WOW! What a weekend. Having decided to race 2 different Caterhams in 4 races at 1 track over 1 weekend the challenge was on. I was racing a Classic Caterham and a Sigma Caterham in the Graduate Caterham Racing Series. I am finishing my 2nd season in the Classic Caterham and the Sigma Caterham I have only driven twice before the race weekend. Friday testing was a busy day and used it to practice jumping in and out of both cars. By the end of the day I felt on the pace with the Classic but still had some time to find in the Sigma to be competitive at the front.
It was misty start to Saturday morning and dew was on the car. The first task of the day was to qualify for the first time in my Sigma Graduate car. Qualifying was going well and I managed to post a time faster than in testing. I also managed to over take some Super graduates which was very satisfying as they have an extra 5bhp. Unfortunately my qualifying session finished early. I ran wide at Charlies 2, the grass was damp because of the dew and I spun and hit the tyre wall pretty hard. I was ok, the car had part of the tyre wall on it and I thought that was game over. I could not believe I had crashed on my first ever outing in a new car! I was taken to the medical centre for a routine check up but worried I didn’t have the time as I was meant to be out in the Classic car shortly! Amazingly the car was drivable and returned to the paddock with only the slightly bit of damage. A new wing mirror, bonnet dent bashed out, tracking realigned and a bit of duck tape to tape the wings back up and it was ready to race again! Amazingly, I later found out that I had qualified 2nd for the first Sigma race and had qualified on Pole by 0.001 for the second race! So glad the car was ready to go again.
Next up was the Classic qualifying session. Luckily this session ran a lot more smoothly. I felt on the pace but didn’t get a clear lap but must have got a good tow. I achieved a double pole position with a time 0.6 seconds faster than the current lap record and 0.6 faster than any other Cadwell pole position in a Classic. Effective performing the fastest lap ever at Cadwell Park in a Classic Caterham! Amazing and very pleased.
Saturday afternoon and it was time for the first Sigma race. Having never done a race start in a Sigma and not having the time to practice I was pretty nervous. The Sigmas were sharing a grid with the Super Class. As they were faster they started on the lights and the Sigmas went on the Union Jack flag. Unfortunately I got a poor start and dropped to 3rd by the first corner. With plenty of time left I was not concerned. On lap 2 the lead Sigma pack caught up to the back of the Super race. During this time the race leader, Ian Anderson ran off the circuit trying to over take the slower car. So I was up to 2nd. On the next lap I had overtaken and was in the lead. I remained in the lead for the next 2 laps until Ian Anderson over took me. The remaining 8 laps were a battle between Ian and myself for the race win because we had dropped everyone else. On the final lap and approaching the final corner Ian missed a gear and I was too close to react. As I was accelerating I smashed into the back of him. Ian carried on but unfortunately I had broken my radiator and was leaking coolant. I turned into the final corner and spun on my own coolant. Stopping just shy of the banking and steam coming up through the bonnet I managed to get the car into gear and crawled over the line. Luckily I had a quite a large gap to 3rd and remained 2nd. I immediately had to pull over at the side of the circuit as I had coolant leaking everywhere. I could not believe I had been out in a new car twice and it was returning to the Paddock with second recovery and marshals assistance! Luckily I had a friend, Martyn Lewis helping the mechanics side of running 2 cars. Without him I’m sure the car would not have been back out to race. A new nose cone, radiator, fan and coolant and it was ready for Sunday’s race! I was delighted to find out later that I had achieved the fastest lap in the race and that even included the faster ‘Super’ Gradaute cars and was a new club record.
Next up was the Classic race. First Pole of the weekend and 3rd in a row in the club. I was very excited about the Classic race. I knew I had the pace to be right at the front and this was the focus of the weekend. I was pushing for big Championship points and feeling confident after my first race win at Thruxton last time out. I didn’t get the best of starts. In fact I dropped to 4th but somehow by the 3rd corner at Park I was on the inside taking the lead. There was an accident behind me which allowed me to create a 4 second lead by the end of the first lap. I got my head down, concentrating hard to drive well and pull out a bigger lead. The rest of the race for me was quite uneventful. Kept it on the track and built an 8 second gap to take the chequered flag. Two wins back to back in a very competitive racing series. Very Happy.
Sunday morning I was back out in a repaired black Sigma Graduate taking Pole position in the class. I had a cracking start this time and remained in the lead for a lap and a half until Ian Anderson overtook me round the outside of Mansfield. I was in 2nd but we had already dropped 3rd. On the next lap going into Charlies the red flags had come out. A car had gone off at the mountain. On count back I was grided back on Pole but because it was not a restart we were directly behind the Supers and now going on the lights. This worried me as the cars directly in front were Supers but a lot slower. I had a great start but failed to select second, once I had it I noticed a stalled Super car to my right but I managed to avoid it. Going up through Coppice I had the lead only to find more red flags. Some of the Sigma drivers behind me had unfortunately not seen the stalled Super on the grid and went into the back of it. We were all directed back into the pits without a completed race and told that they might be able to fit the race in at the end of the day. It was a very big anti climax.
However, focus had to be shifted to the last Classic race where I was on Pole position again. 2nd place driver Andrew Outterside got a better start than me and beat me into the first corner, I was also over taken by Justin Cox. Down the back straight I got an amazing tow and managed to over take both cars. Unfortunately arriving at Park with more speed after a tow and probably still wearing my Sigma head I out braked myself and ran wide onto the grass. Dropping down to 4th. The top 8 cars were having a great battle for the lead. With 2 laps to go I was in 6th place and time was running out to get to the front. I managed to take two positions and going into the final lap got a good run to bravely overtake previous Classic Champion, Graeme Smith round the outside at Coppice. I had managed to get up to the 3rd. The battle was close for the remainder of the lap. Going down into Mansfield I tried a late breaking move for 2nd place round the outside. We were both sliding round the corner and I thought I was going to lose it and spin but somehow I managed to get round. I was very happy to cross the line in 3rd. A hard fight and very satisfying race. I also had another fastest lap! It was great to be able to breath again whilst on the cooling down lap and also to be able to wave to friends and family that had come to support me. It was exhausting. I parked in the paddock to have confirmation that the Super/Sigma race will be re-run at the end of the day. Being shattered I could not believe I would be going out again!
Having to wait until 5:30 made it a very long day’s racing, but I was still excited to get back out in the new car. I had a good start from Pole but second place driver, Ian Anderson (And now crowned 2012 Sigma Champion) beat me into the first corner. We had a great close battle for 4 laps until he had a mechanical failure and had to retire. I happily took the lead and remained so until the chequered flag, achieving the fastest lap of the race on the last lap. Amazingly, I had won a race in a new car during it’s first weekend outing and in front of local friends and family.
3 Pole Positions (2 Classic Championship, 1 Sigma Championship)
2 Race wins (1 Classic, 1 Sigma)
1 2nd place (Sigma)
1 3rd place (Classic)
3 Fastest Laps
1 Lap record
Classic Caterham – Race 2