Cadwell Park - highs, lows and undulations
I had a relatively restless night's sleep on Friday, the night before race day. My own fault. Through one thing or another I was worrying about the car. Come Saturday morning and a quick chat with the boss all was well. My job was to drive that car to the limit, so that's what I was going to do.
Out for qualifying and a P2. More than I had expected. I made a mistake through Park corner, spending most of it drifting the apex. It was a very greasy corner which caught out most drivers and resulted in Andy Langley's no.53 hitting the barrier. But this was my fastest and only quick lap and there was no more space or time to get another hot one in.
So P2 and thrilled with that.
Race 1 starting on the front row. Too much wheel spin and not carrying enough speed when I shifted into second gear meant I got bogged down in the revs allowing Jono Davis from P3 to pip me into the first corner. A spin then by guest driver Butcher-Lord into Charlies meant a late swerve into 2nd place. The race was on. The fast rookie versus the supreme racer. The battle that most wanted to see. **Cough, it lasted one lap. D'oh. Check it out...
It lasted one lap when I made a mistake turning into Charlies 2 too early and going off onto the grass. This gave 3rd place Rob Austin the jump on me into 2nd. I was so frustrated with myself.
Quickly on to the back of Rob I was trying to make amends for my earlier error, but it is tremendously difficult to pass on this circuit. I was conscious Jono was all the time extending his lead. I didn't get passed Rob for 3 more hard fought laps on the back of his very wide red no.24, by which time I could see on the pit board I was 14 seconds behind the leader. Once I got into clear air I knew the race was lost, so I made an attempt for the fastest lap I then backed off to save tyres and the car. I gave it a good go, a 1:40.651 got me a second fastest lap to a flying Jono Davis who pulled out a 1:40.037.
Finished P2. Fantastic result under the circumstances.
Race 2 and the reverse grid saw me starting P5 off the lights. Probably easiest to watch the action here.
Finish P4. This time I did secure fastest lap.
As I strive for continual improvement it's important to look at where I made mistakes. Lets start at the beginning, literally. My starts. I regressed into my poor starts phase which dogged me at the beginning of the season. I didn't get it right in either races. On a track like Cadwell, you can't get away with that. Its notoriously difficult to pass here. On the occasions I could have made amends for my starts I made big errors. Errors which meant the difference between challenging for top spot and not being on the podium at all. Race 1 going off at Charlies 2. In Race 2 my car positioning for overtaking and defending.
The car setup. One thing that being a rookie will disadvantage any driver is the experience to set the car up. You have nothing to benchmark or draw experience from to change the setup of the car for any given track, in the absence of extensive testing. Friday practice you are focusing on learning the track. You do not time to start changing suspension settings or any other setups that may affect you car. As a team we have learnt from this and as we head into Rockingham we will pushing further and harder to get it right, togther.
Leading the championship is pressure, particularly if you are a competitive so-and-so like me. I didn't ask to be leading the championship, not that this is something you ask for but simply do. From the first weekend at Donington when I won the very first race till the end of my last race, the weekend just gone at Cadwell, I have been leading the championship. Through a succession of great results culminating in 5 wins and 11 podiums from 14 races I have been on the top spot throughout.
Once you start getting into the season you understand as a driver where you fair within the field quite quickly. What your capabilities can be, and where you then pitch yourself for each race. When the results start to come the expectation on yourself becomes greater. So at what point do you give yourself a break? This is my first season of racing after all, no one ever expected me to be where I am so I should be grateful, right? So just relax and chill out.
That way of thinking just isn't me, and let me tell you why...
These results are naturally justifiable even though I didn't know it in the beginning. Two fundamental reasons have meant I am where I am. Firstly, the team have consistently delivered me a car that is reliable and fast, enough to take any driver to the front of the pack. This is no easy task for which I am very grateful to my team. Throughout the season I have consistently fed back to the team where I feel we could be quicker. For a rookie with zero experience this does not come easy. But I do know cars, and working closely with the team and studying YouTube (seriously, its all there) I have developed an understanding of race car setup theory. So together we are able to work through it.
And secondly, my own talent and ability to learn quickly to drive the car around these circuits. Driving does come easy to me, but that doesn't make a fast driver. You have to understand and learn racing principles and how to get a car round a circuit in the fastest way. With every race I am becoming more experienced. With experience my pace gets faster and allows me to be consistently quicker than the last outing. I hit the books after every race. I review my race footage and feedback to the team. I am on it. I am on it like a competitive so-and-so.
So with that I naturally cannot take my foot off the gas. It's not in my DNA. I will not stop until the last race and I have given my all for myself and the team. I can see I am a front runner. I know that with the right car setup and no driver mistakes I can be the fastest, I can beat the fastest. So that is my target, that is my realistic and achievable goal for this season. Anything less would not be right.
We have a plan for Rockingham. We know where we could have been faster at Cadwell, car and driver. So as we evolve we will be taking it to the last race. We want those wins.