TCF is keen on helping others and giving exposure to those who people and championships that may not always get the coverage needed, that’s why we asked Josh Benson, a British Formula Ford Scholar who was competing in the BRSCC Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch to write a diary for us on his festival experience.
Day one – Wednesday 14th October 2009
We arrived at the circuit nice and early and the weather was good. A little chilly but the sun was out. The Team were set up in the garage and just waiting for session one. I couldn't wait to get back in the car. It had been two weeks. Far too long.
Josh Hill, Cole and Palmer were all out and looking quick. I went out with McKenna & Dan de Zille in my pack. Nothing to be achieved except to warm myself up, run with the car and get into the swing of the day.
The rest of the day flew by as we had a lot of set-up changes, data discussions and planning to do. It was an early night for me as I was in the midst of having the flu. I figured all the adrenaline of the day would pump around my body and keep me going. I was asleep by 7.00 pm that night!!
Day two – Thursday 15th October 2009
I look out the window and it's dull but dry, it is always better when it's dry so we can learn so much more about the car and how to push even harder. We had to be at the track for an 8.30 am start. I felt a little better after my mammoth sleep. I had been taking lot's of Vitamin C and fluids so I just needed to get on with the job in hand.
We arrived at the circuit and the lower Paddock was filling up. Race cars were arriving constantly and the excitement was building. I watched session one of the Duractec's and Liroy Stuart was battling hard with one of the Dutch drivers who was flying. The session was red flagged as car 14 had lost 3 or 4 corners when he came off and went into the tyres at Paddock. Not sure who that was.
The team had given me a great car for my first session and the times were a lot quicker than yesterday. A combination of feedback and data comparison aided this. I am learning quickly to understand the dynamics of this. It is the first year that I have been able to look at and interpret data and it is vital for a drivers and Teams progression.
The car was fine until the last few laps when I sensed there was something wrong and the times dropped off a bit. I came in and realised that the damper had broken.
4.20. I watched the Kent's & Zetec's but within a few laps it was red flagged again as car 4 had a spin. Thankfully no damage. Rob Barrable looked hot in his Kent car and the young American was setting a quick pace also. I got someone to film one or two of the corners so I could analyse with my Team coach where improvements could be made.
We went out at 5.30 but again my session was red flagged. We made the most of every session we had and we had a very good day and the team were pleased.
Day three – Friday 16th October 2009
We arrived at the circuit at 8.55 am and it was raining very slightly. The circuit was wet but drying out towards the end of the first session. The temperature was about 12c so it wasn't too warm. My goal today was to crack Surtees but I couldn't really focus on it in the wet so I waited for the next run to get it right. I spent some time going through the video footage the night before so I feel I am able to get the job done today. I also got some great suggestions from other drivers on Facebook.
Time to sign in and get a hot cup of tea – I am feeling the cold today.
9.20 am. The heavens have opened. My sessions are 10.30, 12.30, 3.15 & 5.15. You think there is so much free time in the day but the hours morph into each other and there is so much to do. In between sessions you can be in and out of the car doing different things with the set up.
Session one and I went out with 35 other drivers. After 1 lap I came in and we changed the tyres and put on new and I went back out and bedded them in. At 10.50 am the session was red flagged so we called it a day on that one.
Me and my Team mate Jordi Cunill were on the pace in the damp conditions and once again pleased the team with the speed we displayed. It's like everything has come right together with me, the car and the Team. I have only had ½ a season in the Championship and wonder where I would be now if I had been lucky enough to start testing in the February like most of the drivers but the funds were just not there.
Its cold and I am trying to get warm. When you're not doing much it's real hard to get warm so I sat in the truck with yet another cup of tea.
Session two at 12.30. It's dry out now so slicks back on. The team are buzzing around the garage. We did a 47.9 on old tyres. The car was really well set-up. I came in once to make some slight changes then straight back out. We matched the time again as the car was really well set up.
I then spent 30 mins with Michael vergers (Team boss & coach) reviewing the data. Surtees – take more speed in, not brake and power through. This should save me 2/10ths. It was definitely easier said than done though! But once I do it my confidence will go through the roof.
There is a silence around the circuit. Its lunchtime. It's getting colder outside. The sun is going in so another warm drink and a run around to keep my body warm.
