Well this weekend we started our 2015 UK Toyota Sprint Series with a bang. Class victory and 2nd place overall!
Following a test day at Bedford the car needed some further modification around the oil cooling system as it was getting too hot. Water temperature has been perfect since the addition of an Electronic Water pump last year but getting the engine oil to the correct temps took some further modification so we had to miss the opening round at Snetterton, however with the modifications in place for Rd2 at Blyton the cars temp behaved perfectly!
An addition to this year’s series that I’m excited about is that car owner & developer Peter Foster is also driving after a 6 year break (Pete raced 1 round in 2009) and I think it’s great to have 2 drivers as we can share feedback on both the track and car. So chief mechanic for this meeting was my wife Becky, and she certainly kept us on our toes with checklists & technical checks prior to, and following each run. Thanks Bex!
Both Peter and I started the day cautiously. Despite the track being dry and sun out the air temp was very cool (a good indicator of this was Becky’s 2 hoodies and coat!) and so initial tyre temperatures on track were a little low. The Dunlop Direzza tyres we use are outstanding, however it’s always a balance to get them working in their best temperature window.
We modified the pressures and made some subtle suspension changes through the morning to build tyre temp and also our confidence. The car felt great but we both struggled with picking the correct brake markers and entrance speed to the turns. On the throttle the car responded very well, using its 400+ BHP well but the nature of the bends at Blyton requires correct line up of entry to turns for a good lap time.
Nigel Levinson took an early lead in our class (A1 Pro) with a solid 1.16 lap, which I felt I might be able to get down to, however I knew Nigel would also only be getting faster! Leading into lunch break Pete and I both had increased our times and comfort with pushing the car. Another problem area for us was the start, the car spins the wheels through 1st & 2nd gears so it’s a balancing act of not over-revving the pull-away but also not bogging down – and it can be very frustrating to start a lap with a bad start knowing you are compromised for the rest of the lap! But our times where coming down.
I always write off the run after lunch as we’re out with cold tyres but I was given a re-run due to an issue with the timing system, so I had a chance to get straight back in the car after Pete. I made a hot start to the lap and the car felt great, however going into one of the more technical turns (Bunga Bunga) I made a mistake that ran me wide and I missed a gear, sacrificing a lot of time! However I then managed to take a fast chicane later in the lap in 4th gear, and it had been in 3rd up to that point. My lap time was in a similar ball park to pre-lunch so I knew with no mistakes more time was possible….
In the afternoon the track warmed, we saw it up to 33/34oC in the direct sun and this meant we could further adjust the tyres and suspension as the car now was generating enough tyre temp. Looking at the overall rankings at this stage I was around 7th place and knew I needed to find another 1-1.5 seconds to get near the overall podium. Sadly I also learned that Nigel had blown his turbo so would get no further runs in the afternoon. A real shame as our races are often so close!
At this stage we had two objectives, for me to see if I can drop into the 1.14 bracket and for Pete to push down into his next second bracket. We had two runs left and talked through the circuit. For run 7 I pushed pretty hard and actually changed the gear I was using through the chicane, and this felt a lot better. I went down into the 1.14’s but I was just tenths of a second behind several other cars and so sat in 5th place. Pete also equalled his best lap of the day.
Going into the last run we were both keen to push hard and achieve the lap times we knew we were capable of. I made a good start, and kept with the gear changes from the previous lap but just tried to keep it clean, I pushed harder through the fast chicane than previous laps but still far from perfect – however by the finish I felt it was a good lap. In the TSS we don’t get told the final lap time until the awards ceremony to keep the suspense up so I had to wait. Pete made an amazing start to his lap, perfect gear shifts on the pull away, I think the best I saw all day. The car looked agile through the fast sweeping bends and I was sure Pete had met his lap time target.
It was great to take Class victory but a shame Nigel couldn’t push all PM as we’ve had some great rivalry in the past. I’d hoped I’d done enough to take 3rd place Overall however as we got to this stage in the presentation another driver was in 3rd place so I thought I’d not done enough, however I had! In fact by 00.01 of a second I had beaten Simon Marsh to 2nd place Overall (behind Adrian Smith with an amazing lap time of 1.11 – Adrian is as ever the marker we all need to aspire to!) and the best news was that Peter had knocked over 2 seconds off his lap time in the last lap, target smashed!!! So a really great weekend for us both.
Thanks to Peter for all the work done on the car, it truly is in the zone right now in terms of performance & specification. Becky who kept us on our toes and everything in order, and Mary for the excellent catering!