Saturday, 2 December 2017

2017 Caterham Motorsport Awards

This evening was the 2017 Caterham Motorsport Awards where all the podium finishers (of every championship) received their season trophies.

It was a great venue, the food was fantastic and there were hundreds of drivers all having a good time.  No doubt there were plenty of sore heads in the morning!

Here's a video Charlotte (my girlfriend) took of me collecting the winners trophy, and of course I had to give her a mention when I was on the top step ☺

Joining me on the podium was James Murphy (who finished p2) and Toby Clowes (who finished p3).

I'm already looking forward to xmas, then getting back onto the testing scene early next year, with the race season kicking off at Snetteron 300 on 14th April 2018.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Silverstone International - Round Seven - 4th Place and Trophy Race - 2nd Place

Having finished in first place at Rockingham at the previous round, I was in a fortunate position which meant that utilising drop scores, I had already won the 'Green Group 2017 Caterham Academy Championship'. 

What I didn't realise is that the if I had an collision at Silverstone that was deemed my fault, I could be awarded a penalty and you cannot 'drop' a penalised round (you are allowed to drop one round out of the seven races), which could potentially mean I'd lose the Championship!  So with this in mind, I could either sit out of the race, or race (which I did); but I had to drive in a different manner and back out of situations I usually wouldn't.  To make matters worse there wasn't a last lap board, so didn't defend on the hangar straight handing second place to Neil Fraser, and then into Vale and Club - handing another place, and the final podium position to Toby Clowes - oh well, another lesson to learn.  I eventually finished fourth which was my worst circuit race result of the year. 

Video below:-

There was a paddock party hosted by Caterham on the Saturday night, and myself and Andy Morgan (who won the White Group) certainly 'enjoyed ourselves' with all the food and drinks that were on offer!  

The Caterham Academy Autumn Trophy Race
The Trophy Race had been over-subscribed which meant the grid was too large for everyone to race, so instead of qualifying in the morning and the race in the afternoon, the grids were based on all odd placed championship finishers in race one and all even placed championship winners in race two (in the afternoon!).  This meant Andy and I lined up at 10am on the front row of the grid, with hangovers from hell!

Was a great race, and I could race more like I normally would (without the thought of a penalty ruining my championship), so led for three (or so) laps, got mugged down the hangar straight due to the massive tow effect, slipped to around eight place, then clawed it all back, and nearly snatching the lead at Stowe corner on the final lap, but I went in a bit too deep, so had to settle for second place.

Video here:-

So that's it - the 2017 Caterham Academy Season is finished!  What an utterly fantastic thing to do - there were ups and downs (fortunately more ups for me, than downs) but wow - what a year.  If anyone is remotely considering entering, don't waste another minute - just sign up as it'll be well up there with one of the best things you'll ever do.

What's next?  
Well of course with something as addictive as racing cars, the only thing to do is another season - the 2018 Roadsport Championship!  So with that in mind, my car was booked in for the Roadsport upgrades and collected after Silverstone weekend.  More to follow.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Rockingham ISSC - Round Six - 1st Place and Championship Win!

Last weekend was 'potentially' the big one for me and Andy Morgan (who's leading the white group).  Andy and I have been friends for quite a few years, and we both signed up for the 2017 Caterham Academy together, but didn't want to race each other in the first year, so decided to do our thing in separate groups.

Qualifying was late in the afternoon Saturday (16th September 2017), with my race the next day on Sunday (17th September) at 14:50.  The heavens opened before qualifying which meant that it was in pretty much torrential rain conditions (which I'm a big fan of) and I managed to qualify on pole with a time of 2.09.256 which was 4.3 seconds faster than Matt Sheppard in 2nd place.

Having dried off, Sunday was a case of waiting around until the time came to race!
Waiting around in the paddock
Waiting around in the paddock
Unfortunately for Andy Morgan, some of the waiting around involved watching his race, where he went off at the first hairpin corner into the tyre barrier - ending his race.  This shook me up a bit, as I didn't want to do the same!

