This was my first race with the Mature Racing Club and I was looking forward to a long season mixing 30 minute sprints and 90 minute endurance races at a mix of tracks and conditions. Once again I’d be driving the Dorset liveried AMG. I don’t have the time to learn a second car!
During the week there’d been quite a few distractions which had meant I’d not spent as much time on track as I would have liked. I used my night race setup from the previous ESR season as a basis and spent most of the time working on my tire pressures. I eventually got these working and played around with the aero and toe a little bit before going into the server for the first free practice session. I’ve never been good around this circuit and I wasn’t expecting a great result.
I’d be starting 13th of 14. At the start I allowed to big a gap between me and the pack in front so I was a long way behind them down the straight. They all had to slow earlier than usual into Elf and I caught up as x_BurgerBomb_x passed me on the inside. There was some contact in front of me and KitKartman was pushed off, into the gravel. x_BurgerBomb_x didn’t get a good exit out of Renault and I was able to pass him and take 9th place after the pack had settled down with a gap of less than a second to MRC_Dan_Gleeball in front of me. There was more contact at La Caixa with two cars off as I passed them, now up to 7th.
As we started the second lap I was still trying to catch MRC_Dan_Gleeball. I was catching him and he in turn was catching a pack of 3 cars in front of him. I was steadily gaining on him until I got a load of oversteer at Europcar and hit the barriers hard. I got going again but now I was down in 11th and had lost about 10s to the pack I was chasing and had blacky306mi about 1s behind me. I ran wide, on to the gravel at Seat and he got past me, quickly opening a gap of three seconds.
Over the next few laps I started to settle down and real him in. The gap was down to 2s on lap 6 and we then got split after MrDidus had an off at Wurth. MrDidus was soon fighting with blacky306mi which allowed me to close up to within 1.5s of him. MrDidus made the pass at Europcar and the three of us were all together by now. I was able to stay with 0.5s of blacky306mi and passed him when he ran off track at Wurth. I made an error exiting New Holland, getting a poor exit which allowed him to close back up down the straight and we fought it out for the new few laps. He got past me at Repsol but then I retook the place at Seat, separated by only 0.2s at La Caixa I expected him to try a move but he didn’t and I was able to pull out a small gap. We continued to fight and drag raced down the straight with him inching in front. I was the more confident on the brakes though and I retook the position going into Elf. He was all over me, large in my mirrors and I tried to just concentrate on driving rather than racing him. He tried a dive at La Caixa but over shot the track and from there I started to pull out a gap after he tried and failed to make the same move on the following lap.
With 10 minutes left I was now starting to worry about fuel – I was going to about half a lap short unless I could save some. But saving fuel would mean surrendering my place to blacky306mi…. He made the same error at La Caixa on the next lap and by the time I arrived at Elf on lap 11 the gap was 2s. With 5 minutes to go, the gap was up to 3s but I was definitely going to be short on fuel. My fuel light came on at La Caixa and I had no choice but to change fuel maps once I was on the straight. Changing the map allowed blacky306mi to close up really quickly and after he’d got the gap down to less than half a second in half a lap I changed it back to map 1 to try and pull out a gap again. I had to change back to engine map 3 and he was soon right up my chuff again. With 9 seconds left on the clock he breezed past me and I knew we’d have 1 more lap. I only had 1.8l in the tank and I needed 2.94l for a lap so I was in trouble. Whether I stopped for fuel or not I was going to finish last so I had nothing to lose by carrying on. blacky306mi was almost 5s in front of me and then he threw it away making another mistake at La Caixa. As I arrived at the hairpin he was just correcting a spin. I tried to go around him on the inside at the entry to Banc Sabadell but his rear touched my front and he span out. I slowed to allow him to catch and retake the position but once he’d caught me he didn’t make the pass. I took it easy out of New Holland to allow him to pass me but again he didn’t and seemed to slow down too. I finished the race in 11th with 0.2l of fuel left in the tank.
During free practice for Race 2 I made some setup changes, moving the brake balance forwards and changing the anti roll bars. I didn’t get on with the changes to the roll bar and restored them to their earlier values. None of the changes made any difference and I started from 11th. An improvement to the last qualifying session but only because some drivers didn’t set a time.
I made another poor start and lost a place straight away to kamzarzcki. There was contact once again at the first corner when WreckedPaul went off track. Pior00n1985 was involved in a collision with kamzarzcki at Repsol – he was pushed wide and I was up another position and then another when kamzarzcki took a while to recover. I made another at Wurth when KitKartman was turned around by someone else. I passed my nemesis from Race 1, blacky306mi at the RACC chicane after he made an error and was up to 8th by the end of the first lap.
Unfortunately, I threw it all away at Elf on lap 2 when I lost control and hit the wall, dropping to 13th and last, about 10s behind the pack. I put the hammer down to try and catch them and set a new personal best of 1:48.147 on lap 3 but the others were still 13s in front of me. The gap stayed constant and I made up a position when MRC_Dan_Gleeball was given a 30s stop and go. After he’d served the stop he was 3.7s behind me. He caught up fairly quickly and as he was a lap down on me I didn’t bother to defend the line – I just let him through with 11 minutes remaining.
Although MRC_Dan_Gleeball soon pulled away, the gap to blacky306mi in 10th stayed constant at around 14s until I arrived at New Holland corner on lap 13 where I went massively wide getting all 4 wheels on to the gravel, spinning the car around and causing severe damage to it when I hit the wall. I received a warning from Race Control telling me to return to the pits and after trying to drive around for a few seconds I did so. It took 40s to repair the car and with 4 minutes remaining I returned to the track. Because of my stop I was now being lapped and on the same lap as MRC_Dan_Gleeball who was 24s behind me. I knew he was quicker than me and if I made a mistake I’d be finishing last, not second to last. I held on to take 11th by 17s.
I felt that race 1 was the better of the two races. My best lap had been a 1:48.492 which I’d set on lap 5. At that point the leaders were doing 1:46 and 1:47, getting down to 1:45s at the end. In contracts, my pace slowed down as I went through the race, even without the fuel saving. I managed to better that time in race 2 with a 1:48.147, again early in the race on heavy fuel. I need to look at why I’m not getting quicker as the car gets lighter.
I’d only made the one large mistake in the first race which cost me several and that was the spin at Europcar. In the 2nd race it wasn’t quite as good and I lost a lot of positions with my stupid error on the 2nd lap and also lost the opportunity to actually race anyone. By the time I made the last error it was almost 11pm and I was tired – next time I need to make sure I’m better rested and have had more water during the day.
At the end of the evenings racing, I was pleased that my SA had increased by a point to 56/99. Both my CC and CN scores had taken a hit and were now at 64/99 and 79/99 respectively. I’d enjoyed the evenings racing. the driving wasn’t as clean as it has been in the ESR league but the standard was a little bit slower and I think that if I can get on the pace I might be able to have some good races. Next week we’re at Spa for a 90 minute endurance race which should be good fun. I’d better get learning the track!