Racing at Croft is always going to be special for me. It is my home track and the local support I received last weekend and last year was remarkable. We had by far the most people in our awning that we ever had had. There was barely enough room to do any work on the car but we succeeded. Results wise Croft last year wasn't fantastic; I got knocked off and finished outside of the top ten.
The first track activity was practice on Friday, it was a difficult session, I felt as though I was getting time each lap and didn't want the session to end as I was just getting faster and faster. I was still quite a way off the pace but felt confident, at this stage, that I could bridge the gap. I went faster in the second session but still couldn't find the pace I wanted. I was struggling with grip in general which I put down to tires. I was still over a second off the pace in the second session but the car was just not handling correctly.
The free practice session on Saturday morning was in the wet conditions and was the first time I had driven on the new wets in the full wet conditions. We went slightly too far regarding the cars set-up and although the tires felt really good, the chassis's handling didn't. However I knew how to correct it so it was a session well used. I now know roughly where to go set-up wise with these new wet tires as well so that will be useful in races to come. They are so soft and the grip levels in the wet are phenomenal in comparison to last year.
However it all dried up for Qualifying and just as we were in the holding area the inevitable happened, it started to spit with rain. I knew that as long as I could get some heat into the dry tires then they would be the best option. I warmed them up as viciously as possible but by the time I arrived at the Jim Clark Esses the session had been stopped for Sennan Fielding, he had hit the first tyre bundle at the corner as the rear lit up when he selected the next gear, and the track was covered in debris.
I still wanted to go for the dry tires, the rain was coming down harder but looked like it would stop and although the wets may have been quicker for a lap or two they would not get me the qualifying time I needed so I stuck with the dry's. I got them warmed up as fast as possible when I left the pits and got into putting in some quick laps. The car felt better than it had done on Friday and I went quicker but still couldn't find the pace to run at the front. I was still struggling for front end grip.
Qualifying 12th and 11th wasn't what I wanted. I needed to be towards the front, in the top two rows, to be in with a shout of winning the two races on Sunday.
The first start went smoothly, well for me at least. I opted for the wide line into the first corner and got through the middle of the chaos, some of it went straight on into the gravel and some cut back and went off at the inside of the track. This eventually lead to Niall Murray coming back on the track, when he did he came straight across a bunch of us and I managed to get another few positions as he moved everyone wide. Then Mikey Day got a slow run and I passed him into Tower so I moved to 5th. He gave me a little tap on the exit which gave me a bit of breathing space and I managed to pull a gap to those behind. I had Seb and Will just ahead and I focussed on catching them. I maintained the gap for a little while but then started to fall off the back a bit. With a lap to go Tom Howard caught me up and had a look on the back of the track but a yellow flag prevented him from making a move. He then was right with me into the last complex of corners but I managed to hold him off by using the defensive line into the final hairpin. By forcing him to use the long way round I was able to keep my place and get a better drive on the exit.
Fifth was a good result, especially from a starting position of 12th but it wasn't a podium and I, therefore, wasn't happy. Also my pace in the race hadn't been anything spectacular so I knew changes had to be made in my driving. The car felt ok, but I was making small mistakes and couldn't find the lap time.
In between races was hectic, with it being my home round we had loads of people in and around the awning. There must have been a hundred people knocking about, it meant that I only had a limited amount of time to speak to my team and we decided on the set-up for the race very quickly.
For the second race I was to start 11th, on the entry into the first corner I was hit from behind by a red car, that forced me wide and in line with the main pack into the small chicane that is turn two. Seb Morris came through just after a red car had touched me on the entrance and then I was hit again in the chicane which put me in the wrong direction for the next corner. I was right at the back at this point I needed to focus and make as many overtaking manoeuvres as possible. Down the back section of the track Declan Jones got a good run on me and on the entrance to Sunny In Declan made a move and then spun on the inside, when his car went backwards it hit my rear right quarter which sent me spinning on the grass. I tried to recover it as fast as possible but I had lost touch with the main pack. From then on in my race was pretty uneventful. I picked up places as others spun off and never gave up on catching the pack, I kept pushing because I could see them battling and I was getting closer and closer, but at the end I just couldn't bridge the gap. Sennan Fielding was right with me into the last complex so I had to defend on the last lap again.
10th was the final result, although I had moved up from my starting position I hadn't really made the progress I wanted to. All in all it had been caused by a poor start by me, in these situations you must look at what you have done and say, “It was my mistake”. All the times I was knocked around could have been prevented by me getting a better start. It was being pushed around and off by others that eventually caused me not to get the result I wanted but my start and pace during the race wasn't great.
I have to take the positives away from this, I had a 5th place result in race one which was great and I now have the sponsorship in place to be able to race at Snetterton now, just!
Thanks for reading my blog; I hope it has been interesting.
Until next time,