Category: Blog

  • PBMW 2017 – R6 – Donington Park GP Meet

    Round 6 of the Production BMW Championship @ Donington Park GP is now over. Generally a much better meet off track than before, but frustrating on track.

    I did the track day on the Friday, which gave me a good chance to learn the circuit and set the car up. I was feeling pretty confident for race day, setting a good time in testing.

    Race day started with a one of Barry’s famous PBMW driver briefings. He said the schedule was a bit crazy as cars were not allowed to start engines in the paddock until 09:00, due to local rules on noise. However we were all due to start our 15 min qually session at 09:05!?? So we were supposed to go out with a stone cold engine and car and have everyone lined up to go in that time? Yea right. So scrutineering was a real pain in the ass, having to push the cars around in the paddock! Really great planning there people…

    After plenty of hassle, we were off. I managed to find enough space and set a really good time on my last laps. I ended up qualifying 5th for both races. Really pleased with that, and I was only 0.4 seconds off Andy’s 4th place time.

    Race 1, and although it was supposedly dry, I managed to screw my start. I lost a few places, and settled into the pack in 7th place. As we came round the first lap and through the S-s there was a big incident in front of me, too many cars fighting for the same part of the track. In some ways I am lucky I had lost a few places as I would have been even more likely to be involved. I managed to back off a lot, and avoid the cars as they went spinning around me. Rob Cooper came flying through the field, from quite a few places behind me, and got tagged by one of the cars who smacked his door, he was really lucky he managed to keep going, and end up finishing 2nd. I finished 7th, with a car that had not taken any damage. Part of me thinks I should have been more bullying, but that is a big gamble, and my repair budget is small.

    Just before Race 2, there was a big rain shower, soaking everything. Just what I didn’t need. I have never done a wet start in a PBMW, so I had no idea what to expect. I did my best, but span the rear tyres a bit, and had to be gentle on the throttle. A few of the cars behind me had a better start, and gained some ground. Suddenly, I was aware of being hit on both sides at once, and in a blink of an eye, I had no steering and was heading towards the right hand wall. I managed to stop the car before hitting the wall. I was out, I hadn’t even made the first corner!

    As I got out the car I looked around and could see a scene of carnage. Three or fours cars were in a bad way and the race had been stopped. Rob Cooper, Gregoy Pryor, myself, David Smitherham were all stopped. Dave’s car looked the least damaged and he managed to restart the race. Rob’s and Greg’s cars were bent, and mine couldn’t be steered. We all retired to the paddock and discussed stories whilst waiting for our cars to be recovered. It took about 3 or 4 races later for the marshals to find a time slot to get them back to us. Rob’s was the worst, Greg’s following a close second.

    In the paddock, the atmosphere was a little tense, after all the problems that have come out around GFR. It seems a lot of people are out of pocket, and it was the first time the ex-GFR drivers were with their new team. Everyone was being very friendly, and Graves did a great job of keeping all the cars running throughout the weekend. I am looking forward to everyone having a hopefully stress free final race at Snetterton in October.

    Race 1 In Car Footage – FULL

    Race 2 In Car Footage – Accident On The Start

    My car’s damage

  • New Team: Graves Motorsport

    Following the incident in the paddock, and the scandals that have been coming out of the woodwork, it is fair to say Gary Feakins Racing is permanently closed. I was left with a decision on what to do for the remaining meets. After speaking to many the message was clear – I have had the fortune of transferring to Graves Motorsport. A massive thanks to Karl Graves for being so helpful and the whole team for taking me on under difficult circumstances.

    All being well I should make Donny.

  • PBMW 2017 – R5 – Brands Indy (Deutsche Fest) Meet

    Round 5 of the Production BMW Championship @ Brands Indy (Deutsche Fest) is now over, overall a very up and down weekend. Full TSL results here.

    I made the mistake of putting on a fresh set of tyres for qually and only managed 11th. Pretty bad by my standards, a painful lesson for the future, I would have been better using my current fronts.

    Race 1 was actually great fun. I started well, had a long battle with Paul Beaurain putting him under lots of pressure. We had a close scrap, I got along side a few times but I couldn’t make the pass stick. A few cars up ahead had some issues, and we managed to catch up. I finished 9th, feeling happy to have moved forward in a race, the first time this year. Usually I qually really well and slip a few places.

