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Forum LockedCSL Cup Race Report - Donington Park July 2009

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Steve Gill View Drop Down
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    Posted: 22-July-2009 at 15:07

Hi Folks

Thought some of you might find this report interesting, and it livens up the motorsports forum a bit

SATURDAY 4TH JULY 2009

Qualifying wasn't until 12.25, so we had some time in the morning to get the car ready. At the previous weekend, the scrutineers weren't too impressed with the towing eyes fitted as, despite being standard, they stuck out too far from the vehicle. This didn't bother me too much, as it meant anyone hitting me would come off worse LOL

I'd been told I needed to fit fabric towing eyes for this meeting, so I'd ordered a set from Adam at Thorney Motorsport. I collected them this morning from Adam, one small set for the front and a larger one for the rear. We set to work fitting them, with the assistance of the Thorney guys for advice, but it wasn't easy and it appeared the smaller towing eye wouldn't fit. After removing the drivers side headlight, we managed to get access into fit the front eye, and the rear eye was connected to a bolt on the inside of the car near the battery and hung out the boot over the rear bumper, which was fine for now.

Scrutineering was interesting, I was away somewhere (probably eating breakfast in the CSLCup lounge :)) and so my mate Hamish helped the scrutineers who this weekend came to us, which was nice! Normally we need to take the car to the scrutineering bay. However when the scrutineer asked to see a demo of the fire system, Hamish didn't know how to use it so honestly told them so, and they let him off and decided not to test it. It was only later when I went to switch on the fire system (you always have it on during track time) it didn't turn on, and we realised that the battery must have died! Thank goodness nothing happened during qualifying, and we replaced the battery that afternoon before the 2 races the next day.

I'd bought some BP 102RON Fuel to try and see if it made a difference, and brought it in some jerry cans. However I hadn't had time to run out the Texaco 98RON which was still in the tank from Brands Hatch, and I was told its a reasonable sized job to pump out the fuel tank, so I topped up the 1/8 full tank with BP 102 until we reached half full.

Back to qualifying, and the weather stayed dry so the slicks went on. This was their 9th heat cycle (5 x Brands Hatch RMA testing day sessions approx 20 mins each, plus qualifying and 2 races at Brands) and they still seemed fine (to me!). We left the pressures as we had used in the last Brands race (approx 24 psi) but this time I'd brought a pyrometer so we could accurately measure the temperatures at the end of the session, and see whether the tyres were under or over inflated (as well as checking if the camber was sufficient - pyrometers are really useful!).

Qualifying was different this time - we all lined up in parc ferme as before but this time we had to do a green flag lap before going for it - at Brands I was first out of the pit lane and just went for it (perhaps I should'nt have? LOL). As I drove round for a few laps to warm up the tyres quickly the gearbox started playing up again - going from 3rd to 6th :( However, after about 5 or 10 minutes, it seemed to start working OK again. I couldn't work out if that was because it had heated up(?), or because the SMG had been reset and now was relearning again, but didn't like being driven at full throttle on a track whilst learning.

I also noticed the car didn't feel right. It felt soft, and despite the toe in at the front helping turn in, it still didn't feel 'good'. I knew my laptimes weren't going to be good, partly due to the gearbox, and partly due to the car feeling awful, in fact as I drove back into the pits as our 20 minute qualifying was up I quite expected the standard class boys (Darren and Curly) to have beaten me. It was almost a pleasant surprise to find out I still had qualified 6th, even though I was 2.8 seconds slower than number 5, and 4.3 seconds slower than Jamie Martin on pole. My qualifying time was 1.49.299, and my lap times were:

1.55.308
1.53.585
1.49.953
1.49.560
1.49.637
1.49.870
1.49.299***
1.49.680
1.50.209
1.49.420

The transponder system can produce a theoretical best lap, based on splitting the track into 3 sectors, and calculating your best time from that. My best theoretical qualifying time was 1.48.908 - only 0.4 seconds faster than my actual best time.

I had 4 seconds to find from somewhere!

