Brands Indy review 2019
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We always love going to brands! It's the circuit I know the most, we love it's setup and the kids love the park, the two eating venues which always do good food, Bluewater shopping centre not far away. It was a different weekend this time going up on the Friday, qualifying and one race Saturday, followed by two races Sunday.
It was a pretty toasty Saturday, wow it was hot. It was pretty grippy track, or I was pushing the car harder more like a go-kart (which I've been getting into for the fitness and practice). I set one of my fastest times of the weekend. But I was feeling rubbing on the left side, and that really bothered me. It also felt a bit unstable at the rear, and those things combined brought me back to the pits, because after a tank slapper coming out of clear ways (nearly hitting a car stationary on the finish line!) I was convinced I'd had a blowout.
Funny enough, so had he. There'd been some coolant dropped on track which he hit and thought he'd had a puncture too, so parked it. A marshal checked the car and couldn't see anything wrong but I was so spooked and I'd set the minimum laps, so was done. I'd changed the front wing so thought this was catching. I raised the front up slightly, and went for race 1.
Race 1 I got a great start, taking Ken Briddon and Howard Gaines, but probably took it too cautiously and lost 1 at Druids. I half tried to get it back at the next corner but knew Ken would be a faster driver anyway. I had a good scrap with Howard for a lap but I'd seem to have forgotten how to do clearway, went too slow and he took me on the inside. From there he stretched his lead, I did reign him back in slightly once I'd hit a good rhythm hitting consistent 1:01s, but he was gone. It was a bit of a lonely race but I was pleased with my consistency. The last time doing indy I'd only managed a 1:01 twice in a race. Now I was hitting them consistently when I was up to speed.
Race 2 I'd made some small setup changes to sure up the rear some more. It was overcast in the morning nowhere near as hot as Saturday. Again I made a goods start and again, I was too cautious and lost the places gained. But this time Gaines (who had re-passed me - again) was stuck behind a struggling Mark Hegarty. Turned out he had a handling problem, but wow it made my weekend.... I was on his bumper for lap after lap and it was fantastic. The best experience racing laps of my life!Race 2 Onboard Video
He was clearly struggling and holding me up, so after a good run out of Graham Hill I aborted a pass at the following corner. But a lap later I had a good run out of Paddock and went for its at my favourite passing place - (a harpin as usual) at Druids. To say I was over the moon is an understatement! It was mega! He decided sadly his car had more pace so passed me back at Paddock but it was great racing. We has a quick chat in Parc Ferme and we were both complimentary about the racing and giving each other room. Exactly how it should be.
Race 3 I was boxed in behind Senna Osman after another good start, so couldn't capitalise. But I got on to the pace much quicker than usual, and it showed as I kept the guys in front in reach for much longer. But they were getting really punchy with each other which slowed them down, which was great for me! Again, clearway was my Achilles heel though, and eventually they stretched away.
It was a good weekend in summary, some good points, a bit of progression, all going forward. Managed to stay on the track the whole weekend too! What is annoying me (as usual) is the lack of time for this project. I love it to bits but it's almost not worth doing if it can't b e done properly. Took the suspension off as it's not been serviced for 5 plus years and I'll get it to Gaz. I had a shock when I took off the rear struts....
But... it is what it is. 3 kids, a busy job, side projects and side work don't leave much time for something that needs a lot of attention. I love this racing to bits so will carry on like this if I have to, though I have some thinking to do. But for now, it's a look forward to Brands Hatch GP in October. Oulton Park is this weekend but we'll have to take it as our dropped rounds, as we can't justify the cost unfortunately. Maybe when the youtube channel is generating lots of subscribers and sponsorship, I can dream!
Donington and Cadwell 2019 review
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We've been looking forward to the racing season and our min family holidays again. Donington was a chance to improve over last year, an d we certainly did! The new Ashley exhaust gave me so much more power it helped a spin in qualifying down the Craner curves. But the pace was up from last year all weekend.
I've watched a good few times now my laps whilst on the cross trainer in the gym. I've got a good handle on the lines especially Redgate now, and the times showed. It also helps I'm getting into 5th gear thanks to the exhaust - I'd never needed it at Donington on the straights before! I was overall satisfied,with the pace improvement, but wish I'd been on it sooner. I was catching John Stonehouse in race 2 and that's never happened before. The brand new tyres were a concern, the last time I'd had brand new tyres were at Silverstone in 2017 and they felt a bit weird at the start. 18th and 15th finishes were a respectable return from the weekend.