    Race 2 was eventful to say the least! After a few laps, Mark Palmer’s car dropped fuel and it caused one car to fishtail and spin, making two others go to the side to avoid. Jackson (Ken Briddon’s son) ended up facing towards the traffic and Josh Watts smashed into him. There was no way they could have avoided the collision at the speeds, it might have been sensible to ease off a little but its hard when you are in the moment and racing hard. I luckily avoided everything! We had a few laps behind the safety car and then red flagged to clean up the fluids. At the restart I was badly boxed between two cars and got stuck, I finished 13th. Overall a bit of a nightmare.

    Footage of Race 1:

    Team Update:
    On a sad note, there was a serious incident in the Paddock on Saturday night, involving two people and a van being driven by someone senior in the team. This resulted in a major crisis for Sunday. I and the other drivers had no mechanics to rely upon. Various people from the team did come and assist, which was very appreciated, however the service received was well below par and after all the other dramas of the past months, post race I decided to recover my car to a lock up, before making a decision on what action to take going forwards. Very sad but I am here to race, I can’t take any more cr4p.

  • PBMW 2017 – R4 – Silverstone GP Race Meet

    Round 4 of the Production BMW Championship @ Silverstone GP is now over, ups and downs. Full TSL results here.

    Some good qualifying, however I wasn’t able capitalise on that in the races and lost places. During Race 1 I drove too hard into a corner and couldn’t stop. I ended up hitting Owen Darch and knocking him off the track. He rejoined, after loosing places. I was pretty gutted. First time this year I had made contact without another car and it was my fault.

    The MSA clerk saw me afterwards and I got penalised 2 points on my racing license. I accepted the punishment. The club may well also give me a yellow card for unnecessary contact. That put a downer on 8th place finish at Silverstone GP!

    The support in the paddock was very strained compared to previous race meets, I felt I did not get the level of help from the team as usual. The schedule was v tight too which didn’t help. Oh well let’s see how Brands Indy pans out after the summer break.

    Sadly no camera footage – the conclusion on the Roadhawk is it’s a piece of sh1t. I am going to have to buy a GoPro for Brands to stand any chance of footage.

  • PBMW 2017 – R3 – Silverstone National Race Meet

    Round 3 of the Production BMW Championship @ Silverstone National is now over, and one word: fantastic!

    Headlines: I qualified 5th for Race 1, 6th for Race 2. I finished race one 6th (after fighting for a podium 3rd) and race two 7th out of 25!. Beyond expectations!!! Full TSL Results for the day are here.

    The weekend started on the Friday, my first test day. It was pretty clear the car was understeering during the first session, so we stiffened the rear and the front dampers quite a lot. By the end of testing I had done a 1:31:1 which I was fairly happy with. Rob Cooper had managed a 1:12:6, a great time and something I could not equal. We assumed the front runners would be in the low 1:12s so I was hopeful for 10th qually. The bad news was the engine had developed an overheating problem, and was getting to the red line during a long run. GFR put in some K seal to try and fix any micro crack that might be present and get the car stable enough for the racing.

    Sunday came around quick and we were chatting with Matt Swaffer about his best time on Friday; 1:12:4. Wow, not as fast as feared and something in reach if I can get the perfect lap. Qually started and with the circuit being so small and with so many cars we were all struggling for space. I did a 1:13:3 on my final lap and I jumped from 7th to 5th. I was so happy with that, a big jump in performance from Brands and I was finally getting in contention with the really fast guys.

    Race 1 was an absolute blast. I had a great scrap with Owen Darch and Andy Gay for 3rd place for most of the race, then the rain that had been threatening finally came. I was worried about the grip levels so we were cautious. I made a small mistake running a car length wide and opened the door to Mark Palmer, who had been really close behind me for laps. We were side by side down the straight and round Copse, Mark eventually passing as I left enough room to avoid an incident. I finished 6th. The team were thrilled, I had demonstrated I can race in a fast pack, defend where necessary and keep cool and consistent. Fighting for a podium is a dream for my third ever race meet.

    The race was followed by a very long period in the scrutineers as they checked my cams were stock. Eventually I got the all clear and had a late lunch. After a 30 min rest in my car I was ready for race 2.

    The race started well enough, but the engine hesitation that had dogged me at Cadwell at the beginning of the year was back, this time showing itself on the straights. This was just enough of a pace disadvantage to allow Dave through. The engine behaved for a few laps and we had a really close fight. I finished 7th and we shook hands. It was great to have no contact and a fair scrap, we both left enough room for the battle.

    Overall a great weekend, my target is qually 3rd-5th at Silverstone GP in 4 weeks. I have asked GFR to resolve the engine issue, not sure how bad that will be, there are 2 issues at the moment so it’s gotta be resolved as I have 8 races to go this season. Sooner rather than later I am going to grab a cheeky podium, I just need to push 100% everywhere.

