Well again a bit more encouraging at croft for me although we're still struggling for one lap speed in qualy which is hurting us because it means your in the thick of things for the first race and that can dictate the rest of the day.
We're not getting a car i like quick enough at the moment and it took until the second race on sunday until we got what we'd been trying to achieve which was to get the car to unsettle the rear on turn in. This is what you ideally want in a front wheel drive car to stop you cooking front tyres and it worked well in race two where i didn't get the drop off that both me and Matt have been experiancing all year.
It could have been a great weekend if it wasn't for the collision with Jordan in the 3rd race. I had followed Matt Jackson home in the first two and he managed 3rd in the final race of the day and i think another top 5 was on the cards. Mike was apparently a passenger when he smashed into the side of me at Sunny- John George had braked mid corner and clipped mike into the air and across the grass on the inside where he then hammered into the side of me as i was minding my own bussiness mid-corner. It caused a load of damage so i retired to the pits.
Its just the sort of luck we're having at the moment that when things finally start to turn round with then knocked back down again. My team mate had a dire weekend with 3 DNF's so it was nice to give the team a bit to smile about in race 2.
We're going to get out for a test before Oulton which should help us no end to understand the car a bit more. We're also recruiting a very experianced engineer to help with the improvment- he's got alot of experiance with the Toledo being a SEAT engineer for the WTCC squad.
We can but hope, i really want to start racking up some points now!
Well, a huge improvment all round at Thruxton. After Rock we had a big team meeting and worked out what we thought were the areas where the car was lacking and what we needed to do to get more on terms with Jones and GR set up wise.
Immediately from the first session at Thruxton i knew i had a very different car underneath me and Matt said he felt the same. The changes we made caused the car to feel far more nimble and on the edge. Before the car had basically been too safe and soft which was the reason why we were losing too much pace from midway through the race. We were killing tyres at Brands and Rock, even the Dunlop guys were saying it.
Its not good that its taken this long to find this and improve it but it is difficult when everyone is still learning the car and we have no testing. We will definately be getting out during this break to test more ideas and its great that the team are working so hard to move forwards.
The rough kerbs at Thruxton caused me to go backwards in race one when happily sitting in 7th and catching Turkington after i clipped one too hard at the chicane and it actually flattened off one side on the wheel and caused the tyre to run right down to the canvass and give me enormous amounts of understeer.
Race two could've been so good, i approached the chicance right behind Turner and Matt and after matt had run wide at the previous Church corner we were all extremly close on approach to the chicane. Turner moved to the left as we came up the hill and then (by his own admission) jinked right to have a look at what he thought was a gap up the inside matt.
Unfortunately i had a great toe off of the two of them and by the time he came back accross to the right i had closed the gap and there litterally wasn't the space for him. I was already braking and he came right accross my bonnet and i caught his rear bumper as i in turn couldn't brake any harder than i was or avoid him- this then harpooned Turner into matt who by now was just minding his own business turning into the apex.
It was a big shunt and i felt awful for matt and the boys who had a mammoth task to get the car fit for the 3rd race. However as the video evidence from my car showed Darren came accross and i had nowhere to go. This is why i felt pretty hard done by when it was deemed by the stewards that i had driven in a dangerous manor. Jackson came flying up the inside of loads of us at the start of the first race at the complex, speared into Gordon Sheddan and then caused 3 of us to bounce straight accross the grass, and no action is taken!! As usual consistancy of the stewards leaves alot to be desired.
I had then broken away with Matt neal and the two vauxhalls on the restart and i think a podium was on the cards as Chilly was struggling with tyres alot towards the end of races and i may have been able to have a go. What if's are commonplace in racing though and instead i overheated after a few laps due to radiator damage from the accident.
Race 3 was looking good, i came from the back through to 7th having a good little tustle with Tom but in the last 3rd of the race dropped from the group infront and had a somewhat lonely end to the race- encouraging points though and as i've said i really think we've turned a corner, but we have to improve further still if we're wanting to start achieving those podiums.
Its good the team have alot of time as Matt's car was in a pretty bad way, but it is never fun having so long between races- the season is so spread out this year!!
