2014 is over. And I'm delighted to announce that I have been crowned the 2014 Caterham Superlight R300 Vice Champion!
For a Rookie year in the series it has been a real test of character and although the dream of three Caterham titles in three years could not quite be achieved this is a great result and testament to the effort and dedication that has gone into the campaign. I could not have done this without the help of my main sponsors, Greenwell Gleeson, GradEye and the Bentley Partnership, so my first thanks must go to them for making this at all possible. On top of that DPR Motorsport have delivered yet again and I am delighted to be able to represent them on the Caterham scene. But finally, I want to thank my family and friends, and particularly my mum and dad, for all their support at and away from the track, it's not an easy commitment and having all of you behind me makes a huge huge difference.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved this season and in the years past!
The final round was held at Silverstone in mid October and with the summer sunshine coming to an end it would prove to be a weekend of mixed weather, something that always adds an extra something to a Caterham race. Mathematically the title was still on, but with Aaron Head only needing one 5th place finish to take the crown the main focus for me was to beat Danny Winstanley to the runner up spot and to do so I would have to make sure I beat him by more than two points.
Qualifying was a lottery, depending on the tyre choice of the individual, so although I would line up 4th for race 1 I was pleased with my pace, particularly my consistency, and also lined up ahead of Head, Winstanley and Caterham guest driver - and former BTCC star - Tom Onslow-Cole.
Most importantly of all, this would also give me the dry line for race 1.
As the red lights went out then I immediately jumped into second place, the great traction from the even side of the grid paying dividend and putting me straight on the tail of the then leader, Lee Wiggins. This lead was to be short lived as I made my move on the outside of the first corner of the International circuit, firing up the inside of Farm Curve with a bold move. The car setup had been perfectly judged for the cold and greasy - although mostly dry - conditions and the soft compound of the Avon ZZS (normally reserved for the wet) worked well early on to give me a commanding lead over those on the harder dry tyre and enough of a lead over Terry Langley, the pole man from qualifying, to be able to control the race from then on. Consistency and concentration came into play for the next 30 minutes as I pushed to keep the 6 second margin and with every single lap being within three tenths of my ultimate fastest I was able to bring the car home comfortably, delighted to take the win and ecstatic to prove what could have been had 2014 been a year of fewer mechanical woes.
Congratulations too to Sean Byrne on a fantastic debut podium and another great result for DPR Motorsport.
1. David Robinson 2. Terry Langley +5.705s 3. Sean Byrne +26.856s
The win in race 1 put me in a great place for race 2, having now edged into second place in the overall standings after Danny Winstanley suffered an unfortunate retirement. Yet in racing its not over until its over and I would now have to deliver again for the second outing, now on a dryer and warmer track and with everyone back on the ZZR dry tyre.
Straight away it was obvious this would not be a repeat of the calmness of race one. After a frustrating season Terry Langley was clearly looking to take an illusive R300 win and positions swapped multiple times just on the first two laps, allowing Lee Wiggins and Sean Byrne into the fray to make it a four way battle at the front. The pace was being slowed dramatically due to this and with the green car of Winstanley gaining ground there was a conscious effort to cool the offensive and rebuild a good speed, build a gap with the others and then think about the order of finishing later on.
The top four pulled away and eventually reduced to a three. Each driver looking to test where could and couldn't be overtaken and what could or couldn't be defended. The hangar straight is a huge deciding factor at Silverstone due to the aerodynamic performance of the 7, but as a top three would be good enough for me to secure 2nd in the championship I decided to try and remain at the front at all times and avoid the game of chess that would be the last lap. I knew if one of those behind made a mistake I would definitely take second and maybe even the win; if I dropped back to the ideal third spot - with the biggest tow - I may get fastest lap but I may not be able to get the drag on the final straight to take the win.
The approach worked perfectly as Lee Wiggins in third made a small error around the Village hairpin on the last lap, leaving the fight for the laurels between myself and Terry Langley. The heavy headwind down Hangar was absolutely vital now and as Terry pulled out to make the final move I hugged the inside line, his momentum slowed massively by the resistant wind meaning we arrived at Stowe side by side. I held my line, took the racing line on exit and now defended heavily into and out of the final chicane... Putting the power back down with a tighter line into the final bend I then powered on to take the chequered!
A fantastic race. A great result. Two wins from two. A great ending to 2014.
1. David Robinson 2. Terry Langley +0.265s 3. Lee Wiggins +1.495s
On a final note, thanks to all those who have been reading my race reports this year, its always great to hear from you so please do continue to get in touch via the contact button at the top of this page.
News over what I will be racing in 2015 will follow soon!
It’s been a long time since I was last at Croft in 2009 as a finalist in the Double Six Racing Scholarship, but it was great to be back at the North Yorkshire circuit for the penultimate round of the R300 series.
Coming into this round I was in second place in the championship standings, although with drop scores taken into account this meant a third place standing, only 4 points away from Danny Winstanley in second. The championship lead is slightly further away, but after a series of mechanical misfortunes in 2014 to be in with a shout is an accomplishment in itself. So, with 4 races to go the focus is absolutely on closing that gap and getting more good points on the board.
Qualifying saw the first outing in the wet weather after the sunshine of Thursday and Friday testing, and with the car very well balanced I was setting the pace in the very wet second half of the session. Unfortunately Aaron Head put in a great lap early on when the track was at its best to take pole, putting him alongside me on the front row of the grid and setting the scene for a great battle on what was now a damp and drying track.
As the lights went out for Race 1 I got a great start, making the most of good traction to pull into a commanding first lap lead. Yet the track had dried much faster than expected, and as the laps went on the balance in the car deteriorated hugely, the rear tyres losing grip with every corner. First I dropped to second, hoping to be able to stem the fall and hold on to the podium place that is vital to secure a top two finish in the overall championship.
But no more rain was to come and my pace fell further away from the laptimes I needed, 3rd and 4th now getting ever closer. With half the race still to go I dropped positions again to 4th place, no longer on the podium and with work to do to make sure I could hold on to these points. Yet with a big gap behind and the two cars in front fighting hard for position there was still a chance, I was nearly in touch and any contact ahead would mean a definite podium. At the finish there was less than a second in it, but it was not to be...
1. Aaron Head 2. Danny Winstanley 3. Andrew Macmillan 4. David Robinson
Race 2 on Sunday was held under bright sunshine, a stark contrast to the clouds of the previous day and a sign of things to come. With lessons learnt in terms of setup, I was confident of holding good pace till the race end and straight away looked to climb up the field. By lap 2 I had gained 3 places and took the lead going into the final complex, just as a locked up Aaron Head arrived, going past Danny WInstanley and into the left side of my car.
Despite the excursion on to the grass the car wasn’t damaged and rejoining the circuit in 8th I still had a chance to get back to the front of the field, although with the fast pace of the leaders this would not be easy.
Having climbed back up to 5th within a couple of laps there was now a big distance up to the lead group. Time to push and try to rescue a good finish. The car was handling well at this point and I set the fastest lap of the race to get back in touch with the front pack and back in contention. The leader had now managed to pull a gap, so what followed was a great scrap with Caterham Test Driver Jon Barnes all the way to the end of the race. The rear grip was again deteriorating and we each had good pace on opposite ends of the track, changing places regularly and each hoping to take the important silver medal.
At the close it was Jon who took it, but as a guest driver in the series he scored no points, promoting me to a second place points finish, followed by the points for the win as Aaron Head was demoted to 3rd for the earlier contact. A full points haul then when including the fastest lap, and with it the championship lead!
1. David Robinson 2. Aaron Head 3. Danny Winstanley
With drop scores this does, however, still mean 3rd in the series going into the final round at Silverstone. Importantly the championship is now mathematically possible. It won’t be easy but check out the final round of the Caterham R300 Series on the 18th/19th October to find out if it can be done!
So Close and Yet Not So Far
Throughout this year its been hard to take some of the reliability and irregularity issues that have plagued the Caterham grid, so heading to Brands Hatch in August with a newly rebuilt engine really put the focus back on the result and not just on finishing the race. A real opportunity to close the gap to the series leader and put myself fully in contention for the final round at Silverstone on the 18th/19th October.
The test days revolved around testing the operating limits of the engine, lap times playing second fiddle to the restriction of air flow and measurement of subsequent temperature rises. But the work was absolutely worthwhile and myself and the DPR Motorsport team were successfully able to gather significant levels of data to give confidence that the renewed unit would operate well during the race and in future.
So with Thursday mainly dedicated to technical matters, Friday was the time to look back at lap times and the setup of the car. Brands Hatch Indy is one of the country’s best venues and the car worked well, giving me the confidence I needed going into qualifying and a solid level of pace to get 2nd place, even without the vital element of slipstream.
The top three drivers in the series had taken the top three places on the grid and straight away the battle for position was on. I took the lead early in the race and focussed on not allowing a group breakaway, my championship position meaning that I need to gain the maximum points on those around me, any points that those outside the top 3 can take will make a huge difference. This went well initially, but after only 5 laps I was losing pace down the straights, first dropping to 2nd and then to 3rd, the breakaway now on with 4th place losing touch to this lead fraction.
Unfortunately that slowing of straight line pace was a sign of what was to come… The connection to one of the coilpacks was poor and worsening, the misfire generated getting worse with every lap, eventually leading to me running on only three cylinders. Thereafter this pattern continued with another cylinder firing poorly and my pace deteriorated rapidly, the race was over and I just limped home in 8th place, a dismal result. As an interlude to the racing at this point, it was good to have the Channel 4 and Motors TV television crew onboard to film a runthrough of the Caterham Motorsport ladder and also to talk to the camera about what it is that makes the Caterham series one of the most competitive classes in the UK today. You can still catch this on 4OD at the time of writing so do check that out. But for now, back to the racing...
As the lights went green in race 2 I was well back in 8th place, knowing that in order to stop Aaron Head breaking away at the front of the pack I would have to make big gains early on. As the lights went out this plan started brightly, straight up to 6th and into 4th going into the hairpin at Druids... Only to be pushed back to 7th as Terry Langley locked up on the inside. More work to be done.
I made short work of regaining those place and only 2 laps later I was already back up into 5th and challenging for 4th. This I took and pushed on, taking 3rd a lap later and 2nd the next. I still had a chance to catch the early leader and initially it looked like it could be race on, but as has been the case this season, pulling on to the main straight something was clearly amiss. A large resonance at high speed signalling a significant mechanical issue and holding back my top end speed, meaning I had no chance to pull away.
What followed was a race long battle with Danny Winstanley, a great race but ultimately extremely frustrating. At every top speed section I was limited by a loose drivetrain component and could not hold on to my position. We switched places regularly and going on to the last lap I was back in third, with only an inside pass into Druids as a final option. Danny ran wide on Paddock and I took the place, staying firm for the lap and getting good drive out of the final bend… Only to lose the silver medal on the sprint to the line, the mechanical issue robbing me of the 0.045s that would have been all I needed…
1. Aaron Head 2. Danny WInstanley +12.890s 3. David Robinson +0.045s
Mid Summer Madness
Summer is always a very busy time in the motorsport calendar and 2014 has been no different to any other year. Despite the disappointment of not being able to take to the grid at either the Silverstone Classic or the 2CV 24 Hour at Anglesey (2 ends of the spectrum there!) I still found time to compete at the European Prokart Endurance Championship (EPEC) 24 hour races at Eindhoven and Teesside and at Brands Hatch for the 9th and 10th rounds of the R300 series.
