CHAMPIONS and race WINNERS
Going into the final round joint on points with WASPP and UVIO not that far behind with a possible 10 teams that could mathematically still win it was somewhat tense! Especially give as we won at Silverstone we would have to start from the back of the pack (success handicap). You can imagine how please I was to find another 4 cars had signed up for Oulton Park, great 26th on the grid then! With WASPP getting a random draw in 10th (I think)
Was eventful I pulled out of the pits and caused a 3 car pileup when I was blind spotted by the Trumans car. Really sorry guys I did look 3 times, lesson learned Oulton pit exit is blind as you like! Chris snapped a driveshaft in his session as well. We kind of took it easy and didn't push on the driver side at all and didn't even look at data. It was more important to stay calm and within the limits than make more silly mistakes. Chris really wanted to start as usual and I must say I was nervous, its just so easy to get caught up in carnage or just plain held back and we needed to be at least 5th to be in with a shout, oh and in front of WASPP!
Chris was on fire in the first stint, not only keeping out of trouble (the first rule for the first stint... well any stint) but pulling the car into the mid pack by the end of his stint. We worked our way to the top 5 through the pitstops, but had an issues with the double fuel dump at one stop when the safety car came out and we lost our extra fuel man so lost probably 5-8 seconds switching fuel cans. By the final stint we were running 7th but crucially in front of WASPP (JUST) and UVIO who were leading and would take the championship had now dropped back after an issue. So we were in the front seat.
Waiting for the final stint I knew it was neck and neck with WASPP just behind us and Jay their pro driver would be in for the last stint. We talked about looking after the car, but this was the first stint Kris and Chris had said do what you have to do for the championship. In my mind I heard Russel Crow saying "On my command unleash HELL!" Permission granted for 100% attack. The final stop was fast, I thought as I hit the starter button, and then NOTHING. My finger planted in the starter button and not even a click. I think my Dad swore and started to try and bump the car but we didn't have enough speed on the first attempt. Then Aaron the JPR team lead came flying in "BUMP IT THEN!" he shouted so loud I thought he was on the radio! Boom, we had enough pace and I dropped the clutch a second time and came out in 8th place just behind WASPP.
That went well then, what a time to have a failure. Exciting for everyone watching as another twist in the race occurred. "Radio silence" was all I said. Chris Grimes our head mechanic knew to leave me to it. I had a job to do. Time to go to work and earn my place. You should probably watch the race, but I am proud of the fight between Jay and myself the hug after the race said it all. It was, even though I say myself, a beautiful move to get by, it had to be something special. One to pass Jay is hard, two this was for the championship so no quarter was given. It didn't end with that overtake though as we both had the hammer down. I ripped my way through the pack with Jay in hot pursuit. 8th to 1st and then I could ease back a bit. Jay made it to third and a fantastic show from car 49 Harry Mailer and Chris Walton to take second place, Chris still only on his 4th race.
So after 5 rounds and many hours of racing and it came down to the last stint and just 2 places, 1st to 3rd.
I can't wait to watch the footage it should be epic. It felt epic!
WINNERS Silverstone is well known for having plenty of run off and fast recovery, the average safety car deployment here is very low. This means that it favours teams that are quick across all the drivers, and staying on the lead lap on the national course is absolutely crucial, with no safety cars to bunch the pack. Before the weekend I predicted a top 5 finish, with a number of teams having great pace this year.
We setup in the normal way and after Thruxton where the shear straight-line speed of the WASPP team had blown them to the victory in front of us, I definitely thought we had little chance of winning at another fast track. Chris Dovell started as usual with Kris second and myself taking the last stints in the rotation.
Lets just say the race went like clockwork and the pitstops were phenomenal. Having escaped the rest of the pack with Harry Mailer in the 49 car in my first stint the team just steadily pulled away from the pack, lapping cars as we went. The 49 car fell back with a slower driver and that left us clear. In my final stint I had lapped everyone up to 3rd and was closing in on the battle for 2nd only 5 seconds behind when the flag came out, winning in Funcup endurance is hard enough, but winning by 1.05 minutes is total domination. So proud of the team an absolutely phenomenal display all round.
Some quotes after the race that made me laugh:-
"You should join in with our race next time"
"Did you even stop for fuel?"
Thruxton Round 3 brought a random draw of POLE for Axiametrics. Chris started again as usual and kept mostly out of trouble, which is tough at Thruxton a new track to Funcup, but with so many flat out corners it was always going to a bun fight to end all bun fights!
