A few weeks ago we decided to do a test day at Oulton Park as we hadn’t done one since the opening round at Brands. Unfortunately this ended up in a big off when a slower car ignored the blue flags, and me, and ended up hitting me at over 100 mph, sending me into the barrier just before Druids. Luckily I was fine but the car certainly wasn’t! Getting all the bits together has taken a while and the car was finished off in the paddock by the guys from Pyro who covered a huge amount of work in a short space of time. The car looks a bit second hand but certainly a lot better than it did a few weeks ago!
The first practice session of the day on Friday was spent making sure the car was okay after the crash, and therefore we ran on tyres from the races at Thruxton, which were not the best as the high speed track is very abrasive, and takes a lot of life out the tyres. Once we had established that the car was behaving as expected, I found that there was little grip and even when we made fairly drastic changes to the car to try to cure dramatic oversteer, it didn’t affect it much. We were left wondering where the pace was, and there was a concern that the car might not be quite right after the crash, but when we went for the next session we found out what the issue was.
The car was transformed in the second session with much better tyres, and immediately I found about 3 seconds on my time from the first session; the issues with oversteer were mostly gone, and the balance of the car felt a lot better. We decided to finish the session with time to spare as the tyres were past their peak performance. I finished the session only a few hundredths off the fastest time, which was encouraging.
Come Saturday and qualifying we went out onto track early on and were fastest immediately, then waited in the pits, to see what happened. I gradually got knocked down the order but when it was decided to go out again for another run, there wasn’t enough time, so I had to settle for 5th G50 on the grid for race 1.
The start to the race was good and I managed to keep my original position through the first lap. However, there was a slow G55 in front of me, and with their extra aero it was very hard to get past. Eventually I pressured him into a mistake and it released me to chase after the G50s in front. Over the next couple of laps I managed to reduce the gap, in the process setting the third fastest lap of the race despite being stuck behind the G55 when the tyres were at their optimum, and the fastest first sector, but I ran out of laps to make a move on the guys in front. In addition, on the last couple of laps, I had to pump the brakes to make sure they were still there as I found myself going into Druids on the third last lap with no brakes! Luckily I made it round and just controlled it after that, although that moment did get my heart racing a bit!
The second and final race of the weekend was made very interesting when everyone went to the grid on slick tyres, only for it to start drizzling when we got there. Since my karting days I’ve always enjoyed mixed conditions, so was looking forward to the race. At the start of the race I got stuck behind Connaire Finn who was defending everywhere, making it hard to get past (which he’s entitled to do!) and delaying me badly. I eventually got past and started chasing down the lead pack of cars which were 9 seconds up the road! Despite the rain starting to get heavier, I felt pretty confident and kept pushing on taking time out of them on most laps. One corner that was very tricky to negotiate in the conditions was Druids, out the back under the trees. The corner has a different surface to the other corners, which is not as grippy, making the car understeer, then on the way out, where there is a slight rise, I managed to get the car sideways a few times as it got light, which was a bit exciting to say the least! The conditions were tricky, but I was enjoying them. By the end of the race I was 3 seconds off the lead, so could have done with some more laps to get into the battle but it wasn’t to be – I had some points and the car was in one piece so considering where the car was a week ago, I shouldn’t be too unhappy.
I managed to consolidate second place in the championship, and am now looking forward to Croft in only 2 weeks time! Hopefully it will be a good weekend and I can start to eat into the championship lead.
I’d like to thank Ginetta and all the guys at Pyro who worked so hard to enable me to get on the grid.
Photo Credit – Jakob Ebry