The EPEC races always attract a high calibre of drivers and this year was no different with current British GT drivers and former International kart stars taking to the busy grid. To mainland Europe for the first of the endurance races then and the Dutch Circuit De Landsard with Team Alpha. Its always a privilege to join these guys and with a strong lineup of Austin Ozzy Munday, Johnny Munday and Chris Freeman there was a high expectation of a good result. In practice we ran well in the top five throughout, despite the stiff chassis really struggling with the bumpy surface and not riding the kerbs well, hindering our ultimate pace. Qualifying put us near the front of the grid but with a lot of work to do to catch the MSKart team. With the race underway we put in solid stints to climb up to second, dry pace proving to be much closer to the mark than in the damp conditions that were prevailing. The harsh circuit was taking its toll on the drivers but pushing through to the early hours of the morning it was clear that the top three of MS, BRM Stretton and ourselves were in a good position. Unfortunately an engine change was necessitated shortly after this, dropping our team to 3rd with a lot of work to do to catch up. Yet the pace simply wasn't there and we had to settle for third, not a bad result but more was hoped for in August's Teesside epic. Teesside hosts the British 24 Hour every year and with a grid size of 70 karts is the UK's busiest kart endurance race. For this race Matt Cornwell and I joined the Team Alpha regulars of Ozzy Munday and Chris Freeman, the target being the 1st place that has eluded us in the previous years. Matt has formerly been one of the leading drivers of the EPEC series with both LG Racing and M Racing and racing together we have claimed 3 national karting titles, not a bad record and it was good to see Matt back on track after a prolonged absence. On to the race then and with MSKart, Pot Racing and Baron showing great pace it was going to be a tough 24 hours ahead. A great first round of stints put us solidly in second place, but nearly a lap down and not able to close the gap to the leaders on the dry track. On the positive side, with the rain coming down hard in the evening, our wet pace was fantastic and we not only closed the gap completely, but also pulled away by nearly two laps by the time the circuit dried. On the down side as soon as the circuit began to dry, the lead was being eroded by a hard charging and very fast MS Lucas Team. As the sun rose in the morning we were nearly a lap down on the leader, but well up on third place after suffering no mechanicals at all. A great feat in this race and keeping us in contention with the equally reliable MS Lucas team. Yet it wasn't to be as MS held on for a well deserved win, covering 1042 laps of the 2.1km circuit, only one lap ahead after an intense 24 hours of close racing. Thanks as always for Team Alpha (www.alphapowercleaners.co.uk) for having me on board for this seasons 24 hour races! We'll be back next year to try and take the overall crown.
Rebound at Rockingham?
Following the intense disappointment of overheating at Zolder, it was very important to focus on the positives at Rockingham, a marmite circuit that, fortunately, I always run well at.
The important things to remember from Zolder were the fastest lap in race one and the great pace I had shown throughout the weekend when the engine temperatures were lower. This spurred me on for Thursday practice at the Corby based circuit of Rockingham Motor Speedway, Europe’s fastest circuit and I ran comfortably all day, fastest on track and in a great place to put down a marker of recovery.
Friday practice was perhaps not quite so dominant due to the older tyres I was using but nonetheless I was pleased with the progress at the close of play, with the car feeling well balanced and quick. It looked set to be a very close weekend of racing, with all the championship front runners running well and only split seconds separating each of the drivers.
When the pack is this close, however, it’s easy to qualify anywhere in the top ten. A tenth given away at any point on the circuit can make a huge difference and when it comes down to it that one qualifying lap has to be the perfect lap in order to get pole position.
It was a perfect lap.
Pole position then for round 7 of the 2014 Caterham R300 Superlight series. With a new engine following Zolder, it seemed as if the overheating and weak compression were a thing of the past and despite a slightly poor get away dropping me to 3rd on lap one I was soon up into first and breaking away from the pack with Aaron Head in a close second. Over the next few laps we switched positions, each attempting to gauge the pace of the other, but doing so in the knowledge that the pack behind were further and further back each time we crossed the start line. Unfortunately despite the growing lead, the temperature gauge was again rising steadily, way beyond its normal operating window and all the way to an oil temperature of 141 and a water temperature of 110.
Deja vous as the engine performance dropped off hugely and I fell away from a now dominant Head who made the most of the opportunity to consolidate ‘our’ lead. The closing pack were only 5 seconds back and there was nothing I could do to hold position on the fast banking section, first dropping to 3rd, then 4th and finally 5th. The high temperatures were now also affecting the gear shift, which had become extremely tough on both the up and down changes, and I could see Sean Byrne approaching. Soon after he made the move for 5th but I made a bold move back to hold that position for the line. A tough battle and no smiles at the end.
1. Aaron Head 2. Lee Wiggins 3. Danny Winstanley 5. David Robinson
For Sunday then, it was time for DPR Motorsport to refit the spare engine. Weak compression is not the greatest starting point from which to stage a comeback but I knew I would still have good pace and be in with a chance.
I made a very strong start and immediately jumped into second place, back behind Head. As the laps progressed I initially closed the gap, engine temperatures remaining steady and the straight line speed remaining average. But with more and more laps on the car the tyres simply had nothing left to give (particularly after the hard push of race 1) and this, combined with the weaker motor, meant I couldn’t hold the pace. I consolidated second place (in fact, the gap to third continued to build) but Head produced a super consistent drive to take the win. Both of us were delivering laps no more than 1 tenth in variance, a great showcase of the high standard of driving that makes up the R300 series.
1. Aaron Head 2. David Robinson 3. Danny Winstanley
The next round is at Brands Hatch in only two weeks time (the 2nd and 3rd August). There is a lot of work going on into the reason behind these high running temperatures in certain engines and with Caterham also appreciating the importance of a fast resolution, it looks certain to be a thing of the past before the next race even begins.
A huge thanks to DPR Motorsport, Greenwell Gleeson and GradEye for all their support in the season thus far. I currently sit in 2nd place in the series and will be hoping for even more at Brands Hatch.
Boiling in Belgium
The Caterham Eurofest is always the calendar highlight of the season, with races being held all over the mainland at iconic circuits such as Spa, the Nurburgring and Zandvoort.
2014 was no different and the venue of choice this time around was Zolder, an infamous circuit due to the death of Gilles Villeneuve here, but also a former staple of the F1 tour. It is a circuit I had no previous experience of, but I found I gelled well with the fast and flowing layout, the chicanes demanding precision and outright pace in equal measure and the narrow width punishing any small mistake.
Thursday and Friday practice went extremely well with leading pace despite using an old set of tyres throughout. A lead four emerged, the same four that are currently heading the series, and it looked set to be a close and exciting qualifying ahead.
What is interesting in Caterham racing this year, and very different to previous seasons, is that the tyres reach optimum performance very early on before succumbing to a plateau of performance for the remainder of the race weekend. You could clearly see this was the case as drivers tried to deliver single flying laps rather than consecutive attempts in qualifying and it made for great viewing. Drivers would come in throughout the stint in the hope of an early finish, but with the lap times continually falling they often had to head back out to defend their position. I made the call early on and sat nervously in the pits, always with an eye on the timing screen, but was pleased to be rewarded with a 3rd place for race 1.
As is often the case with the Eurofest, the temperature played a huge part in the weekend. Even during practice I had to change shoes to some more able to withstand the heat from the gearbox and exhaust, unrelenting in the narrow cockpit and being carried through the accelerator pedal to my right foot. But throughout Thursday, Friday and qualifying it had only been the driver suffering and not the car, which had performed faultlessly. In fact, the car was brilliant at the start of the race and with a quick getaway I jumped the lead pair and snatched the lead. Slipstream played its part again and I dropped to third, but the lead quartet made the break from the pack, that predicted close finish looking very likely.
However, on lap 3 Terry Langley very suddenly dropped off as the four cars became three. Unfortunately for me, my dashboard was clearly highlighting that I would be next, the hot air temperatures being heightened by the proximity of the other cars and causing a number of warning lights to flash... Hot oil, hot water, low oil pressure. Restricted performance from the ECU to counter this was the result and I unceremoniously dropped away from the lead, over a second a lap down and with no hope of regaining the lost ground.
The engine never recovered to the normal operating levels despite the now clean air, and the catching Lee Wiggins could clearly see an opportunity for his first R300 podium of the year. The last 10 laps of the race were a battle of attrition and extremely difficult for me as I strived to defend from the faster car. But I managed to hold on for 8 laps until Lee found a way past that would stick, relegating me to 4th where I would end the race. Bitterly disappointing and a lot of work to do to ready the car for the next day.
1. Aaron Head 2. Danny Winstanley 3. Lee Wiggins 4. David Robinson
Overnight the engine that had experienced the issues on Saturday was switched out for an older unit of known quantity, race proven from the previous season and although not as strong on performance it would likely be a big step to making amends for the first race and not overheating.
This proved to be the case as race 2 was almost a carbon copy of that from the previous day for the first few laps, an initial 4 car break whittling down to 3. Fortunately the engine temperatures were much more stable and I was able to stay with the leaders, having closed up the gap after a hard fought opening lap and also taking the fastest lap at this point.
For the next 15 or so laps, the engine yoyo'd between being too warm (and restrictive on power) to being at the correct levels, a frustrating experience that meant I spent a lot of time catching and then falling back from the lead pair. Yet I knew that the last lap would be key and I was happy to sit in third as Aaron Head and Danny Winstanley battled for the lead, biding my time and waiting for the right time.
That time proved to be the first corner of the final lap as Winstanley ran wide on the first corner and I was now right on the tail of the leader. I snatched every opportunity I could and finally grabbed the lead into the hairpin, with only a long straight into the final chicane to come. It was a strong pass to grab the lead, and as I went on to the long straight I covered my line well, the nosecone of Aaron Head touching the rear of my car, my car positioned well on the inside. Head went for the outside line, using the slipstream slingshot to good effect, just pulling ahead into the braking zone and squeezing me out of the inside line.
Back into second then, but Aarons line had compromised his exit of the final bend and I got good traction out of the final corner...
But with the finish line not far away it was not quite enough and I finished in second, 0.063s off the win. So very close but a great race and a very close finish!
1. Aaron Head 2. David Robinson 3. Danny Winstanley
This leaves the top three in the championship standings very close and sets the series up well for a return to Rockingham on the 13th July. This is going to be a great race, but first I will be returning to University Karting as I rejoin the Loughborough Old Boys at Teesside Autodrome for the first ever British Universities Karting Championships 24 Hour Race.
In the meantime if you're interested in attending the Rockingham round, I will have tickets available so please do get in touch. Hopes are high and I will be looking to be back on the top step and close the small gap to the championships leader.
The Winning Feeling
Donington Park has been a regular fixture on the Caterham calendar for many seasons and has always been a strong circuit for me, with 2 wins from 2 in 2013 and a podium finish back in 2012. The target for this round was to get back on the podium after a tough opening round at Snetterton and to close on the current championship leader, Danny Winstanley.
Thanks to the support of Greenwell Gleeson and GradEye I was able to take part in Thursday testing on this weekend, something that I don’t normally get the chance to do. The day was absolutely soaking wet and a great chance to test the new wet tyre for this year, the Avon ZZS. Although the compound of this tyre does not differ hugely to that used in the dry weather ZZR, the tread pattern is a lot deeper and more suited to clearing water, something which shone through on the day and allowed me to pinpoint the exact point at which I would need to change tyres should the weather prove changeable over the weekend.
And after a dry day of testing on Friday changeable is exactly what the weather proved to be for the weekend! Ranging from nearly dry to wet, very wet and very very wet it would be a weekend of critical setups.
Qualifying was the driest run of the weekend for me and even this stint featured a 5 minute shower halfway through the session. Prior to this I had managed to put in a great lap to put me on provisional pole, but with the track drying out towards the end the lap times tumbled again and I slipped to 4th place.
