2011 – RD5&6 Race Review
Brands GP……….I think most people were pretty chuffed to see it on the calendar and even more so we were supporting the British GT/F3 events when the calendar was announced. Most people, me included waited for the calendar to change which is what happened last year but no, the season approached we really were going to one of the most famous and arguably under used circuits in the UK.
As the weekend approached the sunny weather we had been enjoying for months evaporated…well I guess it is June, so Glastonbury and Wimbledon so cue changeable weather. Friday’s test day gave us one dry session which was invaluable as running time around there is limited at the best of times followed by 3 wet sessions. Having not driven in heavy rain since my aqua planning incident last easter I was a little tentative but it soon came flooding (excuse the pun) back and by the end of the day I topped the times in the final wet session by over a second having come from nearly 2 seconds off Jamie Ortons first wet session time. I was second quickest in the first dry session so I wasn’t bothered that the forecast for Saturday was wet, and Sunday dry.
As it happened we ended up with an entirely dry race weekend from Caterham’s timetable. In between we had torrential downpours and had my team mate Simon Young wondering how much a close range weather station would cost (go for it Si…but I’m not paying..!). Most of the paddock probably has neck ache from gazing at the sky especially on Saturday. It wasn’t helped when we were called to the assembly area it started raining again, then got heavier and we actually made the decision to go wet setup when at the last minute the shout went up again it was clearing up so we left it dry which it was by the time we went out. Not what you really want as race preparation….
Of course, before the first race we had to qualify which was a largely uneventful affair apart from a front wing nearly flying off on my fastest lap. I didn’t go quite a quickly as I did in the dry session but it was good enough for P2 on the grid, with Mark Shaw taking his first pole position of the year. Jamie Orton was third with Simon Young in 4th. We were all separated by a tenth of a second…nothing really….If anything I was happier to be P2 than P1 with the way the grid is laid out you get a better run into the first corner which as it happened proved very accurate in both races. As the lights went out I made a good leap and rounded paddock in first and I could see Jamie getting stuck straight into Mark Shaw. I decided not to hang around and try and break them on the first few corners which as they were busy fighting each other I managed to do as I came round after lap 1 I had pulled an advantage of 1.5 seconds. From there I knew they were outside my tow and I could settle into try and making it into a test session which is exactly how it played out. The car felt really strong and I could push really hard and at one point I had the lead up to 6 seconds before I started coming up on back markers I ended up taking the chequered flag with a 4.5 second margin to Jamie Orton in second and J.J O’Malley with his first podium in R300’s. Both are previous multiple Brands Hatch winners so it was a great result and fantastic to get my second win of the year.
So, going back to grid positions I knew race 2 was going to be more difficult. This time I was starting from pole with Jamie next to me. He beat me off the line twice at Snetterton and I was determined it wasn’t going to be 3 in a row. I actually had a good jump although Jamie’s was slightly better he started to come over straight away to try and squeeze me. This would of made an interesting run into the first corner side by side when for some reason I fluffed my gear change into second momentarily and that was it, he was in front again. On the run up to druids I had DPR’s James MacLachlan all over my outside and for a second I thought he was going to try and go round the outside of me but he chose to settle into third. If at all possible I wanted to break the tow to the others as soon as possible and Jamie and I swopped the lead several times the first few laps but still there were 4 cars or more in the front pack. I’m not sure what lap it was but about 10 minutes in Jamie had the run on my down the outside of the start finish and I could see James also trying to capitalise as well. Jamie slotted in but was slightly compromised at paddock and under breaking up at druids I heard what I thought was locking brakes and the crunching of fibre glass from somewhere behind me. In these moments you almost brace for impact but at the same time you can’t spend your life looking behind, you just need to get on with it and fortunately this time it didn’t involve me. I’m not sure actually what went on behind me and everyone continued, but it was just enough that the pack behind had started fighting between themselves and let me get away and I didn’t need a second invitation. I managed to get the lead up to 3.5 seconds after a few laps but the tyres which had been spot on race one had pretty much given up the last of their life. Through westfield, the downhill off camber corner after Hawthorn’s the car was really washing out and I was 2 wheels off the track a lot more than I would liked where in race one it was drifting beautifully so I had to ease up. The clock was ticking down when the lead was down to 2.5 seconds but I could see they chasing pack was still in a group. I had a bit in reserve but was hoping they would start tripping over each other in the final few laps which they did and I took the flag again with a 3.5 second lead. My overnight lap record was beaten by Fauldsports Paul Brannan who had been making moves through the field all weekend taking a pair of 5ths but I can’t complain really. Still, 51 points from a possible 52 (25 points for a win and a point for fastest lap) is not a bad haul and takes me to the top of the table. J.J O’Malley who had threatened to go even better race 2 did that, pipping his team mate by 0.001 second on the finish line to grab second at the last possible moment and relegate Jamie to third.
Still, we are not even half way through the season and anything can and usually does happen……
The next round is the Caterham festival in Zandvoort on the weekend 9th/10th July. Should be fun!