During testing on Friday morning we were quite far off the pace in a car that understeered everywhere which is not ideal at a fast track like Thruxton. At the end of the session there was canvas showing on a couple of the tyres so it was clear that tyre wear was going to be a significant factor over the weekend.
In the afternoon session we put new rubber on and it transformed the car – it felt completely different! I went a couple of seconds quicker immediately and was seven thousands off Tom Ingram in the end and clear of everyone else, looking good for the weekend. The problem is that the track surface is so abrasive and the corners are predominantly high-speed right-handers, meaning that the left side of the car is loaded up for most of the lap, hurting the left-side tyres. Due to this, everyone was given an extra tyre on top of the new ones we are usually allowed so that our tyres lasted the qualifying and 3 races over the weekend.
It was important to get a quick lap in early on during qualifying as in practice we found that the rubber was only at it’s best for about 4 laps before it started going off and developing lots of understeer. I was on my quickest lap (just set my fastest first sector time) when a red flag came out, effectively ending qualifying for me. I went out again, but the tyres were past their best and I wasn’t going to go any quicker so decided to come in, qualifying a disappointing sixth, but saving the tyres was much more important as the races is where points are scored.
In race one on Saturday I found I lost touch with a bunch of G50’s when a recovering G55 got in my way and I lost the tow. I managed to get onto the back of Rob Gaffney who was with Louise Richardson and followed them for a few laps. I noticed I was a lot quicker through Noble corner every lap, so decided that this was a good place for a move. I managed to get a run on Gaffney coming out the complex and passed him around the outside on lap 6, then did the same move on Louise 2 laps from the end, finishing fourth and grabbing some more valuable points.
In race 2 on Sunday morning I found myself in a 5 car G50 train for second place. It was a long race so I decided to see what would happen in front. It became a battle for third as, with the squabbling, second place got away from the group. Over the period of a few laps, one car spun and two others were squabbling, and I got a run on them into Noble. I caught them up through the corner and went to the inside of Gaffney into the following Goodwood corner when he moved to the outside of Richardson. I then passed Richardson on the exit – finding myself in a podium position, which I held to the end. Once I got past I managed to pull a gap so I didn’t have to defend the last couple of laps. Also the tyres were way past their best already, so the third race was going to be hard work!
The beginning of the third race was hectic to say the least! I didn’t get the best start and was going up through the gears when I noticed the pole man wasn’t moving! He was run into by an unsighted Aaron Williamson and Louise Richardson, who started either side of me – I managed to jink left and just avoided it all, although my windscreen was badly cracked and my left wing mirror was knocked off (including ITV onboard camera!). While we were waiting to restart, the camera men from ITV came and taped my mirror back onto the car so that they could use it for the live coverage again! I was allowed to take the restart as long as I raced with my visor down, just in case some of the badly cracked windscreen found its way into the car during the race – luckily it didn’t. With a depleted field it was an uneventful race in the end with a car that was difficult to drive on old rubber. I was not far behind Jake Hill, but lapping at a similar pace, about a tenth apart, so I was happy to bring home another podium.
Oulton Park is the next round and it’s one of my favourite circuits so I am looking forward to it. Bit of a long wait though.
Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey