Look I'm Jenson Button!! Have a listen to the interview I did with Sam Hall of Downforce Radio for a bit of my history.... did someone say "Expelled"?
Croft was going to be a tall order. Like most of the tracks, I had never been to the track, so no change there! However, I had AS level Physics exam on Friday so would miss practice day. The team did put together an opportunity to do a practice the week before, but I had 2 problems with that. 1) Not enough money to do additional practice. 2) I was supposed to be revising for my AS levels and I had BSKC as a distraction anyway. (More on that later). I did a bunch of laps on the simulator in the MX-5 which is about as close as I can get to a funcup car, so I at least know which way the track goes!
On arriving after a 5 hour journey to Croft it was wet although I had qualifying to try and get to grips with the track this was the first time in the wet with a car, so I got in about 12 laps in Qualie.
Coming around to my stint I was super nervous, the car was up there with the front runners so I had to be on the pace! Harry had started and took the car from the back to the front with an amazing first stint. We drop a few places before I got in. It's amazing how focused you can get and I was on the pace. Unfortunately we had an issue with the exhaust coming apart and fixing it mid race is hard. We lost a lap and in my next session I was climbed back through the front runners and was just about to unlap the car when it came off again. Through great team work we still managed 11th, but not the race result we wanted. I had great fun in the wet and showed I have great pace in the wet in a car as well as a kart. Can I call that a trade mark now??
We made the 5 hours to Croft in time for a track walk and a quick look at some data. Sorted for race day then!
Qualie would be my chance before the race to try and acclimatise to the track. Did I mention is was raining?? Cuts slicks on an unfamiliar freshly resurfaced track aren't the most predictable things especially when you have never driven a car in the wet before. 20 minutes later I was back in the pits, was it 12 laps or 14.. no idea. Not enough for sure.
Come my first stint I was truly nervous. Once I was in the car I settled down. Harry had taken us from the back of the grid to the front. Andy had a bit of fight on and took a piece of the splitter off. But the main problem that happened was the exhaust decided to part company. That dumped us 2 laps down. I my final stint I had got back to the leader and was about to unlap ourselves when the exhaust broke again. Its a pity we could have over come once but that finished a decent finish. In the end we got 11th not bad considering.
A success for me:-
Wet race Tick
Click the button to go to Motors TV for round 2
Just to prove that I did get to the front on my stint as well, below is some (Bad) footage of me making it to the front. The Commentator was about the only one who wasn't surprised. Have a listen....
It wasn't all plain sailing at Oulton park. On practice day Riley set out for another session while I disappeared to run an errand. It was only 5 minutes before "Riley" was calling my phone. Now that could only mean one thing he wasn't on track any more and that was not good! The conversation was pretty rapid bit he said he was ok (which was good and my heart started to calm down), but he said the car was being towed back (which made my wallet race for cover). Our race budget is not exactly brimming over, so any damage really hurts.
The offending rear nearside wishbone had as you can snapped and been properly bent. For those non-mechanical there is not a piece missing those two bits are supposed to be joined together...
Below is the moment it "let go" if you fancy watching what happens when you have one wheel facing in a radical direction at 100mph!
What that looked like when it was brought home to the pits could have been a lot worse had Riley not caught it and gone off to the track. Probably should have the save of the day badge for that one!
This is the write up from Funcup :-
After the disappointment at Brands Hatch, DespatchBay.com bounced back in the best way possible at Oulton.
The 221 DespatchBay.com car took its, and owner Andy Bicknells, 2nd ever victory.
Marcus Cluttons win proves that he is now one of the men to beat in FunCup and takes his FunCup win tally to 9
And this was Riley Phillips 1st win in the Championship, and becoming the youngest ever winner.
Fastest in the morning Qualifying proved the pace of the trio, drawing 9th in the random grid draw meant that there was a bit of work to do.
Dropping back a bit after the 1st hour the team pushed and were leading at the 2nd and 3rd hour mark, battling with the Trumans car.
At the 3rd hour a safety car shuffled the pack and they were back down in 7th place, But some rapid driving from Riley Phillips put them back at the front. Riley didn't quite get the pit stop right and Marcus had to battle back from 3rd to the front. In the final stint Marcus Clutton, had a major battle for the lead being contested by no less than 6 cars.
with 3 Laps to go it was anyones to lose but two of the leading group collided at Old Hall and Marcus, in the lead at the time, managed to open up a gap which he held to the end putting the DespatchBay.com team firmly back into the title race and the final word goes to the team.
"What a great Fun Cup weekend at Oulton Park, still so delighted with our first win of the 2019 season, for the 221 DespatchBay.com car!
Finally, a huge thank you to our brilliant TheTrack.Life team, who worked so hard in the build up to this race & at the circuit. The win would not be possible without you guys! Thank you "
Part of a conversation with Joe Parr of McLaren talking about how he got where he is and what some options might be to fund driving. It is always interesting to hear how people got where they are!
4 hours of racing in similar cars and it's nose to tail with a couple of minutes on the clock.... My nerves are shot, but Riley is the youngest winner ever of a funcup endurance race after a mega drive back from 8th to first in his second stint. Marcus Clutton bringing the team home safely with his amazing electric pace. "alien" pace as one competitor stated!! Blessed to be given this opportunity, what a team, still lots to learn in the pits stops that's probably the biggest learning ground. Can't wait for the next round at Croft, but AS level exams are making that a challenge!! Friday practice and an exam in the morning, might work if we weren't 5 hours from Croft!! Anyone, got a practice day at croft in next 3 weeks and want to sponsor to get some serious coverage at the next race!!??? (it's only on Sky Sports so don't put on extra staff!)
