After enjoying some winter testing, and getting my first crash of the season out the way, I felt ready to go at Brands Hatch for the first weekend of the 2019 BRSCC MX-5 Championship. Heading into the weekend, I enjoyed having a season’s experience of knowing how everything work, something I didn’t have last year. However, the thought that remained was one of apprehension. I thought a lot about how qualifying would go, how race 1 would go and so on. But the thing is, there is no way to tell, you just have to get on with it and stay out of trouble.
The test day on Friday felt like a usual test day, making progress but minimal at most. I tend to enjoy test days which are open pit lane, rather than sessioned , as more data can be gathered, hopefully improving lap times. The day ended after going through my lap data with Jack Sycamore from AB Motorsport and getting it into my head to take the learning into the qualifying session the next day, Saturday.
The morning came, and I went out for qualifying. This year, things were different going into sessions. I knew what to do in some situations, which did give me some confidence beforehand. For example, I knew, this time, that a slipstream can be vital to a good lap time. Also, I knew not to get held up behind a slower opponent in qualifying, and to create a gap if I needed to.
Qualifying went reasonably well, recording the 12th fastest time of the 32 cars in a strong group and ensuring that I was in the A race in a busy weekend with 64 competitors.
Race 1… a missed gear change… and 8 overtakes
For race 1, things began with a missed gear change from 2nd to 3rd; instead I went from 2nd to 1st gear, luckily keeping the clutch in, preventing substantial damage to the engine. After this mishap, I lost a few positions dropping from 23rd on the grid to 29th, but I knew I could gain them back. The early stages of the race were spent clawing back the positions I had lost. After getting out of the bottom five, to avoid being relegated, I then focused on getting back to my original starting position and more. I made it back to my starting position, after some good moves down the inside of Paddock Hill bend and Graham Hill bend. I’d got back to 21st, after starting 23rd, which after my, to be honest, terrible start, I was almost happy with my performance.
Race 2… ignition off… and 11 overtakes
Race 2 started in a similar fashion, as I again messed up the gear change from 2nd to 3rd , dropping me back yet again. I then made an even bigger error three quarters of the way around the first lap at Clearways. Somehow, when changing down gears in the braking zone for Clearways, I managed to knock the ignition switch off, killing the engine. It took me a short time to realise why I then had no power, however I was now stone dead last, and had everything to do if I wanted to stay in the A race, let alone get back to my starting position again. I worked on closing the gap to the group in front. I started overtaking cars left, right and centre. In some corners, I even managed to pass two cars at a time. With this strong comeback going well, I made it back to my starting position. I then again, worked on improving it. I finished the race in 21st, gaining an overall position, and having been in 32nd after my “ignition error”. The feeling after the race was very similar to one after the first, a missed opportunity, as the pace I’d shown to get back up eleven places was enough to have me running in and around the top 10.
Race 3… error free and 12th position
For the last race of the weekend, I counted myself lucky to be in it, as my mistakes n the previous races damaged my chances considerably. However, I was there, and decided to make the most of it. After making a better start than any of my previous races of the weekend, I was in the race for the first time. The first lap was hectic with Ben Hancy providing ample pressure from behind. I soon pushed on however, catching up to Lewis Cannon, I made it past on the front straight. The rest of the race was rather uneventful, with a fair gap in front all I had to do was defend from Lewis. I defended well with only a minor mistake of locking up into Druids once. I ended the race in 12th, a decent finishing position from 21st, helped by a few drivers coming together a couple of times ahead of me.
All in all, I was very happy to back, being back in the paddock and with the team was special, as it always is. Now to Pembrey.