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!

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