Cadwell Park MX-5 Championship

I was looking forward to the Cadwell Park race weekend, as in the previous season I managed my first podium there. Also, the circuit is a brilliant one, rewarding you for pushing the envelope but biting hard as soon as you overdo it the smallest amount.

Testing in the wet

The Friday test day went well for me, enjoying my second visit to the circuit. Times came down throughout the day and I felt confident going into qualifying on the Saturday. On Saturday morning I’d booked the 30 minute practice session as Cadwell is a track where I feel seat time is of the upmost importance if you really want to be one of the fastest around the track. For the qualifying session, it was a wet one. A wet Cadwell seemed like a very interesting prospect, a track originally built for motorbike racing and only really able to fit two cars wide seemed like quite a challenge. However, it was only a practice session so I went out and made the most of the opportunity. I enjoyed it though, pushing more and more each lap. Unfortunately, Adam Bessell and Sam Smith came together quite hard at the bottom of the Gooseneck, Cadwell biting like it does.

For Saturday morning I was in qualifying group 1. I knew going in that I now felt more than confident pushing the car through Cadwell’s tight bends and considerable gradient changes. I went out there and gave it my all, leaving nothing out on the circuit. My fastest lap even had quite a slide in it, meaning the time could have been better, but I was happy with where I was, finishing the session in 7th fastest in my group. For the race I would start 13th.

A close encounter with the tyre wall

Fly MX-5, fly…

My start for the first race was a good one, getting off the line well, I was in the race. Coming into the first corner, I could see two cars come together side by side. A plume of smoke got sent back through the field. I avoided Lewis Cannon on the inside and tried to get through unscathed.

I made it through and focused on making progress on what was now a really good position to be in, I’d gained two positions from the incident at the first corner. However, a lap later after Charlies 1, I was widening my entrance to Charlies 2 as much as I could to get the best run onto to the back straight. This caused me to put the rear left wheel onto the grass on the outside, meaning I drifted onto the grass, not being able to turn back onto the track. I was heading at some speed towards the tyre wall! I braked but, before I knew it, I was across an access road which threw the car into the air. I came crashing down, still locked up, I then managed to come off the brakes to avoid the wall, barely scraping it.

I was frustrated as I’d thrown away a good finish with a mistake I’d never made before. I carried on, gaining 5 positions from where I dropped down to, I finished 20th.

Brake pad knock off and some frustration

Frustrated with my first race, I focused on making it up in the second race. My start was hampered with another missed gear change. However, Adam Bessell gave me a good boost so I was up to speed relatively quickly anyway. I settled into the race and made it into 14th position, after fighting with Adam Craig and Marcus Bailey. The rest of the race was spent trying to get past Tom Smith, who in his efforts to stop me getting past made some questionable manoeuvres. Weaving down the straights to stop me getting a run up the inside was an interesting approach to defending. Nevertheless, I pressed on. Towards the end of the race, I was still right on Tom’s bumper. Coming onto the back straight after Charlies 2, Tom ran wide, I took my chance and made my way round the outside of Tom on the straight, eventually pulling in front and to the inside. Coming into Park Corner I was firmly in front. Unfortunately, another random mistake from myself was to take it all away. Coming down into Mansfield, after the Gooseneck, I went on the brakes, but experienced pad knock off. The brakes were nowhere near as effective as they usually are, meaning I ran wide onto the grass, falling back down to 19th. Gutted. I’ve never forgotten to bring the pressure back with my left foot before, but there I did and I paid for the price. On to the next race.

Let’s not make a mistake

For the last race my plan was just not to make another mistake. Simple. Thankfully I managed to go a whole race without flying in the air or going on the grass. My start was a slow one (something I need to work on), but I got on with the race and aimed to enjoy it, especially at Cadwell, a great circuit even if it bites when you throw it off!

I made my way through the high teens, passing Dave Turton and Oliver Graham. I was happy with a dummy overtake on Ben Hancy into the first corner. Towards the end of the race, I’d caught back up to Marcus Bailey and Will Hayden. The race ended a lap later however with an encouraging 14th.

A weekend that last year gave me my first podium ended better than it had started, I wasn’t happy with my driving but sometimes bad weekends happen. Three meetings, nine races and competing in the A race in every one. That’s a step up from last season.

I look forward to Anglesey on the 8th of June.

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