It all began in late 2016 when I took part in the want2race competition after years of enjoying the occasional trackday and from then on I knew competing in motorsport was something I needed to experience. The following April, after a track day or two, I was lining up on the grid for my first ever car race. I chose to take part in the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club championship, with SVG Motorsport in my corner, and here is part one of what has been a thrilling season.
Rockingham - Controlling the Nerves
For a complete racing rookie, Rockingham Speedway does little to calm the nerves. Its tall, imposing stands surrounding the banked circuit add to the industrial character of the location. At the drivers’ briefing, all this dawned on me. Luckily when the clock started for qualifying, I felt confident to push the car and the wait to drive competitively was over. Qualifying 6th was a relief.
Of the first race at Rockingham, all I remember was my poor start. Instantly losing places I had to fight back and ended up finishing 7th. There wasn’t much drama, but I think we all felt like heroes finishing our first car race.
On the Sunday, in the second race, I had another poor start, which again meant places were lost but I knew I had to fight back. Regaining a place immediately in the first corner, I was now in 9th and sitting on the back of 8th driver for a couple of laps allowed me to pick my moment to pass. Driving close to the competitor in 7th and adding pressure ended up with him spinning out on the Tarzan Hairpin. Starting my last lap, I could see 6th ahead of me but I felt I was unlikely to catch up. Nonetheless, stringing a perfect series of corners, I was side by side into the last chicane and diving hard on the brakes allowed me to clinch 6th place. The feeling of exhilaration at the end of that race is a feeling I would be chasing for the rest of the championship.
Final lap: I'm coming through!
Snetterton – 4 was the number of the weekend
Rockingham gave me a much needed confidence boost, but I knew Snetterton would be a challenge. It is a very technical circuit with both slow and fast corners as well as long straights. It’s instantly recognisable layout provides a real challenge for rookies. So on what I thought was my most difficult track, I was delighted to qualify 5th. From the get go, the first race was much more intense than at Rockingham. Going into the second hairpin three abreast on the inside allowed me to take 6th and then a competitor up ahead breaking down on the exit of the last corner allowed me 5th place, after a near miss avoiding him! Taking as much speed as I could onto the Bentley Straight gifted me 4th place.
Race 1 Start
During the second race at Snetterton, I was pushed out wide going into the first corner. This allowed several cars to pass on the inside. With the starts, it was becoming a habit of mine to lose places and then having to recover them. Determined to win back my places, I knew I could outdrive them so it was about controlling my emotions by driving aggressively without losing control or driving beyond my limits. A car ahead of me took a spin early on allowing me to recover a place. After a safety car restart, following a fellow competitor crashing hard into the barriers, I was in a position to put pressure on the car ahead and on the last lap he lost control, handing me 4th place. I was ecstatic with two consistent results that I had worked extremely hard for. Thankfully, no one was hurt during that weekend.
Silverstone, Brands Hatch and a very special race at Donington Park coming up in Part 2 as well as a few plans for next year...