My second season is going well and I have been within touching distance of a podium on quite a few occasions.
Some things haven’t gone my way, but we just have to be patient because as long as I keep myself up there, it’s all going to plan. I am extracting the most out of the opportunity I have been given and it feels good. We had a lean pre-season testing budget but I progressed every time and was looking forward to qualifying in the top third at the first round at Donington. However the new three lap qualifying format meant I caught and was tripping over another car for my three flying laps and qualified ninth for race one and eleventh for race two.
My first race of the new season had a scruffy start, getting squeezed onto the grass and by the time I had resisted that, turn one was compromised and I lost a lot of places which I made back up to finish eleventh. Race two I was fired off the circuit by another car whilst going down a straight, which beached me in the gravel for a non-finish.
The worst part about it is that your finishing position for race two is your starting position for race three on the Sunday race live on TV. Starting twenty-fourth and having reset myself overnight, I made many overtakes to finish fifteen places higher in ninth. This got me noticed and my season underway and I was ready to show more improvement at Brands Hatch.
Donington was also a big weekend as my sponsor Graham Marginson of Integrated Air Systems enjoyed an insightful Saturday with his team as they learned first hand what I go through as a racing driver. Tom White of Trustic Motors enjoyed visiting on the Sunday and we look forward to hosting his guests at Silverstone.
At Brands Hatch the qualifying was cleaner but I overcompensated for last time and left a large gap, whilst towing the car behind me to pole position. Qualifying tenth for race one and seventh for race two I knew I could fight from there. In race one I worked my way up to third and was comfortable being in the lead pack on pace.
However, a move up the inside going into Clearways was done and I gave the driver racing room to take the place he’d won. However, the move was completed by ensuring I would be on the grass and couldn’t recover. This dropped me down to sixth. In single seaters the self-incurred damage from pushing a car off the circuit wouldn’t be worth the risk but in junior GT racing with bodywork, it does happen and happened again at Thruxton. Still, with another strong finish to fifth in race two, I had shown that I had arrived in the front pack.
As part of the top five, we had broken away from the rest of the field and I was ready to challenge for a podium position, however the race ended early due to a red flag incident. Race three on Sunday, starting from fifth, I made my way up to second. However, it rained and I hadn’t done any wet testing. We do what the budget allows. I had to make sure I brought the car home in one piece, but I did drop down the order from running in another podium spot.
Onto Thruxton. Could I get any more bad luck in qualifying? Yes. In the previous fifteen minute format, you could back off to find space away from traffic. Now, with just three flying laps you can’t sacrifice a lap to find space for a better lap. I quickly caught the car in front who made a mistake. I set my quickest lap whilst having to overtake into Goodwood corner which cost me time. The remaining two laps were impeded by the car I had passed, as they were trying to make the most of their two remaining laps but was rubbing my rear bumper and unsettling my car. I qualified twelfth for race one and eleventh for race two.
With just two races on the Thruxton weekend and both on Sunday, it was going to be an eventful day at the fastest circuit on the calendar. In race one I made a good start and was soon up to eighth place and feeling comfortable to take more places. However, a multi-car shunt ended the race early. Still, I had finished higher than I had started and taken good points for the team.
In race two I made another good start and worked my way up to seventh place in the early laps. However, whilst going side by side with another car going flat out around the left hand bend towards Cambell corner, I was forced onto the onto the grass on a sixth gear high speed bend which sent me into a spin at 160kph.
When sliding across the grass you have no control. You are still moving so fast but you are aware of what is happening and in that way it feels like a long time for it to conclude. I knew that I would slide across the grass all the way to the next turn and end up back on the circuit near Cobb. I could even see that it would most likely be my team mate Liam that would end up at the point on the circuit where my car would end up and could destroy one or both of our cars.
You think about so much in the seconds heading towards a crash. But ultimately I am thinking about finishing the race. My tyres gripped the tarmac as I slid onto the circuit and was positioned across the track. I quickly got going as I was preparing the car to move before I got there. I had dropped to twelfth but took some places back to finish ninth by the end of the race.
The move was penalised after the race, but the damage had already been done to my race and it got my supporters who watched it on TV very emotive. Still, I am consistently showing progress and heading towards my targets in my development programme. So I’m really looking forward to Croft at the end of June after my school exams.
Thanks to the Fox Motorsport team for a flawless weekend. Thanks to my sponsors Integrated Air Systems, Trustic Motors , Mammoth Insulation Services, Goodridge-Milford Funeral Directors Ltd and my Dad for making this possible