Staying in the lead pack through the stints, it came down to final stint. We had broken away and had a few seconds gap. I pushed on and was pulling away after some rain had made things lively! 10 minutes to go and a 10 second lead.... surely this one was in the bag!! Not so as a safety car was deployed for a stricken car at the back of the track, bunching everyone up to the back of me this was going to be a last minute bun fight... On the restart I managed to pull a gap to UVio, but WASPP was flying on the dry track and caught and passed me down the back straight in the tow. 3 minutes left on the clock, so 2 more laps. I had a look up the hill but could get enough in the tow. Then the engine just died coming into the chicane and UVio had a go around the outside, pumping the throttle for all I was worth the engine restarted and we passed over the line to a surprise chequered flag. Apparently Thruxton's noise curfew was rapidly approaching and they had decided to end the race slightly early. This meant no chance to drag back past on next lap, but also allowed the engine issue to be found.... which was down to running out of fuel so a lucky P2 in the end! We live and learn...
Finally got to go racing. Its a new team for this year, I've joined Kris Rose and Chris Dovell in team Axiametrics.
First round is at Snetterton and its a Double header, Round 1 is a 1 hour sprint race and a Round 2 is a 4 hour endurance, Both with pitstops and driver changes.
The format for round 1 was Qualifying would actually count and decide your starting position. The fastest driver would then have to start the race. This format seemed to favour the two driver teams, anyone with a quick driver in the pair would start and finish. It looked like teams like my old team Despatchbay would fair well with Marcus Clutton starting and finishing it would make them a force to be reckoned with. For Team Axiametrics I set the fastest time and put the car in P4 on the grid, just 0.006 off P3, but 2 tenths of Pole. I must be rusty!
With all the fastest drivers in the first stint it was going to busy at the front for sure. I managed to hit the front early on, but it was a continuous bun fight with no escape from the drag-factor. Still I brought the car in P1 with a gap, Chris Dovell took over and managed to lead for his stint. Viking had put in a good stint and with fast pitstops they jumped in front. So Kris had to do battle over the last stint for the win. It was close, but a small mistake let Viking take the win with a valiant second place for Team Axiametrics.
A great start to the season, and quite surprising given the format, showing that the team definitely had the speed to complete with the best of them.
Back in the car in the afternoon for Round 2 Chris start and I would be taking stint 3 and 6 to finish. Random grid draw gave us P15 on the grid, which is right in the mix. Chris would need to keep his witts about him to avoid mishap.
Unfortunately there was quite a big first corner incident which dropped Chris to the back of the grid, it was a hard fought race with a number of unfortunate incidents on track, and despite the best efforts of everyone we could only manage P10 at the finish.
On the whole, I am happy with P2 and need to celebrate that. It's a great way to start the season and its been fantastic to work with the new team.
Le Mans 12hr eSports SVR race
Proud to have won the SVR 12hr Le Mans race with my racing partner Leandro Schafer racing for Wingers E-Sport Team.
In the end we won by a lap after being in the top 2 all race we managed to put some distance to second place to pull off a dominate win for Team Yellow Wingers. Wingers put 3 cars in the top 6 with Wingers Red and Blue coming 5th and 6th. I think our custom designed livery looked great as well.
The Funcup awards dinner is a bit of a different night. It's probably the silliest and most fun awards night I've been to.
With 2 wins and a second and finishing 7th in the championship in my first full season I won best newcomer. I'll take that. It's been a big season, in a lot of ways it should have been so much more, Despatchbay led every race apart from Silverstone. In another way being the youngest ever winner in Funcup history, being part of the closest finish in history at Zandvort and winning the last round .... well its doesn't get much bigger than that...
What will happen for 2020... and who with, that is the question
Oulton Park round 8. I can't believe this is the end of season!
The engine still wasn't pulling like it used to although the car was well balanced and all 3 of us like Oulton park and having won the first round here it was time for some luck like a pole position? Fat chance 14th in the draw, putting right in the trouble zone!
Andy had decided that the pro-shift needed to go for reliability reasons and he had fitted power steering to help his old arms or something! The big seat had gone and we had a Sparco sliding seat. To be honest there isn't a lot more you can change on one of these cars! It was going to be a learning experience! I have not driven sequential stick shift since 18 months ago in a the twin seater and only then for 2 practice sessions. Any way as a driver you need to be "adaptable" and heel and toe was getting there by the end of practice.