    I managed to get some great footage of both races.

    Production BMW Silverstone National – Round 3 – Race 1

    Production BMW Silverstone National – Round 3 – Race 2

  • PBMW 2017 – R2 – Brands Hatch GP Race Meet

    Round 2 of the Production BMW Championship @ Brands GP is now over, and one word: eventful!

    Headlines: I qualified 10th for Race 1, 11th for Race 2. I finished race one 20th (after a coming together) and race two 8th out of 21!. Yesss!!! Full TSL Results for the day are here.

    The weather was dry and sunny, perfect conditions. I had a pretty decent qually, although I was a bit disappointed with my time, as it was in the 1.53s, same time as my track day with James Foard in the car.

    Race 1 was a mess. I got on the grid and realised I had never done a racing start on a hill! I couldn’t get the release right and span up the rear tyres. I went backwards 4 places. I made up two places in quick succession, with some good passes. But on lap 4 I touched wheels with Dave and ended up backwards in the gravel. Looking back through his footage I am partially at fault for the contact, I wasn’t really aware of him making a move, couldn’t make out where his car was and I was on the racing line. Sadly his car had some damage which effected the steering, mine felt OK. At the time, the bang was quite loud and as I was last I came into the pits so the guys could check the side of the car. All was well, no damage to the wheel arch so I rejoined the race. I had a clear track and tried to set a good time but was struggling with an under steering front end. I finished 20th. What I only found out later was I had been reported for speeding in the pit lane! I had to go and see the clark of the course and apologise for my mistake. He was fair given I was a rookie and reminded me of the speed limit. I promised to be more careful in future. The learning curve for being a racing driver is steep that’s for sure!

    Race 2 start was much better. I held position and we all got through paddock and druids cleanly. I immediately noticed that there was a load of fuel spilling out of Ian Sheppard’s car. He had been involved in a shunt in race 1 and the damage had clearly caused a leak. Every left hander more fluid went down and I almost lost it, costing me a second on my lap. Ian was called in a lap later and I had some clear track. We had made some changes to the dampers, stiffing up the front and rear, and I pushed on. The car was a transformed and I suddenly had the front end I had been missing all day. I laid down some great laps and managed to close up the leading pack of 9 cars.

    Around Westfield, Sam Strong lost it after getting wide onto the grass, and almost in slow mo I saw him drift sideways. I held my breath hoping he would not shoot in front of us, we all just scraped past him at warp 9. I was really on the pace and I tried to get up to 7th but didn’t quite have the line around Clark curve to make it stick. The race was over and I was 8th! Really happy with that, beyond my hopes for my second ever race meet.

    At the end of qualification, the cars were inspected to see if some 5mm washers were present. 6 of the cars failed this test and the MSA scrutineers decided to ban the drivers from taking part at Brands, plus even look to take away points from Cadwell! This caused a big upset among the field as you can imagine. The washers are not actually a performance enhancing part, but rules are rules and it caught a load of people out. I felt for them, getting onto the circuit costs a load of time, help from friends, money, emotional energy. To have that all ripped away for something as small as a 5mm washer does seem harsh to say the least.

    Overall I have mixed feelings. I felt like a real rookie at times, and the inexperience showed. But I have to be happy about putting on a good performance in race 2. Roll on Silverstone National in a few weeks, plan is to qualify as high as possible and aim for some clean safe races.

  • Track Day: Brands Hatch GP 04.05.2017

    Met James Foard at Brands on Thursday to give me some experience before PBMW Round 2. As it was the GP circuit the day was split into 3 groups of 20 minute sessions each. First session was learning the lines of the GP track. I have done Brands Indy a few times now but the GP bit was all new.

    Session 3 and I was picking up the pace. With James in the car, on a damp track, I did a 1:53.6. Happy with that. I am expecting the Top 10 qualification times to be in the 1:50s to 1:51s, so I am on target, as the weight & damp cost us around 1.5 seconds. I will push as hard as I can on the day to get 10th on the grid.

    The final session of the day I went out on my own to see if I could replicate everything I had learnt. I had a close race with an E36 that was running in a different race championship. I was actually a lot quicker than him round the back through Westfield and Dingle Bell. We had pretty much the exact same power to weight, and we were level down the straights in terms of raw speed. It was good race experience following a car really closely. In the end after 3 laps he relented and I passed.

