OK, a couple of races at Snetterton to kick off the Caterham Roadsport championship. This weekend was only the 4th time on track with the car in Roadsport spec.
Having had excellent tuition with the fantastic Adriano Medeiros on the Tuesday, my times were in the 2:18s, somewhat off the pace for a Roadsport, so I was pleased to see these come down in Friday testing, and ultimately my fastest lap was my quali lap on the Saturday with a 2:15, so you can’t ask for much more really.
After coming out of the Academy as 5th fastest in my group, to find myself sitting P11 on the grid at Snetterton was about right, now that the two groups were merged. The 10 ahead of me certainly deserved to be there, and there were a few further down that probably should have been further up as well.
I got a poor start in both races, but in race 1 scrapped my way back up into respectable numbers, before struggling with the tyres. Over driving out of frustration didn’t help, and I dropped back. Still, started 11th, finished 10th. Can’t be too unhappy.
The second race was a different affair. A similarly poor start, followed by a processional first half, ultimately picking u p some debris which punctured my radiator. Unaware of the leaking coolant, I found my tyres losing grip again, but this time it was so bad I thought I must have a puncture. Hanging on to the circuit was a mission, and I was pleased to just finish, including a last minute lung under the bridge to salvage 20th on the last lap.
Video footage below, for those of you with 40 mins to spare…. 🙂
The second, and last, sprint. After reflecting on Aintree for a month, I went in with a different approach. We were only afforded a single practice run and two timed runs. With two hours in between each run, I put my previous experience to work.
I used my practice run as just that, drove it at seven tenths, looking for all the apexes and made sure it was all on film. Equipped with laptop and 230V inverter, I spent the next two hours revisiting the footage, to etch it into my brain.
When I went for my first timed run, it was more familiar, and I was pleased to put in a 68.86, which left me sitting fourth. My second run wasn’t so good however, and knowing that I’d fluffed it, I show-boated for the crowd and called it a day. It was frustrating to watch a couple of faster times come through, and see myself slip down to sixth, but I came away a lot happier, knowing that I’d done everything I could, and that the “system” had worked for me.
For a very brief moment, I thought “I could get into sprinting…..” But with wheel to wheel racing just 4 weeks away, it didn’t last long.
So, this is it. The first competition points available. It’s sprinting, which is not really what any of us signed up for, but a good way of breaking would-be racing drivers into the season. Aintree is, essentially, just 3 corners, with a reasonable straight between each. The benefit is that fluffing one corner doesn’t need to dramatically ruin your entry to the next, aside from the loss of speed.
Sprinting is clearly a very particular discipline, and one that I didn’t appear to get homed in on at Aintree.
There were two practice runs, and three timed runs, and it was difficult to know what to do between them. The advice I had been given was to visualise the run, but being unfamiliar with the course, this was hard to do.
One of my mistakes was to not treat the practice runs as just that. The temptation to really go for it on the first attempt is huge, and I succumbed. As a result I overcooked the first corner and took it broadside. I kept it on the black stuff and had plenty of time to regain composure for the next two corners.
Of the timed runs, I put in a 54:39, which was a good banker, but I couldn’t improve on it. On my last run I repeated the mistake of the first practice run and drifted the first corner. Even so, a 54:41 was recorded. I’ve wondered ever since what my time would have been without stuffing up that first corner.
I came away with 8th and a sense that I could have done better, if I’d had a better idea of how to approach sprinting……..
Included in the Caterham package, is a test day. This was the first chance to get the car on a circuit. A good opportunity to get a feel for it, and to actually do some “testing”. There’s not a lot you can play with within the regs, but tyre pressures and geometry are options, so we played with pressures. The car is great to play with on track, and incredibly engaging and raw. 125BHP goes a long way in something the size of a roller skate! As fun as it is to drive on the road, a motor racing circuit lets you really explore it.
We were blessed with ideal weather conditions, and split into grouped sessions. Being reasonably familiar with Castle Combe, the day was really focused on getting familiarised with the car on circuit. Without the grunt and rockhard suspension of the MX5, carrying speed is key, as well as smoothness. Both skills that need to be developed and worked on!
The first taste of competition. Caterham lay on a day where competitors get some tuition in standing starts, and chucking the cars around some cones, as well as a taste of scrutineering.
Held at Donington circuit, the first half of the day is spent in groups focusing on the different disciplines, with the latter part of the day in a small sprint competition around a course laid out with cones.
Although it doesn’t count towards the series, I was overjoyed to come third, and have a taste of the podium!
One of the things that people have asked is “How do you inform the DVLA of an engine change?”
I’ve heard various tales of the DVLA not being convinced and extra evidence having to be produced, but my experience was surprisingly easy. Now, I only have my experience to base all this on, and I suspect that there’s an element of luck involved as well, but I sent the following letter to the DVLA, along with all the documents identified therein.
“I am writing to you to notify you of a change in engine size to my Mazda MX-5, registration Jxxx xxU. The engine was sourced from a Lexus LS400, registration Sxxx xxU.
Please find enclosed:
The V5 for Jxxx xxU, with section 7 completed to reflect the change in engine.
A photocopy of the receipt for the purchase of Sxxx xxU.
A photocopy of the V5 I held for Sxxx xxU, prior to disposal of the vehicle after removing the engine.
A photocopy of section 9 of the V5 for Sxxx xxU, showing the transfer of the vehicle to a dismantler
A certificate of destruction for Sxxx xxU
Confirmation from the DVLA of the transfer of Sxxx xxU
To be a racing driver, you need a race licence! And that’s what this day was all about. By this point Caterham have done a great job of instilling all the information required to pass. In principle, all that is now required is to sit an exam (including questions on flags – for which there is no room for error!), and to drive an instructor round Castle Combe circuit without throwing it off the tarmac.
The day was split into four quarters, with groups rotating through four activities. As well as the written exam and the driving assessment, Caterham had also arranged a session on the skid pan, as well as instruction on preparing the car for competition.
The final piece of the jigsaw has arrived. Genuinely impressed with the service received from AWS Racewear http://www.advanced-wear.co.uk From start to finish, from the first phone call, to fitting, design, and final delivery and quality of the suit, everything has been to notch. Yet the suit was still cheaper than many off the shelf, generic sized suits.
So, here it is. Finally pulled a finger out and put the final edit together, including my whining every 60 minutes.
The challenge had been to get it built in 24hrs, a target that was missed by 8 hours! In our defence there were a few “creative” entries in the build manual, as well as an engine mount that was simply not right (see below). Also, having a diff dropped on you from 5 feet does quite a bit to dent your enthusiasm! 😀