Double Win at Brands Hatch
Career victory number 272 and 273 were pretty special ones, not only because I’ve had to wait quite a while to make a return to the top step of the podium, but because it was our first ever outright wins in the BARC SE Quaife Cannons Tin Tops outing with the Fusion Racing team at Brands Hatch (30 April).
And it didn’t come easy. We topped the times in qualifying, but the top three were separated by less than two tenths of a second! We had a completely new braking system in place which was untested before qualifying and a new set-up, so it was a pleasing outcome.
Race one was dry but the dark grey clouds could be seen in the distance. We started in pole position from Chris Whiteman (Honda Civic Type R), Rod Birley (Honda Integra), Daniel Fisher (Honda Civic Type R), Peter Osborne (Vauxhall Astra VXR), Daniel Adams (Proton Satria) and Terry Searles (MG ZR190). From the rolling start, we made our get-away only to see the Honda of Whiteman power past and into first going into the first corner (Paddock Hill Bend).
The next four laps saw us defending second position from Birley while trying to stay in touch with Whiteman with the three of us only a second apart at any one time and starting to pull away from Osborne’s Vauxhall in fourth. It was a titanic battle staying with the two Honda’s – Birley using the extra power to ease by on the straight, but our nimble Peugeot out braking to claim second position back. This was the case – swapping places – until Birley’s Integra suffered from a misfire and dropped down the order. This then allowed me to concentrate on trying to find a way past Whiteman.
I made my move going into the Surtees/MacLaren esses. At the time I wasn’t sure if the Honda had a problem because he didn’t really seem to fight for it – how wrong could I be!
Over the remaining six laps it was tough work keeping the Honda at bay. The straight line speed difference can be seen on our on-board camera (click here to view our on-board videos) and at times Whiteman was ahead as we crossed the start/finish line, but as we got to the braking zone, we had the inside line and was able to brake a little later to remain in first place.
Sadly for the watching public the race was cut a lap short because of a stranded car at Druids and luckily for us race stewards declared the race from the lap before from when the race was stopped as when we crossed the line on the final lap the Honda was 0.014 seconds ahead! As it was, because of the declared race from the lap before, we finished one tenth of a second in front. To say it was a close race is an understatement, and to date is the hardest race I’ve competed in. It was great to race with Chris and the Honda and is always nice to be able to trust another driver that they won’t do anything silly and going for gaps that aren’t there – it made for a great race and I look forward to racing Chris this season.
Race two also saw us starting from pole position due to the finishing positions from race one. In the lead up to the race there was a short but heavy rain shower which made tyre choice difficult. We were watching the races before and wondering which tyres and set-up to go for. The track seemed to be drying out, but there was clearly a visible spray being flicked up by the cars and some corners seemed drier than others. We opted for a brave wet set-up – loosening the car up to allow it a bit more flexibility but with dry tyres. Ultimately, it proved to be the correct decision.
As we headed into the first corner, we were side-by-side with Whiteman’s Honda once again, but this time around we kept up and had the inside line, which gave me a clear line heading up the hill and to Druids. Searles in his MG ZR190 had a storming start and up into third behind Whiteman. We had a rather ‘large’ moment going completely sideways mid-way through Druids before heading back down the hill, but managed to keep it together while the others squabbled for places.
This allowed me to concentrate on my own race, and by the end of the third lap, we were seven seconds ahead of Whiteman. For the remainder of the race, I was able to take it easy and manage the gap back to second to pick up our second ever outright win in the BARC SE Quaife Cannons Tin Top Championship and with it, take the lead in the T2 championship and third overall – just ten points behind the leader.
Ultimately, the feeling off crossing the line first and climbing to the top step at my local track was unbelievable. The car, which is prepared by Tom Motorsport, ran flawlessly throughout and I’m truly grateful to have been given the tools to win. We couldn’t have asked for any more as a team.
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