June is a busy month and at the time of writing, it still isn’t over! So far i’ve done a test day at Donington, another at Knockhill and a race weekend at Snetterton. There’s still a race weekend at Brands Hatch to come. By the time you are reading this I am hoping to have had more improvements at Brands Hatch too and will write about Brands in July.
The test at Donington didn’t go as well I would have liked as I really like the circuit. I wasn’t feeling well after having a very physical week the week before, training for and carrying out my physical assessment for my P.E. GCSE. It made me realise how important it is to be as fit as you can be, physically and mentally to drive these cars. Mental readiness is a major requirement to hit the ground running. Physical endurance is essential on a test day as it’s much longer than a race day; the amount of time you are in the seat. I could feel that I wasn’t at my best as I would go from being half a second off where I wanted to be to a second off and then back to half a second.
Two days later we would be at Knockhill for our first test there. I made sure I rested and ate well, to get myself feeling better as much as possible. It was a much better day in terms of performance. I like Knockhill. I like the more challenging circuits that work the driver to carry the speed through awkward corners. I left there feeling ready for Snetterton.
At Snetterton the weather couldn’t be hotter. We had thought more about nutrition and hydration since the rough day at Donington. I typically don’t have an appetite when I am racing even though I have a good appetite at home. In karting and rallying I could easily do the first race or test session before eating anything substantial.
Also, the Ginetta G40 being on road tyres for the juniors is a lot more physical to drive. I used to drive on instinct, now this is very different and I am enjoying adapting to the amount of movement in the car on the limit on these tyres and how physically and mentally demanding it is. So, with the hot conditions, it’s very hot in the car, combined with tyres that overheat very quickly.
I made sure I was fully hydrated and ate well before the first half hour test session. In fact, I had been improving my diet all week. The test sessions went well and on the Saturday morning I qualified sixteenth out of twenty-seven. For race 2, my second fastest qualifying time would position me fifteenth on the grid. If you had asked me before the race where I would hope to qualify, I wouldn’t have told you, but it would have been sixteenth based on how testing had gone. Qualifying higher up meant I would be in the mix for the first time, unlike at Thruxton. Progress step 1.
I was also able to work well with my team mate Liam McNeilly during qualifying. The Junior spec of the Ginetta G40 is air restricted to 100bhp and as such is relatively underpowered on these large circuits. Therefore, running behind a car punching a hole in the air can make a big difference. We call the slip stream effect a tow. I was able to run quick enough for Liam to set his hot laps behind me which put him on the front row for race 1 and on pole for race 2! Then Liam returned the favour for my hot laps. You have to get your hot laps right because you are sacrificing half of the qualifying time to give the tow. We communicated really well together. Progress step 2.
For Race 1 I was too cautious at the start and backed out of a 3 car sandwich, dropping places that I then needed to make up. I made up some places and then the second half of the race ran under the safety car to the end, ending my recovery early. I took my first point.
In Race 2 I made a slightly better start but a collision caused me to spin a full 360 degrees. However I kept some momentum and carried on but more places dropped. Still, working my way back up through the field gave my sponsor Tom White of Trustic Motors some overtaking to watch as he sat in the grandstands looking towards the last corner at Murrays. Despite the spin I was able to take another point.
On to Race 3 and I was keen to complete the day with a good drive – maximum attack. The finishing position of race 2 sets the starting position for race 3. I made a better start and despite getting hit on the first lap causing a lot of front end damage, I worked my way up to 13th from starting 20th. Progress step 3. However the bonnet was flapping up under corning and braking and whenever the wind got under it. It made it very hard to hit my braking points and apexes but I was determined to carry on. A damaged car on maximum attack gets some TV coverage and so I was also able to entertain my sponsor Graham Marginson of Integrated Air Systems watching at home! However, it was very difficult to maintain performance and I was gaining and losing places in equal measure. On the penultimate lap I saw a warning flag on the pit wall and the ‘Last Lap’ board. I was sure it was pointed at me, but with the distraction of the flapping bonnet it was difficult to be sure, so as a precaution I came into the pits. It wasn’t for me and I dropped to nineteenth. I took 2 more points, but what could have been.
Well done to my team mate Liam McNeilly for his first win and triple podiums. Working with Liam and seeing him in testing, I knew it would come. It’s great to follow his progress within the same environment, knowing that this time last year Liam was also a rookie and through this team has now taken the top step of the podium.
I’m happy for the step forward I have taken in various aspects, but there’s a lot more work to do and that’s what I am aiming for now. There’s going to be a lot of wrangling in the midst of where I am now battling in the pack and there will be damage. But if we can just get through that financially as I work my way up, I should be able to hit my targets towards the end of the season.
It’s much harder work now, in the car and outside of the car. Thanks to driver coaches Jamie Stanley and Karl Goshawk for all their input. I enjoyed working with the engineers, in particular having that understanding I have with my race engineer, who ensures that you feel comfortable with the car mechanically and also seated and strapped in. For this weekend it was Michael Saunders, alongside Russ Wingard, Harri Kane and Les Barton.
Looking forward to re-joining the Fox Motorsport team at the next round.