Sam Tordoff’s Blog #9: Two Solid Finishes Recover Points After Nightmare Qualifying Session

Having never been to Knockhill in a Porsche before and a year since my last visit in the Renault Clio Cup, I was somewhat surprised with
the pace we showed in Friday’s two test sessions. Morning practice started in wet conditions that were set to dry out throughout the session. The track proved to have reasonable levels of grip even in the wet – the exception being the newly painted kerbs which had to be avoided at all costs! On the drying track I was lapping in the top five before the track dried sufficiently for slicks and I finished up second fastest. For the afternoon’s now dry session, I again showed good speed and was happy with the car’s balance, finishing fifth fastest.

Having had my best performance during Friday practice for the last few rounds, I was optimistic for a strong qualifying result. With the
first new tyre run underway, I set the seventh fastest time as I struggled to piece a lap together and also find space on a very overcrowded track. With the second set of new tyres I was certain for improvement but unfortunately did not get a lap together. With others improving, I slipped down to a disappointing eleventh overall. This result left me with a lot of work to do on a track that requires a good qualifying position for optimum success.

Race one took place in glorious conditions. The start line at Knockhill is extremely difficult with a steep uphill gradient that requires
the use of the brake, clutch and throttle pedal all at the same time since there is no handbrake! With a surprisingly good start, I managed to dart around the outside of teammate Richard Plant into Turn One. At the entry to the final hairpin on lap three, famous for creating exciting racing, Rory Butcher made a rather optimistic manoeuvre on Derek Pierce which resulted in a collision between the pair. Jonas Gelzinis was also tagged and all three were forced wide. Having squeezed between the carnage, I moved into seventh behind Ben Barker and Stephen Jelley. A successful pass by Barker into Clarke Curve, allowed me to get the run on Jelley as we headed down to the hairpin. In doing so, Barker appeared to slow with a technical problem, enabling me to pass both in the same move. That promoted me into fifth place which I then remained to the flag. I
was absolutely delighted!

Race two was equally exciting with close racing throughout. As the lights went green, the whole field got away well merging into line. I battled in a long line of cars for the first ten laps covering the first dozen cars. At half distance I managed to squeeze inside Derek Pierce at the hairpin and then past Jonas Gelzinis a few laps later. However by then I was losing grip in the rear tyres and coming under increasing pressure from an aggressive Richard Plant behind. This forced me to drive defensively for the remainder of the race as I consolidated an eighth place finish.

Overall, I am happy with the two race results but I was not pleased with my qualifying performance. For the future, I need to make more use of the new tyres during qualifying to make sure I am in the best possible position for the races. Unfortunately, this did not happen at Knockhill – a
circuit where grid position is probably more important than any other.