Something extraordinary happened before the qualifiers for the Silverstone GP. I asked Mike to perform one more check on the dampeners and he found them out and uneven. In a race, this sort of mishap can easily materialise into an accident or a spin due to loss of control. I left the car in SVG Motor Sport’s workshop in perfect condition and, at least from this end, it looks like someone fiddled with it. Did this really happen? Does someone want to hurt me? Distressed and worried, I relied on my experience to pull myself together. What do I do when I need information? The Deming cycle(*) came to mind, but with such little time before the race, there was no time to act!
My mind was already on overdrive! I tried to walk it off, work through my emotions and cleared my head for a while.
Generally, it was a nice day for qualifiers and my performance didn’t suffer as much as had I expected. I actually finished 8th. Now, I was making plans to break into the top 5 and show some of those guys my rear bumper. But Mother Nature didn’t follow through. Right before the race, during the green flag lap(*), it literally started pouring.
I trained on dry track, following my line to the dot, and instead of pushing through the competition, I was faced with entirely new conditions. I had to rethink my whole strategy. The big boys upfront know what to do, for me its another first.
I focused as much as possible on getting a feel of the grip, continuously testing to determine where it’s best to be, but I just couldn’t get into my comfort zone. My start was horrible yet again. Tamsin was trying to overtake me while I was dancing in front of her. Normally, I would have picked up the pace and given her a run for her money, but then I was just focused on getting some grip. And just when you think it can’t get worse, it does – the windscreen heater stopped working right at the start. I didn’t recall anyone telling me the windscreen heater had a 10 minute kill switch. Faced with no visibility, a 20 minute race under these conditions is a lifetime on track.
I decided to sacrifice power for visibility and safety, so I turned on the A/C. Guess what? That wasn’t working either. At that point, Ginetta technology was on the receiving end of my anger. The race became a hectic struggle between maintaining traction and trying to gain any sort of decent visibility. The furthest I could see through the windscreen was… the wipers frantically going left-right.
I resolved not to give up. In a desperate attempt, I opened my side window hoping to see something. Not a chance, race cars weren’t meant to be driven looking out the side window. I got into a spin, but my reflexes helped me avoid the gravel. For a while, I was even going backwards and, to my surprise, I was quite good at manoeuvring the car. A couple drivers passed me and I dropped down a few spots. I turned around, pushed the car as much as I could and, before I knew it, I was contending with them for my rightful place. Then, another 360 spin – maybe, at least, the spectators had a blast.
Overall, I kept watching through the side-window, hoping to see the apex(*) of every corner and adjust my trajectory, I kept praying not to lose grip in fast angles and I even locked the wheels a few times at high speeds because I was pushing the car too much. In the first lap, I was constantly overdriving, frustrated with the lost spots at the start of the race. I found my comfort zone in the second lap, but I was still overdriving. This time, I was hoping to catch up. My speed would have put me in an acceptable 7th spot, yet the mishaps made it so that I finished 14th.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to be alive after everything that happened. The second round of the Silverstone GP was cancelled due to an unexpected torrential rain flooding the track. The timing couldn’t have been better, as I was adamant to go on dry settings!
Also, thank you for your advice, Mike.
As it turns out, there’s a big price to pay when I don’t listen to you, but it was a heck of a day!
I cherish my family’s support every step of the way – thank you my girls!
As it stand I now rank 10th after 3 races. Still as determined as always…
And as always, I invite you to take some time and think about the children who can benefit from the SOS Children’s Villages foundation. Let’s all pitch in and make things better for them!
Thank you Jacob Ebrey for the photography.
(*) Control circle: better known as PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the Deming circle/cycle/wheel, Shewhart cycle, control circle/cycle, or plan–do–study–act (PDSA).
(*) Green flag lap: awareness lap run prior to the race, at pace of about 50-60mph to allow one viewing of the track conditions prior to racing.
(*) Apex: The apex or clipping point is the innermost point of the line taken through a curve. The apex is often, but not always, the geometric center of the turn. Hitting the apex allows the vehicle to take the straightest line and maintain the highest speed through that specific corner. It is often near the tightest part of a corner.