Brands Hatch Qualifying

We arrived at Brands Hatch on the Saturday morning, having had a get together the night before with the AB Motorsport crew. Having signed on for the first time, I made my way down to the team’s garage. My nerves had actually been quite calm in the time leading up to the weekend, with just a feeling of apprehensiveness creeping in. This all changed when I saw my car, with all its BRSCC and new AB Motorsport stickers looking ready to take the weekend on. The sight of the car got me excited for the weekend, and raring to the go.

I was allocated to qualifying group 2, so was able to watch the first group go out. This allowed me to study what lines the drivers were taking particularly through Surtees and Graham Hill bend. After the first group came back in, I listened to what my fellow AB Motorsport drivers had to say about the conditions as it had lightly rained the night before, leaving a slick layer on top of the tarmac. I listened closely to what fellow driver, Stuart Symonds ,had to stay and tried to take in everything.

The qualifying session

Before I knew it, the Fiesta juniors had completed their practice session and I was out for my first ever qualifying session of my career. I started off, taking it easy round Paddock Hill bend and through Surtees and Clearways. Going out in the third group on track was an advantage as the track had dried on the racing line, thus allowing me to push harder each lap. Having been stuck behind a few cars during the session, I qualified 16th out of the 48 BRSCC competitors. Not bad for a complete beginner!

I finished the session, knowing that I could have pushed harder but was content with where I had placed. Then the long wait to the first two races began. The time was spent going over the car and strategy for the races.

My track debut

Having qualified 16th, that put me in grid position 7 in the B race. I was happy with this for my first race as I would be right in the thick of it, and maybe have a chance of getting promoted to the A race. The A race headed out on track and I watched closely. Watching the start was important for me as I’d never started before from the grid. So, studying how the field navigated through the first couple of corners gave me an insight in what to expect in the B race. After the A Race ended, I again tried to gain some knowledge from what my fellow AB Motorsport drivers had to say. After what felt like no time at all… it was time for me to go to the assembly area for the next race, my first race.

I drove over to the assembly area with Jack Sycamore from AB Motorsport sitting on the outside of the car, along with me. I got my Hans device and helmet on and started think about what I was about to get myself into. Jack and Ali were both there to give some settling advice on how to approach my first race. Jack asked if I was nervous. If I’m honest, I didn’t feel all that nervous as I really tried to keep level headed and just concentrate on my driving. And then I was in the car and heading out for the formation lap. This is when I really got in the zone. With the formation lap being very short around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, I came up to my grid spot quickly. An almost eerie silence fell across the grid and pitlane as all the cars lined up and the 10 second and 5 second boards came out. The lights came on. My focus was completely on them, off they went and I came off the clutch for my very first race start. Having never done a proper start before, I lit up the rears which slowed my start down. This resulted in me losing a couple of places in the run to the first corner, Paddock Hill bend.

A close shave at Druids
A close shave at Druids
Image courtesy of Jonathan Elsey Motorsport Photography

I stayed on the inside as my 7th grid position fortunately started me there. I kept a cautious yet competitive line around Paddock Hill on the inside. We ran up to Druids, still on the inside. A plume of smoke engulfed the cars ahead for a split second. Next thing I see is a car pirouetting in front of me. I went for the gap on the inside and went through. This meant I gained the positions back I had lost on the start. I then focused on a consistent drive and lapping pace after the high energy start. In doing this I closed the gap to Adrian Burge and Nick Le Doyen.

Duelling with Burge and Le Doyen
Image courtesy of Jonathan Elsey Motorsport Photography

The rest of the race consisted of the three of us battling it out for 5th place, with myself giving Adrian a slight “love tap” into Druids halfway through the race, as I locked my brakes up. The battling continued, but the wily experience of both Adrian and Nick meant that I stayed behind them. One thing that quickly came to my mind during the race was the feeling, that it felt natural, like I’d been doing it for years. What I did realise was the immense concentration and physical effort that is needed for racing. I was coming out of Clearways and Druids with one hand on the wheel to reduce effort towards the end of the races.

The race ended and I made my way back to assembly area after a slower cool down lap, feeling more than content with how I had performed in my first race. Jack was there to reaffirm my confidence in my performance. I took this into my next race.

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