We unfortunately needed a stop at the hospital for Matthew's ear infection, so that's another hospital in the country ticked off (as is often with the kids!). But apart from that we had a nice day in Derby.
Cadwell Park is a great circuit, but it probably needs a bit of build up! I was really annoyed to not be on my pace last year, and got up to speed a bit late in the weekend. I had some tyre rubbing issues which were a concern, but sorted them for race 2. Qually I thought the track was damp, race one we spent all bar 3 laps behind the safety car. Race 2 I had a great start into 8th and held it for a few laps before running wide at Park and nudging the tyre walls. Really annoyed, but a great learning experience in coping with faster cars behind.
10th and 11th aren't a bad return, but I'm frustrated I didn't spend more time and effort with the car and some track time, as I would have got more out of the weekend. I have to start doing this!
The next circuit is Brands Hatch - one of our favourites - in July. It gives us time to sort the minor damage out, ensure the car is set up correctly and kick on from there.
2018 season review
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This blog's been neglected a fair bit, for which I am quite rightly ashamed. Last update was our 2nd race at Brands! A fair bit has happened since then...
To sum: we've had a few races at some awesome circuits, painted the car, had some good battles, nearly crashed, nearly crashed again, actually crashed, fixed the car, learnt loads, had our first sponsor (gocompare.com), finished joint 10th in the championship and had a few mini family holidays all over the country. It's been great!.
So what have we learnt? Loads, generally. A good indicator i guess, is how the race weekends for us as a family turned into a routine, rather than a stressful ordeal. We'd come back from a weekend, pack all the kit away, the next couple of weekends I'd get small car jobs done, we'd find the next hotel / campsite, find stuff nearby (beaches, softplays, parks, shopping centres...) to visit, get the stuff ready, and go again. Even the new circuits we weren't familiar with weren't a concern. It all became routine. The winter, to be honest, was a welcome break. Sounds ridiculous, but sometimes with only a 3 week turnaround it started to wear on us. But I think by about Christmas we were ready to go again!
A quick line on going as a family with young kids. Honestly it's be torture before now, and not recommended. Especially having to leave them with my partner, or try to help keep them in check between race sessions. I cannot overstate how much you need time to yourself to get your head straight and compose yourself, it makes a huge difference to your laptimes. Chasing after them, telling them off, getting them food and drink just before getting in the car is a disaster for your head. But our kids are just at the age where it's become so much more manageable. And my partner is an amazing support. Our youngest was 3 during the year, and him plus the two older brothers are at an age where they can keep each other occupied. Plus, they are amazing in the car on our 'roadtrips'. And most importantly, they love the variety and the mini trips away!
Taking all the pictures and video footage we took, here's a montage of our 2018 racing year. Please enjoy!
And next up...? Another season in 2019 with PBMW for us, as many races as we can, and a quicker lighter car (and hopefully driver!). We can't wait.
Brands Hatch Review
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A week on, whilst catching up on some Blancpain GT, and I have this sadness. Already I really, really miss being out on the track! Any track, but Brands Hatch again would be ideal... So with that context, I'll try to summarise our second weekend in the Production BMW Championship this year.
We left Friday afternoon for the shortest family racing holiday ever, with the car packed and the kids' tablets charged for the 4-5 hour journey to Kent. The trailer has some nice new light clusters, the wiring is working 100% (not just most of the time), and it was a lovely day for a drive. We've been to brands 4 times now so we're getting used to the place, even Iwona thinks it's lovely to keep going back to. We had some company too from a work colleague who brought his son, and the kids appreciated the extra football players!
We planned to chill Friday evening and go to the beach Saturday, but we had an unplanned conjunctivitis inspired trip to the hospital instead! We had to make do with a short trip to Bluewater shopping centre instead - no complaints from Iwona - and the kids who got to play in the arcade. Sunday's race timetable was qualifying first thing, race 1 midday, race 2 practically the last session of the day. We got to one of our favourite holiday destinations, set up the tent and our new hardy Lidl's gazebo to give the kids a base in the paddock. Thank you to the Lotus outfit from the brown RV for the lend of a hookup extension!