The top 4 in the championship had locked out the top 4 qualifying positions on the day but a strong performance from Caterham’s guest driver (and Mclaren Award winner) Matt Parry put him in 6th position and also underlined the quality of the grid in this years R300 series.
In the lead up to race 1 the sun had been shining, with every car reaching the assembly area on dry tyres, yet the heavens opened at this moment, with only minutes to spare… Fortunately the DPR Motorsport team had been keeping a close eye on the weather and we were well placed to adapt and make at least some of the changes to the car that I would need. As the lights went green I made a solid start and pulled into third position, but I needed to make the jump to second place as quickly as possible to try and get on even terms with the leader, Aaron Head. I did this a lap later but, frustratingly, the car wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, the very low tyre pressures in the ZZSs were an idea for a drying track and at this point the circuit was still getting wetter.
As Aaron looked to try and consolidate his 5 second lead I had to keep an eye on 3rd and 4th close behind. Keeping the gap for the 30 minutes of the race was very tough mentally but neither Danny Winstanley nor Matt Parry were ever close enough to make a challenge for the position and I held on to my first podium finish of the year, even closing the gap to the leader at the very end as the drying circuit began to suit the car a little more.
1. Aaron Head 2. Dave Robinson +6.301 3. Matt Parry +11.575
Shortly before heading to the assembly area for race 2, it looked like the weather would be the key factor again…. The sun was out, but the track was wet…
However, it then rained extremely heavily, making the decision of a full wet setup easy to make and eliminating the indecision that can make the race build up a bit of a nightmare with changeable conditions!
I was starting on the front row for this race and immediately jumped Aaron Head for the lead, which was then taken from me almost straight away by an even faster starting Matt Parry. I made the move back instantly, knowing that I had enough pace to win this race, and regained the number one spot into the first corner. Down the famous Craner Curves from there I made a small error and dropped back to third, immediately recatching the leading pair and looking to find a way through.
The heavy rain was creating a very slippy surface and the pair ahead fell victim this only a few corners further on, running wide at the Melbourne Loop and gifting me first place, although not by far…
Matt Parry got the chance to make a move on me down the back straight just two laps later, but again I knew I had the pace and took a bold move into Redgate, grabbing the lead and with it the race as I held a 3 second advantage over second place (Aaron Head by this time) from that point on.
Although I wasn’t challenged again, it was one of the hardest races I have completed, simply because I could always see the chasing car, knowing I had to push in the difficult conditions and knowing one mistake could mean the end of the race.
I was elated at the finish! A great result, a great race and my first R300 win.
1. David Robinson 2. Aaron Head +2.728 3. Terry Langley +19.136
The Big Debut
The 2014 campaign kicked off last weekend in Norfolk, at a Snetterton circuit that was enjoying April showers and sunshine in equal amounts. But would the sun shine on my first race outing in the Caterham R300?
With good pace at the preseason Donington Park test, including posting the fastest lap of the day on my final lap, I had good confidence in the car and the setup. Yet Snetterton is a very different circuit and on the Friday, limited track time meant the car was not at its ideal going into Saturdays races, unless it was on brand new tyres.
These brand new tyres worked extremely well in qualifying and despite being blocked on my flying lap I posted a strong time, albeit nearly a second off my theoretical best of a 2.02.7, which would have delivered a comfortable lap record beating time and a pole position. However, as the circuit features some of the longest straights and biggest slipstream factors in UK motorsport, third was good enough and I ended the session early, hoping to conserve the rubber for the upcoming race.
With front row starter Aaron Head breaking a halfshaft on the rolling up lap, this removed one of the main championship contenders before the race had even begun and so I focused on the poleman, hoping to make the most of the slipstream and form a breakaway from the chasing pack. But with the partially worn tyres deteriorating rapidly and the balance of the car changing, rear traction and grip were an issue and caused my pace to suffer, to the extent that I was given a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits as I pushed hard in compensation. A very harsh penalty and, in reality, a double punishment as time had been lost through running wide initially.
So although I could not keep with the leading car, I battled hard with Caterham development driver Jon Barnes and Michelin Clio Cup race winner Mike Robinson throughout the 30 minutes, using the tow to its advantage by waiting in third until the final lap and snatching second place from Jon on the Bentley straight. Second place over the line but 4th following the penalty application.
1. Danny Winstanley 2. David Robinson +9.336s (+5s, demoted to 4th) 3. Jon Barnes + 0.165s
Race 2 then and a case of damage limitation as setup changes made in the interval proved insufficient to counter the rapidly wearing tyres. I had a good start and moved straight into 3rd place behind the lead two cars of Danny Winstanley and Jon Barnes, again hoping to be part of the breakaway pack that traditionally forms in Caterham racing. However, with Aaron Head coming back through the pack on his fresh tyres this was not to be and instead the same pattern as in the first race developed, with myself and Jon dicing for position in 3rd and 4th, the position changing every time around.
With sufficient space behind us to the chasing pack I was well aware that whoever went on to the final lap in the lead would likely finish off the podium because the slipstream is such that whoever leads on to the Bentley straight is guaranteed not to be ahead by the end of it! And so as I went into third at this point it was almost the podium finish in the bag.
Unfortunately though, I couldn’t hold the door shut on Barnes into the final left. A perfectly timed move from him, catching me by surprise as I focused on the run to the line meant that I lost out on a podium finish by 0.052s.
On the one hand then, immense disappointment at not being on the podium for the first time on a race weekend since June 2011, on the other I am currently in 2nd place in the series, which is a great position to be in for Donington Park on the 10th and 11th May!
A frustrating debut but a good result. More to come in just two weeks time and this time I hope to be bringing home some silverware.
1. Danny Winstanley 2. Aaron Head +4.660s 3. Jon Barnes + 10.977s 4. David Robinson +0.052s
Graduate Recruitment, but not as you know it!
With only 2 weeks to go until the start of the season at Snetterton, I am delighted to announce that GradEye Limited will be supporting my R300 campaign in 2014!
Not only is this extremely important to my championship bid, but GradEye is also a very exciting and relevant new company. They are a
specialist graduate recruitment company, but with a twist.
range of candidate attraction and end-to-end recruitment solutions across all graduate
disciplines, they provide services to a wide range of client organisations. However, what is different is that GradEye’s recruitment solutions are underpinned by a unique video assessment platform.
This enables them to share short profile videos of graduate candidates with clients wherever they are based in the world, allowing the setting of specific questions to specific candidates, greater insight into each applicant, a wider array of possible candidates and video comparison of candidates. Being a graduate myself I find this hugely exciting, particularly as it gives the applicant greater expediency, something that would have been greatly appreciated when I was applying for jobs post university at the same time as studying for my Masters! GradEye will be launching their new site imminently, I look forward to updating you when it goes live.
New Car, New Challenge
2014 is a big year for me as I take on the challenge of the premier Caterham series, the R300 Superlight championship. Although the car is similar in construction , the Watts link suspension, change in tyres, uprated dampers, sequential gearbox and new engine (2000cc Ford Duratec) mean that this is an entirely different prospect to the Roadsport based car that I have been campaigning for the last few seasons. In order to get on top of this, I've been testing pre season at Donington Park, Rockingham and Snetterton, making the most of the unpredictable British winter to run in wet, very wet and torrential conditions. Fortunately, the last test day also showed that car could be driven in the dry and has meant that I am well prepared for the season ahead. The car itself has been extremely reliable, a great reward having rebuilt it through the off season. Dynamically it is very different to the Supersport, with the stiffer spring rates and higher damping levels being particularly noticeable and indicative of the more race orientated setup. However it is the behaviour of the car in relation to inputs that really separate it, in particular in that it is not as prone to breakaway under braking, thus allowing the driver to carry the brake further into the bend, braking harder and later. The powertrain too offers a new set of challenges with the extra gear allowing more flexible use of the box, making the car faster than its additional 30bhp would suggest. Finally, the Avon ZZR that replaces the CR500 is also a big step forward, its race focussed cut reducing tyre wear and increasing its behavioural consistency over a heat cycle. Although on standing water you may as well be using a full slick or alternatively any combination of spherical items from the garden shed... Looking forward the official pre season test takes place on the 5th April at Donington. This will be the first time the grid will have been on circuit at the same time and will be very telling as to who has jelled with the 2014 spec car. The test is particularly important as only two weeks after this the season kicks off with the first round at Snetterton in Norfolk. Make sure you check back to see how the test goes, or come along and check out what Caterham racing is all about! 2014 promises much and this is just the beginning.
For the final round of the 2013 Caterham Supersport series Caterham and the BRSCC pulled out all the stops. An F1 demo at lunch times and free entry to the circuit for all meant that many spectators turned up through the weekend, creating the perfect backdrop to the last weekend of the season.
Friday practice ran seamlessly and I posted a best time of 1.16.04, comfortably ahead of my nearest rival and extremely positive for a weekend where I would only need to finish in te top 10 of one round in order to take the title. But aiming for only the top ten would bring to an end my run of 11 finishes and 11 podiums, so this wasn’t an option!
Qualifying was wet without and I topped the time sheet for almost the complete session. But in Caterham racing there is only one time when you need to be on provisional pole, and thats when the flag falls. So second place on the grid behind championship rival Mike Hart was the result and an exciting race in prospect.
For the drying track of the first race, I decided to take a risk with a drier setup, hoping the dry line would develop quickly, giving me the best chance for a win and even fastest lap. But by the end of the first lap it was apparent that I wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the leaders on what was still a damp track. 5 minutes in and I had dropped to 5th place and it was really looking like the worst result of the season.
As soon as a dry line came through, it all changed and I immediately jumped back to 3rd place, a way behind the lead pairing of Mike Hart and Jon Mortimer but now with good pace and an opportunity to close the gap. By the 10 minute marker it had become a 3 car head pack and I started to challenge for position, first moving up to 2nd and then taking 1st position. With half the track now dry and half still damp myself and Mike had completely different paces at different corners, making it hard for me to pull away and hard for him to challenge. It looked like status quo with only a couple of laps left yet then we caught a 10 car backmarker train, who were not expecting to be lapped... In the ensuing chaos Mike was able to take the lead again and despite going into the final bend almost side by side he hung on by 3 tenths. The fastest lap and the championship title offered some consolidation!
1. Mike Hart 2. David Robinson +0.339s 3. Jon Mortimer +7.838s
Race 2 was a race I didn’t have to enter, already being the 2013 Caterham Supersport Champions Elect. But I wanted this win more than any other.
The track was completely wet and Mike and I immediately set about breaking the pack and building a good lead. Despite some initial jostling for position I took 1st and set about maintaining it, which, for 25 minutes, I did.
Going on to the Hangar Straight for the final time and I knew I had to defend. Moving to the inside line I made sure the only overtaking possibility would be on the outside, leaving the inside of Stowe (which had better braking grip in the wet) open for me to take. I braked late into the bend, aiming for the new tarmac on the inside of the corner, yet Mike braked even later. Luckily this was a little too late and as I retook 1st place I knew I could hold this to the line.
Podium number 13, win number 7. What a great way to end the season!
1. David Robinson 2. Mike Hart +0.784s 3. Lee Wiggins +19.446s
Final Championship Standings
1. David Robinson 291pts 2. Mike Hart 272pts 3. Lee Wiggins 260pts
Alium Partners, Greenwell Gleeson, Steep GMBH,
Bentley Partnership, Stratford Tyres, without you this wouldn’t have been
possible. Thank you.
And next season? Check back soon for more on that.
A New Adventure At The Nordschleife
For motorsport fans around the world, the Nurburgring Nordschleife is the best racing circuit in the world, the most exciting and the most famous… But it is also known as the most dangerous, a Green Hell of the Eifel.
