2011 – RD9&10 Race Review
Rockingham is a bit like marmite, you love it or hate it. Personally I’ve always enjoyed the somewhat unique challenge it presents. Anti Clockwise, strange low grip surface, multiple lines, the bike link I enjoy it all. I went into the weekend feeling very prepared and from there it all sort of unravelled.
Things didn’t get off to a great start Friday, well they did everyone was flying. Lap Record was a 1.29.3 and in testing prior to the event I had managed 4 x 1.29.2’s in what felt very similar conditions to last years race. Straight out of the box on Friday the times tumbled into the 1.28’s but the car felt very loose and we’d planned to hardly touch the car at all we spent the day calming it down. Still, the times in each of the 4 sessions were okay, 2nd in FP1, dropping as low as 4th at FP3 and then at the end of the day we topped the time sheets in FP4 I still felt pretty confident for the race weekend.
Qualifying was where it started to go wrong. You really only get a couple of laps before the tyres over heat and my preferred route of not going out getting a tow this time back fired. I ended up P6, the first time all season off the front row behind Mark Shaw whose DPR car was working perfectly on the Corby circuit, however really it wasn’t about Mark or anyone other than Jamie Orton and he had stuck it on P2. Not the news I wanted.
Still, I planned on getting a good start and putting myself in the mix, and that was how it panned out. By the first corner was in front of the pole sitter Shaw whose customary poor starts continued. I was now tucked in behind Orton, Macmillan and Brannan. Those first few laps we were all bunched up, Andy Mac and Jamie getting very physical I was actually pretty happy where I was as I was sure either Andy or Jamie wouldn’t be seeing the finish. I got past Paul Brannan and set about getting involved with Andy and Jamie with Mark Shaw also now behind me. On the exit on turn 2 Jamie had rightly parked it on the apex and Andy Mac thought he would take a run round the outside and ended up on the grass giving me an easy run into 2nd place and right on Jamie’s bumper. I was in second for approximately 50 yards. Mark Shaw also fancied getting past Andy Mac which he managed but gave himself not enough space to slow down for turn 3. As I turned in Shaw came crashing into the side of me putting me off the track and pushing me down to 8th behind a lot of quick guys. Shaw was in 6th as a result. Determined to look after my tyres as best I could I spent the next 10-15 minutes picking my way past Jamie Ellwod, JJ O’Malley, Paul Fleury, Paul Brannan and then Andy Macmillan to put me in third place. Shaw had made quicker work of it than I could and was now leading the race comfortably or so I thought. Instead he had been given a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits, Jamie was leading and I was actually now in second place with 1 lap to go. As I rounded the banking for the final time Mark Shaw was now in my draft again and went down the outside of me into the very wide turn one. In hindsight he moved over to cover me trying to outbreak him, little did he realise my tyres were very hot and all of a sudden instead of having a nice clean line into the hairpin I had his car in front to contend with and I just couldn’t slow my car down enough and as we turned in my left front wheel connected with the rear of his car. Unfortunately for me this ripped the steering wheel round with my thumb caught inside it and I ran wide, dropping back to 7th and now in a lot of pain. The race had been hugely frustrating, then enjoyable and now frustrating and painful. Jamie had somehow kept his nose very clean and won his third race in a row…….
For race 2 I strapped my wrist up, took some pain killers, bolted on a set of new tyres as it was raining and went racing. No point giving up now. I’d never seen Rockingham in the wet but I’ve heard the stories. I actually really like the wet but I always take a session or two to get into it, learn the wet lines and then really push on. I think the majority of the grid had never seen Rockingham in the wet so I guess we were all in the same boat. From 7th I got a fantastic start and I was straight up behind Jamie Orton and Andy Macmillan. I’d planned on sitting there, watching Jamie for a lap or two to learn some lines and then see if I had enough pace to challenge him. That plan unravelled very quickly. Lap one and from third place I understeered straight off at what felt like walking pace around Tarzan, straight down to 8th or something. New plan required….attack. This was actually a lot of fun carving my way back up. I think I got back to 4th when I repeated my earlier trick and went off roading at Tarzan, and then to top it all, I did it again. 3 times off at Tarzan, although fortunately I managed to continue each time. From here it needed rescuing and I managed to get it back up to 6th place at the end of the race. The hand didn’t feel too bad although having to do a few big catches of the car made me wince quite a bit. In parc ferme instead of being called to the podium I was sent to the medical centre where the doctor suspected I’d broken my wrist and I needed to go to hospital for Xray’s. Jamie had wrapped up race 2 with a faultless drive and is looking odds on for the title now with 6 wins this year to my 3. To top it all 4 hours later my wrist is in plaster with 2 broken bones and my participation at Donington on the 24th/24th September very much in doubt.
All in all you could argue not a good weekend. The plus points are there if you look hard enough (you need to really look mind), the car is in one piece and didn’t miss a beat all weekend despite the abuse it suffered from others and indeed myself and the people behind me in the championship didn’t really take advantage, James Mac was behind me in race one, but managed third in race 2 so netted 2 points on me and Mark Shaw came 2nd in race one and spun off to a DNF race 2. The gap from 1st to 2nd is still closer than 2nd to third, but now Jamie is 12 points clear on dropped scores with 4 races to go. I’ve not worked out the maths but I suspect if I’m not out at Donington then its all over and Jamie will be R300 champion.
So, what are the chances of me being out racing at Donington? Well I had my first cast off on Friday and I was feeling pretty good about it. The swelling had gone down quite a bit and I have good movement in all my fingers and the thumb isn’t too bad. It is basically a sprained wrist. Unfortunately I’ve broken two bones and the one they are concerned about is the right trapezium and that the bone sets back correctly and for that I need a cast on for a few more weeks. How many is the question they can’t answer. I’ve been given 4 weeks healing time for that. However I also heard 2 weeks and 6 weeks mentioned. I left the hospital feeling pretty deflated on Friday as there were a lot of head shaking going on from Doctors and Consultants, but I am back at fracture clinic next friday for another review. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.