James really gets his championship campaign started with a win at Donington!

Thursday 15th May 2014

James was able to enjoy a busy and successful weekend at Donington Park in Nottinghamshire, taking his best results with his first victory and a fourth place, boosting his championship hopes.

Unable to test on Thursday and Friday morning, due to University commitments, James went into the weekend on his back foot. He was left with only the opportunity for Friday afternoon and evening testing before qualifying first thing on Saturday. Despite this setback, and having never seen the track, James was confident of a strong weekend due to the predicted rain.

For qualifying, there were mixed conditions with the track starting wet and drying out quickly. James took advantage of the damp conditions to top the time sheets early on, 1 second a lap faster than his competitors at times. As the track started to dry, James remained at the top of the leaderboard going into the final 3 minutes. With the track drying quickly, it soon became obvious that the pole lap would come down to the person who had a clear lap and was last over the line. Unfortunately, due to a mistake by another driver, James was held up by traffic on his final lap, which meant that he dropped to P9 by the time the chequered flag had come out signalling the end of the session.

Due to the 42 entries for the Supersport round, the qualifying results were split into groups A, B and C. A disqualification put James third in group B, resulting in P6 and P5 starts for the first and second Supersport races.

I was frustrated with the result from qualifying as we had been the top of the timings for the majority of the session. I had shown that I was capable of being quick and this allowed me to maintain confidence ahead of race 1.

With the mixed conditions for James’ first race, the team opted for a wet setup on the car. A strong start saw James progress up to 4th off the start, before dropping back down to 5th by the end of the first lap, as he got to grips with the wet conditions. Showing his supreme pace in the drying conditions, James battled his way up to 2nd before hunting into the leaders 6s gap at over 2 seconds a lap. Upon taking the lead, James was able to build a small gap, but working together, his competitors managed to close the gap. On the penultimate lap, Matt Dyer and Steve B were hot on his heels and managed to force James into a mistake which allowed them both to pass him. Not giving up, James made his way back up into second and then into the lead for the final lap, fending off a last corner lunge from Matt and taking his first win of the championship.

I knew I was capable of winning, so I just kept my head and knuckled down. I was ecstatic with the result, especially still being a novice in car racing.

For round 4 of the championship, the weather proved to be just as unpredictable as the first race of the weekend. A sudden downpour as the cars lined up in park-permé was not ideal for James and his dry setup, but many of the other drivers were in a similar situation. A steady start allowed James to maintain his P5 start as he got to grips with the more challenging conditions. As the battling started, leader Steve Day was able to break away from the pack. Once James had made his way to the front of the pack closely accompanied by teammate Graham Johnson, the pair charged down the leader as the track was quickly drying. An underestimation as to how damp the entry to the old hairpin was saw the pair simultaneously lock their rear wheels sending them off into skids. This allowed the following pack to catch up whilst they recovered. Battling to maintain position, James finish in 4th after being unaware that he was on the final lap.

I was disappointed with 4th after the pace that we showed in the race. The mistake I made at the old hairpin cost us the race win, which is such a shame. Looking back, it was still a strong result and good points for the championship.

The two strong results put James in P4 of the championship with ten rounds remaining. I would like to thank everyone at DPR Motorsport for their hard work this weekend, especially my mechanic, Kieran. I would also like to thank Kieren Clark, of 3KS Management, for his continued guidance.

The pace and race craft demonstrated all weekend puts James in a strong position for rounds 5 & 6 at Zolder in Belgium on the 7th and 8th of July. The distance and limited testing will see James preparing for the weekend, after completing his MEng Computer Science degree, on the iRacing simulation software.

Photo by SnappyRacers.com

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