As you read this my team and I are busy back at base in Pershore picking up the pieces - literally - from a very tough weekend at Donington. The damage to Sherman is pretty bad. The whole rear of the car has bent in and the steel bodywork is hard against both back wheels.
I had planned to make the trip to Alan Hyde’s studio for Tin Top Tuesday but unfortunately as the show began I was still in the workshop with the boys and three porta powers all in different directions trying to straighten out the rear chassis legs, boot and rear quarters.
It just seemed to be one of those weekends; in race one Hunter had a tangle with Warren Scott and spun into the back of me at the Old Hairpin. In race two while picking my way past one of the back markers I was hit again and turned around - God knows what he was thinking but at least I managed to continue after that one and hobble home in 18th. Race three was going well… I was running in the top ten but then I got an almighty whack from Tom Ingram that ended my race. He was very apologetic and I know there was no malice or intent but wow, what a crappy day!
Our pace in a straight line wasn’t what I expected either. I know my engine is good but we seemed to struggle to get the car to ‘free up’ out of the long corners and were losing bags of time. I have some set-up ideas that we will look into this week but we will need to sort it for Thruxton as it will kill us around there.
Speaking of Thruxton, I never know what to think when we head there. It’s my favourite circuit to drive and in everything else I have done I have always gone extremely well there, but in the BTCC the circuit really, really doesn’t suit our RWD Audi. The rules are against us when we come to circuits like this and the FWD cars have a big advantage.
It’s a tough one for everyone, though; a different tyre and a very unique circuit mean it requires a unique set-up and the fact that there is no testing there means you need experience and a lot of behind the scenes work from the engineers.
Unfortunately during our steep learning curve of the BTCC we only managed to actually have cars run here properly last year so we don’t have much experience and where other teams have a team of engineers running simulations and working out what set-up they should be on our equivalent is me and Matt (my #1 mechanic) having a pint after work with a calculator and coming up with a set-up.
So I’m really not sure how well we will go at Thruxton. We have some clever ideas but only time will tell although, being brutally honest, I think it’s going to be an exercise in damage limitation. The circuits that follow are much more suited to our car and I’m itching to get on that podium again!
Despite Donington being a wash-out in terms of results there were some great things to come out of the event. We had ITV Sport, or rather former champ Tim Harvey, drive Sherman for a piece that went out in the live ITV4 programme - he really loved it and it made some great content for viewers at home. Tim then decided to join the RAR Owners Club get-together in our team awning and that was very generous of him - my team-mate Hunter Abbott had brilliantly held the fort for 30 minutes while I worked with Tim on the ITV thing and he was worth waiting for. Great value for money and it was an added bonus to what was already a brilliant hour. Fitting 200 people inside our awning was a bit of a squeeze but what a fantastic buzz. Everyone in our team - and I mean everyone - was very touched. We have another one planned for Oulton and we’re looking to do something a bit special with it. Watch this space…
Finally I’d just like to say a big thanks to all the people who voted me their HiQ driver of the day at Brands Hatch’s BTCC event. I spent a lot of the day overtaking people as you know and getting the recognition from the fans really made it all the more worthwhile. So thank you. Right, back into the workshop to assess the damage to our cars fully and then plenty of late nights with the boys fixing it all for Thruxton. See you there and if you are about please come and say ‘hi’.