After what feels like an eternity, we're back racing!
Ending last year's racing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home of the Spanish GP, was an incredible experience. Now we're kicking off the 2022 MX-5 at the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.
Racing around the International layout, it was a new track for me and with limited testing it felt like it was going to be a difficult weekend. But after not racing since November I was just happy to be back in the car again.
With a new season comes a new look- I'm really happy with how the car has turned out although it may see some further changes as we move through the season. The solid blue has gone, and who doesn't love some racing stripes?
Qualifying last year was probably my weakest area- consistently making the weekend difficult for myself by failing to put a lap together and spending the races battling to get into the top twenty as a result.
The first round of 2022 seems to have gone a bit better! Although the ultimate pace was a bit lacking compared to the leaders, I was able to get some laps together in qualifying that matched my time in testing, putting me P14 for Race 1 and P12 for Race 2.
A bittersweet combination of lacking some pace yet still having my best qualifying session to date.
Starting P14 for the first race- like always it's just about avoiding contact in the first lap and then getting stuck in to a rhythm. A little out of practice with the race starts I got a bit too much wheel spin off the line making me vulnerable to the cars behind into turn 1, dropping down the order from 14th to 17th in the opening laps.
In a tight group of cars, and with the mega tow you can get at Silverstone, I fought back to P12 and spent the entire race defending- chopping and changing places with the number 17 car in 13th position. Despite pace being similar or faster than the cars immediately ahead, the constant defending from the group behind meant I lost touch with that next group and even after briefly building a gap to the cars behind, catching the next group was out of the question.
With two laps to go, a solid P12 finish looked like it was on the cards. Unfortunately, rounding the final corner onto the pit straight on the penultimate lap I came across someone's bonnet in the middle of the track. I had to lift and swerve off-line to avoid it, and the cars I had been defending against the entire race made an easy pass down the pit straight. Dropping back to P18 on the last lap, there was too little time to make any sort of recovery. A few desperate moves into Abbey and Stowe but nothing I could make stick.
A disappointing result, but nevertheless a positive race knowing I had the pace to qualify in the top 15, the race pace to stick with them, and for the sake of avoiding debris in the track it would have been a great finish- what would have been my best result in the dry.
Possibly my best qualifying session in the dry meant I lined up P12 for Race 2- just outside the top 10 that last season was so elusive. Learning from my lacklustre start in Race 1, I got an incredible start off the line and drove into P10 by the first corner. Hanging on to the back of the lead pack through the opening lap, we immediately pulled a gap to P11 and the group behind, and as the cars tripped over each other jostling for position, I found it easy to get stuck in and was confident I could gain a few more positions through the race.
However, coming into the right hand hairpin of turn 3 on lap 2, I missed my braking point slightly and had to go off track to avoid a collision. Although I recovered and got stuck right back in, I dropped out from that lead pack into the cars behind, and had so much less momentum as I re-joined the track I was a sitting duck.
From P10 to P23 in one corner. There was no recovering from that- I managed to drive back to P19 by the end of the race but to throw away a potential top 10 finish really hurt.
With a lot of the Silverstone International layout being fast, flowing corners, I found that finding opportunities to overtake was quite difficult. Into the left-right of Vale and Club was the best bet, with the occasional move possible around Stowe, but otherwise it was quite easy to defend and difficult to pass. As such, starting position is pretty important.
With the P19 finish of Race 2 setting the starting position for Race 3, thoughts of hanging on to the lead pack in the opening laps were out of the question.
I felt like I had more pace than the cars around me, but found it really difficult to overtake and make it stick. Some good fun and clean racing with those cars, but ultimately not in the part of the pack I want to be in. Finishing 18th, it rounded off a really fun weekend where the pace was mostly there, but where for a few errors I threw away some solid results.
Up next is Snetterton in April, where aside from the three Supercup races we've also got a 45 minute endurance race with a mixed grid of cars. Although the Silverstone weekend didn't deliver the results it could have, it was still just amazing to get back racing again!
With thanks to Drew Sutton Photography for the incredible photos.