with lots of fast sweeping corner which demanded a lot of commitment to get the best lap time. With a couple of long fast sections the tow was going to be all important again.

Summary

I went into the race weekend with high hopes of getting back on the podium. Which is a lot easier dreamt about than actually delivering. The battle between the first 7 in every race is really close and now at least 3 more people are joining that fight. So it’s only going to get tougher. Looking back at the videos it’s now easy to see how decisions you make at the start on which side to be on or how much space to give other people can make or break your race.
Still such an amazing buzz to race with such a great group of friends.

  • Quali – 9th place. Worse result so far. Took a tactical decision on tyres to sacrifice quali and have a better set for races.
  • Race 1 – 5th place. Fun race. Could have been better if I hadn’t come off early on.
  • Race 2 – 6th place. Poor start and struggled with tyres. Had some great scraps.

Congratulations to the podiums in both races.

  • Race 1 = Dan French (P1), James Murphy (P2), Tom Allen (P3). Dan Halstead was really unlucky with a penalty dropping him from P2 -> P6
  • Race 2 = Dan Halstead (P1), James Murphy (P2), Dan French (P3)

Race 1 video in 4k 360

Also in car video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc49tmaACTQ

Race 2 video in 4k 360

Also in car video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuJwnuqWY24

 

Quali P9

The saying goes ‘all good things must come to an end’ springs to mind with quali. After being one of the fastest two people for six quali’s in a row that streak always had to end at some point. Like all the best racing drivers I have a ‘racing driver excuse’ or two in fact… Traffic and tyres. They are just excuses as 8 people ahead of me did a better job!

Normally the fastest group of drivers are the ones that start the quali queue but some drivers were super keen and started queuing early. In hindsight we should have joined them but instead the fast crew decided to stay in the shade and go out last. The plan was leave enough of a gap and trying to do some fast laps early on. Then pick off some slower drivers before getting clear air and working together to do some more faster laps. The plan failed. After 1 flying lap the traffic started and continued till almost the end of the session. You know it’s not gone to plan when you look back at the video and notice that there was more overtaking in the quali than the race!

 

 

Zandvoort Quali

I won’t go into the (not) exciting world of tyre rules and what effect tyre depth has on lap times. Short version is I made a tactical decision to save my better ‘dry’ tyres for the two races and qualify on the ‘wets’. We call them wets, drys but they are the same tyre with different amounts of tread left. It can be worth 1-2 seconds a lap. I knew this would lead to a tough quali.  Where only a good tow was going to get me near the front as my best time on the ‘wets’ in testing had been a 2:03. While the ‘drys’ were good for a 2:01.

I would eventually end up 9th by far my worse quali result so far. Not an ideal spot to start but the highest I expected to be was 7th and after a lot of scrappy laps I wasn’t expecting any better if I’m honest. On returning to the paddock I couldn’t get those ‘race’ tyres on quick enough.

 

Race 1 finished 5th

The first race was really just about moving forward so I would be in a better position for race 2. I knew with the worn tyres on my race pace would be far better than it was in quali and was looking forward to some good battles. It all started well as I got past three people in the first couple of laps. Pushing my luck I ran wide off the track out of the last corner giving up two of 2 places I had made up!

A few laps passed before I managed to get the double tow and overtake Simon & Oli down the inside of turn one. One lap later I got Neil around the outside of turn one. I was then surprised to find GMac in front of me, who had started on pole but looked like his car was struggling. After the race it turns out his tyre strategy was the reverse of mine. While I was going forward on ‘drys’ he was going backwards on ‘wets’. So I’m really happy I made the choice I did on that dilemma.

Zandvoort race1 d

With 6 minute to go the lead 9 were nose to tail and it was shaping up to be anyones race. Tom overcooked it into the chicane and bounced back in front of GMac and my path narrowly missing Dan F in the process. All of this lead to one of the most ‘exciting’ moments in the race where we piled 4 wide into the hairpin at the end of the main straight. It’s the times like that I love where you put all your faith in the drivers around you that no one will screw up and everyone came out the other side. Annoyingly I was the guy on the outside and lost a place.

Zandvoort race1 e

A couple of corners later GMac ran wide after hitting the kerb and I was up to 6th. I would remain in 6th for the rest of the race and be gifted 5th by Dan H who had an unlucky post race penalty for track limits.