Onto the Race:-
Luckily I got a decent start and defended well into the first corner with no mistakes, but the pack was close!
Start of the race after the first hairpin - the pack was close
Start of the race after the first hairpin - the pack was close
I managed to build a bit of a gap over the first two laps, but with the tow being so strong (7mph down the straight).  James Murphy closed the gap, and we swapped places for the lead a few times - then half way through the race and during the battle, Graham Macdonald clipped my rear corner (7 minutes 40 secs in the video below) which caused an instant handling problem (massive over-steer into left handed corners and under-steer into right's)... I really struggled to keep up with James with the balance problem, but using the tow to my advantage, I managed to keep him close enough to have a shot at the win towards the end of the race.

Here's the on-board race video:-

And I did it!  yyyyeeaaaahhhh!!! on the last lap, I forced James into an error and nipped up the inside at Yentwood corner.  James defended extremely well, and came back at me into Kirby, and we had a very small contact, but that was just good close racing.  The win means that I've secured the (green group) 2017 Caterham Academy Championship, with a race in hand, so I was naturally delighted!
Daniel French after winning the 2017 Caterham Academy Championship (green group)
Daniel French after winning the 2017 Caterham Academy Championship (green group)
After the race the top three finishers (on televised events) get interviewed, which is a bit nerve wracking making sure you say the right thing!  The race is televised on sky channel 447 Motors TV this Saturday (23rd September) at 20:00.
Getting interviewed for the TV coverage on Motors TV
Getting interviewed for the TV coverage on Motors TV
The podium - (l-r) Graham Macdonald (p3), yours truly (p1), and James Murphy (p2).
The podium - (l-r) Graham Macdonald (p3), yours truly (p1), and James Murphy (p2).
The podium - (l-r) Graham Macdonald (p3), yours truly (p1), and James Murphy (p2).
And then time to thank my girlfriend (Charlotte) and my family (all sporting Daniel caps I may add ☺) for coming and supporting me through my life-long dream of participating in motorsport.
Hugs and kisses to Charlotte and the family :-)
Hugs and kisses to Charlotte and the family :-)
Assessing the Damage:-
After the contact with Graham MacDonald (7 minutes 40 secs in the video), I could feel immediately there was an imbalance with the car... So after the race, I inspected the damage (broken rear wing), but couldn't really see anything else.  (the rear wing on the near-side of the car has some rubber on it too from James Murphy's 'love tap' on the last lap, but no real damage).  I'll get the wing patched up for the final race(s) of the season with some 'race tape', and then over to Dave at Daytona Coachworx to repair over the off-season, and I may add a yellow stripe to them too ☺
Cracked rear wing on my Caterham Academy Car
Cracked rear wing on my Caterham Academy Car
David and the guys at DPR Motorsport inspected the car, and found that the De-Dion tube was badly cracked, which is the cause of the handling issue I experienced and should've been replaced (at the time of writing). 
Cracked De-Dion Tube on my Caterham Academy Car
Cracked De-Dion Tube on my Caterham Academy Car
So all being well, the car will be back with me tomorrow, and I'll just need to count the days until the final race of the season at Silverstone on Saturday 14th October 2017.  I'll naturally be driving to the best of my ability, and will be going for another win, but with the championship pressure off - most importantly; I'll be enjoying it!

There's also the 'trophy race' at Silverstone on the Sunday (15th October 2017), where the Green and White group merge into one large grid and race each other for the first time (test sessions aside!).  That's a race I'm very much looking forward to!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Snetterton 300 - Round Five - 1st Place and Lap Record

All 'racing drivers' seem to have a good list of excuses, and I managed to find one for what happened at Donington - I'll leave it up to your discretion if you think it's an excuse or not... but, it turns out the gearbox had pretty much imploded on itself, so the car was collected after Donington engine removed, gearbox removed and with the gearbox being sent off for rebuild, car checked over andthen  returned back to me all (just!) in time for this weekend.  Thanks to David Rowe and all the boys at DPR Motorsport for getting this all sorted for me.

