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. 

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