Monday, 24 September 2018

Round Seven - Silverstone - 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

The Final Round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship was at Silverstone International Circuit.   I arrived on Thursday evening, got setup and ready for one day testing on the Friday before the race weekend.

Testing went well, I had my setup sorted, an awesome looking set of dry race tyres, a set of brand new tyres (in case it was going to be wet), and I was feeling confident and on top form with a view of clinching the title as it was going to go down to the last race.

As we went to the holding area for qualifying the rain started to drop, so it was a wet qualifying session.  I seem to have a good feel for the car in the wet, so managed to qualify on pole by six tenths from P2 qualifier Daniel Halstead. 

The race was going to be wet, and I went with what I thought was going to be a good setup, red front anti roll bar (medium) and full stiff on the rear (which is pretty much a dry setup). 
Race Video below:-


I started well and got a good lead, but as the track changed towards the end of the race, my setup didn't work as well, with my lead eroding lap by lap.  James Murphy put a late move on me into Vale on the very last lap, which I didn't think would stick but did, so I ended up finishing P2, with James also securing fastest lap (worth one additional point).
2018 Caterham Roadsport Race 13 podium (l-r) Me! P2, James Murphy P1, and Toby Clowes P3.
2018 Caterham Roadsport Race 13 podium (l-r) Me! P2, James Murphy P1, and Toby Clowes P3.
So onto the FINAL Race of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship - race 14...  I needed to win this race, and attain fastest lap (which is worth one point) to be crowned 2018 Caterham Roadsport Champion.
Race Video below:-

I drove the wheels off the car, finishing 26.4 seconds in the lead and held the fastest lap for most of the race (without a tow), so it was great to go out with such a dominant victory.  
2018 Caterham Roadsport Race 14 podium (l-r) Oli Pratt P2, Me! P1! and Neil Frazer P3.
2018 Caterham Roadsport Race 14 podium (l-r) Oli Pratt P2, Me! P1! and Neil Frazer P3.
How did the championship unfold?
Of course there are a number of what if's - as this is motor racing... these are some key points to this championship that I think are relevant:-
  • An un-diagnosed problem with my gearbox at both races at Snetterton (third was engaged, but box was neutral) - gearbox was replaced.
  • Another gearbox problem at Brands Hatch (my fault as trying to shift to 1st rather than 3rd!) - gearbox was rebuilt
  • Penalty points could be reversed by a days marshalling
  • I incorrectly 'best guessed' the car setup for the wet Silverstone race
  • Missing out on fastest lap in the last race by 0.028 of a second (without a tow), which was worth the point I needed.
The season couldn't have been closer and congratulations to James Murphy who has driven brilliantly all year - he is crowned 2018 Caterham Roadsport Champion.  
Daniel French and James Murphy P2 and P1 (respectively) of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship
Daniel French and James Murphy P2 and P1 (respectively) of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship
My take away points from the season:-
  • Overcoming the gearbox "issues" that thwarted me at the start of this season
  • Understanding the car setup and how to get the most out of it
  • Knowing the difference between a good and a great tire
  • Wining the most amount of races this year, some by substantial margins
  • Scoring the most amount of overall points, which at 395 is the same as last years Roadsport Champion, Pete Walters
  • Considerable improvement in my racing throughout the year 
  • What a blast!
Daniel French - 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship Runner Up - Silverstone
Daniel French - 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship Runner Up - Silverstone
The car is going to be upgraded to 270R spec over the coming weeks, and I intend to fight for the 270R championship in 2019 which I'm already fired up for, so bring it on.  

Friday, 7 September 2018

Round Six - Thruxton - 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

Round Six of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship was held last weekend (1st and 2nd September) at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire.

When Thruxton was released on the calendar last year, there was only one test day and questions were asked by many - why only one test day?!?  Well that's because there are only two braking zones!

So having not been there before I decided to get some testing in earlier on this year.
Testing earlier on this year at Thruxton in my 2018 Caterham Roadsport
Testing earlier on this year at Thruxton in my 2018 Caterham Roadsport
Testing went well, with two big eye openers - the enormous tow effect and massive tyre degradation.

ONTO THE RACE WEEKEND:-
Race One Video - PART 1
I managed to qualify in P3 (after I got caught short of time and arrived at qualifying later than usual).
Race one was split into two parts due to a big crash, but my first start was good and after a massive sideways into club (which surprisingly I saved!) I had the gap I needed to attempt a breakaway, but the race was red flagged.

Race One Video - PART 2So race one was restarted minus a few drivers!  A race long tow battle ensued, which ended with a final five or six car tow on the last lap, which I thought I'd timed perfectly, but I got boxed into the crowd and had to yield.  I finished P5, but with fastest lap (which is now the Roadsport lap record) equaling a point, this was a net fourth place.

RACE TWO VIDEO
My fifth place from the previous days race decided my starting grid position for this race.  I made an OK start, then there was a fairly big crash by Neil Fraser on the first lap.  I made up a few places, eventually securing third place.  Unfortunately the race video didn't record for any further than five minutes, so uploaded the footage anyway.

So it turns out that a lap record and third place was the best I could achieve at Thruxton, which leaves the championship extremely tight at the top!
(l-r) me (p3) James McCall (p1 twice!) and James Murphy (p3)
(l-r) me (p3) James McCall (p1 twice!) and James Murphy (p3)
2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship Showdown
The final two rounds of this season will be held at Silverstone International Circuit on 22nd and 23rd September, with the title more than likely decided on the Sunday (23rd).  The only real title contenders are myself (on 337 points) and James Murphy (on 336 points after minus six penalty points he received for a crash at Castle Combe are removed by a days marshalling), so it's all to race for and no doubt will be an utterly thrilling weekend of racing!  
2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship Contenders (l-r) Graham Macdonald, Daniel Halstead, James Murphy, Daniel French and Tom Allen).
2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship Contenders (l-r) Graham Macdonald, Daniel Halstead, James Murphy, Daniel French and Tom Allen).
Feel free to come and say hello if you've come down to watch the action.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Round Five - Castle Combe - 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship

Round five of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship was held at Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire.  

Having not been to the circuit since the initial Academy Test Day back in April 2017, I knew I had my work cut out in terms of getting up to speed for the upcoming race weekend.  Fortunately, I managed to get a slot on the Thursday and Friday test days, so set about getting up to speed.

The conditions on Thursday were good, warm, dry and un-interrupted which was perfect.  Friday was a different story!  The heavens opened, and the track was soaked - to the point where I had one run in the morning, then decided it wasn't worth risking an accident, and sat out the rest of the morning.  The track dried out a bit later on, but due to stoppages in the sessions I only managed probably twenty minutes dry running all day.
It was so wet at Castle Combe there were rivers appearing in the paddock!
It was so wet at Castle Combe there were rivers appearing in the paddock!
Race 9 - 2nd to Win
Onto the racing!  Qualifying was dry and went 'reasonably' well - I managed p2 which was a good position, but I still think I could've got Pole with a bit of a better positioning / tow, but nevertheless still a front row start.

Throughout Saturday afternoon the heavens opened, and there was a definite moment of uncertainty about which tyres to choose, but in the end it was monsoon conditions, so wet tyres it was.
2018 Caterham Roadsport Racing at Castle Combe in monsoon conditions
2018 Caterham Roadsport Racing at Castle Combe in monsoon conditions
I got a good start, got my head down and made a break away of a few seconds within just a handful of laps, but there was a big accident involving Daniel Halstead and Matt Shepard (both drivers are ok!) which red-flagged the race.

The race got restarted after the cars were removed from the circuit and tyre barriers were fixed.  This start wasn't quite as good, but I lead after the first corner (Quarry) and then went onto create a comfortable gap, managed my pace and won!

Onboard Race Video below:-

The result from race one of the weekend (race nine of the championship), Myself in P1, Graham Macdonald in P2 and James Murphy in P3.
l-r James Murphy P3, Me in P1!, and Graham Macdonald in P3
l-r James Murphy P3, Me in P1!, and Graham Macdonald in P3
Race 10 - Pole and Win
Snetterton aside, I've won every Saturday race, but seem to be making a habit of finishing in P3 on Sundays...  So it was about time to break that habit!

I woke up to a thoroughly soaked Castle Combe, and throughout most of the morning the weather was extreme wet... However, closing into midday (the race start time was 12:20) the rain seemed to stop and the circuit started to dry out.   I don't think anyone really knew which tyres to chose, so I went with my best guess, and hoped for the best!

Sitting on the grid, the tarmac looked totally dry, which left me wondering if I'd made the right tyre choice or not, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that!  

A little bit behind schedule; the race got underway, and I got a good start... I wanted to make a break away, as I really thought I had the wrong tyres on, so put my head down and tried to break away.  Unfortunately this didn't happen and Graham Macdonald got a great tow, and passed me on lap three.  Graham held the lead for a lap and a half, where I made a move for the lead into tower corner, which I had to defend immediately into Bobbies chicane, but Graham locked up and carried straight on which was enough to give me my chance to break away.
Leading the pack into Quarry corner on lap one of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Race at Castle Combe circuit
Leading the pack into Quarry corner on lap one of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Race at Castle Combe circuit
Onboard Race Video below:-

Eventually I managed to win by nearly seven seconds, and was only five one-hundredths of a second off the fastest lap of the race, which, considering I didn't have a tow (slipstream) at all on my fastest lap, I was definitely satisfied with my pace. 

The podium was ME! in P1 yay!  Tom Allen in P2 and Graham Macdonald in P3 - well done guys!
l-r Graham Macdonald P3, Me (again!) P1, Tom Allen P2
l-r Graham Macdonald P3, Me (again!) P1, Tom Allen P2
So I'd done exactly what I'd set out to this weekend - a maximum 60 points (aside from 2 fastest lap points), and I've also taken the championship lead too which is definitely a bonus!
One thumb-up per win this weekend - my first 'double win' sure was a special feeling
One thumb-up per win this weekend - my first 'double win' sure was a special feeling
Naturally, I left Castle Combe feeling thoroughly chuffed with my first double win of the season.

There's still 124 points up for grabs over the next four races, so all to play for!  The championship battle is definitely heating up, and I'm relishing the opportunity to race it out wheel to wheel.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Round Four - Zandvoort - Caterham Roadsport 2018 Championship

Just about to head off to Castle Combe for this weekends' round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship, and just realised I've not updated my post to include the previous round at Zandvoort!  

So here's a brief version as the memories aren't that 'fresh' anymore! ☺
Race 1:-
Started in 4th - not sure what happened in qualifying, but that seems to be my 'Saturday spot'... 

I went on to win the race, with James Murphy in p2 (after Daniel Halstead who actually crossed the line in 2nd place was given a time penalty for abusing track limits).
l-r James Murphy p2, ME! P1! and Tom Allen p3
l-r James Murphy p2, ME! P1! and Tom Allen p3
Race Two:-
I started on Pole (having won Saturday's race), and then there was a fair battle in the middle of the race... I had a bit of contact with Tom Allen, which bent my rear anti roll bar, but I managed to drive around the problem and finish third.

l-r James Murphy p2, Daniel Halstead p1, and me P3.
l-r James Murphy p2, Daniel Halstead p1, and me P3.
It was an utterly superb weekend, and truly one for the memory books.  The championship has become a little closer now, and it's all to play for, so let's see how things pan out at Castle Combe this weekend.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Round Three - Brands Hatch Indy - Caterham Roadsport 2018 Championship

Round three of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship was at Brands Hatch Circuit, last weekend - running the Indy configuration.

The usual two day testing got underway on Thursday and Friday.  The weather was great and the temperatures climbed day by day... I managed to find a setting that I was very happy with, and was feeling confident for qualifying.  

However, when it came to qualifying (and just like last year) I found myself always tripping over someone at some point, more interested in getting the vital tow than setting a quick lap time, so only managed to qualify in fifth (which I think is my equal worst qualifying spot since I started racing).
Qualified 5th for the first Caterham Roadsport Race at Brands Hatch Indy in 2018
Qualified 5th for the first Caterham Roadsport Race at Brands Hatch Indy in 2018
Race 5 - 5th to Win
I would've preferred to started further up the grid, but managed to make a good start and clinched the lead on lap two.  I held the lead right until the end of the race, where a red flag stopped the race a little prematurely.  (Unfortunately my VBOX video footage was completely over-exposed, so I don't have any publishable race footage from this race.)
Leading the field in race five of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship
Leading the field in race five of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship
So it was happy days taking my second win of the season and fourth podium out of five races.  Congratulations to Daniel Halstead (p2) and James Murphy (p3).
(l-r) James Murphy (p3) Me! p1! and Daniel Halstead (p2)
(l-r) James Murphy (p3) Me! p1! and Daniel Halstead (p2)
There was a Caterham organised post race paddock party which started around 7pm, which left just enough time for a quick shower to rinse off the sweat and bubbly!  There was a decent spread of food, and FREE alcohol (which is never good on a race weekend!), but I was 'careful' not to have too many and still had a great time.

Race 6 - Pole, dropping to ninth eventually finishing third
The second race of the weekend (which is race six of the championship) was on Sunday, with the start scheduled for 12:30.  The day was on schedule, and I was starting from Pole position (as the Saturday race result dictates your grid position for the Sunday race).

I started reasonably well, but Graham Macdonald got a great start and grabbed the lead.  I retook the lead on lap two, and held onto the lead for a lap, until my gearbox 'gremlins' appeared again.  Firstly with a crunch into druids, then on the same lap another crunch into Clearways - both times shifting down into 2nd gear seemed the only option.  

Driving out of Clearways (corner) trying to shift up to third gear, I found the gearbox was locked in 2nd gear, at which point all hell broke loose!  Graham Macdonald hit the back of me, James Murphy hit Graham's wing and I dropped to ninth place whilst trying to literally bash my gearbox out of it's locked position.  I'll let you see for yourself what happened, before, during and the recovery drive after by watching the race video below:-

All I could hope for was to not retire, but I got my head down and made my way back up with order, eventually finishing with a podium - in third place.  With one lap to go four of us could've won - it was that close, and eventually the race was decided by a photo finish between James and Graham - top driving guys!  The race was described by the commentators as the best race of the weekend, and by many others (who have seen plenty of Caterham races) as the best Caterham race they'd EVER seen.  
Another podium finish shared with James Murphy (p1) and Graham Macdonald (p2).
So that was that for the weekend, a double podium consisting of a win and third place. 
A win and a third was my result for the third round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship at Brands Hatch Indy
A win and a third was my result for the third round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship at Brands Hatch Indy
A little bit of head scratching is required, as I've dropped a heap of (potential) points this year due to gearbox problems... A few others have experienced gearbox 'issues' but not quite to the degree I am - come the Zandvoort weekend I'll be on the THIRD! gearbox of THIS season!  I'm not blaming the gearbox one bit - it's definitely something to do with my driving style, which I absolutely must iron out.

Mechanical issues aside, racing in a one make championship, with the way the progression ladder has been developed is literally one of the best experiences of my life.  The paddock is friendly, we all get along and have a great laugh - the racing is bloody competitive and taken seriously by the racers and organisers, and the life memories will never be forgotten.  ABSOLUTELY EPIC STUFF - so a big well done to the team at Caterham, the BRSCC, the MSA, the marshalls and of course all the fellow competitors and drivers from the other championships too.

Zandvoort is next up at the end of this month, so I best get a move on and organise my next gearbox replacement! ha ha - I just hope I don't bust this one quite so quickly! ☺

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Round Two - Knockhill Reverse - Caterham Roadsport 2018 Championship

The second round of the 2018 Caterham Roadsport Championship was held at Knockhill Circuit in Scotland... 

...When this years calendar was released I think most of the paddock probably had a thing to say (or two) about heading all the way up to Knockhill for a race weekend - I for one thought it was a long way, but having made the trip up there, I can certainly say it's worth every mile of the 400 mile trip up there (for us).

Knockhill is the only circuit in the UK with a license to run in reverse (anticlockwise) direction as well as clockwise, and I believe that last weekend was the first time that a national motor racing championship has ever used the reverse direction.  It really was a treat!  The circuit is epic - I can only relate it to Brands Hatch Indy x10!  The video's do not do the undulations justice - the elevation changes, and drop off's are immense, and there were plenty of places to get all four wheels off the ground!
Daniel French flying through Butcher's bend at Knockhill Circuit in reverse direction
Daniel French flying through Butcher's bend at Knockhill Circuit in reverse direction
Race 3 - Pole and Win
With a brand new gearbox, there was no room for excuses this weekend!  Arriving on Tuesday night for a testing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I set about finding a good rhythm and balance in the car.  I got to a great setting (perfect) in fact, which enabled me to get a great qualifying session together putting it on Pole Position for the race with a 58.2 second lap, but I could've broken into the 57's had I not had traffic on the last lap.

With pole bagged, and the car feeling great - I too was feeling confident for the race.  I got a good start, broke the tow and led from start to finish - consistently running in the 58'8s (slower than qualifying due to wind direction change).

On-board video of the race:-

YES, YES, YES!  Back on the top step of the podium, leading from start to finish crossing the finish line with a 9.2 second lead.  On the podium (l-r) James Murphy (p2), Me - Daniel French (p1), and Oli Pratt (p3)
On the podium (l-r) James Murphy (p2), Me - Daniel French (p1), and Oli Pratt (p3)
On the podium (l-r) James Murphy (p2), Me - Daniel French (p1), and Oli Pratt (p3)
There was a paddock party in the clubhouse that night, so it was definitely a chance to enjoy the moment, (perhaps a bit too much!) and have a few beers with the other racers which was great fun, and all part and parcel of the camaraderie of the paddock.

Race 4 - 3rd Place
Sunday morning was wet, but it dried out quite quickly, and the day got steadily warmer and warmer - to a pretty hot late afternoon.  With the finishing order of the previous race dictating your grid position for the second race, I started on pole again.  I got a reasonable start, and managed to put a few good laps in and build a small gap... But... there was a strong headwind which meant the tow effect was increased and the gap wasn't as big as I'd hoped then on about lap 6 my tyres went off, causing me to get a tank slapper into and after the chicane allowing the pack to catch up.

