Focus cup - Donington December
Writing this in my think tank (the bath).
4th and 5th December finally took us racing at Donington Park for the final round of the Focus Cup. After the race being postponed in November due to lockdown, you can imagine how excited we were to finally get out and race for the last round in 2020 and hoping that we stayed well and safe on the final run up to the event.
We arrived at the circuit on Thursday late afternoon so we could sort the seat fitting as we didn't want to waste any time on the Friday morning and miss any valuable testing time. So 2 hours later and the seat is fitted and ready to go. Off to the hotel for some food and rest sorted out by one of our partners Venue Hire UK. You can check out the hotel here.
Friday morning and we are ready to go (apart from the heavy rain), starting with room service breakfast due to covid guidelines of which the hotel did a great job. At the circuit for 7.45am to make sure we were signed on and everything was ready for the 1st session. We had tested previously in March at Donington in all conditions so was looking forward and feeling quietly confident.
1st session didn't last too long, was difficult to find any grip all round and after a few laps we had a turbo go. Luckily I heard the sound of screeching turbo bearings so came in before it let go and the engine devoured it for breakfast.
Session 2 and 3 we jumped in the spare car while the turbo was being replaced. Unfortunately it had a set of test tyres on which are not the ones we raced on and we passed almost everything on track for 2 sessions, downside, no base testing or set up for the car, but at least I was out on track getting valuable track time.
Session four and the final of the day, the mechanics had done a great job getting the car back on track after spending 2 hours on their backs under the car in a river of water. Hats off guys and thanks.
Time to cram a full days testing into one session ready for qualifying the next morning. Back on track, engine felt good and everything felt fine apart from grip again, no initial turn in at all and if you slightly breathed on the throttle it lit the front wheels up and had no grip at all through the fast corners, this then became snap oversteer and became very difficult to drive. Session over, debrief with the team and suggested we needed to sort tyres out for the morning and then I could start to concentrate on setup. Back to the hotel for some work on the laptop, room service meal again, cheeky Shandy and relaxing with some TV.
Next morning it's race day with first outing of qualifying. After feeling quite confident before the weekend we were on the backfoot from the previous day with no proper testing due to the issues we had, so quali was going to be blind and a guess on the set up. Not Ideal I know. Anyway, fresh tyres on the car and a guess on set up due to drying but damp conditions we set off onto circuit. Instantly the car felt much better and driveable, not perfect but at least something I could work with for the rest of the day and try my best in qualifying. A few laps in and the safety car was out and I hadn't had any clear laps at that point and with only 15 mins of quali and now at least 3 laps under safety car it was going to be tight. I decided to drop right back to get some clear track to try and put in a time but unfortunately in doing so I got one lap after green flags before the end of quali, meaning I got one lap and almost everyone else got an extra lap which they put in there fastest lap on a drying track which meant I qualified 11th as I missed the best chance on the last flying lap. At least I got a feel for the car and had and idea of which way I wanted to go on setup and tyre pressures.
So Race 1, out on the grid, formation lap and ready for the lights to go out. Made a good start and made a few places on the first lap but still struggled in the fast corners with setup a few laps in, then after catching the next group I braked too late and went wide at the end of the straight, gathered it back up and then lost power as if it went into limp mode, actually it was limp mode and almost everyone went passed me. Tried a few things and the car came back to life, but only for a lap and then lost power again, not as bad as last time but still lost ground to ones I caught up and then to top it the ABS failed so now had to balance bleeding on and off the brake carefully in the slippery conditions as not to lock up. Race 1 finished and had managed to hold on to 14th with the issues we had and not drop all the way to the back.
Back at the pits and time to find the issues. The wheel speed sensor was faulty and we had a faulty fuel pressure solenoid causing the power loss so the mechanics set to it again to replace the parts for race 2.
Call came to go to the grid and now the car doesn't want to start, strapped in ready to go, still on jacks and everyone else on the grid. Another solenoid changed and we are go, but by this time the rest are on the grid so I end up starting almost last by the time I get to the grid.
Warm up lap I have a vibration when braking, bearing in mind all this has been off and new hub for the sensor issue and I am hoping everything has gone back ok, so I stamp hard on the brakes a few times which seems to sort it. We also made a couple of setup changes so I was hoping this would be the right choice for the race. Lights out and I am up to 10th through the first corner after a couple spun out at the front, now time to settle down and pick off as many as I could, few more laps and I am up to 7th and everything feeling good and virtually a dry line round most of the track. Another safety car so time to keep the tyres and brakes as warm as possible for a good restart. Everyone closed up and I went down the inside, up along another driver and side by side before getting squeezed onto the grass, then up the hill into Mclean's and Coppice I lose power again and lose a place, same again one the next lap and lose 2 places, next lap I get 2 back for the loss of power to happen again on the last lap and lose the 2 places back before the run to the line.
A frustrating weekend but that's racing sometimes and I was pleased with what I had done or could have done after a 12 year break from racing. IT'S GREAT TO BE BACK and looking forward to winter testing and plans for 2021.
The races are also being televised on Amazon Prime which gives great exposure for our partners and sponsors and for any other sponsors who want to join us along with other motorsport fans to watch. Will let everyone know the dates of viewing.
Keep up to date on social media with updates on Facebook and Instagram.
Big thank you to the team who worked hard all weekend through the issues we had and to all the marshalls on track who were out for the whole weekend in terrible conditions keeping us safe.
I would like to say thank you to all our partners and sponsors. Pemberton Tyres, Davanti Tyres, Ravenol UK, BLOC Eyewear, Autobrite Direct, Eighty Seventy Facilities Management, Abbott & Rowlands, Brandrivers, Venue Hire UK, King Dick Tools, Bespoke Extreme, Questmead and Mintex.
Looking forward to 2021.plans