At Donington Park, because of noise restrictions, the testing took place on the Thursday before the meeting. Unusual, and means that Friday is going to seem like a strange day!
Our first practice session was at 10:25, a slightly more civilised time than last round when we were first out! The session went very well and, even though I was not on new tyres, I ended up second fastest. We had completed what we needed to do setup-wise, were happy with our pace and therefore, with a red flag and only a couple of minutes left, we decided to end the session there.
For the second session we decided to concentrate on race pace, doing long runs. I went for a time early on, again without new rubber and managed to set the fastest time in class and seventh overall, about 0.3 faster than the next G50 and afterwards did a race simulation to see how the car/tyres lasted. I managed to lap consistently, only a couple of tenths off my fastest time. Towards the end of the run, when the tyres started to go off, I was still able to keep up a good pace. This was very encouraging going into qualifying on Saturday morning.
The day started with qualifying at 11 o’clock. Early on in the session I was fastest in the G50 class. I was on a quicker lap when a yellow flag came out at the Old Hairpin, meaning that I had to back off through that sector on what turned out to be my fastest lap which left me third, just over a tenth from pole. After a red flag to clear a few cars up, the best of the tyres had gone and, although I had another go at a quick lap, I was still third with 2 G55s between me and the polesitter.
At the start of the race, the lights took a long time to come on, and when they did, they immediately went out again, which caught a few people out. Going into the first corner I had to avoid spinning cars at Redgate and then again at The Old Hairpin which left me a way back from the G50 leader. I tried to get my head down and set after the cars in front – I had a G55 behind me and saw he was a long way back on the Starkeys Straight before the chicane and planned to let him through on the start finish straight. Going into the chicane, at the last minute, I realised he had a different idea, and as I turned the front of the G55 was level with my door. I had a choice of having an accident or to turn left and go across the gravel – I chose the latter, losing several places in the process – the G55 also lost 1.1seconds through the sector on that lap, so it didn’t help him either. I managed to pick off two people before the end of the race and was closing on 4th in class when the flag came out The race was the shortest of the weekend at 12laps, the other two tomorrow are 16 each, so I’ll have some time to make up ground.
Unfortunately I am starting the first race tomorrow in my finishing position from today, so a bit of work to do, but the car is capable of a good race pace on older rubber, so we’ll see how it pans out. There are also a couple of quick G55’s coming through from the back so this will mix things up a bit.
We had two races on the Sunday this time, which was a bit of a bonus meaning both races were being broadcast on ITV4. I started the first of the day’s races where I finished yesterday’s – 5th in class and 11th overall. The class polesitter was 6th on the grid, so I had to get a move on if I was going to take the win. I got a good-ish start and held 5th until I was a little slow out of McCleans and got passed into Coppice, with another G50 coming through on the exit. I managed to get back past one car into Redgate on the next lap and set off after the group in front. I quickly closed the gap up within a lap or two, with the top 6 in class running nose to tail, it was just a matter of time before I made a move. I managed to get a run down the inside into Goddards chicane and got into 6th place, followed by another move into Redgate, finding myself fifth in class and chasing the leaders.
I had overtaken Tom Ingram during the squabbling but he was back on my tail. I therefore thought that instead of fight him, I would let him through and try to latch on to him chase him back up to the pack in front. Unfortunately a G55 got between us, meaning I lost a bit of time to Ingram, but was soon on the back of the train of G50’s in fifth. Things were looking a bit manic ahead of me, so I thought I’d keep a small gap and see what would happen. The top three all came together at McLeans leaving me second in class and comfortably quicker then the leader. I managed to pressurise him into a mistake into the Redgate and took the lead. I stretched enough of an advantage, so that I could then drive the four remaining laps without much pressure and make sure I brought the car home safely. The car still wasn’t perfect, so we made some changes before the last race to see if we could try to cure the understeer I was experiencing later in the race.
For the final race I was starting in the best position, first in class and also on the inside of the grid. I made a good start and managed to hold the lead into the first corner. The faster G55s were defending from each other up front, meaning that I was keeping up with them and they were holding me up. This created a bit of a problem because it meant that I wasn’t able to get a gap to the G50’s behind me. On lap 2 I ran a little wide at the Old Hairpin, dropping to second in class but still right with Louise in the lead. Going into Redgate on the next lap, Louise Richardson defended and Jake Hill managed to get around both of us. I got back up to second with a move past Louise on the run up to Coppice. A safety car was deployed which was unfortunate as I was happy to settle for second and was comfortable there. After the restart the car started understeering again and I lost a load of pace. I was setting about the same lap times as Jake Hill, but Tom Ingram was coming very quickly from behind, and I decided not to fight him and to settle for points, coming 3rd in class and kept the championship lead – or so I thought!
After the race, we were informed by the scrutineers that that a technical infringement had occurred due to the team misunderstanding a recent technical bulletin aimed only at G55s. It was an honest mistake but rules are rules so I was excluded from the results of the race – putting me back to 2nd in the Championship.
An unfortunate end to the day but I’m happy with my win and look forward to cracking on at Thruxton.
Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey