Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Round Three - Oulton Park - 2019 Caterham 270R Championship

Round Three of the 2019 Motul Caterham 270R Championship
Was held on the weekend of the 1st June 2019 at Oulton Park Circuit in Cheshire
.  Due to noise regulations, the weekend is compacted into one hectic day of qualifying and racing!


Qualifying
I made a fairly significant setup discovery whilst testing over the Thursday and Friday, so was feeling confident for the day ahead.  Qualifying was at 8:30 in the morning, and I think I got pole, but Matt Sheppard's time was 1.3 seconds faster than mine (as his transponder wasn't working), but the circuit is never wrong of course ☺, so we were both delighted to be on the front row!

Race One
I got a great start, then made a bit of a break away.  This gap was wiped out by a safety car 6:45 (in the video below) due to an accident between four drivers at 7:00 (all drivers ok!).
Daniel French starting the first Caterham 270R race of the weekend at Oulton Park Circuit
Daniel French starting the first Caterham 270R race of the weekend at Oulton Park Circuit
The race was restarted 7:30, and I made a great restart, and broke away from the pack again.  Got a good gap, only for my wheel to come loose 16:00 and fly off 16:46 on the penultimate lap!  See the video here below:-

Race One Onboard Video:-

Unbelievably, after my wheel flew off, it's final resting position was right on the racing line.  I was furious at myself of however this had happened, and was not going to get out of the car as I probably would've had a massive childish strop at the side of the track, so I got the car back parc ferme (whilst on three wheels), as the race was red flagged.  
P1 on three wheels??? How on earth was this possible?  Someone higher force was certainly looking out for me today!
P1 on three wheels??? How on earth was this possible?  Someone higher force was certainly looking out for me today!
Unbeknownst to me, due to the red flag count-back rules, and after some confusion I still ended up being declared the winner of the race!  After a bit of investigation, that although I torque my wheel nuts up before the race (as I always do), my torque wrench was set incorrectly!
(l-r) Matt Sheppard (p2), Daniel French a.k.a. me! (p1!), Justin Heap (p3)
(l-r) Matt Sheppard (p2), Daniel French a.k.a. me! (p1!), Justin Heap (p3).
Race Two
Starting from pole position, I was excited for the second race of the weekend, and having not crossed the finish line in first place of the previous race and still somehow winning, I wanted to put that right in this race.  
Daniel French leading the chasing pack in the second Caterham 270R race of the weekend at Oulton Park
Daniel French leading the chasing pack in the second Caterham 270R race of the weekend at Oulton Park
Race Two Onboard Video:-

Race two was a great old school battle, James Murphy (and Matt Sheppard) both drove really well with James crossing the finish line in 1st place, but received a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits.  This meant he he was relegated to 4th place, and I inherited the win.  

Great to score a double win this weekend - I wonder how many times in racing someone has won two races in one day without crossing the finish line in 1st place on both occasions?  A very fortunate weekend, and I'm grateful for the luck and championship points that I've secured.
(l-r) Matt Sheppard (p2), Daniel French a.k.a. me! (p1!), Greg Monks (p3)
(l-r) Matt Sheppard (p2), Daniel French a.k.a. me! (p1!), Greg Monks (p3)
Championship Points Table
After picking up the maximum points this weekend (fastest laps aside), I've clawed my position back somewhat to a joint second place with Daniel Halstead, but this is still 13 points behind Justin Heap (due to the crash at Silverstone race 2).

Round Four - Snetterton 300
Round four of the championship is at Snetterton, a circuit which I'm not a great fan of, but seem to go well at.  There's also a paddock party on the Saturday night, so I'm looking forward to the weekend.  The qualifying and race one are on Saturday 29th June, with the second race of the weekend the day after on Sunday 30th June.

Feel free to come and say hi if you're coming to spectate.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Round Two - Croft - 2019 Caterham 270R Championship

Round Two of the 2019 Motul Caterham 270R Championship
Was held on the weekend of the 4th May 2019 at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.  As it's quite some distance from where I live it'd never been a circuit I was interested in testing, and as such had never been to the track.  I decided it best to book both test days before the race weekend to learn the track and get up to speed.

