Friday, 29 May 2015

First race - Snetterton

Snetterton May 9th & 10th

Having missed the first round at Coombe due to a family holiday I was suffering from race withdrawal symptoms especially after seeing how good the racing was at Combe. As far as I was concerned my turn couldn’t come quick enough!

Friday Testing
We arrived about 7.30 Friday morning with the car all ready and prepared by the formidable Owens Motorsport, so a quick trip to driver sign-on and noise testing was the order of the day before we could take to the circuit. The test day was split into classes, however, fortunately the time slots were 45mins, this gives you time to do a few good laps, come into the pits make changes and then go straight back out to see immediately if the changes have had the desired effect. Sometimes if the sessions are shorter i.e. 15-20min sessions you often find you don’t have time to test, come in, make changes and go back out again, you normally test come in make the changes and then have to wait for the next session (normally about an hour gap) by which time conditions may have changed so you don’t actually get a good instant “back-to-back” comparison.

Anyway back to the test, the first session was spent learning the circuit again as it’s been a few years since I was last at Snett and I think the last time it was wet (?). I always find testing a trade-off between going as fast as you can to seek the limits and iron out handling issues but without throwing it off and ruining the weekend before it’s started - especially as I tend to have a lead foot!! The second session was a bit more fruitful with the lap times starting to come down by analyzing the recorded data and by that I really mean asking someone who is a better driver than me what gears I should be using!! Thanks Dan xxx
A quick engine change over lunch to the race engine for a quick shakedown proved beneficial but for the wrong reasons in that we found a problem with the race engine that needed resolving. So the engine was duly removed and remedial works started upon with haste - not the best way to end the day but still better to be found in testing than ruin race day!

By the time we had finished the engine change the circuit restaurant was closed with only the bar open which has (in my opinion) a very limited menu and as I had my young son Matthew with me and my race engineer Lee Jones. We decided to leave the circuit found a local pub and had a great meal consisting of a mixed grill, burger and chips and a healthy salad based meal for me!! On a slightly sad note this was the last meal myself and Lee will enjoy as a couple, as shortly after he rolled up his sleeping bag left my motorhome without even a backward glance and went to live with Dave Drew in the JD Motors /Minisport sponsored Coachybago. Dave Drew, who has recently lost his suspension guru, offered Lee more living space at race weekends so Lee basically sold out, at the moment I still feel I bit raw about it, it was a bit like when Mclaren lost Newey to Redbull ………actually it was more like when Kerry Katona left Atomic Kitten no one really noticed!!

Copyright Mbphotography

Saturday Race Day
We were fortunate enough to be given a free practice slot before qualifying which is a great idea for those who cannot test on the Friday as it allows a quick shakedown before qualifying, however - you DO NOT want to throw it off in this session as there is little chance you will be able to fix before qualifying and I’m thankful to say I don’t think anyone did!

Qualifying was a nightmare, everyone on slicks as it was dry but cloudy as we all sat in the holding area waiting to go out, when hey presto “red flag”  comes out for the session on circuit the resulting delay of about 30mins cost all of us dearly as it started to rain! Had we been out on time then it would not have been a problem, however as we sat in the holding area I made the choice as it was only 'spitting' to stay on slicks give it a couple of laps and see how it went. Anyway it was clear as soon as I left the pit lane and saw the dirty great big black cloud over the top of the circuit I had made the wrong choice as the heavens opened! I gingerly made my way around looking for off line grip but unfortunately didn’t find any on the grass! As I come around the pits I saw my new No.2 teammate had dived in before me so I stayed out, next lap I come around to find No.4 temporary mate in the pits so I stayed out for another lap which apart from warming the brakes up and getting a general idea of conditions wasn’t very fruitful (although it was funny when Mr Drew drove off the circuit in front of me) anyway I eventually came in and found that No.3 team mate was in front of me so I jumped up and down had a paddy and made them change mine first (these boys needed a reminder of who number 1 driver is !!......well apparently it’s not me anymore !!) back out on wets managed a couple of laps and qualified 8th & 6th but all very close, a second covered about six drivers. In hindsight we made a cock up here as we just stuck wets on and went back out when we should of taken another couple minutes and changed to a wet set up on the dampers at least but hey-ho you're never too old to learn and if Mercedes can cock up and ruin Hamilton's Monaco GP and they are an outfit worth millions then what hope is there for the rest of us!!

Race 1 was at least dry, even though it had been wet/dry/wet/dry in the couple hours prior. I hate it when it is like that it needs to be either soaking wet or dry, anything a bit between is a logistic nightmare! Got a good start, think I made a place up and by the end of the second lap I was up to the front pack consisting of Astin, Smith and myself with regular place changes due to the slipstream effect of the two longish straights, we were soon joined by Deeth in his rocket ship and a four-way battle ensued with very little between us.

Unfortunately the race ended on a sour note for myself and Smith as a collision at turn 2 took us both out of the race for the lead and we both limped home to 3rd and 4th respectfully. So although I claimed a podium it didn’t really feel that good. We both have our opinions on the matter and the MSA CoC’s decided no further action was required, still I had a chat with Aaron and hopefully all is well as when you are cornering in these little cars at 100mph+ you want to have trust and respect amongst the other drivers. And on the plus side the engine repair worked!!!

Race 2 again a dry race. I got an OK start, didn’t gain but didn’t lose, the first couple of laps I was fighting with Drew and Wheeler which in hindsight didn’t do any of us any favours as we were so busy attacking and defending we allowed the front pack to ride off into the sunset! Still, once things had calmed down we started to reel them in little by little and got the gap down to about two seconds but it didn’t get any better than that and we came home 5th. Still, not a bad for our first meeting of the season - a 3rd & 5th, but more importantly the engine is getting there in terms of pace so with a few handling tricks up our sleeves hopefully we can push on at the next round.

Next Race at Rockingham on the 30th & 31st May come and say hello!

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