Session three. New tyres on. There is still a lot to learn, lots of improvements I can make. Off to watch the saloons for a while before I go out. I think this is the session to conquer Surtees. I know 2/10ths of a second may not seem a great deal in real time but it is the difference between grid place 1 and 10. I am matching the pace of the Championship top runners at this stage and my lap times are consistent.
Strapped back in and out on the circuit again before red flags as the F3 car stopped mid circuit. I went back out and put into place everything I had learnt about Surtees. I didn't use my brakes and powered through. Although I was actually a fraction slower than my previous time, I had mastered that corner. I felt good and knew that I don't need to go through that again.
I watched the Kent's go out testing again and one of them stopped mid circuit. And guess what – red flags. There seemed to be flames coming out the back of it. Other cars slowed right down and went either side of the car but unfortunately another Kent must have been day dreaming and ploughed straight into the back causing carnage. My heart went out to the driver as I know what you have to go through just to get your car ready for racing, let alone fuelling and repairing it. Looks like the weekend was over for that poor driver.
Waved yellows indicate there is an incident ahead – some drivers still drive on regardless and unfortunately this is what the result is.
4.50 pm. Needed back in my car for balancing. I need to finish the day safely so my car is ready for qualifying. We did ½ a session and brought the car in. It was getting dark out and the conditions were not too good. Time to get back to the lodge we were staying at for a hot bath, some relaxation and some hot food.
Day Four – Saturday 17th October 2009
Qual: The session was at 11.40 am but I had to sign on and attend a drivers briefing so back at the circuit for 9.30 am. It was bitter out. My hands were red with the cold. I had all my race kit on and a sweatshirt and a coat.
After the briefing I was getting really excited for qualifying as I knew I could pull something special out of the bag. As we went out for qualifying I tried finding a space to get my quickest lap in. The fastest time we did all testing was a 47.8 so I needed to find some time from somewhere. I could see that pole was a 47.4 and I had gone as fast as a 47.8 so I backed off then put a lap in of a 47.6 so I knocked 2/10ths off. I knew I could find another 2/10ths to put me on pole so I went back in to the pits to put some new tyres on to get pole but I got held up on a fast lap so it was just a waste of time in the end. I ended up 10th position. Disappointed.
I started in 10th place on the grid. The start was very smooth and everyone drove superbly through Paddock. I was ready to move forward but the top 12 were so close together if I overtook one I would have to take them all which was impossible. I was stuck onto the gearbox of the guy in front until a fluid Van Diemen decided to take me out on the last corner from 9th position. I fell into the gravel and it was impossible to get out. The brilliant marshals even tried to push me but there was no hope. This meant I had to start from the back of the semi final tomorrow in 20th position. Frustrated but I was not going to let that dampen my spirits. I raced hard and raced well and never let up for one moment. A swift change for a bent wishbone.
What I have recognised is that something within me as a driver has changed. I have been in the scholarship class for the latter half of the British Formula Ford Championship and watched the Top 8 as they drove superbly and now I feel ready to take on that role. It feels good.
Day Five – Sunday 18th October 2009
It's a beautiful day outside. Just like last year. I am excited and can't wait for the semi-final. I am going to relax and enjoy myself today and make the most of my day. It's a long time out of the car until February so I am going to drive well, learn and get into the final.
I was really looking forward to the semi final as all I had to do was to get into the top 14 to compete in the Final. I sat on the grid and the red lights came on then went off. I put my foot down and made up 5 places off the line which put me to 15th. I just kept my head down all through the race and made my way up to 9th place. I had 2 people in front of me that I should have overtaken but couldn't find a way through. On reflection I should have been so much more aggressive. I am capable of it but I could just see the Final and one more chance in the car. Finishing 9th put me 17th for the final but at least i made it through safely. No end of season damage bill!!
In the final I was right in the middle of the field which is the worst place to be. I didn't let it phase me and I made a great start taking 2 or 3 drivers straight away. There was not one point in the whole race when I had a second to breathe as there was always someone hitting me from behind, so I had to drive looking in front and behind at the same time. My pack was being held up by the front driver who was so much slower but defending superbly.
I made up 5 places by the end of the race and I was pleased overall with results of the weekend as we had shown true pace. I think if I had not got hit in heat one I may of been able to come top 5 but that's racing for you.
The team had a fun weekend and were also pleased with the results but will have to go back next year and take the title. Watch this space.