Sorry i haven't been in touch since Rockingham- there wasn't much to shout shout about really anyway, it was certainly the worst weekend i've had in 7 years of the BTCC! It really was the weekend from hell, and i don't know how many ladders i walked under the week before but with the luck i had i reckon there might of been window cleaners plunging to their death left, right, and centre!!
After a nasty bout of food poisoning all day on the Friday i then struggled again in qualifying only just getting into the top ten! The first race was going ok, i was sitting in 7th an able to keep both RAC's at bay and was just starting to line up a slowing Ioin Murray when a barrier he clipped at the final chicane flicked up and caught my front splitter, causing damage to my rad and consequent overheating.
An exhaust fire filled the car with smoke for the second race leaving me in the med centre and, after the boys worked their arses off to get the car ready for race 3, the airbox blew off as i fired the car, causing us to not start!
I got out of Rockingham as quickly as i could before i fell over and broke my leg or something!! Hopefully that is a good chunk of the seasons bad luck all in one hit though!
Looking forward to Thruxton where the Toledo's strong engine should feature well. We are still lacking corner exit speed though which we have had some serious looking into as a team and have a better idea of the direction we need to head. Adam Jones with GR's 3 years experiance of the car showed how well it should be performing again in practice at Rock, and we're striving to find that speed- i'm confident it will come and know how hard we're all working to get there.
Predictions wise i would be well chuffed if i could qualify in the top 6, and to get 3 strong points finishes would be superb and a great lift for the team. We then have some testing planned before Croft to further extend our knowledge of the car.
All character building stuff as they say!
Mixed feelings from the weekend really. Really pleased that the team managed to get both cars home in all 3 races with no mechanical problems, that is testament to all the hours and hard work they have put in over the past few months to get these cars ready. We've had some issues getting all the proper bits over from SEAT spain and the cars were still having their new engines fitted as a result on Thursday of last week. To then get no problems over the race weekend was brilliant!
What a plonker at the start of the first race though- and what a time to have my first stall!! We were using a new hand brake to help with the slope of the grid at Brands and due to not having time for a shakedown didn't have time to try it out. Matt was worried about getting off the line and the irony was i was trying to say don't worry and give him advice then he got a flyer and i was left sitting there scrabbling for the ignition button!!....IDIOT!!
The handbrake is no excuse but it was pretty foreign to me and when i didn't use it in Race 2 and 3 i got a flyer!
The afternoon could've been so much better if it wasn't for getting fired off at clearways on the opening lap of race 2, i had got away with the leading group and think the car was capable of a top 6 finish which would then have put me right up the front for the 3rd race. I got punted into the gravel and had to drive all the way through and in turn be passed by the whole field, the car as i say felt far better than race 1 and i managed to come back through the field to 11th.
We've definately still got some work to do but we made some improvements over the weekend and most importantly i think we were operationally sound when it came to everyone doing their jobs well. We are on the back of the front pack, but we need to push to the middle of that front group.
GR Asia (ACE) have far more experiance of the car and it showed at Brands as Jones ran well all weekend- we need to find that to move forward and start scoring higher points, i have every confidence in the team that we can do that.
Hope anyone that went at the weekend had a great time!
Well its finally nearly here, my first full season since 2001 and i can't wait!!
Everyone in the team is raring to go and i can't wait to get on circuit on saturday morning. Its come round so quickly after taking the flag and winning the last round of 06, it'd be great to win the first of the year as well!! First things first though we've got a lot of work and setup's to run through in free practice on saturday morning- there's quite a few changes both me and Matt want to try, but we're both pretty confident we have a good baseline setup to work from.
No one ever really knows where they are in relation to others until the first qualy session. Even at media day there were teams running race distance set ups etc and weren't showing their true colours. I wasn't out during the best part of the day also due to my clutch going 5 minutes in- so i'm eager to see where we really stand also.
TD will also be an addition to the timesheets and they looked to be going well at brands on friday when my team mate was testing. Matt did a mornings running, i had my new engine being put in as i'd lifed out the old dog i'd been testing with so i was only out at Rockingham on Thursday. Matt and i ran well although the day was ruined by some very indecisive weather that meant it was neither wet nor dry, we had a nice balance in these conditions though with slicks on the front and wets on the rear (which can often be used in races as well).
I look forward to seeing you all at Brands, make sure you give us a cheer, we the underdogs looking to cause an upset!!