A good fun battle ensued, but I made two very costly gear change mistakes (Which I need to stop doing!), and ended up finishing in third place.  

Definitely a race that got away from me, but I'm very close to working out how to get the perfect settings (which I achieved in race 3).  So on the podium (from l-r) Dan Halstead (p2), James Murphy (p1), and Me - Daniel French (p3)
on the podium (from l-r) Dan Halstead (p2), James Murphy (p1), and Me - Daniel French (p3)
on the podium (from l-r) Dan Halstead (p2), James Murphy (p1), and Me - Daniel French (p3)
And then... RELAX!  Well time to go home, but I had to include the picture below as it is one of my favourites of the weekend - if not since I started racing in the Caterham Championship ladder.  Thinking back to just a couple of years ago, I couldn't imagine being 'one of those guys' who races - a lifelong dream come true and the picture epitomises how the Caterham paddock truly is - race cars, mates, banter and good times - an absolutely phenomenal experience.  I can't stress enough to anyone who is remotely thinking of entering - just STOP thinking about it and do it - you won't regret it.
Happy days at Knockhill in Sunny Scotland for (l-r) James Murphy, Matt Sheppard and Daniel French
Happy days at Knockhill in Sunny Scotland for (l-r) James Murphy, Matt Sheppard and Daniel French
Luckily the only repairs required' from the weekend at Knockhill is to fit a new number plate light!  I'll do the usual spanner checks and think I may give the brakes a bleed, but that's about it for a couple of weeks.  The next race weekend is at Brands Hatch Indy circuit on the 2nd and 3rd of June, and I'm feeling confident and excited at the prospect of a good fun weekend and hopefully I can get on top of the settings (and my gear changes!) and have a good weekend. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Round One - Snetterton 300 - Caterham Roadsport 2018 Championship

I think we all know it's been a very loooonnnggg winter!  Lots of cold, wet testing over the off season with a crash too!  Nevertheless, last weekend was the start of the 2018 Caterham Motorsport championships at Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk.

I arrived at the circuit on Wednesday evening, got setup and ready for two test days on Thursday and Friday before the race weekend.  Testing was predominantly wet, so tyre wear was minimal (which wasn't ideal).

Qualifying went reasonably well, I qualified fourth on the grid a couple of tenths off the pace, (2nd row was the lowest I wanted), but I messed up a decent lap in qualifying, so knew I had the pace to make up a few places in the race.

Race One - 5th Place:-
The first race of the season, started well, swapped places for the lead with James Murphy for the first two thirds of the race, then dropped back after letting Matt Sheppard past down the Bentley straight.  I tried to stay composed and make a last lap challenge for the podium, only to be thwarted by a gearbox issue (at 20:00mins in the video) which initially surfaced on the second day of testing.  I eventually finished fifth and my vbox video was over-exposed, so this footage is the hayfisher media gopro - which has been set at an awesome camera angle, so I will definitely be using my Gopro's set at this angle for future video's.

Race Two - 2nd Place:-
The grid positions for race two of the weekend are decided by your finishing position in race one, which  meant I started on row three in fifth.  Determined to make up some places and get back into the mix, I got another good start, battled for the lead, dropped back, picked the places back up, but, and on the final lap from second position I had more gearbox problems - which no doubt cost me a shot at the win.

James won both races, and drove impeccably all weekend - top work!
James Murphy drove impeccably all weekend.
James Murphy drove impeccably all weekend.
With James winning both races, and myself and Matt picking up 2nd and 3rd places in the second race, that leaves me fourth in the championship hunt, seven points adrift...
2nd place was the best I could achieve this weekend
2nd place was the best I could achieve this weekend
There was a little damage to my car after a few love taps in race two - all in a days action when racing as closely as we did - so to be expected.  The nearside wing is a little broken and can be repaired, but the off-side wing, rear light and fog light all need replacing before Knockhill.
Broken near and offside wings, fog light and wing light cluster
Broken near and offside wings, fog light and wing light cluster

As I've mentioned earlier in this post, I've been a little unfortunate with gearbox issues in both races - when shifting from 2nd to 3rd gear, towards the end of the races the gear lever is engaged in third, but there is no engagement of the gear and I'm left hitting the limiter with a box of neutrals.
Video below of three occurrences:-

DPR have taken the car back with them from Snetterton to investigate, and remedy.

Round two of the season is at Knockhill - Scotland, and is being run anti-clockwise which should make things very interesting indeed!  Looking forward to it already!