James takes the lap record and two podiums at Brands Hatch

Wednesday 20th August 2014

Brands Hatch always proves for close racing in any category, and with the Caterham Supersport Championship being highly competitive this season, it was no surprise to see close battling throughout the field.

Restricted to testing on Friday only, James was on the back foot to some of his competitors on Saturday morning for qualifying. Working well with teammate Graham Johnson, James was able to gain a good tow, putting him up to P2 in the standings before trying to return the favour for his teammate. With the tow being a big factor for a quick time around Brands, James was unable to better the time set in the early laps; whilst some of his competitors were able to find a good tow, pushing James down to P3, 0.2s of pole position. The entire 33 car field was separated by only 1.5 seconds.

The grouping for the first two races put James in the first race in P2 as he finished in an odd position. This meant, by definition, he was in the stronger of the two races as the second race was made up of the even positions. James put in his best start of the season, and was able to get the jump at the start taking the lead. Working to try and break away, James headed championship rival Jon Mortimer for the first few laps. The short lap of Brands Hatch Indy made it difficult to pull away from their competitors, and soon it became a six way tussle for the lead. After trading places for first and second, a wild move into Druids, by an opponent in third place, forced James to take avoiding action and saw him drop from the lead to being in the clasps of fourth place; Adam White. After dropping back down the order, James battled his way back up to second, with strong overtakes in tricky places. As he was about to make a move for the lead, James’ progress was hampered when they came across a back marker through the final corner. Trying to maintain momentum, James made a move around the outside of the back marker. As the back marker moved out to the edge of the track, it was clear he was unaware of James’ position, forcing him to back out of the move dropping him down to fifth. After fighting his way back up, James concluded his race in P3.

Saturday’s race was really challenging. Despite being quick, it was difficult to break away. The ambitious overtake into Druids by the third place man was very frustrating, as I was in a good position. Still, finishing P3 is a solid result for the championship, and it’s good to be on the podium at such a prestigious venue!

Similar to the first set of races, the third and fourth races were based on the finishing position from the first race. As James finished third, he was part of the odd group so would race in race 3 against the odd finishers from race 2. Starting from P3, James was boxed in into the first corner, but as as he was on the inside to Druids (turn2), he was able to hold his third position. The top 3 were able to build a gap to the rest of the field which gave James the opportunity to sit back, conserve tyres and engine temperature, and try to gain fastest lap after briefly being in the lead. An incident further down the field brought out the safety car which bunched the drivers together. A strong restart allowed James and the two drivers ahead to build a small gap to those behind. However, as James made another move for the lead, his clutch pedal failed at Paddock bend. As James tried to pull from 5th gear to 4th gear, he pulled 2nd instead - not ideal for a 90mph corner! This locked the rear of the car and sent him into the gravel. Using the revs, James was able to drive out of the gravel in 14th place. With a lot of ground to make up, James was a man on a mission as he passed his competitors lap after lap, unflustered by the incident. As he quickly moved back up the order, taking multiple fastest laps, and consequently the lap record, James reached the back of the top three on the final lap. Going down the back straight into Surtees, James was already planning the move he would make on 3rd place into the last corner. Keeping it tight through Surtees, he was able to dive up the inside of third place man on the last corner of the last lap to claim the last step on the podium.

It was a tough weekend from a championship perspective; despite the two third places and two points for fastest laps in both races. Part of this was down to the poor co-ordination of race structure, which meant the second and fourth races were much less contested at the front, but also a couple of technical problems with the car which made driving more difficult. However, I am chuffed to get my name to a second lap record and think DPR Motorsport did a great job with setup and trying to fix the problems with the car.

Despite the two podiums and points for fastest laps, James is now two points off the lead of the championship (after dropped rounds) with four rounds remaining. Rounds 11 and 12 of the championship take place at Croft, North Yorkshire on the 4th & 5th of September. You can follow James’ progress this season on his website or via @j_d_robinson on Twitter.

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