As I was sitting in the paddock discussing what could be wrong with the car it dawned on me - I had completely forgotten to reset the dampers since they'd come back from AST for overhaul. I'd presumed (wrongly) they'd come back with the same settings as they'd left the car! When I inspected them I discovered a mismatch of settings, in the main they were set to soft with the odd rebound set on full hard - not good!!

Felt a bit of a fool, but I spoke to the boys at Whiteline who gave me some settings to start off with for race 1 - basically 1/4 from full hard with rebound at the rear slightly softer. The front anti roll bar was already set to full hard.

We'd taken the tyre temperatures immediately after qualifying (in fact I'd pulled into the pits whilst Mark checked them, but I neglected to notice where the rest had gone to (they had driven into the other parc ferme through a gate near the pit lane exit) so I'd cut through a shortcut out into the paddock, and arrived back at the CSL Cup paddock before anyone else - oooops! Luckily I checked with Adam and he said it was fine, they didn't need me. Last time at Brands after qualifying we'd all been weighed, but I guess due to my dismal performance in qualifying they presumed I hadn't magically lost a lot of weight in the car LOL). We measured the inside edge, middle and outside edge of the tyre, and ideally we're aiming for the inside to be hottest, and the outside coolest. As the middle was the hottest on the rear tyres it was clear the pressures were too high, so we knocked them down a couple of psi for race 1.

Because of the problems with the gearbox and the suspension, I hadn't really paid much attention to the fuel. The car felt responsive enough, but I can't say I noticed a massive difference from the previous race. I believe there was a difference, just not as massive as I was hoping for.

After qualifying, we set to work fitting a cooler pipe running from in front of the radiator blowing cold air onto the SMG ECU, underneath the airbox (pics to follow). We also butchered the fuse box to allow more air in, to cool it down as we suspected that might be part of the problem.

SUNDAY 5TH JULY 2009

Race 1 was scheduled to start at 9.55, so it was an early start :-(

When I arrived from the hotel, we double checked the suspension settings again, and I rigged up the camcorder with a new tape. I don't have an opportunity to switch it on when I reach the grid, nor do I want to have to worry about it there, so I start it recording in parc ferme which is where we all line up ready to go onto the grid once the race before has finished. Unfortunately this often means I get about 20 minutes of boring footage before the race starts, but I can always edit that out!

I was in the 3rd row on the grid, nearest the pit lane. John Thorne was in front of me, and Darren Humphrey in standard class was behind. The fly in the ointment was Curly, also in standard class who was alongside Darren. Curly has an annoying habit of getting a cracking start and getting past me off the line - he did it in race 1 at Brands, and almost did it in race 2 at Brands but (kindly) didn't risk it and stayed behind through the first corner. This was my third race so I was still wet behind the ear at starts, I need to improve them. After speaking to a fellow competitor who told me they change up to second almost as soon as they've started moving, I thought I'd give that a shot.

Lights went out, I moved off in first and quickly changed to second. Argh - the car bogged down straight away, it was completely the wrong thing to do! Whilst this was going on I had to swerve to avoid John Thorne whose car had broken down - it emerged later he had to switch it off and on before leaving the start line!

As expected Curly got a flying start and got in front - I braked straight to the apex on turn 1 trying to block him, but chickened out in case of contact and backed off, letting him through.

Then, right on q, the gearbox started playing up - when will it ever last an entire race without some gearbox problem? I switched to using the gear selector and it seemed OK, but I'm so used to the paddles that it affected my driving for sure.

I then followed Curly, once again outbraking him into the old hairpin, but let him through and had a touch of correction to bring the car back onto line. I was concentrating too much on trying to take the inside line, it was compromising my exit speed out of corners, which was daft. I was almost alongside him going down to the Esses, but he defended well and held the line. Likewise, going into Melbourne I was on the outside alongside him trying to get a better line to outdrag him on the uphill, but as I turned I realised John Thorne was right there so I had to do a quick steering adjustment to avoid turning into him (2.15 on the video) and that cocked up my plan. John overtook Curly on the pit straight a few seconds later.

