Aron Smith’s first weekend with Redstone Racing probably could have gone better. The Irishamn retired from the first race of the Brands Hatch weekend in the Druids gravel, the damage to the car hampering his race two efforts. In the day’s final race, despite going on in the incident that caused the red flag, he scored his first points for his new team. He will be looking for more success in the second event of the season at Donington Park. Here exclusively to TCF he describes a lap around the East Midlands venue.
Donington Park is a special place to me as I won my first Clio Cup race there in 2009. I've been really pleased with the pace we've shown so early on in the season, so I'm really looking forward to competing at the circuit with Redstone Racing this weekend.
When it comes to mastering a lap of Donington Park, by the time you reach the first corner, Redgate, you're already focusing on getting a good run into Craner Curves. It's important to get a clean exit; you need to kiss the apex and run over the exit kerb.
In my opinion, Craner Curves is the best sequence of the lap. You enter it very quickly – the first time you ever experience them you're a little scared! – and it's a tricky part of the circuit so you need to find the perfect line. You can't run too far over to the right as it will compromise your entrance into the Old Hairpin.
The best way to tackle the Old Hairpin is to get a good clean sweep. You sometimes come through it thinking you could've done that little bit more; you've got to push the car through as quickly as possible. Getting a good exit is also crucial, as this can save seconds on your overall lap time.
It's slightly uphill from Old Hairpin into Mcleans and right before it there's a small left-hander, Schwantz Curve, where you need to get a really wide sweep. I've always found you can turn in with a lot of speed, as the hill scrubs some of it off as you're going into the corner, and by the apex you're pretty much on the inside kerb.
Mcleans is a bit different as you gain time from the entry to the apex, not between the apex and exit like conventional corners. You need to turn in quite gently and be conscious of the back end stepping out; this corner catches some people out if they run wide exiting Schwantz Curve.
The final major corner on the lap, Coppice, is blind on entry so you need to find a reference point for where to turn in. If you wait until you're at the top of the crest it's too late as you've almost reached the apex – you need to make sure you're right onto the inside kerb.
A good exit from Coppice is vital as you're turning onto the longest straight on the track. You need to pick up the pace really quickly and apply the power in one clean squirt. That way you run right around the outside of the track, as the corner is a little bit longer than you expect.
After a blast down the Dunlop Straight you have a little chicane, the Esses. I've always found you can carry a lot of speed into it as there's quite a lot of camber, which will catch the car for you. As you're carrying so much speed, you almost pick up the power again before you turn – after that it's just a case of putting your foot down to the finish line!