What a weekend that was! We had a great start to the weekend with fifth best time in the second practice session and there was optimism going into qualifying, but I struggled to find track space to hook up a decent lap time. In addition, the field was so closely-matched that the cars were split by thousandths of a second, meaning that although my best lap was only half a second away from pole, it still put me 24th on the grid for the opening 22-lap race.
However I had a terrific race. From 24th I shot up from the back of the grid and was 18th at the end of the opening lap. From then on, in damp conditions, I steadily picked off cars with ease and was a fantastic eighth at the end of the race, meaning I had made up 16 places to win Dunlop’s Forever Forward award to reward drivers for overtaking! I had intended to do even better, but for a late-race stoppage after a three-car smash at Becketts Corner that brought the race to an early close.
The car felt brilliant, the conditions helped actually, because when the drizzle came it made the track quite slippery, the car was quite loose and I really felt comfortable! It was a bit like my oval racing days on difficult surfaces. When your confidence is there it becomes easier and I just kept pushing — the car got faster and it was a great feeling to have a good car underneath me.
Started eighth on the grid for race two and made a great start; very quickly I was up to sixth, then disaster! A driveshaft broke and pitched the car off the road. I had to limp to the pit lane and retirement meaning that I was forced to start race three at the back of the grid again… It was really annoying; I had made a good start, gained some places and thought I would bide my time and start to plan my attack. And then out of nowhere, the driveshaft let go and that was that — no warning and just a string of “what ifs”?
In race three, starting 29th, I avoided most of the early-race mayhem at Luffield Corner but still got clobbered by the pack, which tweaked the left front geometry forcing the car to handle badly. Worse was to come when the safety car was deployed and the pack bunched up and I was hit again by a car behind! That put my left-rear wheel out of line so the car was a real handful for the remaining laps, but I kept pushing and kept passing!
By the end of the 25-lap race, I was up to 14th, a gain of 15 places meaning that over the weekend I had passed over 30 cars in my two full races, winning the Most Improved Independent Driver Award from Dunlop. To make up over 30 places in the races can’t be all bad, but who knows what might have been if the driveshaft hadn’t let go? The car in race three was on the regulation harder tyre and that wasn’t easy, especially when the handling was knocked out of line, so it was a tough race but enjoyable to make such good progress up the order. The race pace was brilliant so I am really positive about the weekend as a whole and if we can carry that on to Brands Hatch, we should end the season with great results. I enjoyed that winning feeling at Donington back in April and I’d like it again before the winter break, so we are going to Brands Hatch in optimistic mood.