Friday, 2 February 2018

41st Birthday Today - Bespoke Caterham Cake

Unfortunately! It's my 41st Birthday today... Fortunately, one of the guys at my work knows someone who makes bespoke cakes (Karen James), and all the guys at work chipped in and got her to make me this amazing Caterham Birthday Cake as a surprise! 

I'm blown away with the detail and accuracy she achieved with just a few pictures, and clearly a lot of talent!  She can make pretty much anything you like, and if you want your own bespoke Caterham cake or something else you can contact her on her mobile 07884 380495 or by emailing her at karenjames822@gmail.com for a quote.
41 today, and delighted with my very own bespoke Caterham Roadsport Birthday Cake
41 today, and delighted with my very own bespoke Caterham Roadsport Birthday Cake
Here's some close up pics.  Front view:-
Extremely realistic cake version of my 2017 Caterham Academy Car
Extremely realistic cake version of my 2017 Caterham Academy Car
Side View:-
Side view of my Caterham Birthday Cake
Side view of my Caterham Birthday Cake
Rear View:-
Rear View of my Caterham Birthday Cake
Rear View of my Caterham Birthday Cake
I'm not too sure what to do with it, as there's no way I could damage such a masterpiece by cutting it!  I think it'll have to live in my garage ☺

2018 Roadsport Entry
As added birthday bonus, it turns out that our driver profiles have been updated today on the Caterham website to confirm our status as '2018 roadsport drivers' with all of the participants of this years season.  link here:- http://uk.caterhamcars.com/motorsport/roadsport/drivers

This also means that there are now 56 new names on the Caterham Academy drivers profiles, all of which will be battling out for the title of 2018 Caterham Academy Champion (green and white group).  Having been through the amazing experience, I wish all of this years competitors the best of luck and will look forward to meeting the new faces and personalities in the paddock this year.

2018 Roadsport Driver Number 77
Also confirmed is my new driver number of 77 - as I've swapped from 30 (from my Academy season) to 77.  Why?  Well I was born in 1977 (hence being 41 today!), and also for Caterham Seven (but 7 isn't allowed, so the next best was 77), and Seven is considered a lucky number, so I hope to have double helpings of luck this year ☺

Monday, 22 January 2018

First Track Day of 2018 in my Roadsport Spec Car

My first outing of 2018 in my Roadsport spec car was at Snetterton 300 circuit, last weekend (20th Jan) as this is where our first race of the season is (weekend of 13th / 14th April).

The weather forecast was good all week, and then it started to show signs of a bit of drizzle.  Well, on the day the drizzle turned into extreme wet conditions and I think the day after got cancelled due to ice too, so I was lucky to at least get some running, albeit in miserable conditions.
Extreme Wet Conditions at Snetterton 300 circuit in my 2018 Caterham Roadsport
Extreme Wet Conditions at Snetterton 300 circuit in my 2018 Caterham Roadsport
Talking of luck, mine ran out... The very last lap of the day, and the 2nd to last corner I went a bit wide, hit a puddle, then the grass, then the tyre barrier!

I got the car home, assessed the damage, and decided that rather than fix it myself I'd to take it to DPR Motorsport to get them to fix it.  
My 2018 Caterham Roadsport car looking a bit sorry for itself
My 2018 Caterham Roadsport car looking a bit sorry for itself
Dave and the boys at DPR will get it fixed this week, and then it'll be back out next weekend!  I just hope it'll be dry this time ☺

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2017 Academy to 2018 Roadsport Upgrade

So with the 2017 season (and year) well and truly over, it's time to crack on with my plans for 2018 - which is to challenge for the title of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship.

The first thing to do was to upgrade the car, I could've done this myself, but decided to get DPR Motorsport to do the upgrades on my behalf.

The upgrades are as follows in order of (in my opinion):-
1. Tyres
I think this must be the most eagerly anticipated upgrade from by every Caterham Academy driver... Some decent tyres!  The Academy Avon CR322's are replaced with AVON ZZS tyres, and the due to the decreased height of the sidewalls the wing-stays are lowered too. 
Tyres upgraded to AVON ZZS
Tyres upgraded to AVON ZZS
2. Brake Master Cylinder
The 2nd most 'wanted' upgrade as an Academy driver is a better brake master cylinder.  Made by AP Racing, the upgraded master cylinder means less air gets into the system, meaning less time bleeding brakes!
The upgraded A.P. Racing brake master cylinder
The upgraded A.P. Racing brake master cylinder
3. Brake Pads and Bias Valve
The brake pad material is 'free' in terms of the Roadsport regulations, so you can fit whatever spec front and rear compounds you like.  There is also an option to fit a brake bias valve too to adjust the brake balance front / rear.
Newly fitted A.P. Racing Brake Bias Valve
Newly fitted A.P. Racing Brake Bias Valve
4. Rear Anti-Roll Bar
In Roadsport spec you are also allowed to use a rear anti-roll bar too!
Rear anti roll bar fitted to my 2018 Caterham Roadsport car
Rear anti roll bar fitted to my 2018 Caterham Roadsport car
5. Setup CheckAfter fitting a number of geometry adjusting parts, it's also worth getting the alignment checked so this was done, and the car was delivered back to me.
2018 Caterham Roadsport having the setup checked
2018 Caterham Roadsport having the setup checked
A bit of fun:-
A few track day pics of the Roadsport spec car below, instantly you can see it looks much more aggressive and a lot lower / stiffer too.  First driving impressions are increased grip, stability and cornering speed and I LOVE it!  It's like a different car, and can be driven with inch precision accuracy which really helps with getting consistent clean laps in and that all important lap time down!
me (Daniel French) driving my 2018 Caterham Roadsport at Donington Park
me (Daniel French) driving my 2018 Caterham Roadsport at Donington Park
me (Daniel French) driving my 2018 Caterham Roadsport at Brands Hatch
me (Daniel French) driving my 2018 Caterham Roadsport at Brands Hatch
It seems as though I've picked up some sort of leak in my radiator, so will fit a new one over the next few days and then start back with the testing middle of Jan.

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:-
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!