Fortunately I was able to take on an opportunity to compete in Round 9 of the VLN, an endurance series based solely around the Nurburgring, at the beginning of October with Saxon Motorsport. The BMW 135d GTR that the team run has been very successful in its class over the past year and proved to be a very balanced and capable machine, perfect for learning a new and challenging track over a short weekend.
Previously I had completed around 12 laps of the Nordschleife in the regular Touristenfahrten sessions and although this may not be much I felt prepared going into Fridays practice sessions and confident that I would be able to build a good pace from a strong starting point. The initial testing took place on the GP circuit and revolved around acclimatising to the car and the wet tyres, particularly as Caterhams run the same tyre in all weather conditions. Nevertheless I adjusted well to the car and posted good lap times throughout.
Following on from this came Friday testing and Saturday morning qualifying. Despite heavy fog in the early hours, the qualification eventually got underway slightly later than planned but with enough time on the clock remaining for both myself and team owner and driver Nick Barrow to do some laps. The drying circuit did not compliment the tyre choice, but conscious of restrictions in available time we stuck to the wets, ensuring each driver was able to complete at least two laps of the weather shortened session.
Sitting amongst 160 cars on the grid of a 4 hour race is a monumental experience. And with the track now dry, the slick tyres were on and the team and I were confident in moving up the grid in the coming stints. My stint would come first and last for 2 hours before the hand over to Nick to bring the car home.
From the off I was able to post clean and consistent lap times, and progressed through the pack comfortably. The tight nature of the circuit made overtaking difficult but not impossible and at the end of my drive we had jumped up over 40 places into around the 75th mark. Nick took the reigns and continued the process to the very end, bringing the BMW back in 65th and with it a class win.
A great debut for myself and a good result for the team. Thanks to Saxon Motorsport for all their help and I hope to be able to compete with them again soon!
Caterham Supersport Champion 2013!
Suffice to say these last two weeks have been the most rewarding of my motorsport career so far. With the successful completion of my first race at the infamous Nordschleife and a class win to boot it was the cherry on top to claim the Caterham Supersport title this weekend at Silverstone. 13 finishes this season, 13 podiums, 7 wins, 6 pole positions, 1 championship.
Full report coming in the next couple of days!
Nurburgring Nordschleife - Debut
In just two weeks time I will be taking part in the ROWE DMV 250-Meilen-Rennen, my first opportunity to race at the Nurburging Nordschleife and my first chance to run the Saxon Motorsport prepared 400bhp BMW 1 Series.
This is a hugely exciting opportunity and I'm looking forward to getting on track with the team and learning a huge amount in the build up to the race.'Die grüne Hölle' is world renown as the most dangerous race track in the world and it will be no easy task to take what I have learnt in Caterhams across to this round of the VLN series. To follow my progress keep an eye on www.vln.de on the 12th October
Thanks to Alium Partners, Steep GMBH, Greenwell Gleeson and Bentley Partnership for making this happen. I'll be updating the site as soon as I'm back with more news on the race, lessons learnt and hopefully a great result!
Oulton Park Race Report
After the bitter disappointment of breaking down whilst in the lead at Brands Hatch, Oulton Park on the 14th September was a chance to rebuild the championship lead and to make amends.
Yet first thing on Friday, despite having replaced the suspected fault, it was apparent that I would have to work extremely hard to make the most of the weekend. The same blown fuse triggered last month had been triggered again, bringing a premature end to my first practice session and severely disrupting the second. With many of the other drivers having been testing midweek the 3 laps of dry running were all that I had completed before the dry raceday predicted for Saturday. On the plus side, pace in the wet was extremely strong and I was even able to trade lap times with the R300 drivers throughout testing.
Saturday race day was extremely busy, with qualifying and both races on the same day. Despite the overhanging clouds, qualifying was the only time that rain played a part with rain at lodge 10 minutes in creating an extremely spread out field and mixing up the field into an unexpected order. I had been on a very good lap prior to the rain but unfortunately caught traffic at the critical moment, meaning that with 5 minutes remaining I was back in 5th position with little opportunity to move up the grid. Fortunately DPR Motorsport team mate Wesley Fox gave me a great tow on the final lap of a drying track and I was able to secure 3rd place with no time to spare.
As the lights went out to start Race 1 I made a steady start but a strong starting Sean Byrne and Lee Wiggins were both able to jump me and push me back to 6th place. With a championship on the line I was looking to move into the top 3 as soon as possible and took 5th place back before the end of the first lap. Racing was extremely close over the next 15 minutes as I moved up the field, but I was eventually on the tail of Mike Hart for the lead of the race. With extremely good pace I was able (after a very close battle!) to take the lead and build a small cushion. Every lap had to be perfect to keep the chasing pack at bay, but with three laps within three hundreths I maintained the lead to the flag. A hard but great race, with a fluid spill on the last lap adding an extra element of tension.
1. David Robinson 2. Mike Hart +2.900s 3. Rowan Williams +7.557s
Off the line in Race 2 I had a very poor start, the rear wheels losing traction and allowing the surrounding drivers to take advantage and leave me back in 5th place, a repeat of the hard work of the first race to follow? Yet an accident back in the field involving nearly 10 cars brought out the red flags and a full grid restart. A great chance to put that first start behind me.
As the race got underway for the second time I settled into 2nd place at the first corner behind Mike Hart, who had made the most of the clean side of the track. After trading places on this opening lap we went side by side into Island Corner, a very fast left hander, myself on the inside and Mike on the outside. As he slid wide on the dirty side of the circuit and onto the grass I looked to build my lead as much as possible, looking to gain points for the championship and seal win number 2 of the day. Jon Mortimer and Lee Wiggins joined the three car breakaway, with Mike recovering to 4th, and the positions remained steady for the remainder of the race. It was extremely difficult to remain focused for the duration with a car only metres behind and taking up every rear view mirror, but at the flag I had built a two second lead and was delighted to take the win.
1. David Robinson 2. Jon Mortimer +2.182s 3. Lee Wiggins +10.617s
So the championship lead has been extended ahead of the final round at Silverstone on the 19th October. Please do get in touch if you're interested in coming along to this or any future rounds.
In the meantime, the 12th October will see me in Germany at the Nordschleife for the upcoming round of the VLN. This is a big event of the year and I will be updating the site with a preview very soon!
Back in Action at Brands
Having passed the seasons midway point, Brands Hatch played host to rounds 9 and 10 of the Supersport series a couple of weeks back on the 3rd and 4th August.
Last year qualifying at Brands was an extremely busy affair, with drivers looking for slipstream throughout the session, desperate to grab the tow that made the difference. I was only 0.12s away from pole on that day, but this meant a start from row 4 of the grid. This year, however, I grabbed the illusive tow from DPR Motorsport team mate, Wes Fox, and proceeded to take pole by a huge 0.556s. A great start to the weekend after a strong day of testing on the Friday and I was hoping to make it a dream weekend by keeping the winning streak going.
But to do this, it is very important to have a good start. Initially it looked like I had managed it, the car gaining good traction on the sloped grid, holding position with Andy West who joined me on the front row. Yet as I went for third gear, the sound of gears crunching together let me know I was about to have a very hard race ahead of me.
Dropping back to 12th by the time I reached Paddock Hill, I focussed on rebuilding my chances and progressing through the field. The Indy circuit here is notoriously tight for overtaking but within 10 laps I was up to 4th and challenging for 3rd place at Druids, a challenge which unfortunately resulted in the defending car turning out and turning me onto the turf. A lucky escape maybe, but 10th place now felt like a long way back from the front of the pack.
With championship rival Mike Hart only in 6th place at the time this had to be the main plan for the second half of the race, yet he was experiencing a few mechanical issues and so I managed to overtake him after only a few more laps, now looking forward and trying to get a podium finish from this test of endurance and persistence. Three laps to go and I was in a close 3rd, looking ahead to the cars of Steve Day and Lee Wiggins. Paddock Hill, with only one lap remaining, I was side by side with Day, when he made an error that resulted in near contact at one of the fastest points of the circuit. As I struggled to keep the car away from the deep gravel trap I slipped back to 4th, all chances of a third consecutive win now gone. A stroke of luck for myself (and bad luck for Sean Byrne) meant that I was promoted to 3rd, but I was hoping for more from Race 2 on the Sunday.
1. Lee Wiggins 2. Steve Day +0.211s 3. David Robinson +0.793s
Straight from the off I wanted to try and make a break in this race, knowing that if the main pack was as frenetic as in race one, then there was a good chance of the pace of the chasing group being slowed. I made the move for 2nd on lap one and took the lead on lap three, just seconds before the safety car was released to allow the marshals a chance to deal with an off at Paddock. As the safety period came to a close I broke away at the front, bringing Lee Wiggins with me, and we set about putting in some very quick and consistent lap times to build a good gap.
At the halfway stage however, bad luck struck. As I hit the kerb into Clearways a fuse was triggered, cutting power to the ECU and bringing my race to a premature end. Utterly gutted to give away what looked to be a comfortable win and also bringing to an end a run of nine consecutive podiums, a disappointing end to what had looked such a promising weekend.
As Lee Wiggins fell back into the clutches of the chasing pack, it was at least good to know the round at Brands Hatch hadn't been too harsh on the championship standings. With 4 rounds to go I still lead and I hope to extend this at Oulton Park on the 14th September, tickets available if you're interested in coming along to the round, please do get in touch!
1. Lee Wiggins 2. Sean Byrne +0.028s 3. Mike Hart +1.474s
Brands Hatch and On
After coming agonisingly close to achieving 10 podiums on the trot, electrical gremlins ended my race at the halfway point at Brands Hatch. But with 9 podiums from the first 9 races it hasn't been a bad first half of the 2013 campaign...
This next week is a busy time as I consider my options for 2014 in the shape of a Ginetta G40 GT5 Challenge test and compete in the 24 hour European Prokart Endurance Championships race at Teesside Autodrome. Keep an eye on the site after that though, as full race reports will be coming thick and fast thereafter!
Doing the Double at Donny
To dive straight in, what a fantastic weekend!
Glorious sunshine greeted the series as it visited the Leicestershire circuit of Donington Park on the 13th and 14th July, the rolling hills around my University town of Loughborough giving a picturesque back drop to the on track action.
Friday practice revolved around bringing the tyres to the optimum wear level, ensuring minimal tread block movement for qualifying and the two races, whilst looking to not run the tyres below the legal limit before the end of the weekend. Although this may sound a relatively easy process, the constant chamfering of the block edges means all tyres must constantly be rotated, sometimes to the short term detriment of lap times, but with the long term 'marginal gains' firmly in sight.
So although I was not fastest at any point during practice day, I felt confident in the car and in myself going into qualifying. Yet as with all Caterham qualifying sessions, one of the main things is not only being quick but also getting a good tow from a leading vehicle. In this case jumping one vehicle going into Macleans and gaining a double tow on the main straight to take pole position proved the point and I had topped timed qualifying for the first time in my Supersport career.
What had become apparent by this time was that the intense heat in the car could prove to be quite a test over the full half hour of the race. In other races drivers had pitted before the end of the race due to the blistering heat so being able to have a relatively relaxed and free race would be advantageous not only to myself but to avoid the car overheating by following other vehicles. Off the line my luck was in as second placed Mike Hart stalled on the line and I broke away with Jon Mortimer from lap one, both of us looking to avoid a battle that would cost time, both looking to wait until the end of the race before starting a head to head battle for position.