A quick note on life in the paddock
Having taken things probably too seriously in the Academy, 'a little' less seriously in Roadsport, and now 'much' less seriously in 270R - it's great to enjoy the experience, and you quickly get to see what the Caterham paddock is really all about... The highs and lows of motor-racing come and go as quickly as each another, but the true part of race weekends is the hanging out with like minded mates, testing, setup chat, going for beers and just generally having a good time!
Paddock life - good banter with like minded mates
Paddock life - good banter with like minded mates
Qualifying
After two days of testing I was happy with the car setup and it was onto qualifying on the Saturday just after midday.  Qualify went as good as it could - I got a great lap in early on in the session which was fast enough for pole... Considering the first time I'd ever driven round croft was only two days prior, I was delighted to get pole position, and was in the best place possible for the start of race one!

Race One
I managed to get a good start, led for the first five laps, before being out-towed by Daniel Halstead, so sat in his and Justin Heaps tow for the remainder of the race, then decided to pounce on the last lap...
Daniel Halstead and Daniel French battling for position in the 2019 Caterham 270R Race one at Croft Circuit
Daniel Halstead and Daniel French battling for position in the 2019 Caterham 270R Race one at Croft Circuit
Race One Onboard Video:-

At 29:59 (in the video above) the last lap begins... I waited patiently throughout the race and then put on some pressure; pounced when Daniel Halstead went wide on Sunny Out... I made the move into first place stick into the complex, and block Dan from coming back through, but he made a lunge into the hairpin which I had to avoid a crash by getting out of the way.  Nevertheless I was happy finishing in P2, my first podium of the year, and hopefully the start of more to come!
(l-r) Daniel French (aka me!) P2, Daniel Halstead P1, Justin Heap P3
(l-r) Daniel French (aka me!) P2, Daniel Halstead P1, Justin Heap P3
In hindsight I think I should've reported Dan's overtake on me into the Hairpin, as I was confident the room wasn't there, and I didn't brake early - looking over the footage he was off the track as well, which is leaving the track and gaining an advantage.... Anyway...  A lesson learnt, and in future I will report such an incident, as I'm confident (with team support/backing - see my note below) this would've been reported had the shoe been on the other foot.

Race Two
The grid for race two is (as always) decided by your finishing position in race one, so I started on the front row again, albeit P2 this time.  I got another great start, led for the first few corners, where Dan Halstead and Justin Heap out towed me into tower corner.  We moved around position wise for the first 18 minutes or so in the race which was good fun... then....
Daniel French leading the pack in into Clervaux Corner in the second of the 2019 Caterham 270R races at Croft Circuit
Daniel French leading the pack in into Clervaux Corner in the second of the 2019 Caterham 270R races at Croft Circuit
Race Two Onboard Video:-

At 19:29 in the video above the dreaded gearbox gremlins struck again!  I was leading the race, pulled 4th gear and it was engaged, but a box full of neutrals!!!! arrrggghhh!!!  I dropped back to 7th, and clawed my way back up the pack to finished P2... Which I'm happy with after the issue, but slightly annoyed about another missed opportunity.
(l-r) Daniel French (aka me!) P2, Daniel Halstead P1, Neil Fraser P3
(l-r) Daniel French (aka me!) P2, Daniel Halstead P1, Neil Fraser P3
Championship Points Table
So as it stands now I'm in third place; a fair few points adrift, but once the (two allowable) dropped scores are taken into account, then things look somewhat better - I'll just explain that it is the best 12 scores out of the 14 races that count towards the final championship position.  Having said that, the points shift between places is so minimal in this championship it's hard to claw points back unless other competitors make a mistake / DNF or get penalties, and I won't rely on the misfortune of others.

