So Friday at 6am was unexpectedly sunny,well allmost. The day I had been looking forward to for months had arrived. Donington Park has been at the very top of my “best track of all time” list, since I did a track day there some years ago.The track after the debarcle of F1 was in excellant shape and really was in tip top condition.I know that world touring car was there but i,m sure the track will stay at the top of it’t game and well recommended as a premier track you should all drive. I was very confident I would go very well there. I wasn’t wrong. After having a slight drama at scrutineering when the seat harness failed inspection due to a slight nick in the anchor strap,we fitted a new set of harnesses curtersey of Rob Huff world touring cars and set about Qualification.
The session was set for 15 minutes and as I had on a new set of rubber all round I took the first 5 or so laps really quite gently and got into the rhythm of the track which I have to say was in superb condition. It was obvious after only two laps ,I had much more grip than I have had on older tyres, due to new tyres and apart from some slight under steer round the last corner onto the start finish straight car 77 was set up really well. A big thank you to the team work back at Dulford Automotive base and Philip in particular, who with me, has worked hard on the settings, to get the car handling just how I like it. So as not to disappoint and with limited time left on the clock I significantly leaned on the car and was pushing hard to be rewarded with on lap 9 a time of 1.44.667 sec with an average speed of 137.39 kph. That was great and I was fourth quickest of the championship contenders only 1.2 sec off class “A “ pole. All was set for an excellent race starting from row 2.
The car felt very good on the green flag lap and the new rubber was sticky almost from the off. I had trouble breaking traction in my warm up procedure and confidence was running high. Lining up on the grid with lots of adrenaline flowing as the lights went out I slightly bogged down and got away in fourth place but been attacked from the off from the cars behind, everyone was up for this. The first couple of laps were spent in line astern getting the car upto temperature and my first opportunity to overtake came under heavy breaking into the hairpin when the third place car a Marcos mantis left a gap on the inside and I filled it,getting good track position and drive out, I got along side my friend and rival Andy race in car 89.We have been having a really good tussle with each other over the last three races.As we turned into the last corner of the lap, I came up along side trying to push Andy over to the right onto a more tighter line and not the quickest.He wasn’t to be moved much but it did compremise his drive out onto the start/finish straight and tucked in on the rear of car 89, then blasted past on the straight into second place. I held off car 21 for quite a few laps but made a mistake,missing fourth gear into turn one and slipped to third place. I didn’t have the best of luck with passing back markers and car 21 proved to be as quick with no mistakes to capitalise on.Martin Crass in car 21 was on it and i was able to keep within a couple of car lenths so a very positive drive for the team. I crossed the line in third place all be it in a cloud of steam. I thought I had burst a cooling pipe and coasted into the pits.After mike my pit crew checked the engine out it was noted that a head gasket had blown,that made it impossible to get out for a repeat in race 2.Third place, excellent,with a best lap of 1.42.828 sec on lap 9 and only 1.3 sec behind the winner that bodes well.For seven laps we were able to lap consistantly in 1.43 secs with only three laps out side that pace probably explained by back markers.I have now dropped to 8th in the championship table from sixth so really dissappointing.
I did indeed burst the bottom radiator hose in race one but subsequent checks revealed I had also blown a head gasket after over heating, so I,m afraid I collected my first DNS of the season.We are at present, completley rebuilding the engine before Rockingham round in four weeks time.The engine should be back in car late this coming week then a trip to South Wales Llandow circuit to run in new engine and it will help me understand more about this new to me car that i’m getting quicker in, all the time.