More progress and a trophy but still no luck.
When I committed to this move to Handy Motorsport I knew there would be a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to for everyone involved however I felt the package as a whole would be a winner. So, OK, I under estimated it, we struggled at first and its taken us much longer to get to this point than I imagined it would but no one can deny our progress during this second half of the year and the car I had in the final race at Silverstone was definitely a race winner had we not had to start from the back. That’s a big thing for me, it’s the first time I’ve honestly been able to say that and its filled me with excitement and motivation for the final round at Brands Hatch and for 2017.
Going in to the 9th round of the 2016 Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone and as I said in my last blog, we thought we would have a strong package and we thought that we had made further improvements. FP1 was a washout and meant that no one got any meaningful running but during FP2 we went straight out with a new pair of front tyres on and on my first flying lap of Silverstone in a FWD ever it was good enough for P5. Ok, its free practice, it doesn’t prove much other than we were in the ball park. But then in qualifying, to spite only really getting one decent run with and leaving some on the table we still managed p6.
For race 1 the worry was the guys on the soft tyres and the challenge would be to stay ahead of them in the early laps. I got a great start but within seconds of the lights going green I had already been side swiped by Morgan which damaged my suspension. The car was different but fortunately Ok. Unfortunately, in the couple of laps it took me to adjust to its new handling characteristics Morgan managed to get passed on his soft tyres. Eventually we managed to find our way back past but by that time the lead pack had gone and we finished 5th on the road.
Finding out that both MG’s had been disqualified was a funny feeling, it promoted us to a podium place so you cant help but be happy but it’s not the way we want to get our trophy’s, we want to earn them! Plus you feel bad for them, 888 are not cheats and there is no way that would have been intentional. Still the rules are the rules and I don’t know what the fault was exactly so I can’t say if it had a performance advantage or not but, honestly, I doubt it.
Race 2 we therefore started in 3rd and after a clean get away we were sat comfortably behind Jordan in that position. I didn’t want to challenge as we were on the softs and I was just taking it very easy, staying off the kerbs and trying my best to look after them. I made a small mistake which allowed two cars through but although I was annoyed with myself I continued to look after the tyres and my only goal was to finish inside the top ten. Then I started picking up more and more understeer and lost some straight line speed, I couldn’t hold on and fell down to 8th a lap later the tyre gave up and that was my race done. It was far too early in the race to be set-up or wear related so we determined that the failure must have been debris. Gutted!
For race 3, starting off the back of the grid we got brave and tried a setting that we had been talking about for some time. It was either going to be awful or breakthrough tweak we had been looking for. Fortunately it was the later! We flew through the field, the car was awesome. I could put it where I wanted, it had no understeer it was just mega! We got from 31st to 13th by 2/3rds of the way through the race and we were still going strong. We reeled in the MG’s then drew alongside pole man Ash Sutton, he squeezed me at the exit of turn 3 which resulted in a degree of rubbing in to turn 4, nothing bad just normal rubbings racing but unfortunately it caused another puncture as we exited Luffield. 6 years no punctures and now two in one day, I was gutted.
BUT we have had Handy Motorsports best ever qualifying, our second podium of the year and found a tweak to make a competitive car even stronger, there are so many positives to take from this weekend that even two DNF’s cant keep my head down and I cant wait to see what we can do at Brands.
Brands GP is actually the only track on the calendar that I dread. I love the place but I always seem to struggle there and I cant figure out why however given how good the car felt at Silverstone its giving me more confidence and so I’m feeling the best I ever have heading in to the final round.
See you all there.