A lights-to-flag win at Knockhill kickstarted the second half of my season! Sometimes a win in Ginetta Juniors is a bit of luck being in the right place in the front pack to pick up the spoils from the fallout on the last lap. But this was one I took charge of and owned it. Knockhill in Dunfermline, Scotland, is by the far the furthest round on the calendar for myself and the team. Unlike last season, we didn’t go to a test there before race week. But I felt good about performing well as it is a driver’s circuit like Croft where I had shown winning pace and race craft.
We arrived on the Tuesday of race week for a test day. There was also a test the day before that we didn’t attend. We quickly adapted to the circuit and caught up and finished fifth quickest.
On the race weekend, we have 2 practice sessions on a Friday and I topped the timesheets in both sessions. I was aiming for nothing less than pole position Saturday morning. However having quickly caught up other cars, I hit traffic on the 3 qualifying laps that we are limited to and qualified second for race 1 and third for race 2. We can win from there.
In race 1 I was determined to get to the front given the pace I had shown, so on the first lap I made a bold move around the outside of the hairpin to take the lead. I have tried moves around the outside before, but it does run the risk of being taken out. But this time I chose a line that kept me out of harm’s way. I took the lead on lap one and started to pull away. Halfway through the race there was an incident that brought out the safety car which eroded the gap I had made. After the safety car pulled in I did a good restart and pulled a gap again. I couldn’t break the tow, which is difficult with the engine power in juniors, but I maintained the gap to the end to take my first win! All the pressure I had been through to prove what I know I am capable of, was lifted.
It felt really good for myself and for the team, to take mine and their first win of the season! It’s amazing how much the fans watch the juniors. The congratulations I received at the track and online were amazing! That was even before I posted the result myself. I really appreciate my sponsors for believing in me. Not forgetting Ginetta Cars for putting me on the grid last season with the scholarship and Fox Motorsport, running out of their stable. Thank you all. It was great to have Graham Marginson of Integrated Air Systems and Tom White of Trustic Motors up at Knockhill to celebrate it.
I could also see how much it meant to my Dad who sacrifices everything for me to race. He puts in by far the largest amount and without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks, Dad.
Race 2 I started in third. However, it wasn’t a good ending to my race. Sometimes taking a win eases the pressure but also raises the expectation you put on yourself. Being my first time, I wanted to race the same way again, take the lead early and pull a gap. Unfortunately, I took just a few centimetres too much over a kerb going through the chicane, which caused the car to ground out over the kerb and spin. I was good to recover but was, unfortunately, was then hit by another car which took the front off my car. I recovered to the pits to see if the bonnet could be strapped down. However the radiator had also been taken off, so it was race over.
The retirement put me on the back row to start race 3 on Sunday where I came through from twenty-second to ninth. I feel like my mistake cost me 2 more potential podiums that weekend.
Onto Snetterton 2 weeks later. Qualifying fifth for race 1 and pole for race 2 it was looking good for another progressive weekend. Could my luck turn? Not quite. After setting the fastest lap in race 1, a puncture undid all my hard work and I had to park the car on the last lap to avoid potential damage.
This meant that the problem would be compounded for the rest of the weekend as putting a new tyre on 1 corner of the car upsets the grip and handling, especially as we run road tyres in juniors and they are their worst when new as the tall tread blocks overheat very quickly. I had to cope with the understeer throughout races 2 and 3 which compromised my corner exits and with 12 corners, that adds up to a big deficit. I hung on for fourth on the road in race 2 and seventh in race 3, so will take that, all things considered.
Thruxton was next. A very challenging weekend mentally. We went through a lot on the Friday and Saturday. It’s at those times that you have to really want to be a racing driver, to soak up the pressure and get back in the car when a lot has gone wrong. It really helps to have the fans support me with encouragement online and face to face in the paddock who recognise what I am achieving against the odds. I really appreciate it!
I reset myself overnight to face another back-row start for the Sunday televised race. I made a very good start getting up to 12th on lap 1 and then caught up with the lead pack of 10 cars all battling with a similar pace. In this strong field of drivers, I try to always finish the weekend inside the top 10 and managed to recover from a back-row start to eighth. Not the weekend we wanted but we’ll take that.
My hard work has also been rewarded with another sponsor coming on board to help me get through to the end of the season. RHF Fans Ltd made a donation at the beginning of the season and has now become a sponsor by providing more financial backing to support my testing programme. Thank you Rachel Fehily! RHF Fans Ltd is a technology-led manufacturer of high-quality centrifugal and axial industrial fans for bespoke applications.
Whatever happens for the rest of the season, I can say that I beat the very best in the best way and I am buoyed by that. Thanks to my sponsors Integrated Air Systems, Trustic Motors , Mammoth Insulation Services, Goodridge-Milford Funeral Directors Ltd, RHF Fans Ltd and my Dad for making this possible.