I'd stripped out some weight (down from 1180 on the scales at Donington to 1165 at Brands!). The headlights were now perspex (and the originals will make some money on ebay soon!), and I'd found some heat proofing in the engine bay to remove. Oh, the horns have gone now too! I'd pushed like hell at Donington as I really wanted to find my own and the car's limits. I'd dial it back a bit this weekend, but with more confidence, and a slightly lighter car. I'd also had a good study of my notes over the years and decided on some new front damper settings. I'd been too soft at Oulton and Silverstone, too hard at Brands last year, so hoped to find a Goldilocks zone. More on the result later. I'd also got more (but still not all) of the car painted - this is like an agile project at the moment!
This felt like a good session, and what sticks in my mind is how much grip the front end had! It was a bit un-nerving how much it could pull around, to the point I was worried the back going to step out. Afterwards, I softened the rear dampers 1 click out of paranoia, as the traction did feel a bit absent. I shouldn't have done in retrospect, it was perfect from how one of the Bartley guys had set it to help me out. It was the first session of the day and the track was very green, others found traction an issue too.
I was stunned to come back and see I was ahead of 4 drivers! Admittedly the session was cut short when Jennifer Olive-Jones has a scary moment almost rolling in the gravel at paddock. Generally the car felt very good other than the traction. I was looking forward, certainly not dreading the races. I was also pumping myself full of nuts, fruit and energy gels which worked a treat at Donington. Mainly for brain food to keep up concentration through the day.
A trademark tardy start, but my first ever with correct gear changes! I got passed at the start, and after a lap was at the back of the field. Another lap later, and the cars seemed to be pulling away. A touch crushed, I thought of Donington and being able to catch cars back up, so got my head down. According to the laptimes (and surprised commentators) I had started too slowly, but got quicker and quicker. Sub-consciously that was the plan all along, but you can loose so much time - which is hard to get back. I started to catch the pack again, and caught up with Jennifer and passed at my now favourite passing place - Druids! I went in just a touch too hot, but kept the car tight on the inside, and eased slowly ahead over the next couple of laps. The race was ended early with a car in the gravel at Clearways, but I was happy not to finish last again! P22 out of 24!
My only permanent pass of the weekend...
I'd watched my Race 1 footage, and identified the forest section as something to work on. I could see it was relatively my strongest section compared to the cars just in front of me, but knew there was still more time. The rest of the circuit is the indy section which I'm already fairly familiar with, but probably a little slower than them.
I'd discovered (I think on retrospect, for the second time) that my handbrake button was perfectly fine, it was the sleeve that had come out to make it difficult to push. I could now use the handbrake at the start, which was actually my best ever! Right gears too this time. A few cars came together at the start at the front before we got to Paddock, and had to pick our way through stationary cars and debris. Hugely unfortunate for them, and somehow promoting me to 10th! I knew it wouldn't last, but a safety car for a couple of laps delayed the inevitable. I had a lesson in safety car etiquette to - at one point the accordion effect caught me out, and nearly caught out Ian Francis behind me too. Sorry Ian, and well avoided!
At the restart, I think I was too slow getting back up to speed (again), and whilst trying to let passed some drivers I knew were a couple of seconds quicker than me, I slowed down too much, lost momentum and lost even more. Again I got my head down and pushed, working on the back section of Brands. I started taking more and more chunks of the inside kerb of Sheene, not realising it was a track limit! I think it's this which got me a warning, which I took as a compliment. The following lap I gave it a wider berth, but I can only theorise that the limits system is delayed. I came around for the next lap and to be greeted by a 5 second time penalty!
I could see a silver car behind getting closer and closer towards the end of the race, and was gutted my 5 second penalty would cost me a place. I didn't in the end, as it was Ian Russel who was a lap down, having been caught up in the mayhem at the start. In the end, it was P15 for us, our best result! The bittersweet reality is it will be a few races before we can match that again, and only down to the unfortunate luck from the guys in front. We'll take it of course!
It's been a huge weekend of learning. Safety car procedures, tact amongst understandably pissed off drivers (sorry guys!), damper settings, track evolution,not being aggressive enough at the starts, it goes on... We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend (despite the eldest waking up with his eye glued shut with goop!). I'm also happy to get the Brands GP bogey off our backs. The last time here (our very first weekend) I managed 4 laps in qualifying before spinning and being t-boned, which put us out for 2 years...
The next step is Brands Indy - we hope! It's 50/50 at the moment due to budget and that weekend is tight because of family commitments. It's also http://www.deutschefest.co.uk which is a great family day out, so I'm trying to be optimistic. Not much money is left for the car right now, but I know it's handling reasonably well now and is slightly more competitive. That's major progress from last year.
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