Having done a test day at Snetterton earlier on in the year, I felt good going into the race weekend – a weekend which last year, saw my worst finishes. Snetterton, at the time was a track I never felt wholly confident on, which was really down to one sector of the track, sector 3. The awkward braking zones for Nelson and Murrays always seemed to throw me off, as it requires you to brake and turn at the same time, which is never a recommended thing to do. But after the first session in the morning on the Friday test day, I felt that I’d gelled with the track more than I ever had before. There was more pace to find, but I felt I was on the right track.
Testing and a tyre stack
After the first session, Jack Sycamore from AB Motorsport looked at my footage, and gave me some pointers in areas where I could find time. So, for the second session, I attempted to put it into practice. A few laps in, I was happy with how the session was going, and Jack gave me the in-board to come into the pits. Now, for a reason I find hard to find even now, I didn’t slow down on this in-lap, I continued at a race pace. This, unfortunately, led to me striking the tyre stack on the inside of Hamilton. The impact was hard, and it shocked me, as I felt that I wasn’t close enough to hit it!
The car got shot sideways as the car made contact with the tyres on front left wing. I corrected the slide with steering that now faced completely the wrong way. I nursed the car round to the inside of Williams so that the session could continue, as I didn’t want to be the reason for a red flag, and affect the other drivers’ session. I sat on the grass, contemplating how I’d just managed to hit a tyre stack on the inside of a corner. Now, the weekend ahead looked like an even tougher one, at a track I didn’t feel the best on, and one where I’d just had a shunt. The AB Motorsport team managed to get the car sorted for the next session as they always do (thanks guys!). As the day got hotter, the track slowed down and trying to find time was impossible. I was now heading into qualifying without really setting a good benchmark time.
Finding time in qualifying
The morning for qualifying came, and although I hadn’t set a good benchmark time, I knew where the time to gain was. Having grown more confident in the last couple sessions the day before, I braked later for Nelson and Murrays. This paid off, as early on in the session I was 8th. This gave me the confidence to push even more. However, I was unable to find any more time. This didn’t necessarily bother me though, as I was happy with where I was, especially at a track where I was expecting damage limitation to be a big factor throughout the weekend.
Race 1… A decent start
Starting 16th on the grid, (your qualifying finish doubles because there are two groups), it was the usual story of knowing there was ground to make. I started alongside Lewis Cannon, always a fast starter. And true to his name, Lewis got a blinder of a start. He came past even though I made a decent start. The first lap was a scrap with Jack Moody and Callum Greatrex pressuring from behind. The next few laps were spent following Jack Moody. The times I got close, Jack defended well. Jack managed to get past Stuart Symonds, a fellow AB Motorsport driver who was attending his first weekend in a while. I then closed up and tried to find a way past. Being a team mate of Stuart, I wanted to get past, but didn’t want to ruin his race either. I did have opportunities where I could have got past if a risk had been taken, but I passed up those opportunities. A clear cut opportunity came and I took it, down the Bentley straight into Nelson, after a good exit out of Williams. In retrospect, and as Jack Sycamore made clear after the race, I should’ve taken the opportunities that had been offered up beforehand. I didn’t because Stuart is a teammate and I didn’t want to be responsible for taking a teammate out. After what happened at Cadwell, I just wanted clean and consistent finishes.
Once I passed Stuart, I then aimed to catch up to Richard Baxter. I once again closed up to the car ahead. Pressuring Richard, I knew the opportunity was coming. I focused on again getting a good exit of Williams corner to get a good run in the slipstream. My exit was a good one and I happily sat in the tow, waiting to pop out. I made my move out just before the braking zone. I pulled up alongside, knowing that I’d have to brake late to complete the move. This time around, I committed. I took the outside round Brundle, cutting across Richard into Nelson, move complete. I was now in a bubble, with Richard Baxter some way behind and Jack Moody some way ahead. I finished in 15th, so ground was made, but I wanted more.
Race 2… a train ride
So, for the second race of the weekend I would start 15th. The start was frantic with me being squeezed on the inside of both Riches and Montreal Hairpin. I held my ground though and passed Jack Moody on the Bentley straight. I then had a train ahead of me, led by Stuart Symmonds who had a great start. I used the train to create a gap to the cars behind.
Soon enough I closed to Lewis Cannon who had dropped to the back of the train. Attempting a move into Agostini, he defended well. Instead I decided to make the most of a good exit onto the Bentley straight and sit in the slipstream. This paid off as halfway down the straight I was past Lewis. I then focused the next few laps on closing the gap between me and Ben Hancy. By the time I had caught up with the pack again, Stuart Symmonds had fallen to the back of the pack. I learned my lesson in the previous race in wasting time trying to pass a teammate, so I wanted to clear Stuart quickly.
I got the inside for Agostini again and passed Stuart on entry. A couple of laps later, Marcus Bailey and Ben Hancy went side by side into Bomb Hole. This slowed them both down, with Marcus on the inside I aimed to follow him through into Coram, passing Hancy. This worked and I gained another position. I did my best to close the gap to Marcus Bailey after passing Hancy however I just didn’t have the pace to match. This meant the remainder of the race was defending from Hancy, I made my MX-5 the widest in the paddock to retain the positions I had gained. Fortunately, towards the end of the race, Hancy’s efforts ended and I finished in 13th.
Race 3… Another top 15 finish
Starting 13th in the last race of the weekend, I wanted to double down and make the most of the ground I’d gained. However, my start was poor, off the line I had lost the positions I had gained in the previous race. I then just wanted to hold where I’d fallen to, which was 15th.
The race spread out in the early stages. As I followed Lewis Cannon around, he got a run on Marcus Bailey and made it up the inside at Riches. I was close behind and followed Cannon on the inside, giving me the inside line for Montreal hairpin. Side by side into the tight corner, I just about edged Marcus as I made it past down the inside. The race spread out again, with a gap to Hancy in front and a gap to Bailey behind. Catching up to Hancy, however, meant I had to try and find a way past, slowing me down. I had the edge on Hancy into the fast right hander, Riches. One lap Hancy took the defensive line, I remained on the racing line, and scythed up the inside. I may have had the pace in the first sector and the fast stuff, but Hancy had me in the infield, and importantly the run into Brundle and Nelson. I held Hancy behind with us actually swapping positions a couple times, with Hancy passing into Brundle and me passing into Riches. Unfortunately, by the end my tyres had gone off. Hancy passed me into Brundle for the last time to which I had no response coming round for the chequered flag. I finished 15th, but thoroughly enjoyed the race.
After starting the weekend with a shunt at a track I wasn’t particularly fond of, I was happy to come away with three top 15 finishes, and with good points on the board, I looked forward to Oulton Park.