With only one week between our MSV Trackday Championship and EnduroKA success at Oulton Park (which you can read about here) and the next round of the SuperCup, we needed to get the car ready quickly, especially after we found a few niggles that we know would haunt us if we didn't get them sorted.
As the circuit is so big (and expensive to rent for over an hour), MSV decided to combine the SuperCup Grid with that of the TDC and Trackday Trophy. This meant we had a grid of over 50 cars, so it was going to be interesting! The majority of the field were not classed with us, so would no affect championship points, but we just want battles anyway, and we were sure to get some!
With the race being on the Sunday, but testing on Thursday and Friday, we made the decision to not test with the Golf, so we would be arriving with it Saturday night, and the first time on track would be for the 25 minute qualifying session, which I needed to share with Ryan. After a conversation with a fellow race in the KAs, I found that the Ford Focus Cup was at Silverstone the same weekend, but racing on the Saturday. Their package, which is true arrive and drive racing, includes testing on the Friday, so I decided to jump in that as well, a chance to get my eye in on the track, whilst also getting some seat time in another race car. The fact that they are all Diesels made the decision much easier!
A layout of Silverstone is below. We get detailed analysis of sector times and speeds. Sector 1 takes us from the Start / Finish at the Historic / National Pits all the way to end of the Hangar Straight, Sector 2 ends on the Wellington Straight and Sector 3 completes the lap.
The concept of the Focus Cup is great. It is a one make series of identical Focus TDCI Mk2s (2007 - 2010 Models) with all the cars being owned and run by the series. Drivers are allocated cars randomly (it used to be at every round, but that became a lot of work when you are moving 20 seats and ballast plates every weekend!) and setup changes are limited to Tyre Pressures and Dampers. Everything else is fixed. The organisers make the decisions on when Tyres and Brakes are changed to keep it fair, and all the cars get brand new Tyres at the same time. It really is a fixed cost series, unlike some where the money men find ways to gain an advantage by spending their way to the front. As their slogan says, 'You bring the skill - we do the rest'.
The package includes testing on the Friday (normally three to five 30 minute test sessions), then a 15 minute qualifying session, followed by two 15 minute sprint races from a standing start. The first grid is determined by qualifying, the second is made up of the race finish order, with the first 6 reversed, and the following 6 reversed. This guarantees some battles in race 2!
As luck would have it, I was drawn car 57, which is the PowerFlex sponsored vehicle, a supplier to the series. They were pretty pleased with that!
Photo by Sarah Hall Motorsport
Friday testing went really well, we managed to get all the conditions in 1 day. The first session was completely wet, session two was drying and VERY greasy, session three was more or less dry, then session 4 was completely dry, pretty warm and turned into a mini race between 5 of the cars! It was great fun. I ended the day with a time of 2:39.81 from a pretty sloppy lap. I think a clean lap would be in the 2:38s in those conditions.
Saturday brought more changeable weather, the forecast was threatening rain, but nothing seemed to come down before we headed out to the assembly area. With 12 cars on track, it was easy to find some clear air, but on my first flying lap I came up to a car at Farm, one of the quickest corners on the circuit, so lost a little time there, resulting in a 2:40.450, just behind Andrew Godfrey in the 46 Car. Next lap was cleaner until I got to traffic at Brooklands, and was a 2:39.377, which I figured should have got me pole (at that time it did). I did another flier as the car still felt good, and put in a 2:39.303. With nothing really to lose, I tried a different line into Copse (turn 1) and it did not work out, sending me too wide. I did more experimenting during the lap, and managed to find 0.4s, but knew that lap time would have been deleted, so backed off ready to do another flying lap with the information I had gained. However, 15 minutes soon flies by, and the session was over.
Until I got into the pits, I did not know if my time was enough to secure the top spot, and as feared, Godfrey had found a little more time on his last lap, so he pipped me to Pole with a 2:39.183, only 0.120s separated us. It was going to be a close race!
You can see from the lap analysis, it was pretty close all the way through the session. Had I known Andrew was going to pull a quick lap out of the bag right at the end, I would have not messed around with the different lines and concentrated on chipping away slightly at the lap.
Looking at the Sectors, in the first and second, there was basically nothing in it, I lost the majority of my time to Andrew in the final sector. Some friends were watching from Brooklands and commented that Andrew's car seemed to get a better drive out of Luffield, which then would be carried all through the straight and over the finish line.
A video of the full session is below:
P2 put me on the right hand side of the grid, which if it rained, would mean I would be on the wettest side (since the normal line is over to the left). Spoiler alert, it rained!
Just as we were heading to the assembly area, it started to rain lightly. I made the call to put some more pressure in the tyres, as they would be harder to get up to temperature and operating pressure in the wetter conditions. This turned out to be a good call as it started to rain more as we waited to line up on the grid.
