Wow, well, yesterday was the first event, a sprint day at Aintree in Liverpool. First off, a huge congratulations to the podium finishers, Matthew, Tristan, and Zolli, very well done chaps, .1 of a second isn't a lot! The top 5 in our group are separated by .4 of a second, yes 4 tenths of a second for 5 cars.
I drove up Friday, through the traffic jam known as the M6, was the third or fourth to arrive, but the first of the ones staying at the track, and the only one with a tent :-). I set up my tent, unpacked the car, and spent the afternoon hanging out with the various guys who turned up. Tristan was kind enough to feed me, there were other options, but some proper van cooked camping food seemed appealing.
After a good nights sleep, I awoke to the noise of trucks and cars towing trailers into the parking areas at around 6:45. A quick change into my racing suite, I jumped out and started prepping a couple bits on my own racing machine. A cup of tea later, and everything seemed ready, so it was off to hang out with the guys, and shoot the breeze while waiting for the day to begin.
At around 7:30 the faster cars of the day started waking up, several classic Lotus Formula cars blew the cobwebs out of their powerful engines, making sure the whole of Liverpool was awake to enjoy the music. Us Academy guys had a briefing and a course walk, followed by some hanging around waiting for our 55 seconds in the lime light. After all the other cars had taken their laps, we lined up in "strict numerical order", 100-126 is my group, group 1, and I'm 117, so 17th leaving the start beacon.
Despite the ominous clouds, it stayed bone dry all day. The two practices in the morning went off without a hitch, and everyone seemed to be figuring the out where the time was. Two pretty good laps down, and on the first timed run I do a really poor shift from 2nd-5th-1st-3rd, and then later 3rd-4th didn't want to go either. Even with all that kerfuffle, I was only half a second of my fastest practice. After lunch, we got two more timed runs in the afternoon, and in those I dropped my time to a rather respectable 54.5, .4 off of our groups first place 54.1.
I came in 5th, which is not a podium, but it is within hitting distance for next time :-D. I know for this event, I entered with entirely the wrong mindset, I am well aware of that, and will amend it for next time (sorry chaps for my grim face at the end of the day, it wasn't sporting).
It was a fantastic day, with fantastic weather, and great company to boot. Thanks to all the Caterham guys, and the marshals at Aintree, it was a great well organized day. I am thoroughly looking forward to Curborough, it will be a great day.
Video may come, I haven't checked the footage yet, but I have more from Castle Combe thats going to be heading it's way to youtube ASAP.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Part 2. Much improved since it's the last half of the session, and things are getting smoother, the grip is familiar. No, I do not overtake on a yellow, you can just see the yellow light come on in the corner of the video, I stay behind until we are past the spin, and then start to pull away (watch the mirror).
Remember, 2 more sessions to come :-D.
The video from Castle Combe! Myself and Tony out on the track in the first session... technically racing, but there are a number of moments that I didn't take to pass him because it was just a little too risky for a test day.
Part 2 of this session will be up, followed by session 2 parts 1/2 and session 3 parts 1/2. Youtube had issues with large files and over 15 minutes of video... so I had to put them in parts. Because the excitement of the conditions comes through so well in the videos, I decided instead of uploading just a few laps from the best bits of each session, everyone would rather see 3x20 minutes of sideways Caterham action :-D.
Here's the course map,
Wow, I mean... wow! It was a great day, who knew sliding a Caterham at 100+mph through Folly was so much fun! I learnt more about the car control and the importance of being smooth with the accelerator and steering input in four sessions than I have in all my previous track days. In the dry, a certain amount of sloppiness still brings in a quick lap, in the wet, nothing is allowed to be wrong, or it just goes to hell. Despite sliding all over the place, my times seemed to lead the board, but only the first event will reveal who really is fastest. I think if I spend more time getting every movement smooth, and using all the track with the correct line, there's lots of speed to be had from these fantastic little cars.
There were many many moments, even in this very first session, where, had points been at stake, there would be some pretty crazy overtaking maneuvers. However, since it was just a test day, and no points were given, myself and most of the others seemed to keep our safe distance from the car in front. There are some points in this first video, where I just come out of the throttle to keep from driving too close, or to keep from being beside him in the braking zone or through a corner. I didn't really feel like sliding into him in the braking zone, or through the corner and causing damage to our cars before the racing had even started.
Through the course of the day, and with feedback from the instructors, my driving (and everybody else's) improved dramatically, and the instructors all seemed impressed with the skill of this years group.
One undeniable fact about this year is, it's going to be very close, very exciting, and adrenaline filled racing throughout the year. I can hardly wait! You know where to come for the videos of it too ;-).
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Today was great. I had a nice, sunny, quick jaunt up the road to GPR Racewear to get another Nomex top, my first ripped at the seem after four uses, so I will be chasing a refund/replacement. I'm testing tomorrow though, so I needed one ASAP.
