A good afternoon made up for a disappointing morning of missed track time and saw good progress. We made big setup changes throughout the morning and the car felt a lot better for them once we got out in the afternoon. By the end of the day my times were consistently within 2 seconds of the quickest Compact Cup drivers there on the day which was really good progress.
Unfortunately the weather for qualifying was the complete opposite to our test day! A very wet and slippery track awaited us and this lowered my expectations. I eased myself in to the session slowly building up my pace but noticed I was keeping up with and catching a few cars that had been ahead of me at the first round so I felt I must be going better than expected. I managed to find a precious bit of clear track and got a nice few laps without anyone ahead or behind which is rare in a Compact Cup qualifying session. The slippery session provided a lot of slides to be gathered up and lots of other peoples moments to be avoided which all added to the excitement! Once I got back to the Paddock a quick look at the results showed me 16/21 in my session which put me 29/45 overall. A big step up from Donington and meant I would start my races in 19th and 20th position after we were split in to our 3 groups.
This was only my Third race start and my first from the busy mid pack area of the grid, daunting. A poor start meant I lost around 5 positions off the line and then had to deal with multiple cars spinning across the track and facing the wrong way at the exit of Turn 1 (Paddock Hill Bend). Luckily we all managed to pick our way through without contact and I settled in to my race. I was overtaken early on by one of the recovering front runners that I didn’t fight too hard as I knew my race was with other people and didn’t want to lose time. I had a very good battle for the first half of the race in a train of 4 cars. The car ahead of me managed to make a move and not long after I got a good run through Paddock Hill and dived up the inside to sneak through at the Druids hairpin, my first overtake! From then on I chased hard and was making good progress on closing the gap down whilst profiting position wise from other peoples mistakes. With a few minutes of the race to go I was back up to 23rd and closing in on the cars ahead when the yellow flags came out at Paddock Hill where there was a sad looking BMW beached in the gravel. The gap was still coming down at almost a second a lap and I would have had a lap or 2 right on the back of the guys ahead for a fun finish but the Red flag came out and that was the race over. Back to the Paddock to find I had finished 23rd out of 29, not quite the maximum I could have achieved with my pace but it was all down to the poor start and still good progress! I was very pumped after the race from the close battling.
Being in the first and last race meant I had lots of time to sit around with the family and watch the other races. It also meant that we got slightly caught out by just how much the track conditions had dried out by the time I raced again and should have gone for a different setup. This time I started in 20th which put me on the outside for the run up to Paddock Hill at the start. This time I got a slightly better getaway but it still wasn’t good enough as a few positions were lost. I then got a slight touch on the way to T1 which meant I had no chance of taking the optimum line and lost another place or 2 up to Druids hairpin for the first time. On the approach to Druids I could hear and see a major lock up from the car behind which meant they just about miss the rear of my car. A deep breath later I managed to get settled in to my rhythm and closed up with a long line of cars fighting ahead. This continued for the first half of the race and we were all pushing harder and harder gaining confidence on what was now almost a bone dry track. I eventually pushed a little bit too hard attacking Surtees how I had done on the dry test day but with the wet setup we still had on the car said no and I had to take to the grass which cost me around 2 seconds looking at the data. However a few laps later the guys I had been running right behind previously collided and I was able to jump both of them. The rest of my race was spent picking people off as mistakes happened and once again I had worked my way back to 23rd by the finish.
We were all really happy with how the weekend went. Again we managed to finish both races without damage. My pace was far more competitive and allowed me to get stuck in with door to door racing which was great experience. This has put me 34th out of over 50 registered drivers in the standings which is a decent start! Now looking forward to continuing the progress up the grid at Oulton Park on July 4th as we are skipping the Croft round to invest in more testing time on track. Big thanks to my mechanic Alex Preston for keeping the car running well throughout the day and to all my family and friends who came down to support and more importantly pack the gazebo away!