Well, that's my first race meeting of the MX-5 Supercup over and done with. What a weekend!
Results wise it wasn't the best, but it was always going to be a tough learning curve joining one of the most competitive club level championships in the UK. Despite the results, there's so many positives to draw from it.
First of all, the entire weekend was just great fun, and ultimately that's what this is all about. Whilst there were no first places, there were a lot of other firsts: First time qualifying and racing the MX-5, first time driving the car in the wet, and first (and second...) time getting punted off the track. A lot to take in and learn from, but a really rewarding first three races and I'm raring to go for the next one.
Forget track days- piling into the first corner on lap 1 amongst 39 other cars, all vying for position, there's just nothing like it!
The weekend started with a pretty poor qualifying session- I managed to tag onto the back of one of the championship contenders and hoped to use them to drag me a long a bit. But one lap into the session I got rear ended and sent off the track. No real damage done to the car, but I'd lost my tow and got stuck in a load of slower traffic and I struggled to find a gap to set a decent lap time in. I ended up with a lap that was massively off what I'd shown I could do in testing and ended up with a starting position of 26th for both race 1 and 2.
Although annoyed with the result, I looked ahead to the first race. Starting back in P26 for my first race in the championship, I wanted to find a balance of not doing anything too crazy and stacking the car, but also making up some positions. Maybe a top twenty finish would be a decent recovery for a first time in the car.
When the lights went out for race 1, all thoughts of a conservative recovery drive went out the window. I saw a gap around the outside into turn 1 and got past a big group of cars- by the end of lap 1 I'd made up 9 places and was up to P17!
Over the next few laps I gained and lost a few positions, but was full of confidence and catching slower cars in front. Sadly, that's where the good news stops. I caught up to a car into the last hairpin of the lap and positioned myself to the outside and got alongside them on the brakes- they had the corner but being on the inside meant they had made the turn much sharper and were late getting on the power. It meant I could get the car straighter sooner, get on the power earlier to get a better exit and pass them on the following straight.
Unfortunately I'd failed to notice another car, seeing all this unfold, dive to the inside of the corner to try and pass us both, and we collided at the apex.
My car was stalled and sideways on the track, next to the pit lane entry- I got it going again, but not knowing how bad the damage was I came back into the pits for the team to check.
I came back out of the pits in last place, and without a single car in sight. For the rest of the race it was pretty much a private test session whilst I drove around on my own, although I did manage to catch and pass one car in the final few laps.
From P26 to P17 in one lap, to dead last a few laps later. It was a rollercoaster...
Again starting P26, I'd hoped for another start like race 1! But bogging down a little at the start meant I lost some positions- I recovered up to P24 by the end of the race with a great battle to get past Xavier Brooke for what seemed like an eternity.
No dramas this time, but not the result I wanted.
Immediately after the end of race 2, the sky opened up and it absolutely hammered down, with thunder and lightning lighting up the sky. It stopped just in time for race 3, but the track was still very wet at the start of the race.
Starting P24 this time, and having never driven the car in the wet, I told myself I wouldn't try to do anything too risky and just treat it as a chance to get used to the car in the wet and maybe make up a few positions.
On lap 1 of the race, the car behind me locked their wheels when braking and rear ended me, pushing me off the track in the exact same place as happened in qualifying... Suddenly I had dropped from 24th to 33rd before the end of lap 1.
From here on out it was all about how far I could claw myself back up the order. I realised I had quite a bit more pace in the wet than many of the cars in front, and I was much more confident in pushing the car in these conditions. I set about making my way through the pack and by the end of the race had clawed back 11 positions and made my way up to P22. I finished 0.4s behind the car in P21, and with the next group of 3 or 4 cars a few seconds up the road and lapping quite a bit slower, I just wanted a few more laps to get past them!
Results wise it was a bit lack lustre, but I loved every second of attacking through the wet conditions and I was absolutely buzzing at the end of the race- more than someone finishing in P22 has any right to!
The coaching and car setup advice provided by Luke Herbert Racing has been really invaluable, and I'm really glad to have the team running me for this year. After a weekend of picking up pace, and getting a lot more experience of attacking and defending, I really cannot wait for the next race meeting at Silverstone next month.
I have so much more confidence in the car now, it's time to set my sights a little higher up the order!