The third round of the season took the Compact Cup grid to Sunny Snetterton! Having had to skip the previous round I turned up having not been in the car for over 2 months. So a bit of rust to shake off and no clear idea of where we stood pace wise.
It was a fairly common MSV Test day of 4 30 Minute sessions on the Friday. The weather forecast was all over the place and kept changing – threatening everything between all sunny, mostly wet and a bit of both! What we actually got was mostly sunny with a bit of rain that led to some very interesting track conditions. Strangely the rain tended to coincide with me getting the shorts out….
The first session was all about going out and getting myself comfortable again while the track was completely dry. The Car felt really good straight away and my pace was around 2 seconds clear of what I managed in the races last year. Found myself a nice open space on track and banged out some strong laps towards the end of the session. This still left multiple seconds to find to the guys right at the front though!
The rest of the day was spent trying a few tweaks and different lines but to no significant improvements. After pouring over the data throughout the day I was frustrated to find that once again my best lap came in the first session! However in the final session I did a very consistent stint of laps close to that time which was a big positive. There were a few quick showers to deal with which instantly turned the track to ice for a lap only to find the next time around everywhere was bone dry again! A challenging few minutes there. The day was drama free so we could spend the rest of our time relaxing and preparing for Sunday.
Having missed round 2 this meant I would be let out towards the back of the pack for our qualifying session. Luckily I managed to pick my way past a few slower cars ahead of me on the out lap and had no traffic issues! The car however felt horrendous compared to the Friday. Finally on the last lap of the session I got within a second of my Friday time.
This was good enough for 14th and 16th on the grid but left us with a bit of head scratching to do considering I should have found some pace on the slightly newer tyres! We made a few tweaks before the races but after listening to others also complaining about the car not feeling great meant we stuck to minor changes banking on the track coming back to us later.
If I was going to show any race rust it was going to be on the first start wasn’t it…and that’s what happened! After a decent launch I lost some momentum avoiding a slow starter ahead. I thought I could make some of this back at the hairpin but it was at this point 2nd gear finally decided it was retiring itself and refused to be engaged. So I grabbed 3rd….nope! That’s 5th! £$%^! Grabbed 3rd finally but by this point I had plummeted straight back to 22nd. A few deep breaths to regain composure and I set about my recovery.
I managed to clear the limping car of Huntley who although stuck in 4th gear still had a lot of speed on the straight! Once I was clear at the end of lap 1 I could set about catching the train ahead. I kept cruising up to the back of people just in time for them to get involved with someone else or spin themselves off and suddenly I found myself all the way back up to 14th! Having nailed the last lap and nearly caught a cruising Jack Yates napping in the last few corners but he held on to the line. A really disappointing start I was very happy I clawed my way back to 14th!
Some people watching this said it was a bit like a Nascar race! For the first few laps I was towards the back of a train around 13 BMW Compacts long! This was intense until a few people further up ahead started trying to battle and lost touch with the head of the train which was unfortunate. I was now really starting to see how much no 2nd gear was costing me as I was eaten alive coming out of the hairpin. Looking back at my data it was about half a second a lap – we know needs to go in before my next race then!
I kept having to defend after the poor run out of the hairpin but when I managed to shake the cars behind I immediately got back on to the group ahead…only to catch them at the wrong time! Just as I got there Tim Scott who had apparently been pushed around quite a bit finally had enough and went for a move on Ashworth ahead, unfortunately they made contact and I had nowhere to go but the grass! After a spot of slippery rallycrossing I gathered it all back up but had lost a place or 2 to cars behind meaning I crossed the line in 19th.
Overall it was an OK weekend but there was certainly more potential there. I should have been right up there in the fight for the top 10 in both races with a better start which is obviously still somewhere I need to work on. In hindsight we should have put a new gearbox in for this round. There aren’t many other tracks with 2nd gear corners but it should improve my starts so it’ll still be worth it.
Thanks as always to the Routec team for their hard work and laughs and especially my new team mate for the weekend Brendan! He took me for breakfast. He can stay.