Rockingham held good memories for me from 2014 so I was especially looking forward to the weekend. As usual, to keep costs down, I did not do any Testing as I was already familiar with the circuit. Although, it’s fair to point out that Testing is not purely for learning the circuit as this can be achieved relatively quickly (within 10 laps). It’s more for understanding the conditions of the track, honing the racing line and judging the correct braking points. Practise as they say makes perfect and it’s even more true in Motor Racing. But unfortunately Budgets need to be adhered to.
I decided that the focus of the weekend would be to look after the brakes and ensuring they last the distance. This has become a critical issue for me and I needed to address it.
Qualification did not go so well. Unfortunately, I was stuck behind new Class A Boxter driver Jason Yates who typically for a Boxter was very slow through the twisty stuff and fast on the straights. I could not put together a clean run until the last lap which placed me fifth on the grid with a time of 1:52.025. This is again a lesson that I need to learn to be a little bit more aggressive in qualifying and be on it from the first few laps. Too often I take my time in Qualifying trying to find a gap and it’s not paying dividends.
Regardless, I did feel that there was at least 3 or 4 seconds left in the car especially as Pole man Adam Croft recording a scorching time of 1:47.389. He did do some Testing on the Friday. Food for thought…
Race 1 proved to be quite an exciting race. I got a good start but got blocked off by Philip Waters on the oval which made me lose momentum and dropped me back. In hindsight, I should have gone high instead of low. Regardless, I concentrated on getting back up the field, first by passing Waters at Tarzan (03:50) and then Warren on the very next corner (04:10) .
There was quite a big gap to the front pack after that and it took me a couple of laps to reach the back of Rossin before I also passed him into Turn 1 (08:25). Next up was Alastair Kirkham but then a safety car was called out as Nick Hull spun into the gravel out of Cascades (09:22) which lost me a few laps.
After the safety car pulled in, I tried all I could to pass Kirkham for the final podium place including having a massive lock up into Turn 1 (10:08) and an attempt at an outside pass at Brook chicane (11:21), neither of which worked. Then we both passed Piesinger on the last lap as he had a problem (13:04) and so I ended up on the podium anyway.
My first podium of 2015. Happy days.
Again in Race 2, I had a decent start but got out braked by Kirkham into Turn 1 (0:53) and then I had Piesinger filling my rear view mirror from there onwards. I was determined to keep him behind me (unlike in Race 1) and set my car up to be very hard to pass and at the same time tried to not allow Kirkham and Rossin to get away. Not easy to do.
You can tell a lot from a car’s body language and it was clear to me that Piesinger was trying very hard but he couldn’t get past. The art of defending is something every racing driver needs to know and I was certainly being made to work very hard. I was thoroughly enjoying it and keeping cool which was quite difficult to do.
Piesinger even tried a late dive into Tarzan (07:30) but I went for the undercut and retained fourth position. A couple of laps later as all four cars are heading into Turn 1, I could see him lining up for a move on the outside so I cover the inside. However, Piesinger goes for the dummy and cuts back on the inside (10:10) but only succeeds in making contact with me and punting me off. This earned him a DQ for the race and I ended finishing fourth after the re-classification.
A disappointing way to end the race.
Race 3 was the reverse grid which I was looking forward to especially as a good start often means you end leading the race! However, this was scuppered very early on (0:24) by Lynda Warren who had not lined up on the grid correctly. This meant that if I got a good start and she didn’t, there was a very high chance of contact after launch. This really put me off and not surprisingly, my start was rubbish.
I was fifth at Turn 1 and chasing Karl Rossin with none other than double race winner Adam Croft inches from my rear bumper. Great! Somehow, I managed to keep him behind after he gets a very good run on me through Cascades (03:45).
Up ahead, Piesinger had a big lead with Warren holding off Kirkham with Rossin was ahead of me. On the next lap, I pass Rossin (04:50) and I could see that Kirkham was being held up badly by Warren. I got good traction coming out of Tarzan and coming up to Brook chicane, I made my move on Kirkham (06:50) but out-braked myself and the wheels locked. Unfortunately, where normally a lock-up might mean running wide and into gravel or grass, on this occasion I slammed straight into the side of Warren and knocked her straight out of the race with rear suspension damage.
The front end of my car wasn’t too pretty either as you can imagine but I managed to finish the race regardless. Inevitably I was called up to the Clerk’s office and was disqualified. Naturally, I apologised to Lynda straight away.
It’s never in a racer’s mind to make contact with other competitors but in the heat of the battle, these kind of things happen. A simple mistake ends up costing in terms of money, reputation and a big dent in confidence.
However, if there’s anything that I have learnt during racing is that it’s very important to deal with things quickly and decisively. Having my family there helped to take my mind off things. I’ve now moved on.
In a reversal of fortunes from Oulton Park, the weekend went from good to really bad! It would be nice to just have a nice weekend all over for once. However, I have to concentrate on the positives and my first podium of the season is certainly something to build on. The other was that my brakes held up which was nice.
Next stop: Zandvoort in the Netherlands. My first overseas trip. But first the car has to be fixed. Yikes!