Oulton Park – My best result yet
It was a week that started really difficult but ended really well. We both struggled in Friday testing, having not recently had an opportunity to test at Oulton whilst others did in the recent break.
It took a while to find a rhythm as the track changed from dry to wet from Friday practice session 1 to 2 and then back to dry in the Saturday morning practice. This meant that each time we studied the data, we then were going into different conditions in the next session and not applying what we had learnt. By the qualifying session in the afternoon, I felt much more comfortable in the car but due to traffic I didn’t get a perfect lap and qualified twenty-first for race 1 and 2. Nevertheless, I felt good for the race.
However, I had over-revved my engine in qualifying and that required an engine change. The team worked quickly to remove the engine into the evening, to get ahead of the job before the following morning. I really appreciate their dedication. Thank you guys.
On Sunday in race 1 I made a good start and worked my way up to nineteenth before there was soon a red flag on lap 3 for a car that needed to be cleared. Due to the schedule running behind because of a long incident in another race, our restarted race would be shorted to 4 laps. I would have to use every opportunity to make progress. It’s a narrow circuit at Oulton Park and would require good race craft.
Starting nineteenth at the re-start, this time I made an even better start and had already made-up places in a few corners on the first lap to sixteenth. I then managed to work my way through incidents unfolding ahead of me and was in twelfth place. On the last corner of the last lap, I took another place and across the line I just managed to hold off those coming from behind who had gained on me during the move.
It was great to have the fans back around the circuit and in the paddock. It completely transforms the atmosphere. Speaking to people and giving them an insight feels like a worthwhile contribution to the sport for the fans. My family was there too which made it a special weekend.
Finishing eleventh and fourth rookie is my best result yet and I was determined to build on this at the Knockhill.
Knockhill – another personal best
Knockhill was a very different experience. We would be up in Scotland for the whole week as there was a test day on the Tuesday prior to the race weekend. The test day had varied weather and gave us the opportunity to experience all the conditions that the race weekend might throw at us.
I like the Knockhill circuit and it’s my new favourite as it’s an undulating track with little room for error and even the tight twisty sections are fast. It squeezes the cars together even more than Oulton Park.
The practice on Tuesday was a stop-start affair, with lots of red flags scuppering the sessions, to recover cars stuck in the grave; or bodywork on the track, ripped off through scooping up the gravel. We set good times despite not having done the extra testing the day before.
On the Wednesday we were helping the team to set up the garage space. It’s a huge task and it was really enlightening as we aren’t usually around to see the amount of physical effort as it’s done before we arrive for a race weekend. Race mechanics work so hard before, during and after the race weekend.
Qualifying thirteenth and seventh rookie, I could fight from there. However, the first race on Saturday was over on the first lap. A car spun just after a corner and collected 3 cars including myself. We race so close, nose to tail and therefore the was no time to see it or react and therefore nowhere to go. It was purely a racing incident, and you have to accept that these will happen.
All you can do is get over it instantly in order to mentally reset for the next race in the afternoon. I was fine and went to the medical centre just as a precaution, but the car was not. We had a lot of damage to the front of our car. The team got to work as soon as the car was dropped off. It needed a lot of new mechanical parts to rebuild the front and front right corner and was ready just in time for the next race. Such a great team.
The next race was the carried forward race from Oulton Park and so I started twentieth and worked my way up to fifteenth. I didn’t let the crash in the earlier race phase me and I was determined to carry out my attacking and defending with confidence and precision.
On Sunday, the first race was yet more improvement. Starting fifteenth, the battle against drivers I hadn’t come up against before, there’s always new things to learn about how to duel with different opponents, but I delivered a personal best of a tenth place finish.
I would start tenth for the final race and would have to practice my race craft against the top 10 drivers. I got up to ninth but later ran wide at a corner and just putting 2 wheels in the gravel was enough for 2 cars to get a few miles per hour advantage and get through. I was under pressure from behind the whole race and trading places.
I took a place on the last lap before there was a red flag that ended the race, but on the roll back to the previous lap to form the result, I was classified as twelfth. I always want to finish above my starting position, but having started tenth it will get more difficult to always finish net plus.
Really looking forward to the next round at Thruxton.