As expected I had a pretty poor start, mainly because I was on a wetter line, but also because it was the first time I had launched the car, everyone else had a bit more experience! Andrew got a decent start, and we were pretty much battling from the first few turns. I had a couple of sideways moments as the tyres were still cold and the rain was coming down more now. Through Luffield I had it properly sideways, so at the end of Lap 1 he was 0.603s in front as we crossed the line.
I got a great run onto the Hangar straight, so I got my nose in front in the braking zone at Copse, then it was a case of pushing as hard as possible, keeping Andrew behind and trying not to fall off the track.
I always find it is easier to follow than lead when conditions are tricky, and Andrew seemed to have a lot more confidence in the big braking zones so I was having to defend constantly. As I was taking the more defensive lines, every straight was a problem as he would then have the advantage of greater exit speed.
Into the Loop on Lap 3, he made a lunge down the inside. I stuck to my line, knowing that I could carry more speed down the Wellington Straight into Brooklands and Luffield. We were side by side as we turned left, but then I got in front towards Woodcote.
It was still raining, but it was difficult to judge when to use the dry line, and when to move to wet lines, as some areas were still grippy on the dry line.
Into Copse Andrew made another move down the inside, but again I stuck to my line and pulled ahead into the Vale Chicane, where I got it properly sideways. This lost me a lot of speed through the fast section at Farm and Village, so I had to defend with all my might!
As we entered Brooklands and Luffield, I figured it would be the last lap, so I was frantically checking my mirrors to make sure I didn't leave the door open over the line. Luckily I kept it shut, and finished 0.190s ahead! Not bad for my first race in the Focus! I said to Andrew after the race, as he was 0.120s ahead in qualifying, technically I was 0.070s in front now!
Looking at the data, our cars were almost identical in the speed traps on our best laps, and our laps were pretty similar, I just put in a 2:50.379 early on before the track worsened.
The lap chart tells the story, and you can see how close it was all the way through!
The sector analysis also shows that I was 0.6s quicker through the first sector, 0.3s through the second, but then lost 0.3s in the final sector. Something I need to work on for the future!
A full video of the race is below, the AIM SmartyCam seems to miss just as you set off, so you don't see the launch as well as with the VBOX:
The grid for Race 2 is determined by the results of Race 1, with the first six drivers reversed, then the following six reversed. This meant I was starting in 6th position, with Andrew right in front of me again, this time with four other competitors all heading into turn 1. A reversed grid is definitely the way to spice things up and why BTCC is so popular!
It was Deja Vu in the Assembly Area, just this time instead of light rain, it was bucketing it down, so we left the Tyre Pressures high and the shocks soft.
Going out to the grid, it was clear that the track was much wetter in areas, but it is normally more predictable when it is like this, rather than just damp.
I had a fair bit of wheel spin again, but did not seem too bad compared to everyone else. As they all went for the inside line, I drove around the outside but then the car shot across to the left and put me off the track. Luckily with all the runoff at SIlverstone, I did not lose too much time. As I rejoined, I shot down the inside of Tomlinson into Maggots, ending up behind Godfrey again, just as 2 of the guys got tangled up. I managed to avoid that and was up to P2! I chased down Gardner who had started in 2nd but managed to avoid the drama, eventually sending it down the inside at Brooklands, after getting a better exit after the Loop, despite us both having a sideways moment. P6 to P1 in a lap, I was very happy with that!
Into Copse for the first time at speed, the car was all over the place again, but it was difficult to see where the standing water was. The racing line was going to be very slippery, but standing water can be even worse, especially on Dunlop Direzza tyres that had already had plenty of action that day!
By this time, Andrew had caught up, so it was going to be another defensive race. The next lap was pretty uneventful, I just wanted to keep the pace up and keep the car on track! Over the line there was only 0.268s between us.
On the approach to Copse I decided to take a different line, going more on the normal racing line for braking and turning to avoid the river at the outside. As soon as I touched the brakes I knew it was a mistake as the car went light and the steering wheel felt as if it was not connected to anything. I basically had a 1 way ticket to the gravel trap!
Andrew eventually pulled a 21s gap on the rest of the pack. Had I stayed on the black stuff, I am sure we would have had another great battle for the rest of the race.
As I didn't get many laps in, the best sectors don't look great, but I still ended up with the 2nd fastest lap of the race.
A video of my (VERY SHORT) race is below. You can see just how much of a passenger I was once the car hit the standing water:
To get involved with the Focus Cup, a true arrive and drive series, get in touch with Simon or Rob - https://www.focuscup.co.uk/contact
After playing around in the Focus on Saturday, it was time for the more serious racing on Sunday. Round 2 of the SuperCup in our Golf!
It was a late start due to a packed schedule, with our 25 minute Quali session not due to start until 12:05, however due to an oil spillage that took an age to clear up, we were almost 1 hour behind schedule.
Once we got up and running, despite the threats to rain all day, it was dry and red hot. Exactly what you don't want for your front left tyre around the punishing GP Circuit.