But sometimes this doesn't quite go to plan and after building a near 10 second gap back to third place by the halfway point, the sight of the safety car was not one either of us welcomed. Whilst the debris was cleared a further 5 minutes went by, leaving less than 10 minutes to go when the lights went green. Over such a short distance a frantic fight for position was always going to be on the cards and with Mike Hart back in the fray the top three jostled for position constantly. Going on to the last lap myself and Mike had a short gap to third, but unfortunately he held the lead going through Coppice and held a defensive line into the final chicane. Braking as late as possible on the outside and grippier part of the circuit forced the lead car to brake hard on the dirt and strangle his run through the final bend. From an advantageous position I was able to line the car up for a great run onto the start finish. Mike held a tight exit line but it wasn't enough to stop the momentum from telling as I took the win by only 1 tenth of a second. Jon Mortimer also getting a good final run and nearly taking second place.
A great result!
1. David Robinson 2. Mike Hart +0.133 3. Jon Mortimer +0.156
(Caterhams always encourage a competitive but friendly atmosphere and Saturday night highlighted this well with an organised hog roast and a wheel changing competition on the Caterham GP2 car that accompanied the F1 demo car. To add to the days successes myself, Mike Hart and Lee Wiggins even managed to secure the illustrious title of 'Caterham Pitstop Challenge Champions'!)
But moving back to the racing, Sunday bought a light breeze and despite the searing temperatures the day was perfect for spectating and drivers alike.
Lining up in the same order as qualifying, the plan of action for the top three looked to be to attempt to pull away from the main group, yet after three laps I had very nearly broken the chasing pack, with drivers seeking to gain position disrupting the pack, slowing them down and giving me some breathing room. I focussed on nailing every lap but despite consistent lap times (never more than a tenth between each) Jon Mortimer successfully bridged the gap and joined the breakaway, an almost exact repeat of the first race. Fortunately there was no safety car this time around and at the 25 minute marker we had built a gap of nearly 20 seconds. Time to race for position.
Caterhams have an uncanny knack of being unpredictable and so as Jon looked to make a move for the lead as I went to overtake a back marker, the sudden presence of yellow flags, wheel arches, fluids, an exhaust and even a beached car through confusion into the mix. Jon was forced to let me back into the lead and I used the opportunity to build a good run past, attempting to hold a gap going onto the final lap. More debris was present, with half the circuit under yellows, yet fortunately I held a large enough lead onto the back straight to take a normal line into the final chicane, relishing the chequered flag after an extremely enjoyable race.
Pole, two wins and Caterham Pitstop Champion. A perfect weekend. And a huge thanks to Alium Partners for making the trip up to the circuit to support me.
1. David Robinson 2. Jon Mortimer +0.485 3. Mike Hart +16.051
Brands Hatch is just around the corner and I can't wait to take the championship lead to the famous Kent circuit. Please get in touch if you are interested in coming along or would like to know more about my racing. In the meantime, check out this weeks (31/07/13) copy of Motorsport News for a profile of myself and my season so far!
All Go with Greenwell Gleeson
Welcome to Birmingham’s longest established, independently owned, accountancy & finance recruitment firm, the latest firm to join me on my racing path. It is fantastic to have such a renown and respected company onboard and I am hugely looking forward to representing Greenwell Gleeson this weekend at Donington Park (12th - 14th July).
If you're interested in coming to Donington, meeting the team, experiencing the Caterham F1 car first hand, and watching some of the closest racing you will see this season, then make sure you get in touch! Alternatively tickets are always available on the gate.
With a narrow lead in the championship I'll be looking to establish my position, so if you can't make it on the day keep looking on this site for the race report and TV times which will follow very soon.
DPR Dominance in Zandvoort
When DPR Motorsport claims 13 out of a possible 18 podiums during a single race weekend, the chances are it has been fairly successful!
Fortunately for me I also managed to continue my podium streak with the team, making it six rostrum results in the first six rounds, although as ever this was no easy task.
Thursday and Friday test sessions again proved frustrating with tyre issues prevalent throughout both days, the rear left repeatedly overheating and losing grip with every lap. Avon and Cooper Tyres have been working hard on the delamination and performance problems though and this was a big step in the right direction, with no failure seen before the end of a race.
A few setup tweaks before qualifying rectified many of the problems of the previous day and despite not gaining a good tow I placed third on the grid, confident of good pace and confident that I would be racing with those ahead of me.
What I didn't particularly expect, with the well spaced grid markings at the start, was to lead into the first corner on lap one, but a great reaction to the lights meant this was the case and I set about putting in quick laps, knowing that breaking the pack, as at Anglesey, could decide the race. Title rival Mike Hart was in the same mind set and we worked together to pull away from the chasing group, each lap changing positions, maximising the time gained, pushing to make a break. By lap 5 this looked to have worked well and we continued to trade fastest laps for the remainder of the race, a comfortable 8 second gap to those behind. With only 5 minutes remaining it looked set to be a nail biting race to the wire, the element of slipstream would be the decider, unless I could break away ahead of Hart...
Of course every now and then it's quite nice to have an element of luck on my side and as the throttle cable snapped on my opponents car it was relieving to be able to control the pace to the finish. The spectators were robbed of a typically close Caterham finish to say the least!
1. David Robinson 2. Sean Byrne +8.444 3. Lee Wiggins +8.753
With the main title rivals right back in the pack for the second race, my focus was entirely on trying to break away from the chasing group. Yet a solo breakaway isn't quite as straight forward as a tandem effort and despite leading by 50m onto the main straight for the first 5 laps in a row, the monumental tow effect of following another car meant that I could never pull away from the chasing Sean Byrne and Lee Wiggins. As the race turned from a breakaway attempt into a vicious fight for position, Mike Hart was able to leapfrog his way through the pack, the lack of a break playing into his hands as by half race distance he had rejoined the leading bunch. Over the next 10 or so laps, positions were swapped constantly, the top 5 running absolutely nose to tail throughout. I wanted to be in third place going onto the final lap and in second place going onto the final straight to take the win, but the penultimate run down to the Tarzan hairpin was well covered by Craig Currie and Hart and despite great pace I was unable to make amends for being in the wrong position thereafter. A good collection of points in race two then but not what had been hoped for.
1. Mike Hart 2. Craig Currie +0.025 3. David Robinson +0.195
A months break until the Caterham action resumes in Leicestershire at the drivers favourite Donington Park Circuit and in the downtime I will be taking part in the Graduate Cup round of the British Universities Karting Championship. Held using Club100s fleet of karts this promises to be a great outing and an opportunity to resurrect karting rivalries from 'back in the day'. But before then I will be heading to Mallory Park on the 15th June for tyre optimisation runs, making sure that I will be ready to win in Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2013 Caterham Supersport Series. Keep checking back for the latest news and updates!
Winner in Wales
Anglesey was the venue for Rounds 3 and 4 of the season and as you would expect for an island just off the Northern tip of Wales the weather was extremely unpredictable, from sunshine through to gales and heavy rain, an exciting mix for an exciting weekend of racing.
Friday practice proved to be a testing experience, with pace being difficult to find as I tested the new for 2013 compound, which has been a particularly difficult transition for all of the drivers on the grid. However, the patient approach to rebalancing the car appeared to be paying off as I finished the day with a time only 2 tenths off the fastest time off the day (set on the 2012 compound).
Fortunately for this weekend the older tyre was still eligible and I was confident that I could close the final gap by switching compounds on race day. Unfortunately the qualifying session wasn't going to be the time to find out as the rain set in on the out lap, making progress very difficult and seriously upsetting the predicted grid for Race 1.
I had managed to make the most of my track position in qualifying and would be starting on the second row, not an ideal place to be but a solid result rescued from what could have been an absolute disaster (having done my lap in wetter conditions than most around me). Sitting on the grid I was confident in the new tyres and confident of a good start, envisioning being in the lead after the Rocket section of the track... So to take the lead on only the second corner came as a bit of a shock!
What was even more surprising was the difference in grip these new tyres gave. By lap 3 I had taken over a second off my Friday best in identical conditions and had pulled a comfortable lead over the chasing pack, something that I had not yet experienced in Caterhams, where a slipstream makes all the difference. Knowing this I pushed hard for another 5 laps, only rarely glancing in the mirrors to make sure I had maintained the gap. But with these new tyres also giving me consistent performance my pace held and at the 8 lap mark I was already over 10 seconds ahead, further ahead than all of the winning margins in the 2012 Tracksport Series combined. It was time to tyre manage and to guide the car home. A further 8 laps later and despite encountering some coolant on the circuit it was to be a confident victory, 17 seconds up on the chasing pack, with a lap record and bonus point for fastest lap to add to that. A fantastic race.
1. David Robinson 2. Tim Mashman +16.734 3. Jon Mortimer +20.941
Race 2 on Sunday then and a huge contrast to the sunshine and relative warmth of the previous race, with gale force winds and rain being the order of the day. Having podiumed in the earlier R300 race, Craig Currie was the man with the experience in these conditions and as he was starting from 4th he was bound to be fighting for the top positions after the initial few laps. With this in mind I decided not to fight for position and to focus on pulling away from the main pack, learn the wet lines, and be in a position to challenge for the win at the end. This plan was to work almost seamlessly, other than Mike Hart having the same idea and joining the 3 car train as we broke from the main pack, building a hugely comfortable lead early on. With Craig's pace proving very quick I was able to stay within touching distance, but never close enough to challenge, whilst Mike and I traded positions early on in the race, he initially leading before I retook and held 2nd for 10 laps.
Going on to the final lap it looked like Craig would have the pace to hold position, whilst I would have to defend to hold off the chasing white car of Hart. Yet the Caterham slipstream effect came into play once again and I was powerless to stop the overtake on the run up to Rocket, after which Mike defended well to take second place at the line, with me a solid, if disappointing, third place.
1. Craig Currie 2. Mike Hart +0.644 3. David Robinson +1.033
So after 4 rounds the championship table is shaping up well and I currently lead the series. With 10 rounds to go there is all to play for and at the next round, the Caterham Eurofest at Zandvoort on the 8th and 9th of June, the challenge will be to carry the momentum on and to take another win.
A huge thanks to Alium and Steep Gmbh for their support too, the car will be getting a rejuvenation this coming week in thanks of their continued help so check back soon for an updated colour scheme. Thanks for reading.
2013 Is Go! Snetterton Season Opener Review
The new season finally kicked off this weekend in Norfolk at the Snetterton circuit, home to many an exciting race and the site of a win and a DNF in 2012. After a compromised off season, featuring a variety of gearbox and clutch issues, it was great to get down to the serious business of racing and to put the Supersport upgrades to the test against 35 other drivers.
The Supersport grid for this year looks to be the most competitive of all the Caterham classes, with the biggest grid of them all and many an experienced and successful driver in the mix. My aim for this year is to challenge for the title, hoping to make it two championships in a row. Not an easy objective!
Friday practice saw an extreme mix of track conditions, from torrential downpours through to clear skies and sunshine, which gave an excellent opportunity to adjust to the 300 circuit and to get on the pace of the other drivers, many of whom had tested the day before and the previous week. A 2m10.79s laptime promised much and looking forward to Saturday qualifying, a top two place appeared to be on the cards along with DPR team mate Craig Currie. Unfortunately Snetterton is a circuit where slipstreams are paramount, a whole second can be gained with an ideal tow, so not managing to get a good track position meant that I recorded a laptime with only marginal assistance through slipstream. But 4th place on the grid was a good result considering that it is nearly impossible to break away from the pack on this circuit.
