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There are all kinds reasons & explanations listed in the racing driver’s book of excuses, and I’ve certainly used a number of them over the years, I can even recite most of them in French after 3 seasons racing abroad.
But following Rockingham I think I’ll go with a classic – sometimes it just isn’t your weekend.
In retrospect I can be a little more analytical, but the reality that really hit me square in the face is that circuit racing throws a lot more curve balls at you than hillclimbing. For example, you have to deal with cars in your rear view mirror, and this alone can be quite distracting from a psychological point of view when previously you’re only used to focusing on the road ahead…
WELCOME TO SUNNY ROCKINGHAM !! ????☀️☀️????????????????????♀️????
Posted by Charlie Martin on Friday, April 27, 2018
Much like Oulton Park, the weather was a washout and it was cold too. The Friday test saw us heading out for three sessions and I lent on the car from the off, going round the banking with as little lift as possible was a good test of nerves and at times the visibility into turn 2 (off the banking) was crazy. As the day went on the puddles of standing water became small lakes, and the final session was so bad that it was like trying to avoid an accident on every lap.
Saturday started wet, which was ok really as we at least knew what we were dealing with and didn’t need to play around with the setup. Qualifying was red flagged on lap 1, meaning that we lost a good 10 minutes and had to crack on. I managed to place higher up the field than Oulton in 23rd, P3 in Am class. Although I didn’t get the best start (the GT5’s clutch will only do one standing start so I’m still mastering launching it…) I made good progress down into turn 2 and was climbing through the pack, within a few laps I made it up to P1 in class and had a good margin (5s).
If I’m honest, this is where a lack of experience got the better of me, and with a few cars starting breathe down my neck I was worrying more about what was happening in my rear view mirror than on simply driving as fast as I could go… within a few laps I ran wide at Chapman Curve and dropped down to P3 as I rejoined.
I finished on the podium, but even so I felt so frustrated to throw away my first ever class win with a rookie error… doh.
On top of that I felt like I’d let the team down, especially with all the mechanics working so hard in freezing wet conditions. We went through all the data with Ollie Bryant (our coach that weekend), i soaked it up and went home to sleep it off. Sunday was meant to be dry so I felt like I could push harder, lots to be positive about.
Sure enough it was, I was starting on row 12 and confident I could make up for Saturday’s mistakes. I got away well and everything was looking good until some contact on lap 1, coming round Gracelands I rubbed panels with Nick Halstead and it upset the car enough to spin me off onto the grass, nothing serious but the car was quite loaded up and I couldn’t catch it in time. I made it back onto the tarmac, but I’d lost a lot of time & positions. From this point on I was hard on it and drove my socks off, catching & over taking the back of the field quite quickly. On the last lap I made it past Phil McGarty who seemed to be dealing with a spin himself to finish in P4 in Am – not a bad recovery but still.
In race 3 I finally managed to nail a good start from row 10, running through traffic I was holding P3 for around half of the race, before Nick Halstead made a move down the inside into Deane Hairpin off the banking. I let him go through and tried to cut back and get a faster run out of the corner into Yentworth. This almost worked and we were side by side on the entry with Nick just pulling out ahead, we then ended up in a pack of cars for the next few laps. Another tank slapper at Chapman Curve on the penultimate lap saw my rejoining from the grass, this time I was square on to the track so I had to wait for a number of cars to go past first for risk of getting T-boned as I pulled back on – a final kick in the teeth which saw me finish in P26…
I don’t like to sound defeatest, and there are a whole load of positives to take from the weekend – another podium, some good pace that showed I’m capable of a class win, and the car was in one piece. Plus this was only my second race weekend in the GT5, and for sure there’s a lot to learn this season in a very competitive championship, but I was annoyed with how I’d driven and I just wanted to get back in the car and go again. I’m often hard on myself in terms of what I expect, sometimes too hard – coming into this year I wanted to set realistic goals that I thought I’d be capable of achieving, and to a large extent I’m proving that I can do this. The level is high in GT5, and making a few mistakes is inevitable, crucially it’s how we learn from those mistakes.
Right now I’m more determined than ever to put what I’ve learnt into action at Thruxton, bring on Round 3!!
Photos by: Marc Waller, Jakob Ebrey & Darren S Cook