We were beginning to forget what it felt like to step onto the podium let alone cross the finish line in first place. Here we are a whole year later, nearly to the day, and we’re back on the top step. There’s no better feeling!
On 15th April the series moved to Brands Hatch, my local circuit (and about the only track that isn’t at least a 2 hour drive away!). Last time we were here we had quite the roller coaster ride with a big faux pas of jumping the lights, having qualified on pole 😬, and then being run off in my second race, ruining my chances of a good result. I was adamant not to make the same mistakes or let this happen this year.
Following the poor performance at Silverstone, we knew we needed to come away from this weekend with some good points on the board. All week we had been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast watching it change from rain one minute to sunny spells the next. No matter how good you are in the wet, no driver “wants” a wet track.
We had the slight disadvantage of being the first cars on track, because although it had stopped raining, no other cars had been out before us to dry the track out. So a wet and greasy track it was! Naturally, you always want to aim for pole, but in these tricky conditions we were happy to be starting race 1 in 5th place. It was a “safe” qualifying session knowing we had 2 races ahead of us to improve.
We are on the 3rd line of the grid still on a wet and greasy track but with the faintest of dry lines starting to appear. The start was going to be crucial to gain a few places and not get caught up in any first corner antics. We come out of the first corner in 4th place unscathed. The race was on. On a dry track, we would expect to lap Brands Hatch in just under 1 minute, naturally we are a few seconds slower in the wet. 15 minutes around Brands Hatch would therefore give us plenty of laps to settle in and start to put pressure on the cars ahead. Despite a clear dry line beginning to appear, it only took coming off from that line and you had next to no grip on the circuit. Luckily enough, it wasn’t long before the three cars in front started to squabble. We just had to wait for the right moment to pounce and make a move. That moment came on lap 8 when a “lapper” (what we like to call back markers) caused some chaos coming around the last corner, Clearways. We saw an opportunity and went for it. With a little bump and push, we came onto the start finish straight in 2nd place with enough momentum to carry on through into 1st place. With 6 laps to go we had to just keep it on the black stuff and stick to the dry lines in order to maintain the lead. Frustratingly, only 3 laps later, and having pulled a gap to the cars behind, I met a “lapper” coming into Clearways. Ordinarily, blue flags get waved when the front runners are coming passed the “lappers” to give them plenty of warning that a faster car is approaching and to get out of the way. In this instance, the “lapper” stuck to the middle of the track and we had to make a last minute call on which side to pass. Unfortunately, we made the wrong choice and before we knew it, we were sliding towards the gravel trap. By some miracle, only the outer wheels dipped off the track and into the gravel and we were able to continue to drive out and avoid getting stuck. The three cars behind however made easy pickings and they came straight back passed us. We were now again in 4th place with only 4 laps to go. 4 minutes later, the chequered flag was out and that’s where we crossed the line. One of the three ahead of us however was a guest driver, meaning despite them getting the podium spot, in terms of championship points we picked up third place. As a bonus, we also managed the fastest lap of the race giving us an extra valuable point.
Following our race 1, the sun came out and the track dried, making for fantastic racing conditions. We knew we were fast around this circuit in the dry so were ready and excited with that prospect. However, shortly before our last race of the day the heavens opened and the rain kept coming! We were in for a very wet race.
We knew we had the pace to do well so all we needed was get into the lead and stay there….simple right?
Another good start helped us take a position going into the first corner. The conditions were so poor that cars were flying off the circuit everywhere you looked. Our car however was beautifully balanced and setup (thank you James and the Tucker Motorsport team!) and I felt very comfortable driving at pace around these treacherous conditions. Car No.42, who was directly ahead of me, had his moment coming out of Clearways. Clearways was clearly where most of the action happened this weekend! He lost the back end of his car coming onto the straight and we managed to get through, narrowly avoiding contact. I could quite literally see the whites of his eyes as I passed, we were lucky not to make contact. This incident had allowed the leader to gain more than a 2 second lead with only 4 laps to go. We kept the pressure on and shaved over a second off the leader in the next lap. The pressure clearly got to him as he lost control of his car coming into, yes you guessed it, Clearways, thus making for an easy overtake as he tried to join back onto the circuit. It was now a case of keeping smooth and consistent until crossing the chequered flag. What a feeling. Not the simplest of races but we prevailed in the end and again the fastest lap.
Despite having a great weekend myself, Sunday was a reminder of how dangerous this sport can be. My team mate and good friend Jack Brewer had a very lucky escape from a not so lucky incident. A big accident bringing his race weekend and most likely the rest of his race season to an end. He had a big, high speed impact coming out of Paddock which threw him into an oncoming car and although his car was destroyed, he came out of it relatively unscathed showing testament to the strengths of these race car's safety features. We all wish Jack a very speedy recovery.
A huge thank you to everyone who came to support this weekend and again my immense gratitude to the Tucker team for providing such a fantastic race car.
Next race meeting- 6th May at Croft. Come on!
Race footage below courtesy of the BRSCC with live commentary.
This week I'd like to re-introduce you to another of my amazing sponsors that have been with us for a few years now.
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