“Donington is relatively close to us and sign on wasn’t until quite late in the morning so there wasn’t a huge rush. We managed to get set up in pretty good time, so we were stood around looking at some of the other cars in other series’ as they pushed their cars to the scrutineering bay, chatting to some as they stopped right next to us.
Eventually, it was time for qualifying and Ryan went out first as I waited in the pits. We had moved the seat forward a bit since “Lofty” Banks wasn’t driving, which meant I could leave my booster seat at home. We used the driver change in qualifying as a practice pit stop which went pretty well and I left the pits in some clear air. The car felt really good, the steering was much more communicative, going extremely light with any understeer and if the back stepped out, piling on the opposite lock whether you wanted to or not. I remembered the way round from last year and most of the mornings dampness had disappeared so it was quite good fun. Ryan’s fastest lap of 1:27.8 had put us 22nd on the grid out of 33 starters. Looking at the videos and data afterwards gave me a couple of areas to focus on in the race. Unusually, there wasn’t anything to fix on the car so we watched a bit of racing and Dave gave me a series of pep talks (I’m a tiger!).
We had some lunch, then took some time to practice our super slick driver changes. Soon enough, it was time to get ready for the race…”
“Time for the race and I’m up first, with a rolling start to deal with. Driving into the assembly area we get noise tested scoring 92db @ 4200rpm, which seems to be less than the previous engine which would score a consistent 98db. This is good news in terms of low noise for track days but could indicate a difference in combustion between engines, lets just hope it’s for the better.
So, I’m strapped into the car sat on the assembly grid… I decide it’s time for the magical driving juice (our favourite bovine inspire energy beverage). 20 mins later, the Red Bull has kicked in and the 1 min board is shown. Before I know it we are of on our formation lap. This is my first ever rolling start so I thought I’d probably not get it right, oh how wrong could I have been. Coming through Roberts Esses, I see the cars in front of me start to accelerate in anticipation of the red lights going out so I follow suit. I’m in 3rd gear about 5000 rpm and I see the red light go out, the cars ahead of me seem to be on the brakes for some reason, so I decide to just drive round them.
5 cars later I find my self in 17th going into the first corner, side by side with 2 other cars.I brake as late as I dare with tepid tyres and cool brakes, trying to leave as much space as possible for the orange 106 on my offside corner. I glanced in my mirror and all I can see is the side of that car. Looking back at the video he had a huge yaw angle but some how managed to control it, which was a relief as it did cross my mind that I almost had an accident in the first corner, something I’d never be able to live down with the lads!”
” I powered on down through Craner Curves as the cars start to space out. The tyres and brakes begin to come up to temperature and I settle into the race. I had, what I though was a fantastic battle with the 2 Fiesta’s and a Civic, swapping places over a few laps. This was possibly the most fun I’ve had in a race to date.
A dozen or so laps later, I drove past a white Nova on the gravel between McLeans and Coppice at which point I should have realised there might be a safety car but I didn’t. No prizes for guessing what happened next, yes, a safety car. This was a shame as I was really enjoying full race pace after only completing 3 laps of the Castle Combe race due to engine failure. Dave refrained from bringing me in and I stayed out behind the safety car which seemed to be a good plan as a lot of people went in for the driver change only to then queue at the end of the pit lane for ages.
As the safety car peeled off, I saw the pit board and acknowledged that I’d come in next lap. Stopping in the box was complicated by a marshal laying cement on an oil spill in the box before ours, I managed to stop it in approximately the right place, put it in gear, turned ignition off, released the harness and that was me done. Dave informs me that we are currently 8th place which was awesome and that I managed a 1:25.9 which is my best ever lap time around Donington. Pretty good going considering we have a standard engine and no differential!”
“We managed a good pit stop with the only hiccup being me trying to pull away in third. We still managed the fastest stop of the race by some margin though so we’re pleased about that. The car still felt good and having warmed up a bit there was noticeably more grip compared to practice.
I managed to catch and overtake a couple of cars in the first few laps and kept the pace up without any mishaps. Several of the faster cars came past and I managed to catch and overtake an Alfa on my penultimate lap. There’s definitely still some room for improvement, especially through the Craner Curves and Old Hairpin but overall much happier with the car and my performance than at Brands. We managed a 12th place finish and don’t need to fix anything on the car this time (apart from the brake switch which fell out), which is encouraging especially in contrast to the last race at Castle Combe. We’ve had a chat with Gripper and been saving up some money, so, the next plan is to fit a limited slip differential in one of the spare gearboxes and then maybe a bit of a power upgrade over the winter. Hopefully we’ll be challenging a bit further up the grid next year.”