So with all mechanical excuses (hopefully) unavailable to me, it was time to get back on it and have a good weekend.  I had a good couple of track and test days before the event, and set a pretty respectable time on the Friday test session, so was feeling confident.

Qualifying was 'interesting' and fun too, as there is SUCH an advantage of getting a tow down the two long straights there was a fair amount of tactics involved, but I managed to qualify 2nd on the grid alongside Matt Sheppard.

I got a great start, and led into the first corner...
Round Five of the 2017 Caterham Academy championship at Snetterton - the start
Round Five of the 2017 Caterham Academy championship at Snetterton - the start
Matthew Creak had a superb start from sixth? on the grid, and made an attempt for the lead at Wilson's hairpin, which I held off and then he made a bit of a mistake at Palmer corner which enabled James Murphy to take second place.
On three wheels at Murrays corner at Snetterton 300 circuit
On three wheels at Murrays corner at Snetterton 300 circuit
In the meantime I'd managed to build a small gap, which I really needed to capitalise on (as with a tow off me, James would easily catch me as it's worth up to 1.5 seconds here!), but I put some mega laps in and broke the tow...

Here's the onboard video of the race:-

And WON!  yyyeeeaahhhh!!!!  I managed to win by over twelve seconds, (which I was told was unheard of here at Snetterton in the Caterham Academy) AND set a new lap record of 2:17.593 (without a tow!) on my way to victory.
Daniel French winning the Green Group of the Caterham Academy race at Snetterton 300 circuit in 2017
Daniel French winning the Green Group of the Caterham Academy race at Snetterton 300 circuit in 2017
Time for some bubbly - the podium celebrations!  Well done the James Murphy p2, and Neil Fraser p3!
Time for some bubbly - the podium celebrations!  Well done the James Murpy p2, and Neil Fraser p3!
Time for some bubbly - the podium celebrations!  Well done the James Murpy p2, and Neil Fraser p3!
Charlotte, my girlfriend / partner thought it'd be highly amusing to get some baseball caps embroidered with my name on (I used to have a cap just the same when I raced remote control cars as a child, many, MANY! years ago!)... They are pretty embarrassing, but I like them really! ☺
Team Daniel caps out in full force - definitely gave me a boost!
Team Daniel caps out in full force - definitely gave me a boost!
So I think (points adjusted) I've got a nine or ten point lead in the championship, which is really, really good at this stage, and Andy Morgan has a similar lead in his group too.  In true 'racer' style, I'm still not thinking about the championship, so will take the next two races as they come and try and do my best at those too.

Next up, Rockingham ISSC on 16th and 17th September, and without seeing the timetable, I guess the qualifying is on the Saturday with the race on the Sunday.  

Feel free to come and say hi if you're around on that weekend, but you may have to wear a 'certain' baseball cap!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Donington Park GP - Round Four - 2nd Place

Round four of this years' Caterham Academy championship was at Donington Park GP circuit, which is certainly one of my favourites...

...I arrived on Wednesday night, setup 'camp' for the next few days and got ready for two days testing, and then 'a bit' of hanging around.  Testing was great (especially the Thursday), having set some good times which I was very happy with.  Friday was a bit more 'red flaggy' so I couldn't really get into a good rhythm in any of the sessions.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda
Shoulda, woulda, coulda
Qualifying was on Saturday evening (18:30!) so there was a fair bit of hanging around from Friday afternoon, but I again found myself at the back of the pack, so tried my best which (again) was only good enough for 4th place on the grid, as the advantage from a tow is quite large here (which I didn't get).

With qualifying over - Caterham hosted a paddock party, with a band, free booze and food, (as it was their 60th anniversary) and that was a really good night - I was 'careful' not to get too wasted, but still had a great time.

