There’s simply no substitute for track time, and bad days on track don’t count.
Possibly the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given about this tough but hugely fun, apprenticeship in motorsport.
Two years ago I’d never been on a race track. Only sat in a go-kart twice at social evenings. Two years later I’m able to put in some decent lap times on a GP track and know where there’s more to be had.
- GRDC Year One was all about orientation; getting comfortable in a race series alongside British GT.
- Year Two, GRDC+ was all about learning; getting the car to go round a track much faster, on better tyres.
- Year Three in GRDC+; well I intend to make that all about racing.
So what happened last year?
Half way through 2015, after a trip to a dyno in Leeds, I discovered that my car was 10% down on power. That’s why my speed trap times were always one of the lowest in races. That’s 18 months of slow. We got that fixed with a new engine just before heading off to Spa. Fellow racers wanted to know why my speed trap times had shot up. I also had the car set up by Want2Race – good geometry made the car predictably solid, especially with GRDC+ spec sticky tyres. Added into the mix, some cracking tuition from Tom Oliphant, my test day times consistently dropped to something respectable. I finished 11th in the 2015 GRDC+ championship, I have a whole book of excuses for that.
And so my plans for 2016 have been made and announced.
I’m planning to miss two rounds so I can run in The Great North Run and also get muddy at Yorkshire Warrior. I’m really looking forward to Spa and Silverstone, but have a score to settle with Brands Hatch. Dates are as follows:
- 16 – 17 April Brands Hatch GP
- 30 – 1 April/May Rockingham (Attending Yorkshire Warrior)
- 11 – 12 June Silverstone GP
- 08 – 09 July Spa Francorchamp
- 06 – 07 August Snetterton300
- 10 – 11 September Donington GP (Attending The Great Northern Run)
I’ve never enjoyed driving in the wet for a number of reasons. Steamy windows have become a huge issue. A new heated windscreen and a proper aircon service should see vision restored to the car. I can then tackle the other thing – my confidence and skills in the wet. I just need to practice and get better at feeling the car. People talk about finding grip on a wet track – this is a skill I need to develop.
Feeling the car
The factory seat in the Ginetta is too big for me. I’ve coped by using a cushion to fill in the gaps for the first two seasons. Without the cushion, I just rattle around in the seat. I’ve thought about getting a custom insert but decided to fit a Tillett seat this year. They’re expensive – but snug and lightweight. The minimalistic style of the seat means that I will get a much better feel of the car. Brian, fellow GRDC+ racer, has one and has been very happy with it.
It dawned on me last year that I’ve never been taught how to race. It wasn’t until I had the power to stay with the pack, due to the new engine, that I realised how low my confidence and knowledge of how to drive mirror to mirror. I found myself braking when cars got near me in races to keep my pride and joy safe. Always maintaining a safe distance. I need to stay close to the other cars on the track and use every opportunity for overtaking that presents itself. In essence, I need to learn how to race. It starts with more time on YouTube, watching how other drivers race as opposed to drive. I’ll also review previous in-car footage to rethink what I should have done in previous races.
Business as usual in that department. Staying in the paddock in the motorhome has been hugely enjoyable. There’s no village for GRDC+ this year, drivers need to run in a team or look after themselves. This may mean that people are spread over a larger area, but the fresh intake from last years’ GRDC graduates, should keep entertainment values high.
So that’s the plan so far. We have the option to upgrade the dampers on the car – but I may just spend the money on track time and tuition.
I’m really looking forward to pitching myself against some of the new GRDC+ drivers.
And the car will hopefully have some new stickers on it!