Given I had started in 9th I was happy to get 5th. I obviously would have preferred higher but after coming off it was a good save on points.

 

Race 2 finished 6th

Sloth like is how I would describe my reactions when the lights went out and it’s something I really need to work on! The first couple of corners I got squeezed and fell back a couple of places. This put me on the defensive trying to ensure that the gaggle of cars behind me stayed there.

Having suffered with my tyres overheating in race one I dropped the pressures a little to much and it took several laps for the grip to return. 8 minutes in and the car started working and I was able to start attacking the guys in front. Within a couple of corners I had got past Neil and followed GMac past Simon into the fast 4th gear corner later in the lap.

Zandvoort race2 e
At this point I had to chuckle as GMac and I were on track together again. Which has been the case pretty much every race since we started the Academy. Having learnt from our past mistakes we set about working together try and bridge the gap to the lead 4. Alas the gap proved too large to bridge. I missed the last lap board and just failed to nab 5th place over the line.

 

Next round will be at Castle Combe on the 11/12th of August. Combe is a bit of fiddly track and really not sure how it’s going to go. At this point I’m assuming the usual suspects are likely to be near the front and hopefully I can pick up a podium.

 

Photos as always from the excellent Jon @ Snappy Racers.com. Except for the blurry one. That was someone else 😉

 

 

 

Brands Hatch, 3rd round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

Brands Hatch will always hold a special place in my motorsport career as it was the place it all started. From watching BTCC with my dad as a kid with dreams of being a racing driver. Right though to it being the venue of my first ever race in last years Caterham Academy

Summary

Overall it was an outstandingly fun weekend. For a whole host of reasons. The banter and friendships in the paddock. Every round feeling more at home racing the car closer and closer to each other and the limit. It’s basically just really cool being a racing driver!

  • Quali – 1st place. My 6th front row start in a row and my second pole.
  • Race 1 – Finished 5th. Started ok. Found GMac again and we did our normal thing of entertaining the crowds. Just when I thought I was going to get him there was a red flag and lost the last few laps of racing.
  • Race 2 – Did Not Finish (DNF). Started well, was happy pace with the front group of cars. Got hit by another car going for a smaller than a Caterham size gap. Resulting in damage and a retirement after a third of the race.

Congratulations to the podiums in both races as you really had to work hard for them!

  • Race 1 = Dan French (P1), Dan Halstead (P2), James Murphy (P3).
  • Race 2 = James Murphy (P1), GMac (P2), Dan French (P3).

Race One Video

Race Two Video

The full race once I dropped out was epic to watch and worth seeing some other peoples point of view. A lot of people said it was the best Roadsport race they could remember.
James Murphy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI0kiSftM4E
Tom Allen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu3DlYbn63k
Dan French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54W4a0e2pkI
Great spectator footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X1vaI0rLOY

 

Quali & Pole position

Brands is a short track at only 1.1 miles. Which meant with 30 cars lapping at under a minute per lap trying to get some clear was always going to be a challenge. During testing the usual seven suspects were the faster drivers. However if anyone failed to get a clean lap there could easily be someone very disappointed in their position for the start of the race.

caterham-roadsport-brands-quali
Some slightly slower people basically started an earlier than expected quali queue. Mostly that wasn’t a problem as they let the faster cars past so they could then follow us to benefit our tow. A couple of drivers were less willing to let the faster cars through which is their right but it did mean the first 15mins of the 20mins quali session were a bit of a write off just trying to get some clear air.
Finally I managed to find some clear(ish) track. I was closer to the car in front than I wanted but far enough away that I hoped to improve. I ended up setting a 54.87.  At the time I was disappointed and thought that is me stuck at the back of the fast group. Since that time was over half a second slower than we had been in running around in testing.
I was shocked and happy when the session ended and I had managed to get pole. It would put me in a good position for the start of the race. I just needed to try and stay ahead during the race.

