We decided to race at a new track this year, in Caslte Combe in Wiltshire.
Having never been there, let alone driven the track before we opted for the Friday track day to get some practice in.
It felt as through the entire weekend race community had taken the same approach so the track day was well over subscribed and track time was severely limited.
That said we managed a passenger ride in an instructor car, followed by 4 good 15minute sessions.
I try to take a methodical approach when time is short like this, first focusing in learning the track corners, then gear changes, then braking and corner turn in points. Helped by the track day marker cones we improved from ~10 seconds per lap off the pace to just a couple of seconds down on the fastest Porsche’s in our final session. This was a fantastic achievement.
The track is flat, bumpy and fast, but rewards bravery on the brakes and getting your foot on the gas early out of the corners. With speeds averaging over 80mph it is the fastest track we visit. The outside walls and barriers are intimidating though, and a wheel on the grass can easily send you straight into them with no gravel traps to slow you on route.
Race day and we decided to qualify on new tyres which we had been saving. The temperature was already high at 10am and all the track day cones which I’d learned yesrtday had been take away!
I qualified P6 unable to improve on a early time, just a little slower than the previous afternoon. In hindsight the (relatively) deep tread heated up too quickly and hampered our performance rather than adding grip.
I got away reasonably and was comfortable folllowng the front cars, staying a little back to avoid any incidents. Over a frew laps cars tagged each other and went off, leaving me in a clear fight for third place. I followed a great pass out of the last corner with my fastest laps of the weekend - resolute not to let go of the podium place. However with just a couple of laps to go I was too eager on the gas out of the chicane tand got sideways into a huge tank-slapper. I eventually gathered it together, but the car behind needed to brake to avoid me and ended up spinning.
The podium was well earned despite a tinge of regret for the damaged co-racers car. It happens, is nobody’s fault, has happened to us previously and will again no doubt.
Sunday morning we made no changes to the car and again I was lapping reasonably when there was an almighty crash, with a car going straight into the tyre wall and ending up on its roof. The race was promptly red flagged just 6 minutes in.
The high temperatures in the afternoon caught up with our tyres and I struggled to lap consistently after dropping back from the lead trio. Having had one trip across the grass, I brought the car home safely in 4th place for a second damage free weekend in a row.
Overall is was a good weekend in nice surroundings as the paddock has some shady grass areas where we were based. Learning a new track and getting on the podium is a fantastic achievement. The TCR series brings a step up to the paddock with more professional race teams and the extra media coverage was great. Live streams of our Sunday races were particularly well received.
However several cars were practically written off over the weekend across the various classes racing and whilst the viewing for spectators is excellent and there is a huge local turn out. it feels like a very risky place to race in future unless they make some safely improvements.