James on Fire at Zolder with two Wins

Wednesday 11th June 2014

The much anticipated BRSCC Eurofest event at Circuit de Zolder in Belgium was the host of James’ most recent racing triumphs in the Caterham Supersport Championship. James battled in the blistering 30 degrees heat to secure two race victories and the Caterham Supersport lap record of 1:49.274.

Every year the Caterham championships visit a European circuit for two of the rounds. This year, the championships visited Circuit de Zolder in Belgium. The nature of the event, and the circuit’s restrictions, meant that drivers had limited testing opportunities with the only available dates being on the Thursday and Friday afternoon prior to the races. To try and give himself a head-start, James did some pre-race preparation using the iRacing simulator and its laser scanned version of the track to familiarise himself with the corners, visual aids, changes in track surface and any bumps.

The preparation using iRacing proved to be beneficial as James immediately went fastest in practice and by the end of the first morning of practice was down to a 1:48.6, which was unbeaten the entire weekend.

Running on the simulator prior to the event was really beneficial as I was able to quickly get up to speed and start working on a race setup. The iRacing scan was so realistic!

After two cloudy days of testing, Saturday brought the sun for qualifying and round 5 of the championship. With the DPR Motorsport drivers lining up at the front of the grid, they were able to work together to put in qualifying lap times utilising the tow effectively. James was able to quickly build up pace to set his pole lap on lap 5. Team-mate Jon Mortimer was able to snatch the pole away from James two laps later by a mere 0.05 seconds. This left James in P2 after qualifying and DPR Motorsport locking out the top 4 places.

The results from qualifying set the grid for the first race. The P2 result put James on the front row of the grid for the first time in cars. A strong start saw James able to maintain second off the line and remains on Jon’s tail. The pair were able to pull out a gap to third as they started their break-away. Using each others speed and slip-stream, the two were able to build a 10 second gap to 3rd. James lead most of the race as Jon was not close enough to make a pass or for James to let him by. A mistake from Jon allowed James to pull a gap to second. The time was short-lived as Jon was able to reduce the gap and get back in James’ slip stream after a yellow flag at the second chicane. James went into the last lap, still in the lead, but with only a fraction of a second separating him and Jon. As they headed down the back straight, into the first chicane, Jon was able to take advantage of the tow to build a greater straight-line speed and overtake on the outside on entry to the chicane. As Jon locked up on the brakes, James was able to maintain his position into the corner and maintain the lead with half a lap before he could cement it with the chequered flag.

With James’ win in race 1, he started on pole position for race 2. A poor get-away saw James drop back to 5th by the first corner, leaving him with much ground to make up. James patiently waited to make his move back up the field as they all battled for position. James made concise moves that saw him move up to third and allowed the front three to break away. A mechanical problem, which caused him to get stuck in 4th gear for half a lap, allowed the two leaders to build a one second gap. Once James was able to change gear, he quickly caught back up to the leading pair, showing his speed and setting the lap record of 1:49.274 in the process.

My heart sunk a little when the car got stuck in 4th and for a few important corners I couldn’t knock it down a gear. I was able to force it back down to third at the second chicance, which freed up the gearbox. I knew this was my opportunity to set the fastest lap, so I just got my head down.

A close race to the end was on the cards as each driver made a move before being re-passed. Heading into the final lap, James was able to assert his position at the front by taking the lead, with Jon close on his heals and Clive Richards just behind. Approaching the back straight, it seemed like there could be a repeat of the first race where Jon made a move for the lead. This time, however, Jon was not able to get past James as they headed into the first chicane, but a slow exit allowed Clive to pass the two as the scampered up the hill. James was able to reduce the gap in the four corners before the hairpin, and a good exit meant he was able to pull alongside Clive going into the final chicane. Despite being on the outside for the tight chicane, James was able to out-brake Clive to make his move for the win on the final corner of the final lap. The slower apex speed allowed Clive to gain a run to the line, which resulted in James taking the win across the line by a few centimetres (0.001 seconds).

Clive was later excluded from P2 after video showed he overtook, unsafely, under a yellow flag. This provided DPR with their first lockout in a Supersport race as James lead Jon, Matt Dyer and Graham Johnson in the 1 to 4 positions.

What a great weekend! I had the upper hand from the first minute we were on track, right until the last. It was really great to take two wins and the lap record in such great conditions. DPR have done a fantastic job this weekend; and the results show it!

James now leads the championship by two points, after drop rounds, and has asserted his pace in all conditions. Rounds 7 & 8 are at Rockingham, Northampton, on the 12th and 13th of July. James is hoping for another strong weekend to extend his championship lead.

Photo by SnappyRacers.com

Professional Motorsport World Expo
Professional Motorsport World Magazine
Attollos Technology
Optimum Motorsport