Race 1 was held on the Saturday and the grid was greeted with nearly 20 degree temperatures, a great contrast to the weeks leading up to the race! I got a great start off the line, but was unable to make it to the inside of the track for the first corner, a position that meant I gained no places over the first lap. But with 30 minutes of racing this was no problem, as the entire race could be decided by my position going onto the final lap. Myself, Craig, Lee Wiggins and Mike Hart traded places every single lap for the next 14, with firm but fair moves throughout, and going onto the last circulation I was in 4th, not quite the ideal 3rd I had been aiming for but well placed to make a move forward. Onto the Bentley straight for the final time and I got a great tow from the three cars in front, following Mike Hart around the outside of the lead two into the chicane and clinching the runners up spot. A bold move and one that you will be able to see on both Channel 4 and Motors TV in the coming weeks (I'll put the dates up as soon as I can).
1. Mike Hart 2. David Robinson +0.222s 3. Lee Wiggins +0.319s
With race 1 having been one of the closest Caterham races I have ever competed in, I had almost been hoping that the second race could be a more relaxed affair, possibly with a breakaway pack forming at the front. However, the race that followed was anything other than relaxed with the top 8 cars running nose to tail for the entire 30 minutes. Some slightly 'enthusiastic' driving by some of these drivers meant that for the first 8 laps of the race I didn't push my way to the front of the pack, preferring to take an approach that would be more likely to see me finish in one piece and get as many championship points as possible. But with 6 laps to go I decided to push hard, close the gap to the leading trio and go for the win. This worked well and going onto the final lap I had secured the fastest lap of the race (2min 11.03s and a bonus point) and held the lead. A last effort push to break the slipstream gave me a lead of almost 20m going onto the Bentley straight for the final time, but this just wasn't enough to hold the position as Mike Hart drafted past with ease and I fell back to 2nd. To add to that, a hard charging Adam White also made a last minute dramatic lunge at the end of the straight to demote me back to third place. A slightly disappointing final result of third then, but it was a relief to finish in this race, never mind on the podium!
1. Mike Hart 2. Adam White +0.426s 3. David Robinson +1.003s
This solid weekend of results puts me in second place in the standings, only 4 points behind Mike, another Jaguar Land Rover engineer. The challenge will be to reverse this next time out at Anglesey in just three weeks time.
In the meantime, keep an eye on this site as I will be announcing the TV times very soon, a great chance to catch up with the races and to see just how close the racing was. Thanks for reading.
DPR Motorsport Driver for 2013!
Exciting news this week as it is confirmed that I will be joining the DPR Motorsport team for all Caterham races in 2013, thanks to the support of Alium Partners.
With a proven track record, DPR will be an exciting group to join as they plan their assault for the upcoming season and look to retain the brace of titles they secured in 2012. Previously I have used DPR for a variety of work but this latest move will see a closer relationship, running the car in tandem with their current drivers, utilising advanced analysis techniques and accessing their geometry setups throughout a race weekend.
I am looking forward to bringing more success to the team as we work together for the 2013 Supersports series. And thank you to Alium Partners for making this happen!
With the first race of the season taking place in mid April at Snetterton, it is of vital importance that both myself and the Caterham are race fit and ready to hit the ground running. With that in mind, the pre season testing is now in place and I have been hitting the gym hard.
Self preparation is something that is often overlooked in motorsport, but don't be fooled, without the mental agility and physical endurance you will struggle to focus throughout the competition, in and out of the car. The physical preparation is relatively easy, with exercise programs able to concentrate on your core and neck muscles that will take a comparatively larger load than normal life. This may be complimented by cardiovascular and strength orientated work outs that will build your overall fitness and stamina levels and can even be combined with mental preparation through competitions such as triathlons and cycling.
It is these competitions that I find to be one of the most effective ways to train yourself mentally for motorsport. Adding an element of racing to regular physical exertion really drives you forward to push yourself harder than ever before, with increased focus and fore planning. This is as close to motorsport as you can be without wheels and it really does sharpen the mind, increasing your ability to act on your feet to reach a target.
The car too, requires a little bit of a work out prior to the season getting underway, although it's training regime does appear slightly more relaxed in comparison. This coming weekend (the 16th-17th Feb) I will be at Rockingham Motor Speedway for the initial shakedown with the Supersport upgrades and I will be looking to take the opportunity to acclimatise to the changes and run in the new powertrain at the same time. Caterham's package promises a significantly altered experience and I am very much looking forward to reporting back on the two day test next week!
Keep up to date with my test dates via the race calendar link as there will be more added very shortly. And please do get in touch should you wish to attend any of these days as it is always a pleasure to arrange this.
With the Caterham back in the garage following a complete winter overhaul, its time for the preseason testing to kick off in earnest very soon.
The Supersport car features a number of upgrades from last season, including a limited slip differential and a power increase through new camshafts and air intake modifications. It will be interesting to see how it compares in the next month or so!
In the meantime, please check out the new Media link, where there is a new video of the end of season shakedown test from November. Many thanks to James Green for producing the clip and many thanks to all who attended.
More to follow very soon!
End of Season Shakedown - All Welcome!
To celebrate winning the 2012 Caterham Tracksport Series I'll be doing an end of season trackday at Donington Park this Sunday the 11th November... With a bit of a twist!
With food and drink provided this will be an opportunity to get close and personal with the winning car, in addition to a chance to hop aboard and take part in some passenger laps around the famous circuit. I'll be there too, of course, to have a chat and generally answer any questions you may have.
For more information, please do get in contact. See you there.
Motors TV, Rockingham Coverage
To check out the final round of the 2012 Caterham Tracksport Series, check out Motors TV this week!
Motors TV UK Motors TV Europe 20/10/12 - 12.08 20/10/12 - 12.37 21/10/12 - 04.09 21/10/12 - 05.20 22/10/12 - 16.18 22/10/12 - 16.29 24/10/12 - 22.04 24/10/12 - 13.54 29/10/12 - 00.10 24/10/12 - 22.06 28/10/12 - 03.39
Race Report - Rounds 13 and 14, Rockingham
Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby has always been one of the calendar highlights of the year, with the huge grandstands and Europes fastest oval creating an immense backdrop for the final round of the 2012 Caterham Tracksport Series.
Previously I have always done well here, particularly on this, the International Super Sportscar Long circuit configuration. At the Caterham Autumn Trophy event at the end of 2011 I even claimed 2 poles, 2 wins, 2 fastest laps and the lap record! So no pressure going into these rounds with the knowledge that to win I would have to beat my championship contender, Terry Langley.
Thursday practise got off to a terrible start, with gearbox issues straight out of the box. By lunchtime I had travelled over to Caterham Midlands to get a new unit fitted, but it was already t0o late to get any testing done on the day and despite the best efforts of the Caterham guys the car wouldn't be ready until Friday morning. So Friday morning came and I hit the track, immediately on the pace with myself and Terry heading the time sheets. This was going to be a hard fought contest for the title.
Qualifying continued the theme, with a damp and drying track introducing a new element of unpredictability. Myself and Terry lined up 2nd and 3rd, after Kurt Brady put in a phenomenal pole lap to grab 1st place by only a tenth of a second. The scene was set for a dramatic finale to the season and as the lights went out for race 1 I knew that only first place would be enough to be able to fight for overall victory. By the 4th lap I had settled into the lead and focussed on defending my position for the next 14 laps from the chasing cars of Kurt and Terry. This leading pack had broken away from the main group by some distance and despite great pace on the circuit infield, the famous Caterham slipstream effect came into play every time we hit the main straight. I lead across the line on every occasion but had to hug the inside into the first hairpin as the chasing cars would pull alongside or just ahead on every lap. It felt like an eternity but after 30 minutes the chequered flag came into view.... 1st place, just in front of Terry... There would be only 1 point between us going into the final round. Whoever would finish first would take the honours...
1. David Robinson 2. Terry Langley +0.667s 3. Kurt Brady +1.188s
Race 2 kicked off with a dream start, as I held the lead into the first bend and everyone behind made it around cleanly. Immediately I knew I had to put in some fast laps to try and break the pack and by lap 4 it looked like this was going to be a repeat of race 2, as Terry and I looked set to gap the pack and fight it out amongst ourselves. However, contact between cars back in the pack put Paul Lewis into the gravel and the safety car had to be deployed, back to square one.
As the race restarted the front two broke away again, nose to tail for the next two laps this was going to be the race for the championship. On lap 8 Terry made a move for the lead, taking it cleanly and relegating me to 2nd place and 2nd in the overall standings. As we went into the Tarzan hairpin I went for the inside, knowing that on no occasion could I finish behind Terry without losing the championship. I went right, he went right and as we hit the braking zone my front left wheel just clipped the rear right of the lead car... As I reached the gravel I knew that was it, the race was over and so was the championship.
Unless Terry finished 5th or worse. As the race went on it became apparent that he was struggling for pace and as Andrew West took the lead position, it seemed that the damage was serious as Terry dropped well out of contention and into 7th place. West drove superbly for the remainder of the race, defending well to take his first ever podium and with it his first ever Caterham win.
1. Andrew West 2. Mike Hart +0.204s 3. Kurt Brady +0.366s
DNF. David Robinson
Standing by the tyre wall was not how I expected to take the championship title!
However, after a season of unbelievably close racing, my consistency and race winning pace came together to make all the difference. Champion by two points, with the most number of wins and podium finishes! A fantastic season and all made possible thanks to support from Steep Gmbh, The Bentley Partnership and Alium Partners.
Congratulations too to Terry Langley for taking second place in the series after a very strong season and good luck to him in R300s next season.
Keep an eye on this site for more news about my 2013 season as I step up the Caterham ladder into the Supersport category. A new season and a new challenge.
Thanks for your support this year and thank you for reading!
Caterham Tracksport Champion 2012
2012 has been a fantastic year. After winning the British Universities Karting Championship for a record third time earlier in the season, I have now claimed the 2012 Caterham Tracksport Championship! The series has only seen one winning margin of over a second and with 7 different winning drivers throughout the year it has been an extremely competitive series.
Massive thanks to all of my sponsors and supporters, without whom none of this would have been possible. In particular I would like to thank Steep Gmbh, Alium Partners, Bentley Partnership and DPR Motorsport for their help this season. 2013 is nearly here and I will be competing in the 2013 Caterham Supersport Series, the winter preparations have already started and I'm already looking forward to getting back on track.
In the meantime, check out the Rockingham race report which will follow in the next couple of days and be sure to pop along to Donington Park on the 11th November for a chance to join the meet and great between all of the seasons sponsors and supporters.
2012 Results R1 - Silverstone International - 4th R2 - Silverstone International - 2nd R3 - Oulton Park Long - 4th R4 - Oulton Park Long - 1st R5 - Donington Park GP - 2nd R6 - Donington Park GP - 4th R7 - Brands Hatch - 2nd R8 - Brands Hatch - 2nd R9 - Nurburgring GP - 3rd R10 - Nurburgring GP - 2nd R11 - Snetterton 200 - 1st R12 - Snetterton 200 - 7th R13 - Rockingham ISSC Long - 1st R14 - Rockingham ISSC Long - DNF
9 Podiums, 3 Wins, 2 Pole Positions
2012 Caterham Tracksport CHAMPION!
A Mixed Weekend In Norfolk
Snetterton, Norfolk for the penultimate double header of the 2012 Caterham Tracksport series. As you may be able to tell from the picture to the left, it didn't all go quite to plan!
But first, Friday practice. The circuit was a new one to me, having previously only driven the 100 short track, so there was plenty to learn in the initial sessions before moving focus to the car setup and looking for those final hundredths. The car felt well balanced once the ARB settings had been tweaked to suit the high speed bends and in terms of lap times it looked like a pole position may be on the cards for qualifying on Saturday morning.
