Category: PBMW 2017

  • PBMW 2017 – R7 – Snetterton 300 Meet

    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!!!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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