Race 1 finished 5th

It’s always a great feeling leading the pack around to line up on the front row. I got a ok start but had dropped to 3rd by the second corner. On the run down to Graham Hill I decided it wasn’t worth fighting hard with Dan F as I knew he would be quick enough and settled into 4th place. During the first few laps I was happy saving my tyres and letting the cars in front do all the work. The four of us started to pull a small gap away from GMac and the pack behind. Typical just when I thought it was going to be a easier race Dan H attacked James into Druids and had a bit of a slide. Bunching the whole group back together and allowed GMac to attack me into Paddock Hill. I didn’t close the door quick enough on the run up to Druids allowing GMac to sneak through.


GMac I swear has a wider car than most as he seems to know exactly where to put the car. Making it difficult to get past and the rest of the race was spent trying the outside of most corners try to find a way past. Eventually I did manage to get him down the inside of Paddock Hill but he had a better run up to Druids and some how I ended up getting pushed onto the grass in the braking zone. Lucky it was only a gentle nudge with GMac and we both managed to carry on. Annoyingly at this point Sam had broken down on another point of the track and the race was red flagged a few laps short of full race distance.

When you get a red flag the final result is decided by where you were placed a lap ago which means I ended up with 5th. Not the result I was looking for but Brands was always going to be a tough race.

Race 2 DNF

I started on the 3rd row in 5th place. I didn’t mind this as it gave me the inside line for the first 2 corners. All I need to do was get an ok start and defend the inside line and I should be ok. Dan H got a poor start from 2nd and I got promoted to 4th place. For some unknown reason the Sunday race always seems a little more closer than the Saturday one. I guess it’s because the drivers are more in the grove. Possibly in some cases it’s because they know they don’t need to finish well for the second race and are more willing to take risks.

caterham-roadsport-brands-race2-paddock
Like the previous race the front 4 started to pull away again and I was happy sitting in 4th biding my time and tyres ready for a fun race later on. Right on cue it all got a bit chaotic as Dan F who was leading managed to get stuck in gear. At race pace this meant that Graham went it the back of Dan F, James hit GMac and I had to back off. Within the space of a straight Dan F had gone from 1st to 9th. GMac I think was now 5th. James was 1st. With both Tom and I alongside him coming into the first corner. At this point I didn’t fancy being the middle of a Caterham sandwich and decided that 3rd was a safer choice. Annoyingly Dan H was behind James on the inside which cost me 3rd. However in the grand scheme of things it was only 3mins into a 20min race so plenty of time to move forward. GMac was the next car all over me and eventually he got past me.

caterham-roadsport-brands-race2-damage

What happened next was really unlucky. I could see Dan F behind me who was on a charge from his early gearbox issues. Now I knew that Dan F might try a really late inside move into Paddock Hill. So I made an extra point of driving closer to the edge of the track down the main straight and I thought made it pretty clear that I was going to be on the inside an if he wanted past he would have to use the outside which was plenty wide enough for 2 Caterhams and a bit. While the inside line I left myself about a 1/3 of a Caterham width or less to give me some space to manoeuvre. Dan F on the other hand thought the inside was the way to go and we hit each other.
Normally Caterham wings get knocked off all the time and you just carry on. Annoyingly mine got wedged back in on itself and started to burn off the tyre tread. I carried on for a couple of laps with white smoke billowing out the back of the car hoping it would fall off. That never happened, at this point I didn’t know how much tread I had left so decided to retire the car instead of risk a high speed blow out. Not quite the finish I wanted but the rest of the racing from everyone else was epic and people will talk about how close the finish was for a long time. Just a shame I didn’t finish it!

 

It’s very easy to get annoyed or disappointed about racing results. Especially the closer you get to the front. However at 100mph+ everyone is making split second decisions and things will go wrong for everyone at some point. If everyone can shake hands and have a beer afterwards that’s all that really matters. After all we are doing this for fun and will in years to come look back on these years and reminisce about when we were racing drivers.

caterham-roadsport-brands-indy

Next round will be in Zandvoort which I’m really looking forward too. Since I generally always do better on the longer faster tracks than the tight twisty ones. Hoping to get back on that podium!

 

Photos as always from the excellent Jon @ Snappy Racers.com

Knockhill, 2nd round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

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.

Summary

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.
Caterham Roadsport Knockhill test 1a
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.
Caterham Roadsport Knockhill
Managed to fit in a track walk.

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.
Caterham Roadsport Knockhill
Best thing with racing is the mates you do it with.
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.
#CaterhamFamily
Photos courtesy of Jon @ SnappyRacers.com