John just behind me going into the Esses:

Into Lap 2 saw me 0.505 seconds behind Curly, and he was 4.386 seconds behind the front pack (with the exception of John Thorne who was only 0.5 seconds ahead of Curly, but that was due to his restart on the grid). I tried again to outbrake him into turn 1 but he cut across the front of me, I probably should have been more agressive. All this diving to the inside was seriously compromising my exit speed, which you can notice on the video. Going through Craners Curly was a good few car lengths ahead of me.

I was trying desperately to get past Curly again, but he was doing a good job blocking. Meanwhile the front pack were leaving us - they were close together, then a gap was forming, then Curly, myself and Darren behind me.

In Lap 2 Curly's car started overheating (it had been doing this in qualifying, we suspected a faulty thermostat) and he kindly indicated and pulled over to the side, letting me past (3.19 on the video). However the damage was done, the front pack were too far ahead for me to get anywhere near, so it looked like I was on my own for the rest of the race again. Crossing the line into lap 3 I was 4.982 seconds behind John Thorne who was in 5th place, and 10.743 seconds behind Geoff Steel who was leading the race.

Towards the end of lap 3 coming into Melbourne, I was surprised to see Jamie Martin had spun, and he just pulled back onto the track before me. I was aware of yellow flags at the Melbourne Loop and looking ahead it became clear - Geoff Steel's car had broken down, spilling oil all over the track. It made the corner before the pit straight interesting, very slippy! As Geoff had stopped the car behind the tyre wall there was no need for the safety car, so the race continued.

Into Lap 4 and I'd made up a little bit of ground, I was now 8.885 seconds behind the leader (now Dan Stringfellow) and 0.916 seconds behind Jamie Martin in (now thanks to Geoff) 4th place. The breakdown had worked to my advantage, as the front pack had to slow down as the accident happened but I was far enough behind that it didn't affect me, so I could keep on the pace.

Into Lap 5 I'm now 1.545 seconds behind Jamie, and 9.141 behind the leader. Into Lap 6 the gap grew, Jamie was 3.8 seconds ahead and I'm 10.583 seconds behind the leader. The gap continued to grow, into lap 7 I'm now 6.101 seconds behind Jamie, and 12.730 seconds behind the leader. Thankfully Curly was 21 seconds behind me now, fighting to keep Darren at bay, so I didn't have any pressure from behind. But still I'm losing pace, and I'm not sure why.

Into Lap 8 and the gap has increased again - Jamie is now 9.022 seconds ahead of me, and Dan leading the race is 14.138 seconds ahead.

During Lap 8 Jamie pushed too hard to get past John Thorne (who was only 0.3 seconds ahead of him in 3rd) and ended up going onto the gravel at Coppice (video at 14.14). He recovered it just as I arrived, sneaking in front of me, but it meant that going into lap 9 the gap between us was now only 1.03 seconds.

The gap widened slightly to 1.761 seconds going into lap 10, but this time he wasn't getting away as fast as previous laps where he was gaining 3 seconds a lap on me. Into Lap 11 and he's now 2.049 seconds ahead, so I'm staying with him but not really gaining. By now Dan is 19 seconds ahead of me at the front.

On the last few laps the car started surging on the long straight down from Coppice to the Esses, which appears was because we didn't put enough fuel in the car. Lesson learnt there! I changed up early and the car seemed OK to continue. I was worried that I wouldn't finish again though!

Into Lap 12 (the final lap) and Jamie is increasing the gap again, now 3.683 seconds ahead, and across the finish line for the last time he ended up 4.052 seconds in front. Dan won the race, 22.044 seconds ahead of me.

Just back in the pits after Race 1:

The paddles had started to work again after a few minutes into the race, so as I started to use them again my confidence grew, although before Jamie had gone wide at Melbourne I was losing an awful lot of time. However I ended up posting the second fastest time in sector 1 for this race, which was the start line through to halfway through Craner Curves. Not the most difficult section, but being miles from the 'pack' in qualifiying I was still proud of that and it gave me confidence that I could be as fast as the front pack, if I tried hard enough.

Thanks to Geoff bailing out after 1 lap, I ended up in 5th. My fastest lap time was 1.45.891, so thanks to the suspension settings, reduced tyre pressures and that little bit more practice on the circuit I'd brought my laptimes back into the running, even if only for 1 lap! I was still 1.5 seconds from the fastest lap posted by Jamie Martin (1.44.305) but I was much improved from my qualifying time.

