Round 7 of the Production BMW Championship @ Snetterton 300 is now over. A fantastic weekend and my first podium! Full TSL results here.
The weekend started with testing on Friday 13th Oct. The conditions were damp, drying, the morning sessions were learning the track. After lunch I picked up the pace, and felt I had learnt the layout well enough.
PBMW encourages drivers to marshall, to support the community. 50 points is on offer. I wanted to both grab the helpful points, and get a chance to see behind the scenes. I arrived 07:30 on track and signed on. I met up with Dave Smitherham and Danny Wilkinson and we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. I had been placed on post 11, which is near Oggies, I figured I would need the energy.
I made it to my post, after the marshall’s briefing, and began to help setup. Each post has a crew assigned and the crews for a few posts make up a section. The gents on post 11 were very welcoming, and promised I would have plenty of chances to learn the ropes.
The first bit of action was in the Lotus practice, an Elise stopped near our barrier and the engine was smoking. A fire soon broke out, the driver was briskly exited, and the fire put out. The rest of the day was eventful, every time something is spotted it is called into Race Control. It was very eye opening to hear an almost constant stream of messages as the races unfolded.
By mid afternoon I was starting to get tired. The other marshalls in our post had been on their feet all day, and were showing no signs of fatigue.
During the final race of the day, one of the cars in GT CUP decided to drop a load of oil onto the main straight. This caused a 20 min delay. The restart added a new race, between the cars finishing and sun going down.
As dusk fell the race was over. I had a new found respect. There are hundreds of people volunteering every race weekend to allow Motorsport to happen. Some people have been doing it 20+ years. That is a massive commitment for the passion of racing.
The final race day of the year arrived, and the weather forecast promised big temperatures and sun. What we found at 08:00 was a cold very damp and slippery track. Oh dear. Our times during qually were slow over the first few laps, but then the track dried quickly and the pace arrived. I managed to secure 4th race 1 and 3rd race 2. 3rd! My first top 3 anything of the year, a personal goal smashed. I was really happy and actually very relaxed.
After big crashes in both races at Donny, there was a 50 minute driver briefing, showing vids of the incidents and commentary on what is expected of us as drivers. I think it sank in. Race 1 was a really clean race. I started OK and held position for a lap, but Owen was so quick under the bridge he was really pushing me. I was struggling for pace so I moved over and let him pass. I made a few more mistakes and ended up 6th. Not a disaster by any means but once again it was moving backwards during a race. Quite disappointing.
Peter mentioned that he thought there was a problem with my car, something he spotted during the first race. The wheel was folding under and my car was leaning more than the others during the fast corners. After carrying on an inspection, the team made some changes to the setup and this corrected the issue with the tracking. Another hang over from GFR, where someone had clearly cocked up the setup of my car. Nightmare! Everyone hoped it would help for the final race.
Off the line, and I got an average start. Sam was really fast and moved up, but I managed to hold position round the first two bends. Turn 3 was strong for us, and the top 3 managed to pull a slight gap on the following pack. As the laps progressed I made a pact to not brake until the car in front of me did. This was the last race so if I ended up falling off trying to keep 3rd so be it, its only the first year, plenty more races in years to come.
But no, something had changed, my car felt.. really really good! The understeer and general front end roll had been reduced, and suddenly I was competitive for pace. I followed Dave Graves for 3 and 4 laps and barely gained or lost any ground. Then he made a slight mistake in Nelson, and I managed to close the gap a little. Later I made a mistake and the gap opened again. I fell into a rhythm and really really loved it.
I kept hoping the chequered flag would be shown, and finally it was. PODIUM! I had come third in my last race! It was an amazing feeling. We pulled into the paddock and I was onto the podium. I said a few daft things to the crowd and had all of the champagne dumped down my neck by Will and Dave – thanks for that gents! LOL. During the off season I am going to practice my opening skills.
I had loads of people come up and congratulate me on a great drive, it was pretty surreal.
I got back to the paddock and thanked Peter / Karl and all of Graves Motorsport, they really made the difference when it mattered. The team had first, second and third places. Can’t get better than that!!!