October 13, 2005

Super Graduates Round 9 and 10 - Spa Francorchamps

So, this is the big one as we take a trip overseas to probably the best F1 circuit of them all, Spa Francorchamps. After a relatively easy trip down on Thursday we had two hours of testing on Friday afternoon. The first was good, if a little damp, and I relearned the circuit having been here a couple of years ago. The second hour was a write-off with so many GT cars on the track.

Qualifying was wet, very wet. All the rollbars came off and we went out for the 30 minute session which was only going to be around 9 laps. I was very pleased, going past quite a few people and ending up with a best of 3:32.530 which placed me 20th and 6th in class, just behind Roger. Full qualifying details are available overall and by class.

A quick video of my fastest qualifying lap showing the lovely conditions!

Spa Qualifying (17Mb Windows Media File)

So, onto the race. The weather is dry so I spend a frantic half hour putting the roll bars back on the car so that it is in 'dry' spec. It stays dry until we are sitting on the track entry road when the heavens open but it's too late to do anything so almost everyone is going out on a soaking track with a dry setup. The grid is huge with 55 cars lining up for the start (after La Source on the hill that runs down towards Eau Rouge). The gradient means starting with a foot on the brake but the in the wet that isn't too much of a problem and we all get away cleanly. I get past Tom Overton in the run down to Eau Rouge but everyone sensibly backs off and lines up as we go through the corner. The car twitches as we come over the brow and gives me a taste of what I'm in for! At the end of the straight there is some very early braking and I make up another place going into Les Combes with Roger immediately in front of me. Toby Briant comes through on the inside round Pouhon and I make the big mistake of touching the curbs but just about manage to hold on. Tom Overton gets back past me and then past Roger and I chase him into the bus stop but can't get past - but I do manage to squeeze past Roger on the exit. Onto lap 2 and it's a Mega chase: Roger comes past on the Kemmel straight but not for long as I outbrake him into Les Combes. I think that I'm 5th in class at this point. I chase Tom Overton all the way round the lap and get close until I get too close at the Bus Stop, tapping Tom's wing (sorry!) and letting Roger back through, at least until La Source when I take the inside line. A really scary twitch at the top of Eau Rouge on lap 3 lets Roger through but I'm grateful to still be on the circuit. I drop back a bit from the group and am desperate to catch them up - a bit too desparate as the car gets twitchy through Pouhon and then runs very wide at Les Fagnes, losing more speed and another place to Matt Gilbanks. On Lap 4 the safety car appears and stays out until we go into Lap 7. Unfortunately my front nearside wing starts flapping around and although I tell myself not to think about it I lose a couple of places and then spin at Les Fagnes with only myself to blame. A load of cars come past and I almost lose it again at La Source due to red mist clouding my vision! Eventually, on Lap 9, I get past James Sykes who has a wobble at the top of Eau Rouge. Andy Molsom and I have a spirited battle into Les Combes but I come off the winner this time. After pushing hard through the lap I catch and pass Mark Heywood. As we come out the Bus Stop for what turns out to be the last time I'm getting close to Sean Southwood and have a very speculative look down the inside into La Source. Sean is, of course, not phased and I don't get through, eventually crossing the line in 9th in class and 22nd overall. Not too bad considering the spin, but I shouldn't have spun!

Spa Race 1 (70Mb Windows Media File)

Matt Burrows took the overall win with Jamie first in class, Rory second and Nick Haryett third.

Full race 1 results and by class are available.

Onto race 2 and most definitely dry this time! I get a pretty good start and go past Toby Briant off the grid. Lap 1 is a battle all the way round with, amongst others, Matt Gillbanks and Paul Manyweathers who are both past me by the time we go into Lap 2. I seem to be going backwards through the field with a number of Megas sweeping past on laps 3 and 4. After chasing Keith Pennington for over a lap we swap places a couple of times on lap 5 but I'm then really annoyed to miss a gear change coming out of La Source and I lose another few places. On lap 7, with Paul and Matt just about in sight, I spin on my own again at Stavelot and lose another load of places. On lap 8 the safety car comes out which allows me to catch the pack. We're well placed for a great race with Chris Rome behind me and James Sykes, Jamie Bashall and Sean Southwood in front but it's not to be. We finish the race under the safety flag. I'm 11th in class and 28th overall - my own fault for spinning.

Spa Race 2 (45Mb Windows Media File)

Martin Amison takes the overall win with Rory, Jamie and Nick on the Super Grads podium. In the Megas championship, Matt Burrows' has now done enough to win overall. Congratulations!

Full race 2 results and by class are available.

Off we go to Pembrey for the final two rounds. I'm currently lying 9th in the overall table, which isn't too bad, and there is the possibility of making up a further place or two so I need to put in some good results.

Posted by charles at 10:41 AM

October 20, 2005

Super Graduates Rounds 11 and 12 - Pembrey

...and suddenly it all seems over so quickly as we head to south Wales for the last races of the season. The grid was down to 20, reflecting the distance that Pembrey is for most people. The Supers champsionship was still open with Rory Young or Jamie Ellwood being able to win and Paul Manyweathers, Matt Gillbanks and Toby Briant in with a shout for third place. I was 9th and hoping to make up a place or two.

I was only booked in for afternoon testing which consisted of three 20 minute sessions. The first two weren't great and I struggled to get close to the times that had been made in the morning. Then, before the third session, I changed the setup on my car in the dry for the first time this season! It made the difference, at least psychologically, and I managed a 1:06.7.

Onto Saturday morning and qualifying. Chris Rome and I had agreed to slipstream each other round and this worked fine until lap 7 when I took a cross-country detour through Dibeni. At this point my best lap was 1:08.049 and I was worried about position, but the grass obviously did me good as I put in a 1:07.200 (lap 12) and 1:07.116 (lap 14 - last lap) to give me reasonable hope of a good position on both grids. I was really pleased to be third on the grid in race one with Jamie on pole (1:07.002) and Rory in second (1:07.034). Chris Rome was in 9th (1:07.918), James Sykes in 11th (1:08.331) and Jamie Bashall in 16th (1:08.869).

MST have the full qualifying times and the grid.

So, race 1 and I'm nervous! The lights go out and I get a reasonable start but it's not quite good enough to stop Rory getting over towards the inside and we go round the hairpin turn 1 together, but I have to back off as Spitfires approaches. I try not to worry about what's behind me and concentrate on staying close to Rory which I manage to do until Honda Curve when I am absolutely sure that I'm going to go sideways off the track but, more through luck than judgement, I manage to hold it. I'm amazed that Andrew Ennis (and others!) don't stream past down the straight into lap 2. Straight after I have gone round Hatchets Hairpin my offside front wing detaches itself and starts flapping. This time I'm determined not to let it put me off but it obscures the apex of every right hand bend making it difficult to be fully committed. I stay in third into lap 3 as Andrew over commits himself into Hatchets, locking up with an impressive amount of tyre smoke. I'm still in third as we cross the line into lap 5. Chris is now in 8th. At Hatchets I make a mistake and can't keep the chasing group behind any longer, both Toby and Andrew fly past on the inside. I try, and fail, to go past Andrew at the end of the lap and then just set about trying to chase him down.

On lap 14, Toby takes the lead with Rory in second and Jamie in third. Chris is into 7th, James in 9th and Jamie Bashall XXXXX. Rather than me catching up with Andrew Ennis, Andy Molsom catches me on lap 15 and goes through at Hatchets. I manage to take my 5th place back on the same lap at the flat-out Woodlands. Lap 17 and Rory is past Jamie and up into second. Chris is ominously close in 6th, Andy Molsom in 7th and James Sykes in 8th. The final lap, 18. Chris is much faster that me down the straight to the hairpin and I rather badly cut him up (oops, sorry Chris) when he tries the inside before coming round the outside(!) - we stick side by side round Spitfires but Chris is ahead into Dibeni. I am concentrating so hard on getting the best line through Brooklands that I leave the inside totally open and Andy Molsom takes advantage, pushing me down into 7th. Andy brakes harder than I expect for Honda Curve and keeps me behind as we cross the finish line.

Pembrey Race 1 (23Mb Windows Media File)

So it finished Toby first, Jamie second and Rory third, with Andrew Ennis 4th, Chris 5th, Andy 6th, me 7th and James Sykes 8th. Unfortunately it was discovered that Toby, who had unwittingly bought three tyres from a local tyre fitter, was running the wrong compound A048Rs and he was disqualified, moving everyone up a place. Jamie secured the championship and Rory was safe in second with only third left to play for. Chris added to his two best improver awards at Spa with another.

MST have the full results.

A new experience for race 2 - on the front row in second place behind Rory. Jamie was in third with Toby in fourth. The full grid is available from MST.

I get a good enough start, keeping my position and managing to chase Rory/keep Jamie behind for lap 1. I pull to the outside at the second time into Hatchets which is stupid as it lets Jamie up the inside and ahead. I drop behind a little but am back with them by the end of the lap, just as Jamie takes the inside - and lead - at Honda Curve. Rory battles back and we are three abreast down Park until the hairpin forces an order which allows me back into second and Rory to re-take the lead.

I'm right with Rory as we cross the line into lap 4 and try the outside line but it isn't going to work! I try the same thing, with the same result, on lap 5 and decide that the battling needs to stop for a while as Jamie and Toby are getting very close! I hold second until we come into Hatchets on lap 7 when I lock a wheel allowing Jamie through on the inside. I am very relieved to stay on the circuit though! We go through Spitfires together but Jamie has his nose ahead and the inside line and makes second stick - I catch his wing with my tyre as we cross over (sorry Jamie)

I make a mistake at Brooklands Hairpin on lap 8 and I think Toby is going to storm past but he doesn't. Another mistake at Honda Curve means the inevitable happens - Toby comes past. The three are battling hard but there are no position changes until lap 14 when Toby gets past Jamie to take second. They are obviously slowing each other up and it's good to watch from a little way back - I can see cars in the mirror but they seem a little way off. No sooner do I think that than Andy Molsom appears large after setting a scorching fastest lap. He makes one move but then drops back for a while allowing me to battle with Jamie at Hatchets on lap 17. Andy makes his move at Brooklands which slows us both up down the straight and I'm worried we're going to lose the lead group but we're back with them at Hatchets on the final lap (18) and I again try, and fail, to get past Jamie. Andy makes his final move into the Esses but I hold the racing line and he is forced to drop back. The race finishes Rory, Jamie, Toby and me. A great result to close off my season! Full results from MST.

Pembrey Race 2 (64Mb Windows Media File)

Season roundup to follow.

Posted by charles at 1:20 PM