As I had been at the circuit all weekend, we decided it would be best for me to get in the car, do my three qualifying laps then let Ryan get used to the car and circuit, as he hadn't been here in the Golf, and the last time he did the Circuit was in October last year during a very wet Birkett Relay!
My first flying lap was a 2:28.035, which was enough for P1 in Class, but I knew there was a bit more in the car, so my next lap was a 2:27.552. The guys came on the radio to say the next nearest Class A car was over 5s behind, so I decided to pit and get Ryan in for as many laps as possible.
Callum Noble, in the E46 M3 did show on the timing screens as P7, but ran wide at Copse on his first flying lap, which turned out to be his quickest, so that was deleted, meaning he would start behind us in the race.
When qualifying is only 25 minutes, and it takes nearly two and a half minutes a lap, you don't get many in, so Ryan had 5 before the session was called. He ended up with a 2:30.028, which would have still put us 1st in class by a long way. His ideal time was much closer to mine, so it was just a case of not stringing a lap together, which was pretty difficult in the traffic so no worries about race pace based on Ryan's previous overtaking exploits...
1st in Class was P7 overall, with six of the Class S Cars (240whp/ton vs our 200whp/ton) in front of us, and a couple behind. On the sector Analysis, we were 8th, so it showed that Callum would have been quicker had he strung a lap together.
Best Lap - 2:27.52 - Ideal 2:27.35
Best Lap - 2:30.04 - Ideal 2:28.54
On the grid we were surrounded by Rear Wheel Drive Class S Cars, although sadly the Red Seal Racing BMW suffered gearbox issues during quali, so that was already on the trailer back home before the race started.
After the delays of the morning, we were supposed to be caught up to start our race at 16:55, but a few bad crashes in the GT Championship before us delayed the start, then there was talk of calling the whole race off due to the amount of standing water on the track. Luckily the rain was slowing down, and it was decided to do a rolling start behind the safety car with a shorter, 40 minute race duration.
Since Ryan was in the driving seat at the start, I will let him take over
" Sat in the car for 45 minutes waiting for the green flag lap was tough, all the cars lined up on the grid running and the doors closed made it more than stuffy inside! I needed a drink and the heated screen decided to stop working properly. As you can see from the footage below, I had very little visibility at all so overtaking the faster cars would have been too risky as I could barely see them. My plan was to just stay with the leading pack as best I could and not stay out too long, get into the pits and sort the screen out. We had 2 green flag laps to warm the tyres but that's pretty much pointless in these conditions but riding the brakes and throttle together seemed to help, maybe mentally more than anything. By the end of the 2nd the safety car went into the pits and the race was on, ideally I would have been closer to the car in front, aiming to overtake just after the start line but I left it a touch too late to catch up and the Class S cars 80+hp advantage was noticeable on the straights. I managed to catch up to Darren Goes in his Leon without doing anything too silly but a bold move was not something that anyone would appreciate in these conditions so just not being overtaken was good enough for me. The car was not revving cleanly as per the Oulton issues so shifting at 4000rpm seemed to sound nicer and still gave enough acceleration to be the quickest Class A car. We have such a flat power curve from 3000-5400rpm that it not such a big deal but something a Dry race will certainly exaggerate. The only real notable moment was the back swinging round a little in the vale chicane on lap 5, the rest of the race was just keeping it on track and not hitting anyone. The grip from the Yokohama A052s was very good and no aquaplaning which is common with a track focused tyre that can grip so well. I told the guys I was coming in after 5 decent flying laps, not losing a position and for them to be ready to de-mist the screen for Scott!"
I jumped in the car during the pit stop and pushed hard straight away. I was pretty close to Darren Goes in the Leon Cup Racer, and Gary Hufford in the E46 M3, and in the wet conditions, they were not really getting away by much. The grip the Golf had was pretty good considering the conditions.
It became clear pretty early on that the gremlins we had with the engine at Oulton were not completely gone, and it just did not sound nice when revving it past around 4000rpm. This meant I spent the rest of the race short shifting up to 6th gear and trying to carry as much speed as possible onto the straights.
As the track started to dry out, Callum in the M3 was able to get the power down out of the corners onto the straights, and had a run on me down the Hangar straight. I knew it was only a matter of time before he would get past me, so didn't try to defend. My race was with the Class A cars behind, and I just needed to finish.
The plan worked out as I brought the car home in P8, which was 37.6s in front of the nearest person behind and 1:01 ahead of the next Class A car of Martyn Culley. Another Class Win!
The sectors show that Michael, in the Ibiza, was not far off in sectors 1 and 3, but losing a fair bit in sector 2, which is the sector with the most faster corners.
We were 8th quickest across all the sectors, which makes sense, but the real surprise is that Michael was P10 in S1 and S2, and P11 in S3, showing the pace of the Ibiza was great.
A video of the full race is below:
The wet races seemed to have put our guys off getting some photos of the action from the weekend, so we will have to rely on the pros!
Focus Cup images by Sarah Hall Motorsport - https://www.facebook.com/sarahhallmotorsport/