We were very happy with the TFL team. They have worked hard and been amazing helpful and accommodating. It wasn't easy getting Riley out on track when he was 15 years old. They found a couple of very good instructors and had a twin seater car. The 2018 season had been ok, it was a discovery set of races and Riley had shown himself to be very quick. Unfortunately, quick driver pairing ended with the other driver leaving Funcup. TFL struggled to find anyone a match for Riley and so there weren't really any results for his hard work and speed.
In 2019 we knew he had to paired with a fast set of drivers or we would be wasting our money. As fun as racing is, it's way too expensive to be going from 24th to 9th in your stint to then lose 2 laps in the next driver stint. So although TFL said that they would be doing everything they could to secure fast partners I knew I needed to go out and find a backup plan. To make that slightly more difficult we needed a 3 drive due to the financials, sharing across 3 drivers is much more affordable.
The entire off season was basically spent pestering other team owners, drivers and potential drivers trying to find a team. Riley must have done something right as most of the teams were at least interested in having him in the team. Obviously, if you are paying teams are normally welcoming... "What's your budget??" followed by "what a talent you have here...", especially in single seaters as you are basically paying and you finish were you finish it doesn't really effect the team. They need a number of paying drivers so they can give the "real talent" enough of a deal to race with them. This is a bit different as how you drive really effects the team result. To be fair most of the teams were set and there were plenty of offers to paired up with 2 other imaginary "fast" drivers. It seemed at one stage that the Bridle twins had been cloned as every team I approached had them on their books looking for a fast 3rd driver... It can be a bit cloak and dagger, no one quite revealing what they have. As time moved on the deals evaporated.
I had directly contacted most teams, as I said. I also contacted Funcup themselves and Roxie had provided some leads of teams looking for drivers. Finding any team for have been easy, but we wanted a fast team, someone at least as fast as Riley, and that was a challenge. Roxie suggested her boy friend Andy Bicknell, but said he was really looking for a 2 drive. Same with Neil Plimmer.
I kept talks going with both, but kept things pretty transparent about my budget and who else I was talking to. I'd rather be straight up. That does leave in the situation that you are potentially giving away your information, but I'd rather be honest. TFL were still hunting too.
As talks went on Andy invited to a test at Croft. I didn't really have the money for a test day, but if we didn't go what would happen? Nothing, that's what.
When we turned up I was surprised to See Neil Plimmer there as well. Who seemed slightly sheepish and said he had some options.... What like Andy? (Bother, not really what I had in mind when I had told him we were talking to Andy) It's Andy's team and he really wanted a 2 not a 3 drive and I didn't have a 3rd driver either so, you just have to get on with.
The test went well and Riley was a quick study and kept the car safe and was quick. I think he clicked pretty well with Andy and they poured over some data and Riley duly applied it to his driving and went impressively quick.
Andy and I had a talk. It was pretty clear that TFL weren't going to find any quick drivers, Neil was still looking for sponsors and the rest of the options had dried up. Not that this wasn't the best option, it was. I decided I would have to find the 2 drive money and suggested if Andy could potentially offer us a bit of a discount we could do a 2 drive. It wasn't exactly throwing the money on the table, but I hoped we could do something. I think it made Andy think, but he is also a very honest guy and he didn't sign us to a 2 deal. He knew it was too much of a stretch and he wanted us to be happy with the costs.
There was a lot, of switching around and negotiating with various other drivers and Andy hatched a plan that finally settled about 10 days before the season opener at Brands Hatch. It's a 3 drive, with a 4 driver rota of Andy Bicknell, Riley Phillips, Marcus Clutton, and Harry Mailer. I am still pinching myself looking at the other drivers. (Marcus is a pro-driver and the fastest man on track, and Harry is pretty much the same pace. Andy is also super quick) Marcus can't do the double header at Zandvort or the race at Croft, so Harry will step in for those. Harry has a lot of other commitments and money is tighter this year for him, so he can't commit to the season. So that is how the dream team settled. There was a lot of bouncing around and Andy has been amazingly accommodating. He could have had a 2 drive with various people, but has provided us with an amazing opportunity. Lets hope we can live up to it!
With Brands Hatch only a week away, we went up to Sherwood Forrest the teams home base for a seat fitting. It was all a bit close to the start of the season for my liking. Quite how we got in the team will feature in another blog post, and I am still pinching myself. Riley spent an hour so chatting with Andy the team owner and the chief mechanic Chris, while he sat in warm expanding foam to make the seat insert he needed. The process is basically mix up a container of expand foam pour it in a big bag and sit in it, I mean on it.
Its an impressive base with various petrol head project in mid build around the building. It was a 3.5 hour trip there, but I want to make sure we had a seat that was comfortable and above all safe. Job done.
So excited to be joining the Despatchbay team for the 2019 season. I'll be joining a set of drivers that will really push me forward. The testing at Croft went really well and the car is certainly fast. The team is made up of Owner Driver Andy Bicknell who is certainly very quick indeed. Andy and I will be partnered by Marcus Clutton for 5 rounds. Marcus is the fastest Funcup driver on track and is currently Driving British GT as well. Because of his driver commitments Harry Mailer will be joining for 3 rounds. Harry is Andy partner from last year and is also super fast having raced karts and Ginetta formulas previously. It's a really exciting team and we should certainly be up the sharp end if I can hold my own.
When Riley started karting we knew nothing of the different karts, equipment, clubs, teams, series etc etc. Or where it woud it lead!