Prior to the race weekend, I had never been to Donington Park before, which meant I had to spend a test session learning the track and improving my lines while still getting used to how the car behaved in the corners around the track while all other drivers could focus on getting faster straight away.
There were two 40 minute test sessions on the Thursday. It took me just one session to get up to speed and by the end of the second session, I managed to set the 4th fastest out of 6 drivers in the scholarship class and just 0.2s of the next driver. What makes that more impressive was the fact that I managed to do that while still learning the car and the track and driving on a set of old tyres (most drivers switched over to new tyres for the second test session). I also set my fastest time on the very last lap of the 2nd session having taken 0.4s off my previous lap time which showed that I could have gone even faster if there was more time! On to qualifying…
There was a 20 minute qualifying session on Saturday morning. The 2 quickest lap times were recorded which determine the grid positions for Races 1 & 3. About 3 laps into qualifying, my car developed electrical issues which kept making my engine cut off at the final chicane whenever I attempted a flying lap. This meant I was unable to complete a fast lap but I still managed to qualify ahead of 2 cars.
Race 1 was my best race of the weekend, I started and finished 11th (5th in class). I had a really bad start which dropped me to dead last but I managed to recover the 2 places I had lost at the start during the race. I had one or two moments in the race where I almost went off the track but still managed to hold it together. There was even a 2 lap safety car period during the race and in the end I was just behind the car in front and catching him when the chequered flag came down.
Race 2 was very wet and slippery after a heavy downpour on Sunday morning. I had never driven or raced this car in the wet before so my only objective was to take it easy and bring the car home so I could have a baseline to work from in the afternoon. I didn’t push the car to anywhere near it’s limits because I simply didn’t know how it handled or how much grip it had in the wet so it definitely wasn’t the time to be taking any risks. I started 11th and finished 12th. I lost 2 places due to a bad start but quickly regained one place on the exit of the final corner and held that position till the end of the race.
Race 3 was definitely the most action packed race of the weekend but unfortunately my race ended after the first few corners as I was one of four drivers who didn’t finish the race. After a better start, I still dropped 2 places but managed to hang on to the back of the car in front. I was going much quicker at the time so I decided to get past as soon as possible so I could stay with the rest of the field. I swept from the outside to the inside of the driver in front and went for the overtake down the inside, but he probably didn’t realise I was there because he turned in on me which damaged one of the steering rods and forced me to retire.
This was a very memorable weekend for me, my first ever weekend in competitive car racing at this level which turned out to be hugely successful. I managed to meet and surpass all the objectives I set before the weekend. Can't wait for the next one!