BMW Compact Cup 2016 – Round 2 @ RockinghamA new track and my best ever result
The second round took us to Rockingham and another new track to check off my list! For the first time I tested a whole week in advance and took the opportunity to get some setup help with instruction from a team mate which proved extremely useful.
The plan was to spend the morning working with Simon to get the car set up and him to show me a few tips on where I was going wrong. We started with the trackday sighting lap parade before I then did about 4 laps with Simon watching on before returning to the pits for a bit of a chat. He then jumped in for a few laps and starting making some setup adjustments before releasing me on my own just before lunch. I got a good stint in and started to feel extremely comfortable with the track (maybe my new favourite) and the improvements to how the car felt. We did a quick comparison of times and my pace was looking stronger than ever!
The afternoon would prove to be less fruitful as the power steering died when Simon was having a run just after lunch. I still went out and did my race distance run to prove the car would hold pace throughout the stint but it was quite a workout having to adjust to no power steering! My running for the day ended there as we tried to get the power steering fixed without joy. I then spent the next week studying my data alongside my video footage to pinpoint how I could get closer to my ultimate lap time and where there was still time to find.
With over 40 cars on track qualifying was going to be all about finding space on track at the right time. I left the pits on brand new tyres for the first time since Silverstone 2015 and boy could I feel the difference! Once I got through the first few turns and the tyres came in I had more grip and confidence than I could ever remember. In the early stages of the session I was actually being held up by some team mates that were normally out of sight but I found a gap and set a great lap on my first truly clear lap that was good enough for 10th until the session got red flagged.
Once we got back under way I was unlucky with track position and never quite got another clear lap and finished the session 16th out of over 40 cars. Still a session to be delighted with!
My qualifying exploits would net me 11th on the grid for Race 1 which was my highest grid position to date! I got a half decent launch but lost momentum when I was slightly squeezed in the middle of 3 wide heading towards the hairpin on the opening lap. Looking back I was probably a little too cautious on the brakes in to the hairpin and lost a couple of spots. I made an opportunistic move on ex Clio-Cup driver James Nutbrown during the first lap which felt good. This would not last for long however as I knew it made no sense to get involved in a battle and risk losing the leading train ahead. I then settled in just behind him at the back of a train that went almost all the way to the front for the early laps.
Unfortunately I made a small mistake at the hairpin when I missed a gear dropping me in to the firing zone of a battle raging behind. This meant I got a punt up the rear coming in to the first corner of the next lap as they tried to outbreak each other and both left it too late! I somehow managed to keep the car pointing in the right direction but the loss of momentum made me an easy target for them over the next 2 corners. My race was pretty much done at this point as I was stuck behind someone with a far better engine than me making it extremely hard to pass. I did manage to sneak ahead briefly with a nice little dummy at the hairpin but lost out in the power battle exiting the hairpin! I wound up 16th which still equalled my best result however I was left feeling frustrated at a wasted opportunity.
Starting 12th this time I got another decent start but again lost a couple of places being stuck on the outside of the first hairpin. As is always possible when racing on such large grids chaos wasn’t far away! Coming out of turn 3 on lap one a few cars ahead got together leaving one stranded across the track right ahead of me. I managed to jink right without losing too much momentum with a minor little love tap between me and my good friend Jack Drury as we both survived! Although I had inherited 2 spots from the crash one or two cars on the other side of the track didn’t lose any momentum and managed to sneak past. I tried to make amends quickly but was squeezed on to the grass under braking and ended up losing another spot to to Dave Whitmore. We both then managed to pass the car ahead taking advantage of a bit of carnage coming out of the hairpin which unfortunately spelt the end for my team mate Neil Roche!
The rest of the race would be the most fun I’ve ever had on track. I had the pace on Whitmore but he had a bit more speed on the straights leading to a race long battle with Jack Drury tagging along right behind on my bumper. Time and time again I came close but just couldn’t make the move stick on Whitmore before finally one of his small mistakes under pressure left a large enough gap for me to squeeze through! I then nailed the next lap to break free from the slipstream and set about chasing down the car ahead but I ran out of laps before I got there. I crossed the line with no idea where I had finished. I could see the team giving me big thumbs up on the pit wall so I assumed it must have been my best result so far! I was surprised and a little shocked to be told in parc ferme that I had managed my first ever top 10! In such a competitive field with an engine that is clearly down on power I’m really proud of this.
Next up is Snetterton 300 on my birthday weekend in June, let’s hope we can keep up this improve form!