So, that’s my first race weekend completed! Having not been in a race since I left karting in 2018, it felt good to be back. I was expecting it to be a tough weekend for my return and it surely was as Thruxton is the fastest circuit in the UK and for the Ginetta Juniors there’s only two braking points around the lap. The rest of the lap you are on the throttle!
Without the usual Friday practice day, there was just one practice session on the Saturday morning, and it was raining and very wet. Unfortunately, the car developed an electrical problem that was cutting the power and so I wasn’t able to push in the wet and get a feel for the unfamiliar. The team got to work on the problem, found it, fixed it and the car was ready for qualifying, but as it was still very wet, I was not as prepared and qualified twenty-fifth out of twenty-seven.
Still, that’s motorsport; sometimes something happens to take away the preparation time that you need. Plus I know that for me it is going to be a progressive season and there is a lot of work for me to do as a driver.
The ideal scenario for entering Ginetta Juniors as a rookie is to start testing a year before. So I know I need a bit of time to catch up to that level of preparation. I focus on my own rate of progress. I don’t need to answer to myself with excuses as I know where I am and where I know I want to get to over time.
My sponsored race suit arrived just in time and the first time I tried it on was at the circuit. The car was in it’s final livery too and we could welcome the Ginetta Scholarship sponsor, Millers Oils onboard. It’s a good environment in the team. It’s a real team environment, not customer and team.
I wanted to join a 2 or 3 car team so that there isn’t inter-team rivalry as we both help each other fully transparently, for data analysis etc. Where we lose out a little versus the teams with more cars is that we don’t have the train for drafting in qualifying.
At a track like Thruxton, the tow is very effective. Still, overall, it’s a trade off; the gains of any particular team environment. My team mate Liam, who subsequently set the fastest lap in race 2 the following day, qualified sixteenth. So that shows how qualifying can sometimes not go your way even when you have the race pace.
On the Sunday there would be two races, one in the morning as the first race on track and the other late in the afternoon. As I say, the race weekend felt good; no nerves. The waiting in the holding area before the race is the worst part, standing around, thinking about your first race; wanting to get out there. But once I put the helmet on and get in the car I am ready. In race 1, I started from twenty-fifth and made up places to twenty-first before losing 2 places towards the end with the tow.
Race 2 I started better, ready to go on the attack; the sooner you can make up places, the better the chance of making it into the pack ahead before they break away. However, on lap 3 something broke in the drivetrain. Yes it was disappointing, but you can’t be too disappointed because these things happen in motorsport. Sometimes it can be the driver crashing the car that causes a retirement.
The car has never stopped on track all pre-season and is a freshly built machine by the team and it is equally disappointing for them after all their meticulous preparation. Back at the workshop the component failure was identified. It was a new part and it failed spectacularly, so you can’t mitigate for that.
The most disappointing element was that it was the race 2 live on TV and so many supporters and my sponsors, https://integratedair.co.uk/ and https://www.trusticmotors.co.uk/ had tuned in to watch. But everyone has been supportive and understanding and we aim to put on a better show next time.
We received so many calls and messages of support. Thank you.
If at the next round I can qualify a bit higher and finish the races a bit higher, I will be happy with that progress and then I can set my personal targets for the season. I’m really looking forward to the next round at Snetterton on June 12th/13th.
Thanks to all the team who made me feel really comfortable on my first race weekend.
Driver coach: Karl Goshawk
Team mate: Liam McNeilly
Mechanics: Russ Wingard, Harri Kane and Les Barton
Team Principle: Paul McNeilly