Experiencing a new track is always exciting. This one certainly didn’t disappoint! The 6th of May saw us at Croft Circuit in Darlington, North Yorkshire. We were coming into this weekend only 3 weeks after Brands Hatch with our confidence high, having had our first win of the season. Let’s see what we could do at this new circuit!
Having had a mixed day in testing the day before, it was difficult to know where we would expect to come in qualifying and what lap times the top of the field would be achieving.
Croft Circuit overall is a fast track with a mixture of tight hairpins and fast swooping corners. In order to get the best qualifying time, it was important to get down to the assembly area nice and early to be sure we had a clear track ahead of us. Despite managing this, it was only good enough to get 4th for teammate Beau Parry, 5th for myself and 8th for teammate Nick Le Doyen. Starting on the 3rd row of the grid wasn’t ideal but we knew with a small set up change to the car, we would be able to climb some places and at least start to challenge for a podium finish.
Before lining up on the grid for the race start, we have a 'formation lap' or 'green flag lap'. This gives the drivers a chance to do a lap of the circuit to warm their tyres (hence the funny weaving). In this case, it also allowed us to see that there was oil on the track around the corner named Sunny In. Despite the marshalls’ best efforts to clean it up, it was clear that around this corner, there was little grip on the racing line and we therefore needed to be wary for the first few laps of the race.
The lights go out and away we go. A poor start sees us move backwards one place and we enter the first set of corners in 6th. We get a good tow down the back straight allowing for an easy pass back into 5th going into Tower Bend.
Jim Clarke Esses and Barcroft is a fantastic set of full throttle corners but difficult to pass on so we sit tight and wait until Sunny In. This was where we were supposed to remember there was oil on the track….oops. Luckily, we weren’t carrying enough speed to completely lose control of the car, however we did lose 1 place due to the silly error. This caused us to refocus on the task at hand and we saw an opportunity leading into Complex. A late dive down the inside allowed us to pass not 1 but 3 cars. We were now in 3rd….the race was on!
A few laps later and a momentary lapse of concentration allowed 4th place to dive down the inside of us into Tower Bend, not only did this see us drop a place but it also compromised our exit onto the following straight. Teammate Beau seized the opportunity to pass us. We were yet again in 5th place although not for long. Remember the oil on Sunny In… well it was still there! This time taking the leader as its victim. We were back into 4th and closing in on Beau. A move around the outside of Complex was made and 3rd place was ours. Only 1 lap later saw the next lead driver make the same mistake on the oil into Sunny In. We followed 2nd place down the inside of Sunny Out and now it was a drag race into Complex but on the compromised outside line going in. Providing we held it around the outside, we would then be perfectly positioned to take the place into the next part of Complex. It worked, we were in 2nd. Despite putting 1st place under pressure, it wasn't enough for him to make a mistake thus was the end result. With another race to go, 2nd was a great place to start from whilst still achieving near maximum points.
James Tucker showing his seal of approval
We were on the front row of the grid but not on the preferred line going into the first set of corners. Ideally we needed to get across the track to cover the inside line and prevent anyone making an early move to get past.
With the car already pointing at a slight angle, we made a near perfect start and managed to jump straight into the lead and cover off the inside line. Now for the challenge of not letting the cars behind put us under any additional pressure. We led a fantastic race and despite a momentary overlap midway through the race which allowed 2nd place to sneak his nose past us, we kept the lead from from start to finish to bring home first place.
Not only did we achieve near maximum points this weekend, but these two great results have now put us at the top of the championship leaderboard. The next challenge at Anglesey on 24th June is to stay there.
Race footage below courtesy of the BRSCC with live commentary.