I spent the rest of the day working on the car, fresh oil, mounting the T100 lap timer, and just making sure everything is solid for Castle Combe tomorrow. Lastly, I took care of the Sprint #s. These are different to our wheel-to-wheel race #s, and needed to be on for tomorrows testing. I spent around half an hour locating them, and making sure they were all spaced exactly the same. Personally I think they look awesome... :-D.
More in car videos will of course be uploaded in the following days, with a minor adjustment to where the camera is, since last time the rear view mirror was dead center in the frame.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Well, Easter has come and gone, the food and wine has stopped flowing, and the chocolate is rapidly being demolished. So, it's now time to knuckle down and start preparing for the Castle Combe test day coming up on the 18th.
Saturday I managed to find something sharp in the road, and picked up a flat tire. However, it's a holiday weekend, everywhere is closed, so no fixing until tomorrow morning. No worries though, it holds air for around 10-20 minutes, which is plenty of time to get to the nearest garage and get it fixed.
I also added couple more flags, UK and Australia. I'm confident my ordered flags should arrive tomorrow, as the two bank holidays probably screwed with the delivery times. So fear not, Italy, France, and Portugal are on their way.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Two more flags on, UK and Washington State, thank you very much :-).
Also, after driving to track days in my helmet, I decided I needed an inexpensive one for use around town, and general street driving. It'd be really annoying to get a rock chip or a broken visor on my racing helmet on the way to an event. So monday I picked up a Box BX-1 motorbike helmet in red.
After a bit of a drive with it yesterday, I'm very happy with it. It's quiet and comfortable, and the field of view is fantastic for street use. If anyone drives their Caterham around a lot, and is tired of wind destroying their eyesight and hearing, buy one of these, it was £60 and comes in a number of colours (even pink).
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I've decided to mount flags directly as they're bought, and will take pictures of new flags whenever they're put on. Waiting a week to see your flag is too long. I have mounted the flags that people have bought over the weekend, and the ones I had to order (mainly countries I didn't have yet, Italy, Portugal, and France) are hotfooting it here to allow me to mount them later this week. All flags are listed, with pictures (when races start, race pictures of the decals will be added) in the current flags page.
There are many flags on there now, and it's starting to look pretty awesome! Go to the support page to be the next!
For your viewing pleasure, my fast laps of Donington. These were the last two of the day, and I think there's a good difference between the morning ones, and these. These are ~ 0.7-1 second off the instructors time. The race had been red flagged, someone had gone into the gravel at the Old Hairpin, and I was first in line in the pits, ready to head back out. After a fast warm up lap, these two got slotted in before the end of the session, and indeed the end of the day.
Clean air, no traffic, just pure simple fast driving.
Now, at my next few track days, I will be working on getting to this same race pace faster. My goal to be able to find the fastest line at a brand new track, in 20 minutes. In the academy, there's only 20 minutes of practice before each qualifying and 15 minute race. So if it's a new track, the fastest line must be found in those 20 minutes.
The Academy has a 2012 Academy only test day coming up at Castle Combe, and I'm really looking forward to it. Test days differ from track days in that overtaking is allowed anywhere, and timing is allowed. So, I can finally mount and use my t200 lap timer and time myself, rather than going off other drivers. The best part of the coming test day is that overtaking is allowed anywhere, and consent isn't required, this means the whole atmosphere is a lot closer to actual wheel to wheel racing. Finally a chance to practice overtaking under braking :-D.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Here's the Donington video! Well, one of three, I'll be uploading driving with the other Caterhams, and my personal fastest lap tonight. This was in the morning, the second session, and was the only real clean air I got. Half a minute either side of the driving in this video I'm sitting in traffic, moving traffic, but slower than me.
It was a fantastic day, I learnt so much, and found out a huge amount about the car on track. I am ready for this season to start now, bring it on :). Donington, as I've said, is a biblically fast track, and the elevation change makes it ridiculously exciting and fun to drive. The morning had four 20 minute sessions, the first of which I used to learn the track, find the braking and turn-in points, and just get settled. After that came this video, the second session, where I got to open the taps and really start pushing the brake points later. In the last session, I managed my fastest lap of the day, around .7 from the instructor, but that means there's still time to find.
I was there with two other Academy guys, Peter and Nick (Porky, his nickname not mine) who're in group two. Pete had been there before, but both Porky and I had never driven Donington. All our times at the end of the day were very close, with lead follow going on, we were all within car lengths of each other. Just 2 seconds covered our individual fastest times when compared with the instructors fastest.
What does this mean? It means the Academy will be the series to watch for super close racing, and you should buy a flag before the spaces fill up ;-). I'm sure some trading paint will be going on up and down the field :-D.
Peter, Porky, it was a great day, and thank you for letting me listen to the instructors, it was a huge help later in the day, and I'll see you both at Castle Combe!
Here is Peters video from a giant slide we both had, I'm in front and start sliding, he then lifts out of the throttle and slides as well. It seems like drafting accounts for a couple MPH, and I think I was going a little slower than him through a couple corners, hence he catches up with me at certain corners.