Thursday, 15 July 2010

Rockingham - RACE 1

Rockingham was a great weekend and a big learning curve for the years that follow.

The qualifying was over in a flash and when it finished I immediately knew that I messed it up completely. Having had excellent tuition from David Rowe of DPR Motorsport and Fulvio Mussi, a racing driver currently racing in Clio Cups, I understood the importance of getting a tow from other participants during a qualifying session. However, I took this to the extreme during our qualifying session where in 15 minutes I abandoned 4 of my laps to concentrate on the perfect tow - which didnt happen. I also didn’t realise that we would only get 8 laps in total and this included navigating through a crowded pack of drivers to get a decent lap.

This resulted in me qualifying 5th on the grid which was disappointing. The only saving grace was that it put me on the inside line for the first corner, which at Rockingham is a must due to it being a Hairpin. If I am completely honest I would never have gained pole position because Mike Hart the Championship leader was on fire once again but my practice times the day before were more than half a second faster than during qualifying.

Having completed my warm up lap, making sure the tyres and brakes were up to the job, the race started. I got great traction in 1st gear, which propelled me up to the next row of the grid, only to miss second gear (and having watched other competitors videos - included REVERSE). By the first corner I was back to my starting position of 5th, chasing Blaize Rhodes hard who qualified 4th.

Mike Hart was overtaken by Blaize who also made a poor start early in the race where I then put pressure on Mike. Mike passed Blaize into 3rd and then I followed into 4th.

Merlin Edwards, who qualified 2nd, spun on the second lap which propelled me into 3rd, however Balize was keen to make me fight for it. Blaize continued to put pressure on me, which enabled Mike and John (the race leader) to create a gap of approximately 25 metres.

After a further two laps, I managed to shake off the challenges of Blaize before catching the front two (Mike and John). I caught 2nd place Mike in the infield and passed him into second, before he passed under braking into the next corner. At this time my door was flapping open, creating a blind side on the right hand side of my car where the wing mirror had also fallen down, which was now pointing towards the floor (less than ideal!).

I became very conscious of the blind side of my car and was unable to see across the right hand side of the car to make any reasonable lunges and defensive moves on Mike who was watching my every move behind him.

The 5-minute board came out at the start finish line, which was then followed by the last lap board which I missed on the following lap. I continued to press Mike on the lap that followed but I did not realise it was the last lap and did not make the aggressive moves that would have been taken had I known.

I finished 3rd in the race, my first race ever in a race car and something that I guess I should be proud of, however there are may things that I have learned during qualifying and during the race that makes me think that I could have done much better. I am not saying that I would have improved my position, just that I could have given a better account of myself during the race.

During qualifying and the race I also practised the ‘heel and toe’ technique, which is used by racing drivers to stabilise the car under heavy braking into slower corners. This is something that I initially found odd and uncomfortable, however it should be something that improves my race results in the future.

Well done to John and Mike for finishing 1st and 2nd. They drove really well and it was a pleasure to be part of the first Caterham Academy race of 2010.

Next race is 25th July at Snetterton.

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