I have fond memories of Rockingham from last season. It was the second meeting of the year and I was about one to one and half seconds off the pace, which, at that time in the season, was really good. I had two strong races and finished in the top 15 twice and again at the time in the season these results where something to be proud of.
So going into this year's round at Rockingham I felt confident. I knew that Tarzan was a corner I struggled at the year before and was one I wanted to get right and I also knew that I had been quick in the final corner the year previously. This gave me a confidence going into the meeting.
The first test on the Friday went well; I was running in the front 4 for the first half of the session then fell down to 8th and ended up 11th after a final lap surge from others. We made some changes to the set-up of the car for the second session and went quicker. We ended the day 10th but just half a second off the pace.
The forecast was for rain on Saturday and Sunday, but it never fell. The track was greasy in morning warm-up on Saturday and the car didn't feel great. I think this was down to the track more than the car though as that seemed to be the general feeling amongst us all. I set the 9th fastest lap but was still just half a second away from the pole time. Going into qualifying I knew a tow would make the difference I needed. I started trying to find this and if anything missed getting the vital laps in. I waited and waited and waited for a tow and to have a good lap on it. I didn't get that and had to have a last lap effort by myself. I improved by six tenths but without the tow I was never going to bridge the gap to the front. I finished the session in 11th but was 10th for the Sunday race. I knew I had the speed because I was only half a second away from the front, that lap with a tow would have put me in the top 5.
So onto race one and I was feeling good. I knew I had the pace to run at the front, it was just a case of proving it. I had a good launch off the line and beat whoever was alongside me into the first bend. I got past Struan Moore into the first corner too and was right behind Jake Giddings. I went into the middle by myself entering Deene so I could slot into the outside or the inside if an accident occurred. I got passed the crash at the first corner into about 9th before getting Declan Jones at the third corner after he had heavy side to side contact with Myles Collins. I hadn't got the heat into the front right tire as I kept locking the wheel for the first two laps. I lost touch with Myles but got past Jake Giddings soon after. I passed him down the home straight. I then chased Myles down and two laps before the safety car came out I passed him on the exit to Deene hairpin. It put me on the inside line for the following 90 degree right hander of Yentwood so I slowed the car down to ensure Myles wouldn't get the switch back. I then pulled away from him before the safety car came out.
When the safety car lights went out late I made a bad jump. I was just off the back of Will, however Myles didn't see the lights go out due to his bonnet not being attached from the incident with Declan, this meant I had little pressure from behind. Will got a bad run out of Deene so defended into Yentwood. I pulled off the switch back, just. Will tried to squeeze me but I was coming through. Once I was past Will I tried to catch George Gamble and Sennan Fielding. I got a run on George going into the chicane but was on the outside. I stayed with George and Sennan into Deene hairpin and when we got to the braking zone Sennan and George didn't break. Sennan's lights came on first, then George's. I knew they had both out broken themselves because I was late on the brakes as it was and they both braked later than I did. George went off and into the tires which moved me up to 4th. I was then right on the back of Sennan going through the flowing section off the track but wasn't close enough to him into Tarzan to make a move. I finished 4th and was very pleased.
The race one result gave me some extra confidence for the second race. If I had gone from 11th to 4th I knew a podium was on the cards starting from 10th.
I reacted well to the lights in race two but when I brought the clutch up I bogged down. Declan Jones got inside me into the first corner and I selected the wide line for the run into Deene. I tried to slot in coming out but wasn't really forceful enough on the approach to Deene. I made a move to the outside again for Yentwood to get the switch back for Chapman. It didn't work, Brad Bailey and Seb Morris made contact on the apex of Yentwood and I had nowhere to go. I went for the grass but lost valuable time coming back on to finish the first lap in 13th. On lap two I tried to catch the pack up and was right on the back of Brad Bailey. I got a run on him and past him on the brakes into Deene. Once I was past Brad I was immediately on the back of Patrick McClughan. He went very defensive and I was far quicker than him. I lost time to the battle in front which was Seb and Tom Howard but got past Patrick into Deene on the following lap. I ran a little wide on the exit and was on the grass, I had a quick check in the mirror to see if anyone was coming up close behind. Struan Moore then hit me into Yentwood spinning me round. I tried to catch everyone back up, it was another three laps before I caught and passed Brad Bailey. I then set about catching my nearest championship rival, Will Foster, who was just ahead. I was quicker and caught him on the last lap at the penultimate corner of Tarzan but was too impatient with the throttle exiting and had a massive slide which meant I had a poor run into the last corner.
Finishing 13th hadn't really done my hopes of getting up to 4th in the championship any good. I know that I would have ended up somewhere around the top 6 had I not had the spin. My pace was also good as I was only two tenths off the fastest lap. I will take the positives out of the race, that was the pace and that I overtook quickly.
I now move to Brands Hatch in Kent for the next round of the championship. I need to have a good qualifying session there so I can race from the front. Brands Hatch is a place I feel at home with. I had a good result there last year and a fourth this year so I know a podium and a win are on the cards.
I also want to remember something Robert Reid said when I was at Loughborough College with the MSA Academy, he said “the time a driver suddenly progresses is when he or she understands and admits their own mistakes, instead of blaming things on other people they blame themselves.” The first mistake I made was that I wasn't quick enough in qualifying, ultimately because I didn't get myself a tow. Secondly I didn't warm my tires up enough for race one and then wasn't forceful enough going into Deene in both races and thirdly I should have defended from Struan going into Yentwood to prevent the spin. These are all things I can learn from and now going into Brands I feel far more positive.