Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Podium highs at Silverstone

After Donington we were replacing the front brake discs and pads and found we had lost a front anti-roll-bar drop link at some point over the weekend.  This is undoubtedly why it felt like I had to arm wrestle the car around the corners and had erratic lap times in the later races.  

A quick email to RND Motorsport and they promptly sent me a replacement which we fitted a few days before Silverstone - phew!

This weekend we welcomed a new sponsor for us Porsche Heaven, who run a Porsche parts business in Doncaster. Our partnership will allow Porsche Heaven to become more visible to competitors and also give us some needed help towards the costs of racing.

We arrived at Silverstone at 7am on the Saturday morning after a very early wake-up alarm. We unloaded and setup into the grand F1 pit garages at the "Wing" complex.  The garages were packed with ALL the other competitor's cars already setup from Friday's testing.  The competitors themselves were all asleep in their motor homes!  

There was an early 30min free practice session for Mazdas which I managed to get into and this gave us a bit of time on track to get the feel of the car setup.   I had to come in after just a couple of laps to fix a loose suspension mount which was knocking.  A quick diagnosis, wheels off and back on and I was back out with time for a few laps at the end of the session. 

The car felt great compared to Donington, easy to turn into the corners but still with a touch too much over-steer, which we'd want to adjust out before qualifying.    

Pit garages a hive of activity preparing for race 1
Championship winner Rick Styrin set me a target time in the morning qualifying  (1m 17.5) which I got within 0.1s of straight away.  I matched this lap several times but wasn't able to better it, qualifying 4th on the grid. 

This is becoming a more familiar position on the outside of row 2 for me as I started every race at Donington there.

Race 1 - Saturday PM
I nearly didn't make it to the grid!  The call to the the assembly area came and I turned the key in the ignition and to my disbelief it wouldn't  start.  The engine turned over fast enough but it refused to fire and pumping the accelerator furiously didn't help either.   Within a minute or two I was the only car remaining in the pit garages.  We checked the battery, key, recycled the power - all to no avail.  "See if it bump starts" was the suggestion" - and after a couple of attempts it did!  

Diagnosis afterwards was a failing race battery which provided enough volts to turn the starter, but not enough to to trigger the fuel pump relay. 
On the grid, green flag lap completed and with my heart rate now recovered, I used more revs at the start (do not stall!) and maintained my position off the line and into the first corner. The first two laps were hectic with cars trying to overtake at any opportunity running wide, getting sideways.  I gained a place at the end of the first lap and nearly made a move into 2nd place stick.  I kept my head, stayed on my line and found myself still in 3rd place pulling away from the pack behind with some very fast for me, early laps. 

I couldn't match the pace of the front row who qualified a second per lap faster, but I was clear in 3rd.  At this point you just want the chequered flag - but I knew there was still  lots of laps to run and just set about trying to be smooth and consistent.  It's far more difficult than you think and I had plenty of errors.  As the race progressed the cars behind were definitely closing in (admitting later they formed a pact to catch me and stop fighting each other). They got with in second as lapped cars didn't fall my way and I needed a calm couple of laps to re-establish the gap. Resolutely I held my nerve for a first ever podium finish since we stated back in 2102. 

Holding my nerve ad maintaining the gap

It's a shock all of sudden being interviewed by both AJK TV for the TV program and the Downforce Radio team providing the circuit live commentary that day.  I made sure they knew we run as a father and son privateer team and beating more established racers was quite special for me.  With friends and family there to watch it was a great feeling to have some tangible success after all the hard work.