2012 – RD5&6 Donington GP Race Review
Donington is without doubt one of the best circuits in the UK. Fact. There is nothing else like driving flat out down the craner curvers in 6th getting it absolutely spot on and it never fails to make me smile. RD3 of this years championship was held on the GP loop, which if you listened to half the paddock is a bad choice as all it is is a chicane and 2 hairpins. Utter rubbish, the Melbourne loop is a challenge for any car and any driver and Goddards when approached uphill from Melbourne is off camber and very difficult to get right lap in lap out. Definitely separates the men from the boys. Being fortunate enough to get pole and both race wins last year and coming off the back of defeat at Oulton to my team mate Mark I was eager to make sure the car was 100% and we could fight for victories again.
The guys at DPR had worked tirelessly to get the gearbox problem sorted (as it was far from straight forward) and come the Friday test day the car was back to its old self and setting good consistent times. As we moved into qualifying I didn’t really have a concrete plan, normally I start from the back but by chance ended up in quite a good place and ran in the middle of the pack. A quick time early on in the session as a banker had me comfortably on pole which meant you don’t have to take every lap, instead you can pick and choose which cars to tow although the only problem with that strategy is you need to be able to overtake at the right time as getting a tow works for some of the lap, but waiting behind in the corners is no good at all! Still, we managed to put another couple of quick laps in and in the end took pole by 0.5 second, a country mile by normal standards! (last year at Brands GP 3 cars were in the same tenth!)
Race one I had a very good feeling about, the car felt very strong even on the green flag lap and knew if I could get the start and make turn one then we would do craners flat and try and brake the tow straight away. As it happens, that was that. The start was good and we were in the lead going down craners. The car slowed down nicely for a great drive out of the old hairpin and already Mark Shaw, James Sharrock and Ian Payne had started swopping places and my escape was made good. At the end of lap 1 the lead was already 1.8 seconds and as they continued to race each other behind the lead went up to 11 seconds by mid race. At which point it is probably best to start looking after the car. The pit board was telling me we had fastest lap so stop flat shifting and pushing the car and just bring it home sensibly. The gap dropped to 9 seconds at the flag with Ian Payne getting his first runners up spot in R300’s having managed to shed the attentions of my team mate Mark Shaw and old nemesis James Sharrock picking up his first podium of the season on his return to R300’s.
As we formed for the start of race 2 the others would no doubt have plans to make sure race one wasn’t repeated…..it worked! We were held for a long time on the red light and Ian made a jump start, stopped, got pointed at by the starter who then turned the lights out. All in all, a bit distracting and being a bit miffed that I was now technically starting a car lengths behind got jumped by not only Ian but Mark and James as well. Strange as it may seem I was really looking forward to this duel, the pace in the car was there so it was time to get down to some wheel to wheel racing. As we went through the chicane on to the GP loop lap 1 I had a much better run on James and took third behind Mark with Ian Payne still leading the race but as we crossed the line for the first time Shaw made his move on Payne and took the the lead. A 30 minute race is a long time and its often very difficult to break away, but that said I wanted to get to the front as quickly as possible, but at the same time there is no point doing anything stupid. No opportunities presented themselves during lap 2 but as we crossed the line the safety car came out followed by the red lights with 3 cars blocking the track at the chicane. As we reformed on the grid I got a surprise, reforming the original grid and back on pole for a second chance! I felt a bit bad for Mark who had done well to get to the front, but still you don’t knock a gift horse.
The restart was much better and we rounded redgate first but there was to be no easy escape. Instead for several laps the top 4 cars were glued nose to tail. I don’t mind not leading in these circumstances, but I certainly prefer to be at the front. Racing like this is difficult because you are torn between driving defensively, and yet mindful that it is a slow way to drive the track leaving you open to attack. After a few laps of this I thought I would see if they were trying to follow me and shake the others, or race so I took the normal line down the start finish….straight away Ian Payne took the tow and invitation and overtook me for the lead, with the others now right on my gearbox. The best thing to do was retake the position as quickly as possible so out of old hairpin the drive was very good drive and whilst Payne was still turning the car left up through starkeys bridge my car was already turned and lined up to out drag him up to Schwanz curve and Mcleans and I was back in the lead and back to driving defensively again.
A few more laps passed with lots of offline defensive driving, it was good fun although Dad was ageing on the pitwall by a few years. We were mid race when the chance came to get away. The line was a little deep out of melbourne loop and Ian who was sticking to the rear end of my car fancied a run up the outside to Goddards. Sharrock who was behind Ian immediately jumped into my tow and whilst Ian and I were side by side under braking James would have the inside line behind me. All of these antics slowed the pair of them down and actually gave my team mate Mark Shaw the run on both of them down the start finish straight. Either way James overtaking Ian had given me 0.5 second and most importantly the opportunity to bang in a couple of laps absolutely flat out. Instantly you can use the full track and as I looked in my mirrors coming out of Redgate you could see they were embroiled in a fight and that was that. Within a few laps the lead was 6 seconds, the chequered flag out and we had managed to grab the illusive second fastest lap and extra point as well. Mark successfully held onto second and a mighty tussle between James Sharrock and Ian Payne saw Payne victorious for the last podium slot.
Whilst the results have gone my way recently I certainly have no expectations that will continue and for sure the others will want to come back and take their turn on the top step. My plans won’t change and we will be giving it everything at Brands GP on the 23rd/24th June!
Posted on May 21, 2012, in Caterham, DPR Motorsport, Motorsport, Photography and tagged Caterham, Donington GP, Ian Payne, James Sharrock, Mark Shaw, Paul Wilson, R300, Race. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.