It’s been a while since my last blog (apologies), as things have been very busy lately and I’m moving into a new stage of my personal life having finished university at Leeds Beckett two weeks ago.
Since my last blog a lot has happened, not least on track and in getting my Renault UK Clio Cup seat with Ciceley Motorsport. The journey to the Clio Cup actually started by an investor purchasing a second hand Ginetta G55 Supercup car for me to race this year. Following meetings with Ciceley’s commercial director we decided to switch our plans to focus on the Clio Cup and have enjoyed success both on and off the track since.
Ciceley is a team I have admired since the privateer days in Ginetta Juniors and the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) connection is obviously of interest to my career long term. We received the support of Primex Plastics very early which really helped to make this year happen. PLASgran came on-board in the early part of this year which was when we were able to commit to both Ciceley and the Clio Cup.
I had two days of pre-season testing this year in addition to the media day at Rockingham. Two days at Croft were really useful to get used to the car. We also had a day of dry running and a day of wet running which was really helpful. The media day was the first time I had driven at Rockingham for a long time and my first time on new tires in the car, so I learnt a lot and was feeling pretty good going into round one.
Brands Hatch was a tough weekend as it was my first in the championship, I was aware we were further down the order than we wanted to be and that progress needed to be made. I improved every session and the opportunity to run on new tires in free practice two really helped me. I went faster again on my first run in qualifying and did again on my second run, however a red flag came out at just the wrong time which meant I couldn’t get the most out of my tires.
The qualifying was so close but I took a lot of comfort in that I was within a tenth of a previous champion. The races went really well, I benefitted from some people going off but managed to stay close to the front pack and Charlie Laddell in race one, just fending off Josh Price. The second race was a lot of fun and I was involved in lots of little battles, the first lap put me along way down so to salvage an eighth place finish was good. To be that close to people who had a lot more running than me was very encouraging.
The test at Thruxton in-between the Brands Hatch and Donington rounds was a real turning point for me, I finally got the confidence to throw the car around that I needed. The damp track helped with that as it allowed me to put the car on the edge and some scary moments through Church actually helped.
We ran on old tires on the test day at Donington so were a bit further back on the timesheet than we knew we were capable of. I was very consistent and knew that we would have good race pace, especially after a few changes. I found a little bit of time in the first run on new tyres in qualifying but got a good tow and put in what I would consider a near perfect lap to take pole.
I think it surprised a few people but the team and I all knew it was possible. My starts weren’t great and it’s something I have been working on since. The races were my first chance in a long time to do battle with some serious front runners. I did manage to get alongside Paul Rivett for third at one point but was unable to make it stick.
The red flag stopped the race and fourth was a good result, another graduate win. I also took fastest lap and felt that I was faster than the cars around me, which was good. I started from sixth for race two and was right with the front pack. I struggled to pass George Jackson and the time I lost this made it impossible to catch the podium battle. I settled for a fourth place finish and had a good battle with Mike Bushell to the flag.
Thruxton was always going to be difficult as we went straight into qualifying, it’s a real challenge. I got blocked on every lap of my first stint in qualifying and we developed a brake issue towards the end of run one. We tried to fix this in the pits which worked a bit, but the car didn’t feel as good in the second part of the session and we found an issue later that day which would cause the problems I felt.
Going into race one I knew I had to make progress, I made a good start and unfortunately got moved onto the grass on lap one, this put me back into the battle just outside the top ten. By the end of the race I managed to make it through to ninth but had sustained damage to the suspension early on which made progress very difficult. I felt like our pace was strong and that I capable of running in the top five if I could make it up there.
All fixed for race two I again moved through the field and held off Paul Rivett for a number of laps towards the end of the race. Whilst it was good to keep him behind for a little while it was frustrating because it highlighted that we had the pace to challenge in the top five and that our difficulties in qualifying made this hard to achieve. Thruxton was a weekend where I had to make the most out of a bad situation in qualifying.
We’re now moving onto Oulton Park and the rest of the season. It’s been great so far and I want to keep that up. We’re leading the graduate championship and within touching distance of the front of the championship overall. I feel it’s only a matter of time before we take a podium finish or a win and I can’t wait to get out in the car again. Naturally I’m really looking forward to my home round at Croft on the 18th and 19th of June!
Outside of the Clio Cup I’ve also been coaching the Royal Air Force in preparation for their round of the Armed Forces Race Challenge at Croft and I’ll be making a video soon. I’ve also been involved in the Want2Race competition and looking forward to it progressing throughout the year.
If anyone comes to any of the rounds be sure to pop by the Ciceley Motorsport awning and say hi!
Until next time …