Mixed fortunes in mixed conditions at Rockingham

Sunday 20th July 2014

James headed to Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire for rounds 7 & 8 of the Caterham Supersport Championship last weekend. Following gearbox issues at Zolder, testing involved running in the refurbished gearbox and other components on the car. Having never raced at the track before, James showed his progression in the understanding of the car by setting quick times in practice.

With inconsistent weather forecasts, it was difficult to predict the conditions for qualifying and the races. As The Caterham Supersport were the first out for qualifying, a green track was expected, but early runs showed that the track was at a good pace. The six DPR Motorsport cars headed out first; the aim to replicate qualifying at Zolder. James led the pack out for qualifying and quickly, competitive lap times were achieved using James’ slip stream. Unfortunately, James was unable to replicate the advantage he had given his teammate due to traffic, settling for P3.

With a better start than previous races, James was able to maintain P3 to the first corner. Pole sitter, and last years vice-champion, Mike Hart was able to build a gap as James and the other drivers tried to get into position. James worked his way through to second place and began to chase down the leader. A slight mistake into turn 1 allowed his teammate, Matt Dyer, to close the gap. In a mode to catch Mike, James gave Matt the corner into turn 1 on the next lap. An incident further down the field brought out the safety car, leaving him third for the re-start. A slow getaway by second place, allowed Mike to help build his gap back up meaning James still had a lot of work in hand to take the victory.

On the next lap, James made his way up into second and began reeling in the leader. On the third lap in green conditions, James was hot on the rear bumper of the leader and ready to start challenging for the lead. After increasing the gap to the cars behind, James made his move for the lead and made it stick. He then built a gap over the last two laps to maintain his 0.7 second gap across the line.

I was actually a little surprised at the pace we had in the race despite strong pace in testing. I was able to be more consistent than my competitors which allowed me to close and build gaps - something necessary to take the win!

Starting on pole for the second race, James was confident to carry his dry and wet pace from Friday into Sunday’s race. Much like the earlier races in the season, a sudden downpour in the holding area meant for a tough decision on car setup. With James and his DPR Motorsport team confident that the rain would be only brief they stuck with a dry setup and set of tyres. Unfortunately, this was not the case, as the rain continued in varying intensity causing a layer of water to sit on top of the saturated American-style tarmac. With a lack of traction on his low treaded tyres, James dropped to second and then third by the end of the long run down to the first corner.

As the conditions deteriorated, and the track got wetter, James tried to hang onto the first two, but was unable to match their pace on higher treaded tyres. This left James vulnerable to the drivers who started further down the grid with full wet setups. Having lost touch with the leaders, the race became a race of damage limitation with the focus on not losing time by venturing off track or making mistakes. Despite putting in consistent times, he was caught by the chasing group and dropped down to 6th in the closing laps of the race.

After a misjudgement in the upcoming weather conditions, the race was about making the best out of a bad situation. It was unfortunate, as I was in good form to take my fourth win in a row. However, I was able to beat my nearest championship competitor, which was important.

James is 3 points clear in the championship standing after dropped scores, putting him in a strong position as they head to Brands Hatch for rounds 9 & 10 on the 2nd and 3rd of August. You can stay up-to-date with James’ latest progress on Twitter and here on his website.

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