We always knew we would struggle at Donington. As much as I love the place and have gone well there in other formulae poor old Sherman just doesn’t seem to get on with it. We have made some good progress through the winter though and it turned out that we had improved and were much closer to the ultimate pace but still we are missing something there.
I’ve got to say having Matt Taylor as my engineer now is a big step forward. We had kind of stalled in our progress on the set-up of the cars. The thing is as a driver I mostly go by feel and struggle to work with the numbers. Of course when a car feels good it doesn’t mean that that’s quick. A good example of this and the good work Matt is doing was race 3 at Donington; he made a change that I would never have made. From what I was feeling in the car it was too opposite to what I felt should work but Matt’s numbers told him to go that way. We were both right, the car did feel worse but crucially we did the 5th fastest lap in race 3 (an unimaginable feat in years gone by) and it was clearly faster. It shows that we are going in the right direction; we could just do with a little more testing to work through some more of these ideas.
So we have that positive although it hard to feel positive about such high numbers! But 12th is the highest we have ever qualified here before and 10th is the highest we have ever finished. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t consider P10 a great result but you have to consider where we were and the progress is undeniable. Hopefully when we get past Thruxton and on to some of our better circuits these improvements will help us to a few race wins.
Anyway, FP1 & 2 were uneventful for me. That’s always good when you’re running a team – it means there was no drama and my guys are all doing a great job. It was a different story on the other side of the garage though. Jack Goff had made a mistake in FP1 which resulted in Hunter’s car taking serious damage. But my guys have proved themselves to be miracle workers plenty of times before so this, although being MASSIVE damage, was run of the mill.
Quali was proving quite uneventful as well. We were P10 after my first run and I was encouraged by this as I felt I had a little more left on the table but our second run was a bit more eventful… very suddenly! After some traffic issues we found some clear track and I was on a quick lap, flat in top gear when my prop shaft just gave up. Our car is strong and we take safety seriously when we are building them…thank God… Because it didn’t half go with some force.
Race1 turned out to be the best we would do on Sunday. The plan we had laid out for the day was all about patience, keeping out of trouble and picking up points and in race 1 that worked just fine. I’ll tell you, though, it’s hard to keep patient and calm when you get passed by drivers who you can see are making mistakes all over the place but still faster than you. It’s very frustrating and the reflex response is to try harder but when you’re already dancing on a knife edge that just slows you down.
Race 2 was a minor disaster. Because we had nothing to lose we tried something different for the soft tyres which really didn’t work and both Hunter and I dropped out of the points.
Race 3 was going well. As I said earlier our pace was improved and I had something to fight with. We came from 18th and worked our way up in to the top ten, then out, then in… The cameras may have been focused up front but it was just as busy where I was as well. There was a group of us engaged in a great scrap for positions 7 to 12. I had just got shuffled back a couple of places when Turkington on soft tyres had a grassy moment in front of me. Anyway, what I hadn’t noticed is that with all the side by side racing it was allowing Jeff Smith to catch up. In my opinion Jeff is a wealthy man who has proved that when he is placed in a racing car he is completely void of the ability to think. After taking a year off it seems to clear his license of all the points he amassed during his last attempt he has returned to prove to us all that he just doesn’t care about anyone else, as long as he’s having a fun Sunday out playing dodgems. Needless to say I’m gutted for all my staff and supporters who put so much in to every race weekend that their efforts are wasted due to this guy. Seems he is well on his way to losing his license again already so might not be around for long.
Anyway, looking ahead to Thruxton. Although it is one of my favourite circuits to drive it’s another weak one for Sherman I’m afraid. Matt has some good ideas and I am hopeful that the theory works out so that we can fight inside the top ten but we have had some really tough times there in the past so I don’t want to build my hopes up too much. We are putting everything in to it though and we have some good ideas so you never know.