    Overall the day was productive. I had some major gripes though. It was oversold, overbusy. The group we were in had some frankly hilarious cars on track. Honestly, a Nissan Qashqai!! WTF was that about???? Moron for bringing that on track and then holding people up through the bends, pure dangerous. Next up in the idiot hall of fame was a bog standard Audi A6 Estate??? I was behind him and was flying, put him under pressure, he then goes off into the gravel as shockingly his tank doesn’t corner very well. Darwin Award nomination right there. Then we have all the Red Flag brigade. At Cadwell Park I had to sit through 5 red flags. Here it was 3. And right at the start of my God dam 20 minute session. If you can’t drive keep the f** off the race track. My love for track days has run out. I understand the need for them to be profitable but there surely MUST be a car restriction for the pure nonsense driving around at 15 miles an hour. I come to the track to avoid these slow twats on the road and OMG they have come to the track to drive slowly around HAHAHA, it would be funny if it wasn’t tragic. Other option would be to have a 1 hour slot where fast drivers can book on the day and have a limited number of cars in that slot. If I was lapping with 10 others then it would be good, you want some hot lap time, even if that cost a bit more.

    No video for the track day as the RoadHawk camera is now mounted but the passenger chair obscures the view.

    Roll on PBMW Round 2 on 21st May.

  • PBMW 2017 – R1 – Cadwell Park Race Meet

    Round 1 of the Production BMW Championship @ Cadwell Park is now over, and what a great meet.

    Headlines: I qualified 13th for Race 1, 12th for Race 2. I finished both races 14th out of 26. Really happy with those results, and an impressive debut. Full TSL Results for the day are here.

    After a poor nights sleep, due to being nervous, I was full of adrenalin by the time I got to the circuit at 07:30. I met up with the team and the other drivers that GFR is running: Nidal Al-Khail, Ken Briddon & Danny Wilkinson. Sadly Danny was not racing but should be back for Silverstone. The cars were prepped for qualification, and we signed on, and went through scrutineering. After the driver’s briefing we were back in the paddock and getting kitted up to race!

    Qualification was at 09:30, we were called into the holding area and I got myself in the zone as best I could. Honestly, I was really nervous, as I knew if I could hook up a decent few laps I had a chance of being up there with the pack. After a few minutes we joined the circuit and were off. The team were holding my pit board out each lap but it took me 3 laps to remember to look for it haha. When I did, it read 11th! My lap timer was working perfectly and I tried to push for a better place, but pushed too hard and spun into the grass. No damage done, I tried to rejoin as best I could, the hans device makes vision hard. Whilst getting back to racing speed I got in the way of Nidal accidentally and ruined one of his laps. I apologised afterwards, it was just bad luck!
    Then the session was over, I actually couldn’t believe it when I saw the chequered flag, I was going well and really wanted one more lap but it wasn’t to be. Ended up 13th for race 1. Very happy with that, but felt I could of gone a second quicker if I had hooked it up properly. After a few more hours in the paddock we were called.

    Race 1! We were released and went to line up for the standing start. I could just about make out the 5 second board from my grid position, and then I saw lights. Out they went and I was off, a fair start, not enough aggression on the throttle pedal. After about 12 mins, someone really lost it into the hairpin, and they’re car was stranded. Initially it was double waved yellows for a lap, but then the safety car was called, and we went round at a snails pace for 2 laps. Eventually we were back to racing, but the race was mostly over now. I did have some space finally, and I did my best lap of the day a 1:48.888. Ended 14th. A great result for my debut race.

    Once back in the paddock I was reviewing the in car footage and timing data. James and I went through my best lap and I discovered I was actually on 1:46+ pace for half of the lap. Then I slowed a little to 1:47+ and then lost at least half a second in the stupid slow 2nd gear hairpin corner, the one I had been struggling with all day. If I had done that single corner well I would have had a time mid 1:47s! I was both elated and gutted. Still that type of pace is in the car, and in me, so it bodes well for the rest of the season..

    Race two!. After a slightly better start, I was running 11th for a short time, before letting 2 cars by stupidly not defending my inside line. My head was stuck between go fast and keep the lines and defend from behind! This balance will improve over time.. I actually had some good scraps, I regained the 2 places as we were 4 abreast down park straight, and round park they went wide. Then I was back to defending! Having a car literally in your boot for lap after lap puts the pressure on, and the competition is fierce. I was doing well, and then suddenly my hairpin Achilles heel struck, I was wide and they both went past. I was back to 14th.
    The rest of the race was a bit scrappy as the rear tyres started to loose their grip. I was pushing on and almost lost it through Hall Bends Ss, but caught it and recovered without any damage, just a bit of shock. I finished 14th again. I felt like I had earned that place. In fact Rob Manger, who is a Ferrari Development driver, and long time PBMW racer, had been behind me for 5 laps, 3 of which he was in my boot! The pressure was huge, I was faster through Coppice, Charlie 1 and 2, and the rest up to the Mountain, where my line seemed crap, and he always gained back the time. Inexperience again on my part. He came over to have a chat in parc ferme, a really nice guy.

