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.

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