Josh and I arrived in England last Wednesday, met Michelle and Cliff Dempsey for the first time and then immediately got to work on Thursday driving to Oulton Park. The plan was for us to go to a local race so we could get familiar with how the series is organized in England. I knew the track layout from driving it on a sim but getting there and actually walking the track gave me a new appreciation for how unforgiving it is.
Friday we had four practices each 20 minutes long. We headed out on track for the first time and it was pouring rain. After a few laps learning the car I started to push to get a feel for how it behaved. First thing I noticed was how much grip the car had in the wet conditions; I was able to place the car anywhere with ease. The car and track were a blast to drive and when Josh and I came back into the paddock we both had huge grins. We then immediately began cleaning the cars for the upcoming second practice
As the day progressed we continued to get more and more comfortable with the limits of the car and track. We were able to get practice in all conditions and by the time we got to the final practice the track was completely dry. In the wet conditions we had good pace compared to the local drivers, but in the dry we were a second off the leaders.
Our first time on track Saturday was qualifying and it was damp. This was the first time on new tires and they were amazing in the tricky conditions and we were able to qualify first and third. When it came to race time the track was dry with the exception of one corner, Druids, which was sheltered by trees. I had been hoping for rain but because it was only a shakedown race I knew it would be good to get some more experience with the car in the dry.
Cliff decided we should start from the pit lane for both the races given it was more for practice and because we had not practiced standing starts. Immediately from pit lane, we started moving up the field, eventually finishing eighth and ninth. Feeling good about our performance we debriefed with Cliff by looking through data and videos trying to find where we could improve coming to race two. The final race we started again from the pit lane and once more immediately started working through the field. We took the feedback that Cliff had given us and applied it to finish fourth and fifth, again being the fastest cars on track.
Looking back at the weekend I would say it was a success! We accomplished all we needed to, and had a great time working with the new team and eating Michelle’s great cooking. For an initial weekend we know we can leave with our heads high and get right on prep for upcoming test days at Donington and Silverstone.
The day after the race we were still jet-lagged so we decided to not do much more besides watch the Formula One race and the final three races of British Touring Car Championship on TV. Since I?ve been here I have loved every moment; it has been everything I had hoped it would be and I am excited to move on to the next adventures!
Until next time,
Photo Credit: Alan Auto