I'm not quite sure why after my fastest lap I lost over a second a lap and sustained it, but I suspect that the fastest lap was a belter which for some reason I didn't repeat, meaning the typical lap was in the 1.47s - still an improvement over qualifying but not fast enough. Taking into account the fuel surging on the last few laps I think my laps were improving towards the end, as I'd had more practice round the circuit.

Race 1 was the 10th heat cycle for the slicks, they still seemed OK to me although they were oversteering around Melbourne Loop but I put that down to the off camber corner that slopes away from you.

This time after the race we took the temperatures again, but I drove into parc ferme :-) The scrutineers didn't check the car though, and we quickly drove back to the paddock to check the results and have a beer!

Video from Race 1 here (HD)

RACE 2

Race 2 started at 15.40. After speaking to Whiteline, we hardened the suspension almost to full hard on the front, and slightly softer at the back. The weather was still glorious, despite a heavy rain shower, so it was definitely slicks. This was to be the 11th heat cycle for these tyres, so they were getting to the end of their life - most of the competitors (with the exception of Curly) were working on a new set of slicks per race weekend - I was aiming to get 2 weekends, plus trackdays out of a set. They're not cheap!! :-)

As I hadn't put enough fuel in for the last race, we decided to ensure it was half full before race 2. However I'd run out of BP 102, so Thorney kindly let me use some of their Tesco 99 fuel.

I was starting in 4th place because Nick Foster, who shares a car with Mark Steward, starts at the back of the grid even though Mark Steward had finished 3rd in the last race. This meant I was in the second row of the grid, nearest the pits, directly behind John Thorne again.

Once we lined up for the green flag lap, we were stuck on the grid for about 5 or 10 minutes whilst they cleared up the carnage from the previous race. After all this we did our green flag lap, then lined up. I always find the variation in where the different circuits ask you to park bewildering, this time I was about 3 feet off John's rear bumper exactly in line with Jamie Martin who was beside me.

This time I got a better start. Racing down the outside of the track, John ahead of me with his greater power is pulling away slightly, and he moves to the inside of the track to block Dan Stringfellow who was alongside him. Meanwhile, Jamie uses the opportunity to cut down the middle and blocks me from moving in, so I end up going round the outside of turn 1, and ended up off the track slightly on the dirt as Nick Foster fights his way through pushing Jamie out of the way as well. This time, for a change, Curly is behind me!

Going down into Craners Jamie Martin is ahead of me. I manage to hang onto the back of him, which is giving me confidence. Even though the 'pack' slightly pulls away through Coppice down to the Esses (bigger bhp, or bigger balls?) I've caught them back by Melbourne Loop, presumably under braking. It is that bit easier to catch up when you're not being pressured from behind, I can recognise that but I use that to my advantage. Crossing the line into lap 2 I'm 1.016 seconds behind Jamie, and 2.372 seconds behind the leader.

On lap 2 Jamie Martin pulls ahead of Nick Foster, and I see an opportunity to dive to the inside under braking but chicken out at the last minute - I must get out of this car preservation instinct LOL. So going into turn 1 I'm behind Nick now. The gap between me and Nick is slightly growing through Craners, onto Coppice, and again its Melbourne Loop before I catch them up. Thank goodness we're racing the full circuit! Going into the esses I see that Jamie has got past Dan, and Nick forces his way past Dan as well, however Dan recovers to follow Nick through pushing Jamie wide at Melbourne. So now I'm back behind Jamie again! Into lap 3 I'm now only 0.472 seconds behind Jamie, but the leader is pulling away as I'm 4.233 seconds behind him.

Again going into turn 1 I have a beautiful opportunity to outbrake Nick Foster (who Dan and Jamie have got past again) but chicken out! By Coppice Nick has got past Jamie again and thanks to these boys fighting each other I'm right behind them again with a prime view.

