2012 – RD7&8 Snetterton 200 Race Review
Time flies and I have been guilty of not keeping the website up to date. Work and family have kept me more than busy the last couple of weeks but its probably a good time to reflect on RD6 from Snetterton at the start of September.
From the time the calendar was announced this was the event we were least looking forward to. The 200 layout is the closest to the old Snetterton layout and the long straights promote pack racing and the potential for contact. Already carrying a zero from a DNF at Brands GP it was very unlikely the championship could be won at Snetterton but poor choices, or bad results could certainly throw a very big spanner if you harbour ambitions to win it. The plan therefore a simple one, leave Norfolk behind with the championship gap (on dropped scores 12 points) the same.
As it went the weekend went very much to plan for the most part. Testing both the DPR cars were very quick without tows and we looked to be very strong going into qualifying. For some reason, positioning, traffic the lap never really materialised and we qualified 3rd, the worst position of the season and team mate Mark Shaw 5th. Still it was Mark who is our closest challenger so the first objective had been achieved. Ian Payne had scored his first pole position of the season and Stuart Simpson lined up second.
All of this proved irrelevant as long term adversary James Sharrock got a belter off the start from P4 to round the first corner in the lead place. The start, which was good (albeit not as good as James) was blocked by Ian and Stuart holding position back in 4th.
At the end of the first lap we passed Simpson at Riches to make third and a lap later with Payne displacing Sharrock at the front passed James at the same corner when he made a mistake and ran wide.
One of the keys to racing in a pack is to not slow each other down; you don’t have to take every overtake that is available, some very wise words Simon Mason passed onto me back in 2008. Whilst others were going for last minute lunges at Murrays I tried to get past Ian where it would hurt us both the least. The first attempt didn’t quite come off; down the Bentley straight I had my nose in front but with both of us on the limiter in 6th it was stale mate until the braking zone. We both got under the bridge but my car was very offline and consequently slow out of the right hander Payne was straight back past. It took another lap to get into position again and carrying a lot more speed through Riches Payne was forced to go defensive into Melbourne. The plan was to actually compromise his entry speed in making it a lot easier down the straight but I had an unexpected bonus when Ian lost the car under braking for Melbourne offline and ran very wide. When I came out the other side and onto the Bentley straight all of a sudden there was a 2 second lead and most importantly the tow was broken. A lot had happened in about 8 minutes of racing.
The rest of the race was about managing the gap and looking after the car and more importantly tyres. The race finished without incident and we took our 7th win from 11 races. With Ian second and Flick Haigh scoring her first podium of the year the lead had extended in the championship.
The one slight fly in the ointment was front tyres. Having declared on 12 tyres (from a possible 20) and actually raced on only 10 my front tyres had covered Donington, Brands, Nurburgring and now Snetterton. To say they looked second hand was an understatement. The decision was mine; I didn’t want to use additional sets of tyres before Rockingham and already in race one we were unable to push as hard as we did in testing. Race 2 was going to be interesting…..
The first ten minutes of Race 2 were pretty good. With a great start we led the pack with Sharrock a close second before the safety car came out. Having never done safety car restarts as the lead car I’ve now done 2 in successive meetings. I chose to use the same formula I stumbled into in Germany. Surprise yourself and you should surprise the others……. the restart was good and we led the next few laps at one point getting the lead up to 1 second. However the car was not biting at the front end and the pace was not strong, not strong enough to properly break the tow. When Ian made it into second place it only took a lap or two for him to catch and pass me. For several laps we exchanged the lead until we went three wide into Riches. On the outside the speed was compromised and in the blink of an eye went from 2nd to 7th…….
Probably on any other track or any other day that would be signalled an attempt to charge back up the pack but to be honest the tyres were not going support the effort and secondly there was Anderson, Balon, Sharrock and Haigh all sniffing out a podium whilst Mark Shaw and Ian Payne battled for the win, settling for a solid finish seemed a very sensible idea. Anderson ran wide at Murrays on the same lap to give us 6th and we settled in behind Adam Balon for the remaining 5 laps or so. It was a great race to watch, wondering what was going to happen and with clear track behind didn’t need to worry about getting taken out by an ambitious move. The last lap came and going under the bridge for the last time the Fauldsport cars of Haigh and Sharrock touch sending them both off rejoining right in front of me. Navigating around the pair of them reminded me why I had chosen not to embroil myself in the battle although both cars still finished. With Mark pushing Ian for the win into the last corner I had visions of a Balon victory and a runner up spot but they both made it through the final corner giving Ian his third victory of the season. With Shaw second and Balon his first podium 32 crossed the line in 4th place. It felt like a victory!
Whilst Mark and Ian had clawed a couple of points back (they now tie on dropped scores for second place) the lead has edged out to 14 points with 2 races to go.
Rockingham, the season decider is a fortnight away……