    Then it was 15:45 and over. In short order the teams packed up, and started to leave. There had been a good number of other championships running that day, and I missed every single one of them. For Brands GP I will get down on the Saturday and watch the TTRS and some of the others before my turn on Sunday 21st May.

    Overall, very happy, I have the potential pace to fight for the Top 10 each round, but I lack a little consistency under pressure, and race craft to defend my position. Only time and experience will tell how far I can go.

    Production BMW 2017 – Round 1 – Cadwell Park – Race 2 FULL in car footage

  • Track Day: Cadwell Park 16.03.2017

    Headed up to Cadwell Park last night and stayed in a great B&B called the Paddock, located just 2 miles from the circuit. Highly recommended.

    Gary called at 8pm to say unfortunately he was not going to make it for the day today, as something urgent had come up. A shame as the continuity of having one instructor is helpful, but he said James Foard was coming in his place. James called at 21:30 to touch base and we were set for the morning.

    Arrived at the circuit around 08:30, met James, and just made sign on and the driver’s safety briefing. We started the day by reviewing some videos showing Gary and James battling at Cadwell in the 2014 PBMW Championship. It was helpful to see the lines, and get an idea of where the breaking points are, before I get into the car and give it a go.

    I explained to James that from my last session at Snet, my Heel n Toe was something I was working on, and I wanted to get that nailed in the morning before pushing on. We joined the circuit around 10:00 and within 3 laps I was pleased that all the muscle memory work at Snet seemed to have paid off, and I was comfortably Heel N Toe’ing every downshift. With that put to bed, we moved onto learning the lines and getting a baseline. After 10 laps we came into the paddock and had a debrief. Good early progress with 4 areas of improvement to work on. Cadwell is an amazing circuit, and venue. I had heard a lot about it and it lived up to the hype. The first left hander from the start finish straight is a flat out forth gear corner, but I did not have the confidence yet to attack it full on. Your brain has to switch from road mode to racing, and it initially tells you there is no way on earth you can get round that corner flat out.

    After 3 15 minute sessions, we had put in some decent track time. We had lunch and hit the GPS  timing data and GoPro video to see how I was getting on. Officially there is no timing allowed on track days, but since when has that stopped anyone, especially as the loggers are installed into the cars. The results looked promising, if frustrating. I have never seen so many red flags at a track day before. That was really hampering putting in hot laps, and the timings said it all. My fastest morning lap was a 1:53.05. To put that in context, the pole times in summer are around the 1:48s. So I was a long way away.

    After lunch we went back for more. I had now sorted all the lines, braking points, and knew the circuit pretty well. After a few clear laps the times started to fall. We had some dramas with the GPS not starting automatically, but were able to get a feel for the actual pace I was at, and predict the times pretty accurately. At the end of the day, after looking at all my best sectors, and feeling us going much quicker, I was lapping in the 1:50s. Really chuffed with that, if I can replicate that during qualification I should be looking at around 10th. I think it is not realistic to set that as a goal, as who knows how I will deal with qualification in my first season, at unfamiliar tracks, but it is an indicator that if it all hooks up I have the potential to challenge the Top 10. Awesome day, in fact the best day I have done so far. I actually feel ready for the first race now, rather than feeling really anxious.

    So that concludes the pre-season work. The only things left now are to buy the remaining kit, and keep watching the vids. The next event in my calendar is Race Meet 1, Cadwell Park, 23rd April 2017. Now the excitement builds…

  • New lid, boots, GPS race timer & transponder

    I visited Grand Prix Racewear when I was at Silverstone and tried on some lids. The Bell RS7 Pro was the recommended choice from their nice sales guy, and it felt a big step up in comfort from the model below in their range. It comes with ventilation too, which can only be a good thing on a sweltering grid:

    I thought I would get some boots whilst there and picked up a pair of Sparco Slalom RB-3 Race Boots in Blue:

    I have an XT Racing ZED GPS timer that I bought for track days. The plan is to get this installed in the race car permanently to show me lap times, deltas, and best times. Nice bit of kit:

    For race day all cars must run approved transponders to inform the circuit timing systems. I have gone for the MYLAPS X2 Direct Transponder, with a 1 year subscription:

    That gets the list down to:

    • Race Overalls & Underwear
    • HANS Device
    • Some sort of inter-com for my helmet
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