Coming into the Melbourne Loop Nick decides to try and take a shortcut to turn 1, but discovers that a solid concrete barrier is hampering his progress. (5.30 on the video). With Nick out of the running, I've automatically moved up to 4th! John Thorne has built up a slight lead at the front, with Dan in 2nd and Jamie 3rd. However at this point I didn't realise that Nick had crashed and couldn't recover, I thought he would have rejoined the track so I'm nervously watching my mirrors expecting to see him come charging behind me! Into Lap 4 I'm now 0.803 seconds behind Jamie, and 5.825 seconds behind John Thorne, the leader.

There's a great pic of Dan, Jamie then myself at this point:

Now back into Melbourne Loop again I can see Nick is still in the barrier. I'm also right behind Jamie, and going into the turn onto the pit straight Jamie is focussing on Dan too much and leaves the door wide open for me to sneak through - so I do :-) (7.30 on the video). Crossing the line into lap 5 Jamie is 0.246 seconds behind me, and I'm 0.932 seconds behind Dan.

Now I'm behind Dan Stringfellow, and despite being confident very concious that the man who set the fastest lap in race 1 is now on my backside determined to get past! I try my best to ignore it, but make some silly mistakes (wrong gear into the corner before Coppice) and this allows him to get right behind me heading down to the Esses. Concious of blocking him, I alter my line into the Esses but realise I've carried way too much speed and amn't going to make the corner, so I straight line across the grass instead! (8.55 on the video)

Jamie gets past again, and I keep on his tail, perhaps with too much eagerness (see the oversteer at 9.13 on the video)

Trying everything to catch him, I mess up the corner before the pit straight and go in the wrong gear. Somehow into lap 6 I'm still only 0.677 seconds behind Jamie though, crossing the line. John Thorne leading the race is miles ahead now, 10.641 seconds ahead of me.

Crossing the line into lap 7 I'm 1.205 seconds behind Jamie, so he's pulling away a bit. Thankfully by Melbourne I've caught him again:

Now going into lap 8 I'm only 0.573 seconds behind Jamie, and going into turn 1 I fake an overtaking move on the inside to try and put him off, and as he turns his car oversteers, and the correction allows me time to sneak through :) Now I'm possessed, and despite some dodgy lines I'm determined not to let him past again. As I pass the pit straight starting lap 9, I try desperately the old Jedi mind trick (You WILL finish the race now, while I'm still ahead of Jamie) however for some reason it doesn't work this time, and I need to continue and complete the remaining 10 minutes or so!!

Into Lap 9 I'm 7.419 seconds behind Dan Stringfellow, and Jamie is 2.441 seconds behind. I understand Jamie had suffered a punctured radiator and the car was overheating, so he started to fall off the pace as a result.

Entering lap 10 Dan is 7.905 seconds ahead, and Jamie is 8.448 seconds behind. By now John Thorne in the lead is 16 seconds ahead of me.

Starting lap 11 saw me close the gap on Dan ever so slightly, he's now 6.563 seconds ahead of me. Jamie with his damaged car has fallen right back, now 20 seconds behind.

Into the final lap (12) and I was now 6.149 seconds behind Dan, as this was the final lap I decided in my head to try and not throw the car off the track, so took it a little easier on this lap as I could see Jamie was miles behind so the pressure was off. I wanted to secure my first podium of the series in 3rd place! (Actually my first podium ever LOL).

Under the chequered flag I finished 6.02 seconds behind Dan, and John won the race 11.605 seconds ahead of Dan. Jamie was by now 44 seconds behind me, but he managed to finish the race to secure 4th place.

My fastest lap was a 1.46.020, so still about 1.7 seconds from the fastest time of the weekend, but an improvement nonetheless. Again I got 2nd fastest through sector 1, so now in both races!

This race was the 11th heat cycle for these tyres, so they are almost finished! My plan was to use them up at the trackday in Croft the next day.

A side note: I didn't notice any difference between the Tesco 99 fuel and the BP 102, so from now on I'm using Tesco 99 for the races. If anything, the Tesco stuff felt better but that might have been because I was enjoying race 2 more!

Here is the HD video from Race 2

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spokey View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote spokey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-July-2009 at 16:39
Cracking stuff Scottish, I'm well jealous! 
Ciao,
Spokey

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