An early start on Saturday for the Caterham Tracksports and, as is the norm in the series, the lap times were extremely close from the off. But by lap 4 I had clinched pole position, before bettering the time again to a time 1 thousandth up on that of James Needham. However, with only seconds left in the session, Jon Mortimer and Rowan Williams both put in a great final lap, demoting me to third on the grid for the first race that afternoon.
Snetterton is an extremely tight circuit, and the first bend really highlights this as 27 cars squeezed in. Fortunately there was almost no contact in this first race and I came through sitting in the middle of the lead pack of 5 cars. Over the next 20 laps this pack pulled away from those behind and it became a 5 way fight for the win, with each driver leading at some point. Going into the final lap I was in first, just ahead of Terry Langley but at Snetterton this is not the place you want to be leading on to the long back straight. Yet there was nothing that could be done, as Terry sat behind, refusing to overtake and hoping to emulate his Nurburgring last lap manoeuvre to take the win. But at this time I knew that there would be one last opportunity to get back past and into the lead once we reached Corum (the penultimate bend) and I seized the moment to pull alongside. Two abreast around Corum is always tight, and as we went through Murrays and on to the start finish I got a good drive, pulling past to take an important win by 0.028 seconds.
1. David Robinson 2. Terry Langley +0.028s 3. Jon Mortimer +0.215s
On pole for race two, an open track ahead and time to repeat Saturdays success. The lights went out and I got fantastic drive off the line, achieving a lead before the first corner had even arrived. But the notchy gearbox came into play at this point as I missed third gear and got nothing... As the closing pack eroded my lead, Adam White made a move for the inside which didn't quite come off. Unable to turn in at this point I clipped the rear of Rowans car, pitching him into a spin and as Adam rejoined the circuit he collided with the side of my car. The domino effect kicked off and 4 cars were eliminated from the running and although I survived, I was down in 20th place having had to escape to the grass run off.
The safety car came out and stayed out for 10 minutes as the considerable debris was cleared from the circuit, reducing the race length and the time available to make amends to only 20 minutes. As the lights went out on the SC I was looking at a hard race ahead, with only the slimmest chance of catching the leaders. After 15 minutes I was up to 5th, having driven a determined race to get back to this point, however the race was not yet over as Rowan and Jon Mortimer where in close contention. We worked together to pull away from the chasing pack and although we looked to be catching the lead group, we were out of time and thus, with only 2 laps left, it became a fight for 5th position. Going into Corum I held 5th and even into the braking point for Murrays it looked like I would be able to hold it, yet an opportunistic overtaking manoeuvre from Jon put me back to 6th. With the move came a huge lock up and I went for the cut back on to the finishing straight, I pulled alongside Jon hoping to beat him in the drive to the line. However, I just didn't have the straight line speed and he held on, a closing Rowan taking the double tow to demote me to 7th, the worst result of the year.
Gutting is a word often used in sports reports and it applied here. A blowing exhaust caused by damage on the first corner may not have helped in the final drive but at the end of the day it was not a good result when the championship is so tight.
1. Kurt Brady 2. James Needham+0.026s 3. Terry Langley +0.029s 7. David Robinson +11.955
Looking at the positives, it is extremely tight between myself and Terry Langley going into the final round at Rockingham and at my last race on the ISCC Long I claimed 2 poles, 2 wins, 2 fastest laps and a lap record. Can I do it again? Come down on the 6th and 7th of October to find out!
Thanks as always to Alium Partners, Bentley Partnership, Steep Gmbh and DPR Motorsport for their continued help and support.
The Snetterton Podium - Race 1
The European Adventure - Caterham Eurofest
This years Caterham Eurofest took place deep in the Eifel region of Germany at the magnificent Nurburgring on the 28th and 29th August. Racing at such a prestigious venue was an experience in itself and with two days testing planned, there was plenty of opportunity to get acclimatised to the circuit in the glorious 30 degree heat and sunshine (something that has not been present at the last few rounds of the series!).
But before then, the Nordschleife itself, the famous 14 mile circuit, also had to be conquered and thanks to Rent4Ring this was done so using a Stage 2+ Suzuki Swift Sport. With Ohlins suspension all round and super sticky tyres the little Suzuki really proved itself to be a lot of fun and, in a manner very similar to that of the Caterham, proved that it could embarrass some rather more expensive machinery through the corners.
On to the Caterham Eurofest then and the fantastic weather that greeted all of those testing on the Thursday. With some competitors having been out on the circuit before, it was expected that the initial test session may prove to be a steep learning curve. However, the car felt good from the off and I was soon setting the pace along with championship rival Terry Langley. With the extraordinarily high temperatures, tyre wear soon became a key factor and in order to keep some low tread tyres for race day, the decision was made to use a set of new tyres for the remainder of the day and Friday. Despite the high tread taking the edge off the pace I still ran comfortably in the top five throughout testing and had high hopes of a seasons best qualifying.
Saturday morning saw a dramatic change in the weather as gales and torrential rain foretold a wet and slippery circuit. I ran well in qualifying to grab third on the grid behind Jon Mortimer and Terry, a seasons best but not quite what had been hoped for going on previous wet weather performances. As the lights went out I went straight up to second place and as the track dried, the semi dry setup came into play. Myself, Langley and Stuart Leonard formed a breakaway pack from the main group and pulled a comfortable gap. With gearbox issues showing themselves throughout the race, double declutching and rev matching were key to holding onto a podium finish and extending the championship lead. As with all the larger tracks, slipstream was another important factor, as could be seen when the lead changed on each and every straight, so being in the lead at any given time was not necessarily an advantage. Going onto the last lap I went to draft past Terry on the start finish to take 1st place, but as I did so the gearbox gremlins showed themselves once more and 5th gear became unavailable, dropping me back to 3rd place. One more chance for an overtake then, on the final straight into the final chicane. Stuart drafted past Terry and I carried some strong speed behind, but only enough to pull alongside an overtly defensive Langley. So, at the finish I remained in 3rd, pleased to finish with the gearbox in one piece but a little disappointed with some of the defensive driving displayed on this final lap. Congratulations to Stuart Leonard on his maiden win though, again showing the depth of DPR Motorsports capabilities.
1. Stuart Leonard 2. Terry Langley 3. David Robinson
Race 2 saw some more predictable weather and an opportunity for a problem free race thanks to the Caterham trackside support team fitting a new gearbox overnight. The new box gave a boost in confidence as it shifted smoothly from the off, removing the need for double declutching and removing the unpredictable shifts that had plagued race 1. The first few laps were extremely tense, with a huge oil spill creating slippy conditions for the grid to encounter. Despite this, myself, Terry and Jon Mortimer pulled comfortably clear of the main group and sat in formation, the focus being on extending that gap and staying out of trouble. Contact between Jon and Terry at the halfway point saw Jon retire from the race with a damaged radiator, the race balance shifting into Terry's favour as he was able to simply sit in the slipstream and wait until the final lap and the final straight. Although I had comfortably the fastest pace on circuit, Terry drove a fantastic race to not only use the tow to set fastest lap (and gain a bonus point), but also to slingshot past on the last lap. Such was the draft that he could even pull in again to defend. With a good run from the final bend I made a last move over the start/finish, but it was not to be. 0.029s down at the line.
1. Terry Langley 2. David Robinson +0.029 3. Stuart Leonard
So despite the two podium finishes, the championship is now closer than ever. With 4 rounds to go at Snetterton and Rockingham I still lead the series, but there is all to play for. Fortunately, the pace is good, the car is good and I am confident the next two races will yield great results. Get in touch to find out more about the Caterham series or if you would like to come along to these next races!
Thank you also to all my supporters at the Nurburgring, particularly DPR Motorsport, Alium, Bentley Partnership and Steep Gmbh who organised a fantastic tour of all of the tracks facilities.
Seizing the Championship Lead at Brands Hatch
Rounds 5 and 6 of the Tracksport series were held at Brands Hatch on the second weekend of June with the characteristic British weather making an appearance yet again. Rain, sunshine and up and down temperatures keeping everyone on their toes throughout the test and race days.
Having finished last years Academy race in Paddock Hill gravel trap after qualifying on pole, I was looking for a dramatic improvement this year with an aim of getting on the podium for both races. Whilst testing had been extremely promising, qualifying proved to be a let down, with a time only 1 tenth away from the front row relegating me down the order to 7th. The competition is as fierce as ever in Caterhams this year, with 2 tenths covering the entire top ten!
Race 1 proved to be dry for it's entirety and provided the most exciting race of the day in all classes competing at the Kent circuit. A solid start moved me up a place and from there I focussed on passing the cars in front and making it into the lead. By lap 10 this had been acheived, but the pack of 10 cars was still running nose to tail and with the tow effect the lead changed almost every lap for the next 15 laps. However, with some contact at Druids and Clearways the top three of myself, Terry Langley and Mike Hart managed to break away at the front. I held the lead until the last lap, holding a defensive line but maintaining good pace to ensure the main pack wouldn't be able to close the gap. This strong pace and some close competition between the followers meant that I went into the final bend on the final lap in first place. A good run out of the final corner then and on to the chequered? No, ultimately Terry Langley drove a very clever race and utilised the final straight and the slipstream to win by 0.009s. Although I was absolutely gutted at the finish, a reward of fastest lap and lap record meant I was awarded a bonus point, very important at this stage of the championship.
1. Terry Langley 2. David Robinson +0.009 3. Mike Hart +0.460
After a completely dry race on the Saturday, tyres were looking to be a big issue for Sunday, with two of the current set verging on being illegal. Fortunately another two worn tyres were sourced and the Avon Tyres support truck switched the rims over. Their support of the series is hugely important and without their presence I would have been faced with having to use two brand new (high tread) tyres for race 2, which could have been disastrous.
As the clouds swirled overhead and spots of rain settled on the visor, the lights went out for Race 2. A fantastic start saw me charge into the lead by Paddock, with the equally fast starting Kurt Brady running in second palce. For the next 15 laps it was a three car race as Terry Langley joined in the fiercely fought battle for the lead, Mike Hart and James Needham having an equally close fight for 4th and 5th. With coolant and rain appearing on the track throughout the 30 minute duration, each lap provided a new challenge and as the race progressed myself and Kurt broke away, the rapid lap times proving too much for those behind. At this stage I focussed on keeping behind the leader, in order to let a gap build behind so that a top two finish could be guaranteed, but also because Kurt was setting lap record pace on each round. Although I managed to get into the lead on a few occasions, the motor gremlins that have been a feature of the season so far meant that I lacked a little bit of straight line pace and I had to settle for second. On the last lap Kurt also secured another new lap record, to rub salt into the wounds. However, I was very pleased to finish second at the flag, an immeasurable improvement on last years result. At the flag, 4th and 5th were also split by 1 thousandth of a second, with Mike pipping James with a good run out of the final bend.
1. Kurt Brady 2. David Robinson +0.421 3. Terry Langley +4.917
After this solid weekend of results, I'm also leading the series, just in front of Jon Mortimer, who had a disappointing Brands round having qualified on pole. With the next round being the Caterham Euro race at the Nurburgring I'm looking to build on this lead, although previous experience on the GP circuit amounts to cycling around it as part of last years 24 hour Rad Am Ring! Having said that, we were class winners in 2011 so I'm hoping to emulate the 2 wheeled success on 4 wheels, with significantly more horsepower!
Finally, a huge thank you to DPR Motorsport, Alium and Caterham for their support at Brands Hatch.
Alium Partners Confirmed as New Sponsors
I am extremely pleased to announce my new sponsors for the 2012 season, Alium Partners. Alium is a global provider of interim management solutions and will be supporting me throughout the remainder of this year. Their support is vital to my continued development and I hope that I can return this through working with them in the coming months.
