A wasted opportunity
7th October 2014
Well that didn’t go to plan! Still, we had some big positives to take from the Silverstone BTCC weekend. Last year we only managed 19th in qualifying and just couldn’t get Sherman to work and while we didn’t quite manage to get it spot on this time we at least tried something new and managed to get in the window. So the balance wasn’t great but at least we were working the tyres and, after working my arse off in qualifying, I was pretty happy to have put it 10th without the aid of a slip stream.
Race 1 then went to plan; that plan was to stay out of trouble, hang on in the early laps and then move forward towards the end. It was a really great race actually – hard work, but I really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a moment’s rest as I was either defending, attacking, being overtaken, overtaking or on a couple of occasions everything all at once. We got a couple of taps in the back but overall it was very clean and enjoyable racing.
Race 2 the plan was very much the same although a brake problem meant that I struggled a bit more in the early laps as it made it very easy to lock up a wheel until the tyres came fully up to temperature. All was going to plan until Gordon Shedden caught me and that ended any chance we had of three good results. He had so much more grip than me through Copse Corner that there was nothing I could do to defend and he already had the position as we entered Becketts, but this is where it went wrong.
After previous meetings, having been knocked around and then publicly criticised by the Honda drivers it hurts to admit fault when until now I have been 100 per cent the innocent party, but I have to accept fault on this occasion. I was trying too hard and braked as late as I could; with my experience I should know that you can’t race against Gordon in the same clean way I race against the rest of the field, so I should have braked a few metres earlier and given myself some room for manoeuvre in the braking zone. Anyway, although I had given him space on the inside he came across to the left in the braking zone and when I tried to turn left to give him more room – and because I was so on the edge – I locked a wheel and hit him. “I’m still kicking myself because I was already fully aware that I had lost the position. Braking five metres earlier wouldn’t have made a difference really, but instead our weekend was ruined so I’m very annoyed with myself as I feel I've let so many people who support us down with one silly and needless moment – let alone my pit crew who are the best in the business. They work tirelessly as it is without me adding to that workload …
“Still there were the positives from the meeting that I mentioned earlier. I figure I've got to learn from my mistakes but try not to dwell on them and instead really focus on the positives. “With our car we have strong circuits and weak circuits. We’ve made a bit of a mess of this season and have missed opportunities (and potentially big points hauls) at a couple of our strong circuits yet made much progress with our weak circuits. To qualify in the top ten in such a competitive championship at a circuit that we struggle on (Silverstone) is a huge positive for us and proves that we are on the right track set-up wise. “Hopefully we can take another step at Brands Hatch GP but realistically we are only scratching the surface until we go and do a proper test day and really explore this new approach.
“My mind is already starting to turn to next season and the good thing is we are so well supported by Exocet and DUO that for the first time we will be able to go testing after the season and really develop this area. And if we can make Sherman competitive on our weak circuits and then really work on putting everything together better and staying out of trouble then next year has some very exciting potential.
“Because no matter how many times I ask him, (WSR boss) Dick Bennetts won’t give me his set-up sheets. Ha ha!” “Otherwise another positive to take from Silverstone is that Rob Collard is OK. It’s great to see the safety cell stand up to a shunt like that and him be able to walk away. Especially as Willy Pool, who did the shell work for WSR also did the roll cage work on Sherman – it was a great advert for the quality of his workmanship.
“You have to take the positives from such a monumental crash; of course we would all prefer for him not to have had a shunt at all but as long as Rob is OK the rest is just metal and is relatively unimportant.
“Anyway, in other news, I have just had a hair cut…. This is an emotional time for me. It only happens once or twice a year, thank God. The problem is I fear change and getting my ears lowered is never going to be a good change… Very distressing. Still, at least I’m lighter, although I also have concerns that my crash helmet will no longer fit.”