The team and I worked on pit stops with the new seat and gear change being in the way. It's important to get all the mechanics happy as well as yourself, pit stops can save big chunks of time so it was worth banging my knees, elbows and various other body parts to get everyone happy with the new sequence.
Oulton was one of those races that went to plan. We started quite far back, but just kept making progress every stint, while others got over excited we kept pushing forward and staying out of trouble. By my second stint (the 5th stint of the race) I hit the front. I expect a few people said "where did they come from?". Given this was the last round and it was tight between 2Rent and UVio it was all to play for. 2Rent caught up and started to fight for the lead. I knew it could get silly and that 2Rent needed to win to have a shot at the championship, so having had a chat with Piers on the radio we decided to stay in second and push to get a gap. If we kept fighting we could let others catch up and then have a right bun fight on our hands.
I would hand over to Marcus to finish the job, if there was only 2Rent to deal with it would be better. The team had setup the strategy so it was a no fuel stop for the last stop as well. I kept my concentration and pushed hard behind Chris Hart. I could have passed a couple of times but kept safe behind. On the pit stop the team were ace, it was probably our best pit stop ever and felt quick. This was proven as Marcus exited the pits in the lead.... Job done! So, proud of the team and the practice we put in.
Henry in the 2Rent car got lucky with some back markers which held up Marcus and had to go for the lead. He couldn't let Marcus get away. He had a go and they both out braked themselves on the damp track and went off, Henry spun and Marcus just cut the grass. It was all over then and another win racked up for Despatchbay. Only the now crowd new champions UVio had won twice this season, which shows how good the team could be.
That put Despatchbay 7th in the championship 6 points behind 6th. We need all those other bad results to be top 5 to challenge the top teams though and that is tough!
With Uncle Glenn and Aunty Sally over from Texas and Grandad Burgess and Glenda also up to watch the pressure was on. Also after disappointment at Anglesey with major electrical issues the team wanted to hit the front again.
The usual tri of drivers was in, with Marcus back to sort the setup out. The car still wasn't it's usual self and the pace was still not where it should be.
Also starting down the back end of the grid again wasn't going to help matters. However, by mid way we where up into 5th. A front pack had broken away and were working together to escape. As Marcus said we needed a safety car to bunch the pack back up again so we could attack the front, but Silverstone would be safety car free! (The only race this season)
I had a good couple of stints, but struggled with understeer in the last. The pace wasn't quite there in the engine and I started to over drive the car to make the pace and over heated the tires making it worse. Lesson learned...
In the final stint Marcus made it back to 6th, there was no hope of catching any more places. Then as Marcus said “I was turning in and he just hit me hard on the back wheel,” and just had to limp back to the pits to retire.
“I had pad knock off at Copse and total brake failure at Becketts, I took to the grass to avoid Nick in the Viking car but couldn’t avoid Marcus,” Craig Butterworth explained after dislocating his shoulder in the incident.
That torpedo event knocked us down to 10th. I have to say I was gutted, just too much bad luck and even finishing in the top 10 in the championship looks pretty tough right now.
We were all prepared for the 8 hours of Anglesey, with 4 drivers to share the the load, Andy Bicknell, Harry Miler, James Littlejohn and myself. We had some electrical issues with continued battery issues. The team replaced the battery after practice and change the alternator. Pink underglow fitted we were ready for the race into the night.
Unfornately the car setup wasn't good and we had struggled to find pace. Working our way up from 14th towards the front I handed over to James for the start of the darker sessions. That was pretty much the end of any challenge from us and teh start of the drama of getting the car fixed. James came in stuck in gear, the pro-shift refusing to change up. Probably a power issue (surely not!). Mechanics Chris and Monge swoop into action and find the alternator lead had snapped. Re-connection done in seconds and a jump start from the mains powered jump starter to get us going. Crack and nothing... 40 minutes of feverish action and replacing of various blown electrical components and 221 was back out fighting for 18th place... Not what we wanted. 45 seconds to make up to take 18th place in my stint, so I got my head down and carved my way back to 18th. On a packed track like this it is a lot of overtaking and hard work to gain that time back. The rest of the team did a great job into the night, but 18th was not what we wanted.
My first night race was amazing, in some ways more concentration in others as there is nothing else to see other than a dim track, its easier to focus. There is plenty of action to watch in the highlights below...
Well the TV coverage is out and it's well worth a watch, plenty of action and Despatchbay.com has a camera on board as well, so you get some of me wrestling the wheel, making my way to front. Lets just focus on the second place and leading the race and forget the end to round 5...