July 31, 2005

Super Graduates 2005 Round 6 - Donington

Two months away from the track is a long time and it was great to be at Donington for round 6. I'd driven Donington once before on my second ever track day in the 7 and it's a great circuit so I was looking forwards to it. Thanks to Matt and Gail Gillbanks, we'd taken over the circuit track day on the Saturday to avoid the ridiculously expensive testing sessions. I got back into the circuit fairly quickly and felt ready for qualifying.

On the map above, ignore the loop down to the Melbourne hairpin - we were doing the National circuit layout.

As usual we got just 15 minutes for qualifying. The first few laps were tough with lots of traffic initally until the field sorted itself out into a sort of natural order. By lap 6, I was really happy with a 1:23.44 as recorded on my lap timer, and I finished the session with a 1:23.39. When the qualifying sheets came out it was Thruxton all over again with a given time of 1:24.020 - but unlike Thruxton there was no note that my transponder wasn't working. I'm still not sure what happened (although I did, with Graham Ford's help, rewire the positive side of my transponder before the race) but it's possible that someone turned a beacon on during the session. Anyway, I was 10th. Rory was on pole with 1:23.104, Jamie Ellwood behind him on 1:23.326 and Andrew Ennis on the second row with 1:23.616. James Sykes had a great session, qualifying 8th, with Roger Ford in 15th and Keith Chanter in 16th. MST have the full qualifying times and the grid.

I had forgotten just how nervous I get at the start - especially when I've got James Sykes' car directly in front of me. The red lights go out and I get a pretty good start, jumping ahead of Matt who started alongside and then diving right to try and get past James before Redgate. The traffic helps me a little and I get through and up into 8th. I start to lose the pack a bit but by the time we get round to Coppice I'm close enough to slipstream Toby down Starkey's straight and eventually squeeze through on the inside into the chicane. Positions 1,2 and 3 are unchanged as we end lap 1, but Paul Manyweathers has gone from 7th on the grid to 4th. Toby attacks as we go through the Craner Curves on lap 2 but I manage to hold him off. As we go into the chicane at the end of the lap I get a rude awakening when James Sykes shoots through on the inside! Toby is still hard on my tail with Andy Molsom right behind him. I manage to keep with James throughout the lap and get through on the inside at Coppice, realising that I should have waited until the straight as James comes back past on the outside. Luckily for me, he leaves his braking too late into the chicane and I'm back up into 7th at the end of lap 3. Roger is making progress through the field and is in 11th with Keith down to 17th. The leaders are still unchanged. At the end of lap 4, Andy comes past on the inside but can't hold his braking at the chicane and goes off temporarily. Toby also has a brave attempt to straight line the chicane but tries a little too hard, losing a rear wing in the process!

Donnington Park Toby Wing (2Mb Windows Media File - courtesy of Roger Ford)

I am now 5 seconds adrift of the leading group and it becomes all about holding off people behind me. A yellow car is all over me but I don't realise who it is until the end of lap 7 when Roger comes past into the chicane. He's a bit untidy though and I can get past him before Redgate. What I hadn't seen was Charlie Hunt's car which appears on the inside, and Roger then follows him through to add insult to injury. Down to 9th. It's very soon 10th as Toby Briant overtakes into Craner Curves. At the end of lap 8 I forget what gear I'm in braking for the chicane and lose some time. As we cross the line, Rory is in the lead with Jamie in second and Andrew in 3rd. James is behind me in 11th and Keith 15th. I hold onto the group during the next lap and get back past Toby into the chicane (have you noticed that Donnington doesn't have that many overtaking opportunities?). Charlie and Roger are battling and Roger loses time at the chicane allowing me to take the outside line into Redgate. As we go round, Roger's tyres let go and he goes off. The observer's report says we touched, but although we were very, very close, we manage to avoid contact. Back up to 9th. Disaster strikes Roger again on lap 12 when there's a spinner in front of him at the chicane and he can't avoid a collision. I'm now a couple of seconds behind the group and spend a couple of laps trying to catch them up which I eventually do at Redgate on lap 13. I get past John Watson at the entry to Coppice and David Shaw on the exit as he runs wide. I'm now in 6th and behind Charlie Hunt as we enter the final lap. Paul has taken the lead, with Jamie following. As we cross the line, Charlie and I go past Rory who has spun after being tapped from behind at the exit to the chicane. 5th! I battle with Charlie who defends well, keeping me to the outside lines. Rory makes a move up the inside at Coppice but is going a little too quickly and can't hold the exit, tapping Charlie as he goes through and losing him speed which allows me back past them both. 4th!! I manage to hold on and am so glad to see the chequered flag.

The slightly rushed video is here - I hope you like it. Picture in picture video is courtesy of Roger Ford. Thanks! Apologies for the condensation on the camera.

Donnington Park (40Mb Windows Media File)

Paul wins, just a couple of 10ths ahead of Jamie Elwood. Andrew Ennis takes his first podium position in 3rd. Keith finishes his charge in 10th with James in 11th. MST have the full results.

Next round is a double header at Rockingham. Let's hope the good form continues.

Posted by charles at 8:36 PM | Comments (1)

Andrew Smith said:

Great vid and report Charles. Re the qualifying time, Dave Pearson had a similar (but less dramatic!) difference in the times on his lap timer to those shown. His lap timer showed his pole lap at 1:26.9, but the official time was 1.27.1. Strange as the Rollcentre lap timers are normally accurate to the hundredth. I didn't bother timing as I had no comparative data. Didn't seem to do me that much harm!