Team Support
Different to Academy and Roadsport - in 270R, 310R and 420R championships you are allowed to be supported by a race team, to make things 'easier' or maybe the best way to describe it would be 'less hassle' - it's known as 'team support'.  However, I decided to run as a privateer this year, which means all pre-race prep, transportation, setup, spanner checks and so on are self managed which is interesting, but it is getting tougher to compete 'single handed' against much larger teams with many years of knowledge.  I do have an ever growing 'Support Team' though, and Jon at Snappyracers took this great pic of my many supporters (well all family!!!) wearing their 'Daniel caps'! 
The Daniel 'Support Team' at it's finest.
The Daniel 'Support Team' at it's finest.
Round Three - Oulton Park
Round three of the championship is at Oulton Park - I've only tested there back in 2017, but I remember enjoying the track, so am really excited about racing there.  Oulton Park is also a strange race weekend, as it's only on the Saturday, so it will be a busy day with qualifying, Race one and Race two all done in a day!

Feel free to come and say hi if you're coming to spectate.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Round One - Silverstone National - 2019 Caterham 270R Championship

It's been a while since my last blog post... Work and other commitments getting in the way, so I'm a bit 'rusty' at this blogging thing...

...Nevertheless the 2019 Caterham 270R racing season started last weekend at Silverstone National Circuit.  As is often the case at Silverstone there was only one test day on the friday before, but there was a great endurance race a few weekends prior which most competitors (myself included) attended.

Qualifying
I'll keep this short and sweet - I qualified in 3rd place only half a tenth off pole, which I was happy with.

We lined up in the assembly area, and this lovely picture was taken by the Snappy Racers team:-
l-r (me) Daniel French, Tom Allen, Matt Sheppard, James Murphy, Matthew Creak
l-r (me) Daniel French, Tom Allen, Matt Sheppard, James Murphy, Matthew Creak
Onto Race One 
As always I try to make some sort of race plan which usually goes out of the window as soon as the red lights go out!  But... the plan was to get a good start, stay out of trouble, make a break away, and bag some decent points.  

It all started out well... I got into P1 and managed to get a couple of opportunities to break away, but just couldn’t quite break the tow (slipstream), and funnily enough Silverstone is classified as being in 'Towcester' which I think I'll rename to 'TowFester' as I think that's quite a good analogy, as this race weekend was a complete Tow Fest..!  
Daniel French leading the pack into Luffield Corner - 2019 Caterham 270R Motul Championship Race One
Daniel French leading the pack into Luffield Corner - 2019 Caterham 270R Motul Championship Race One

I dropped down to 10th at one point, fought my way back up to finish 4th one tenth behind the photo finish of Matt Sheppard (P1), Justin Heap (P2) and James Murphy (P3).

Race One - Onboard Footage Below:-

Race Two
Having finished race one in 4th, this decided my grid position for race two.  Like the previous day the race plan was to get a good start, stay out of trouble, and bag some decent points.  And once again in the holding area before the race, there was a nice picture taken by the snappy racers team - this time one of the MOTUL guys (the title sponsors of our championship) taking a liking to my 'named mirror'.
The Motul Sponsors (being a FRENCH company) took a liking to my mirror!
The Motul Sponsors (being a FRENCH company) took a liking to my mirror!

The race started reasonably well, I grabbed the lead on lap 2, then somehow it all went downhill from there.  I slipped down the pack to my lowest position in Caterham racing to date – 14th!  I dug deep and fought my way back up to 4th with a great tow on the final lap and an opportunity to grab a decent place on the podium - only to be collected by a crash at Brooklands corner on the very last lap dropping me down to my ‘career worst’ finish of 21st!  You can see this at 30mins and 30seconds (in the video below)  

Race Two - Onboard Footage Below:-

Round One Summary:-
So on a results based summary this was a disappointing weekend.  However, my pace was good, I led both races and on a different circuit I think I would've been able to make a break away, so overall I'm pleased.  I'm not so pleased that my 2nd race of the season will be a 'drop score' which could make things a little more difficult later on in the championship.

On a 'fun factor' based summary, an absolute quality weekend, great close racing and spending time with like minded friends! 

Round Two:-
Roll on round two which is at Croft Circuit on 4th and 5th May 2019. 
Feel free to come and say hi if you're coming to watch.