Onto the race... I got a great start, and before I knew it I was into first place...  I held onto the lead from an eager Toby Clowes practically the entire race... I tried to gap him, but with a tow he could keep reeling me back in on the straights.  The final lap board came out, and there was a bit of a margin, and although I thought I had enough in the bag, I managed to get my only 'tank slapper' (of the whole weekend) into the Esses, lost some momentum and Toby got a decent drive out and then defending my position into the Melbourne Loop I outbraked myself and Toby got through!  arrrgghhh what a c0ck up, and then to make matters worse I shifted from second into first (rather than third) so that was that.  

Here's the onboard video (sorry about the default VBOX scene as there is a problem with my custom scene since I upgraded the firmware on the VBOX):-

Second is good for the Championship (which I'm still leading at present) and I won't make a mistake like that again - I'll come back with that lesson learnt and will come back fighting (as always) at Snetterton in four weeks time.

The race and qualifying are likely to be on the Saturday morning (5th August), but the timetable is still 'TBC' at this stage.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Brands Hatch Indy - Round Three - First Place!

Having been bitterly dissapointed with my result at Curborough a couple of weeks ago,it was certainly time to have a good result this weekend at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit.

I arrived on Wednesday night as had booked two test days (for the Thursday and the Friday) and then some marshalling for the Saturday, with quali and the race on Sunday.   Unlike quite a few others, I came out of the two test days with my car intact.  Marshalling on the Saturday was a bit drawn out, but really gives you an appreciation for them as they are all volunteers and without them we could not race (the same goes vice-versa, but even so!).

Onto quali... I headed up to the holding area and luckily got the first slot out so could have a few clean laps to get some decent times in - well that was the plan; until the session was immediately red flagged by someone ending up in the gravel after Paddock Hill bend, which somehow meant I lined up last with 27 cars ahead of me!  Battling through the traffic I managed a time which was enough to get me 4th on the grid, which I wasn't overly happy with, but still would give me a chance for a podium finish.

Anyway, onto the race, here's the video:-

yyyeeaaahhhhhh - I won! ☺ What a rush!  One of the most incredible feelings of emotion in my whole life, and a moment I will relish for a long time to come.  Well done to Graham Macdonald (p2) and James Murphy (p3).
Top step of the podium was an absolutely perfect result to my first race
Top step of the podium was an absolutely perfect result to my first race
With some interviews out of the way, it was time to spray the champagne (well Prosecco)
Podium celebrations were fun
Podium celebrations were fun
I think I'm now leading the championship again, and with four races to go it's very close indeed!  The race highlights will be on TV this weekend - Saturday 10th June 2017 at 15:45, on (Sky Channel 447).

I'm going to take a bit of a break from the car for a bit and get some of my life back for a bit, so I think the next time I'll go out will be for the next event at Donington Park for the 60th Anniversary of the Seven festival over the weekend of 8th and 9th July.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Three Years Later - My R500 is SOLD!

It's a week away from three years, since I took delivery of my beautiful Caterham R500 Duratec... And now its become Cliff and Alli Malone's beautiful Caterham R500 Duratec.
Handing over the keys of my Caterham R500 Duratec to Cliff Malone, the new owner.
Handing over the keys of my Caterham R500 Duratec to Cliff Malone, the new owner.
I've had a great time with the car; with a few ups and downs along the way (downs mostly  throughout the build phase) and plenty of fun/expensive upgrades - which was all part and parcel of the 'Caterham experience' which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Cliff and Alli were a genuine delight to deal with, and although I've asked for 'first refusal' if they ever decide to sell it, I can see them both having many years of pleasure out of the car.

Here's a video of Cliff leaving in 'the beast':-
I trust they had a safe journey home, and will hopefully see them on a track-day or any other event in the near future.

I'm pleased I've sold the car, as the Academy season is more of a commitment than I initially thought it would be and the additional space in the garage will make general 'maintenance' more straight forward.  It's a shame as I utterly loved the R500, and now I'm left with a 125bhp Academy car in my garage, and an empty space where the R500 was - how did that happen?!?  Again, all part of the 'Caterham experience'!  ☺

Next up, Brands Hatch this weekend....  My race is at 4pm on the Sunday, so hopefully see some of you there ☺