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Blog 9 – Rockingham30/09/12

Rockingham Struggles

Rockingham would be the host to Rounds 15 and 16 of the PCCGB. After a DNF at Knockhill, I could not afford any more non-finishes over the remaining 6 rounds of the championship.

I arrived at the circuit on Tuesday morning to test along with Team Parker and rivals Red Line Racing. The day went well and I found a good balance in the car, matching the times of championship leader Michael Meadows and champion returnee James Sutton.

Fridays mixed weather lead to a difficult day. In the morning session I was very quick on the used tyre run, however several drivers decided to try new slicks, which demoted me down in the timings. Our plan had been to use new slicks in the afternoon session, however persistent rain played havoc with our strategy. With many drivers completing only a handful of laps, the afternoon session was effectively a waste.

Having found a set up when the circuit conditions were poor on Tuesday, it soon became apparent for qualifying that the track had improved dramatically and my car was no longer well suited. This seemed to be the trend throughout the grid with both Team Parker and Red Line Racing cars uncharacteristically down the order as those drivers who did not test on the Tuesday took the top three places. I was left with two 8th placed grid positions and a great deal of work to do in the races.

Sunday morning was again dry as we lined up on the grid for Round 15. Over the opening laps it was apparent that we had not resolved the issues with qualifying and the race was going to be a struggle. I lost out to teammate Richard Plant but gained two places when Daniel Lloyd made contact with James Sutton. With an overall result of 7th place, there was still a great deal of concern, as we did not have the pace to match the leaders.

The rain that was threatening finally arrived in time for Round 16, throwing chaos into the paddock. With very little testing the race would be somewhat of a lottery in terms of track knowledge in wet conditions and car set up. The start immediately produced drama with Lloyd and Merrick eliminated in the poor visibility. Over the first few laps I gained confidence as I began to work out the limitations of the conditions. I passed Al Harthy into the Deane hairpin just a Sutton had passed Gelzinis ahead of me. This allowed me to instantly attack Gelzinis into the following corner and suddenly I had jumped from 7th to 5th in the space of three corners. I set about after Sutton, and three laps later I produced the same move on Sutton to grab fourth position. With five laps to go I set about chasing down Meadows, who was four seconds up the track. Setting the fastest lap of the race in the process I caught him at the final corner. Unfortunately just running out of time.

Upon reflection, our performance in the dry was the worst it has been all year and we were unable to get to the bottom of our problems. I was very pleased with my performance in the wet conditions which managed to rescue what otherwise could have been another disappointing weekend. Having watched Barker take two wins, I have now slipped to third place in the championship, and cannot afford a repeat performance of this weekend in two weeks time.