Friday, 23 October 2015

Silverstone Season Finale

Arriving early Saturday morning I found our section of the paddock was already full, with the many Caterham series having the luxury of the F1 pit garages. I had to get some drivers out of their motor home beds to help create space to squeeze us in, which was taken in good spirits!  

Once we unloaded the car, I had it safety scrutineered, which went fine and we got ready for qualifying. I had my first shock of the weekend when at the pre-track noise test, the tester announced I was way over the limit and would NOT be racing. The car in front had the same issue and we scratched our heads in disbelief (the Boxsters are very quiet compared to other cars). 

Without my knowledge the other cars then passed on re-testing (miraculously registering half the noise level previously measured). I had to battle my way passed the queue of Caterhams, missing half of qualifying before I too passed and headed out into track. 

With just two hot laps put in I was happy with a 1s improvement over last year and 8th place. 

Race 1 was after lunch and went well. I lost out a couple of places in the early laps but then gained them back. The balance of over and understeer was good and new front discs and brake pads (fitted after qualifying) along with a switch to our newer tyres were giving me great stopping power into the corners.
Track limits continued to be a problem with warning boards, for other drivers, posted by race control almost every lap.  Whilst I finished 8th on track a number of 5 and 10 second penalties elevated me to a great result of 6th. 

Race 2 was on Sunday lunchtime. It had rained overnight and whilst the temperature was rising through the morning there was still moisture in the air and clouds overhead. 

Watching the last Caterham race before lunch, a dry line was just appearing and I was hopeful for our race after the break. That was dashed when it started to rain consistently with a few minutes left and so we retreated to our pit to convert to a fully wet setup. 

Two green flag warm up laps let me assess which line to take through the corners (racing or an alternative wide line) on the way to the grid. The track was very wet, although it had just about stopped raining. 

I had a great start off the line, avoiding wheel spin; almost too good in fact, as I nearly hit the car in front and had to brake.  That lost me a few places, but the car felt very stable and over the next two laps I repassed several cars and was feeling very confident as I gained on the top 5. 

Coming into Vale on the 3rd lap I had my second big shock of the weekend when it hit the brake pedal and it locked solid without warning. I'd taken the same line and braking point as the previous laps.  Cars in front were spinning and taking avoiding action too, and I was approaching the corner way too fast. Reapplying the brakes I skewed the car around the corner, brakes now squealing loudly and tried and avoid the gravel, using the extra Tarmac run off.  I ended up a meter or so too far over and ploughed into the gravel catching the rear corner of the earlier spinner who was now lodged in the gravel.   Steam from the front radiator was the sign my race; and my season was over with the added embarrassment of causing the safety car to come out. 

Returning under tow to the pits a crowd gathered looking at the damage and we resigned ourselves to going home.

Drivers and other teams however quickly persuaded us to attempt the repair and multiple offers of help arrived. 
To the onlookers disbelief, and ours a patched up car rolled out for the final race just 2 hours later.  A huge effort all round and we are massively grateful to those who helped get the repairs done in record time. It didn't look pretty with an odd wing and tape masking a huge hole the broken bumpe. 

Race 3. 
We finished bleeding the coolant system as I drove up to the assembly area. 

Starting 13th, last in class I held back a little, wanting to avoid any shenanigans caused by the reverse grid and once it settled down I was able to gain several places with overtake moves and drivers making mistakes under pressure.  My hastily applied dry setup with stiff roll bars and suspension all round was working well and giving me a lot of confidence.  

I got up to a mighty battle for 4th-6th place with a 987 spec boxster.  The more powerful car stretching out a lead down the long hangar straight and me closing and attempting to pass into the slower corners.  I was faster overall, and after a few attempts managed to get alongside and nose in front, but couldn't hold it.  It got a bit hairy in the closing laps as rain started so settled for another 6th place. 
Whilst on lap times I could have managed 4th, 6th was a amazing, and a absolute high to end the season on.