For more information on Alium and the services they provide please do visit aliumpartners.com.
Caterham Tracksport at Donington
The weekend of the 19th and 20th May saw the Tracksport circus roll around to Donington Park for rounds 5 and 6 of the 2012 season. Some mixed weather looked set to make it a great weekend for spectators and competitors alike!
Practise on Friday was dry and I showed good pace, although not quite the class leading pace from earlier in the year on a wetter circuit. Fortunately the weather closed in for Saturday morning and I moved dramatically up the leader board, leading over half the session before falling to third on a rapidly drying track.
The first race of the weekend was an extremely close contest, with the top five running nose to tail for the entire 30 minutes. Some contact on the closing laps allowed me to move up to 3rd, before taking 2nd place on the final corner. The race was recorded for Motors TV so keep an eye out for the Caterham UK package which will feature all of the race highlights including this last, very bold, move.
Second on the grid for race 2 then and a strong chance to grab my second win of the season. Away from the lights I took the lead and held this on the plunge down the Craner Curves. Kurt Brady had been showing rapid pace all weekend and as he took the lead I settled into second, hoping to break the tow to the pack behind and claim another podium finish. But after only a couple of laps the pace car was deployed, causing the leaders to bunch up for the restart. It was a good restart for the top two though and I looked to try and rebuild the gap that had been dramatically reduced. Unfortunately I just didn't have the pace and fell into the clutches of the chasing cars for another nose to tail race. This time there was no opportunity to take back positions on the last lap and after some hard driving I finished 4th, 2 places behind current championship leader Jon Mortimer. A very solid couple of results after a tough weekend.
With 6 rounds down I am now 6 points off Jon in a strong second place. With the car going off to the dyno before the next round at Brands Hatch, the hope is to find out what is causing the lack of straight line speed that is making each race harder and harder. With DPR Motorsport looking to work on the car too for a setup check, it looks like the 9th and 10th of June should be a real opportunity to close the gap.
Please do get in touch if you would like to come along and find out more about myself and the Caterham racing series.
Success at Oulton Park!
This weekend saw my first ever visit to the Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park, the sweeping bends, elevation and banking proving a stark contrast to the Silverstone GP Circuit of rounds 1 and 2 of this years Caterham Tracksport series. The weather was also very different to the beautiful sunshine of the earlier rounds, with dark clouds and showers the order of the day this time around.
However, the circuit was fantastic and following a damp acclimatisation run on the Friday I showed good and improving pace, setting top three times after only the second practise session. The test day, despite limited running time, gave a good opportunity to test a variety of setup options to tailor the car to the circuit and by the end of the day the car was running extremely well and I was feeling very confident going into Saturday's qualifying session.
With the rapidly changing weather playing havoc with the laptimes during the session, I still managed to put in some quick times to place highly before the session was red flagged due to a crash on the first corner. A rapidly drying track was now available for the last 5 minutes of the session but unfortunately I didn't manage to achieve a clear final lap and was left with 4th spot on the grid for race one. Not bad but not quite as good as had been hoped for.
As the lights went out for race one I had fantastic traction off the line and drove forward into third place, before missing second gear and reversing down the order to seventh. You will be able to see all of this on Motors TV in a couple of weeks as I was also the TV camera car for this round... No escaping this error then! Following this I fought back to 4th place, 7 seconds back from Terry Langley, James Needham and Jon Mortimer who were setting quick times out front, making the most of the tow advantage so important in Caterham racing. Despite setting good times I could only close the gap down to 3.5s at the line, although I was over 15s ahead of the chasing pack. A solid result from a fluffed start.
1 Terry Langley 2 Jonathan Mortimer +0.030 3 James Needham +1.499 4 David Robinson +3.440
Race 2 then and starting from the same grid spot. No repeat of the previous start this time and after two laps I was leading the race, with a view to breaking the tow to the chasing cars and holding on to the line. Despite working with Jon Mortimer to try and pull away from the others, the tow effect was too strong and the lead 6 ran nose to tail for the entire race. Positions shuffled throughout but I never dropped below 2nd place, meaning I was in an ideal position going into the final lap. Exciting the final bend for the penultimate time I had a good run on Terry Langley and, with a double bluff, took the lead into the first corner. The last lap was defended heavily, with Terry making a couple of overtaking moves around the outside, but going into the final corner I held the inside, backed the pack up and got a good drive to the line. Taking the flag by 0.041s ahead of Terry and Jon showed just how close the entire weekend had been and it was fantastic to get that first Tracksport win under the belt!
1 David Robinson 2 Terry Langley +0.041 3 Jonathan Mortimer +0.164
With the next round at Donington in a months time, the focus is on keeping the momentum going. I'm currently second in the series, 1 point off the series leader, and I hope to close that gap very soon.
Championship Standings 1 Terry Langley 91 2 David Robinson 90 = Jon Mortimer 90
Full race results can be found at www.tsl-timing.com/brscc/2012/121631ctr.pdf
Last week Loughborough Kart won their 4th British Universities Karting Championships title! It's my final year studying Automotive Engineering (MEng) at Loughborough and it was great to win the title for my 3rd time against some talent drivers from Formula Renault, Formula Ford, Renault Clios and more. Check out www.bukc.co.uk for more information on the series. The final round is tomorrow at Buckmore Park and heavily supported by Red Bull, so make sure to come and have a look if you're in the Chatham area.
In other news, I also finished second in the second round of the European Prokart Endurance Championships at Teesside this weekend with M Racing, race report to come soon.
The 2012 Season Kicks Off at Silverstone
The first round of the 2012 Caterham Tracksport season kicked off on the BRITCAR weekend of the 25th March. Dry testing in the car leading up to this first double header had been limited due to heavy rain, but I was greeted with blue skies and temperatures well into the twenties. A great weekend for the spectators and just the Friday test to adapt to the Tracksport car on the dry circuit!
With good pace apparent, I was settling in well. The stiff suspension and wide track completely changing the car's handling characteristics and greatly increasing cornering speeds. Gone was the pitch and roll of the road spec car, replaced with quick turn in and flat cornering, all aided by the sticky Avon CR500s. However, after just 12 laps on track the clutch gave way. That was the entirety of dry running in the car at any circuit over the last 4 and a half months!
So with frantic repair arrangements being made (a huge thank you to Caterham Race Support here) the focus was on using the 20 minute qualifying session on Sunday to trial some new settings on the car. Despite not running in the tow of another quick car, I managed to qualify 6th and was looking good to move forward come race 1.
Silverstone is a circuit very different to any other when it comes to racing Caterhams. Tow is absolutely everything as the cars feature high drag at speed. So despite some spread out qualifying times, the top 10 ran in close formation for the entire race. Going on to Hangar in first place meant that wherever you placed your car, the only guarantee was that you would not be leading come the end of the straight. With such close racing the primary concern was staying on, not getting involved with others accidents and making sure you gained championship points. Unfortunately I came to the Club Straight on the last lap in first place and didn't manage to hold my line, Mike Hart and Jon Mortimer making the most of the slipstream to take the inside into the final complex. So 4th at the line and only 0.259s down on the winner.
Looking to race 2 I knew I had learnt a lot from race 1 and I knew the lead of the race would be unimportant until the final lap and the finish line. So off the line I stayed in 3rd place and attempted to break the pack with the two lead cars. After 3 laps it looked like this could work, but going onto Hangar, the effect of slipstream showed once again and the top 10 were back to running nose to tail. After a solid race I made a move for the lead on the penultimate lap and went on to Hangar straight with the largest gap anyone had enjoyed throughout the race. But it wasn't enough... Mike Hart gaining an epic tow in 4th place managing to drive clean round the outside of the top three and into the lead which, despite a good run up to the finish by myself, he managed to hold on to by 0.045 seconds. A double win to Mike then, but a solid 4th and 2nd mean I am currently 3rd in the standings.
Oulton Park is the next round on the 21st April and I hope to make the next step up on the podium with a race win. Get in touch if you would like to come and watch!
Slippery Shakedown at Donington
The preseason test day at Donington Park on the 4th March saw some of the very worst racing weather of the year so far as strong winds, heavy rain and a rather cold 2 degrees came together at the Derby circuit. This years Tracksport spec car has not seen any dry weather testing as yet, but once again proved competitive in the slippery conditions.
Fastest laps were recorded in nearly every test session, with a great deal learned about the car setup throughout the day. In comparison to the Academy spec cars, the scope of adjustments is much greater for Tracksport, with a number of anti roll bar options (in particular) allowing good customisation to each circuits specifications. The competition is also looking strong for the year ahead, but after this confidence boosting test I'm looking forward to Round 1 at Silverstone in a couple of weeks time. Get in touch if you're interested in coming to watch the race and experience Caterham racing first hand.
European Prokart Endurance Championship
This year I will be taking part in selected rounds of the European Prokart Endurance Championship with M Racing. The team has won the Rye House Endurance Championship more times than any other and are looking to push for the Pro title in this years EPEC series. As a team, we will be competing with the works teams of MS Kart and hopes are high for some high scores and success throughout the season.
Round 1 of the EPEC series took place this Sunday, the 10th March, with Matt Cornwell driving well in qualifying to put the team into 4th place for the start of the race. 4.5 hours in and we were sitting in a competitive second place, 1 lap down on the leading team and with only 25 seconds covering 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Unfortunately as Joe Ochiltree took the final stint after a great performance from Dave Evans, an extremely worn front wheel bearing and snapped seat stay put an end to the strong performance shown throughout the race. Some good consistancy from Joe was not enough to hold position and M Racing finished the 6 hour race in 5th position. Despite this, the result forms a strong base for the remainder of the season and with such a strong driver line up we will be looking to move up the results sheet at the next round.
The selected rounds will be announced on the Race Calendar shortly, including the UK 24 hour event at Teesside Autodrome, which is always a great race.
Car Prepped for the 2012 Season
The car has been given a complete overhaul for the 2012 season!
Now up to the Tracksport spec, the doors, windscreen, skinny tyres and a host of other bits and pieces are all gone, replaced with a more aggressive setup featuring wide track wishbones and stiffened suspension and roll bars.
The first time on track for the revised Seven is in a couple of weeks on the 4th March at Donington Park for the Caterham pre season test day. A good chance to get acclimatised and to see how the pace of the car can be developed.
Loughborough Kart Dominate BUKC Opener
This week saw rounds 1 and 2 of the British Universities Karting Championship taking place at Teesside Autodrome, a favourite track of the University series.
The BUKC is unique in that it brings together racers from all backgrounds, from national champions and Formula Renault drivers through to people who have barely set foot on a race track before. A real diverse field, but a competitive and closely fought one too. Loughborough are one of a number of teams fighting for the championship and as team captain I think we have every chance of sealing a record fourth title for Loughborough, having won the title in 2003, 2008 and 2010.
Race day was a perfect day for Loughborough's A team, with a 1st place in the mornings sprint race and another in the afternoons endurance races. My own heats went particularly well, with a second place from 19th in the individual races and a 3rd place in the paired endurance race from a similarly lowly grid position. Hopes are now high for the next round at our local track of Whilton Mill on Thursday the 1st March.
Tracksport 2012 Confirmed
The 2012 season is coming ever closer with the news that my place in the Caterham Tracksport Series has been confirmed.
A massive highlight of the year will be competing in the Caterham Eurofest at the Nurburgring. Having only been round the GP circuit whilst competing in the 24 hour Rad Am Ring endurance cycling event it will be interesting to see how the Caterham compares.
Have a look at the calendar to see when all the races are and come along to watch some of the most competitive racing in the country.