My first season in the BMW series has come to an end and it wasn’t too bad an ending.
This weekend was the seventh and final round of the BMW race driver series held at Hampton Downs. It threatened to rain all weekend but thankfully held off just long enough for all the races to be dry.
I didn’t do the Friday practice because of Hamptons greedy prices. So come Saturday it was straight into qualifying. I went out and created some clear air for myself before setting about quickly relearning how to go fast around the Hamptons national track. I was getting slightly quicker with each lap and came in happy with my time of 1:24.2.
This put me 17th on a grid of 32 for race 1 Saturday afternoon. I got a decent jump when the lights went out, in probably the shortest light sequence I’ve experienced. Into the first corner was busy as always, I headed down the inside and misjudged my speed a little sliding the back out on the entrance to the corner. Thankfully the driver outside me had left enough room for me to gather it up and we carried on side by side. On just the second lap the race was red flagged. Apparently a car rolled! It was down the pack behind me so I was completely unaware of what had happened until after the race. Thankfully no one was injured so we waited for it to be cleared up then prepared for a safety car restart. Coming around the last corner ready for the restart was bizarre. There was oil or petrol right around the corner leaving it slippery as all hell. The car in front o be skidded way wide as a result, and because no overtaking under safety car I slowed right down to let him recover in front of me. This meant as we headed up the straight and the green flag waved we were miles behind the next car up the road. I was pissed off and more than a little confused when after the race I heard it was the safety car that had dumped the petrol all over the track. But I still had this one car close in front of me and now I was even more motivated to get past him. I was getting slowly closer but the last corner was treacherous trying to carry as much speed as possible over the petrol without just sliding out. The first lap I got it completely wrong and had to slow right down as my tyres were right on the line of petrol. The car in front wasn’t having much luck either, getting well sideways on a couple of occasions. The second lap through I figured out the best line after keeping an eye on cars further up the road and made huge gains through that corner. Suddenly I was right on the back of the car ahead, Aaron in #120. But as I put the pressure on so too was the pressure being applied from behind me. It was a great battle that lasted a number of laps. One particular lap I managed to get right on his date. I put him under the pump right from turn 1, eyeing up chances at every corner, forcing him to take defensive lines. I got a good run out of the hairpin but he headed for the inside heading into the final corner. Getting up beside on the outside I thought to myself ‘bugger it, lets try this’. I braked as late as possible and tried to carry much speed as possibly on the wider outside line. I knew it would put me right were the petrol had be dropped but I was betting on that being gone now that enough cars had passed over it. And man was I happy when I pulled the move off perfectly. I was on the limit of grip looking in the mirror half way round the corner I saw I was clear. I quickly tucked back into the inside to cut off any crazy moves and headed up the straight. When I looked up to see the chequered flag waving I couldn’t have been happier. Looking back there were 3 cars all next to each other jostling for position, but my awesome move on the previous corner was made all the more epic now that I knew it was a last lap overtake. I ended up finishing the race in 13th which was a decent result.
In the second race on Sunday morning I was to start off grid position 17 once again. This is the reverse grid based on lap times with groups of 10 separated by 5 seconds. I could see the potential from this spot knowing that I have done well from here before. But when the flag dropped I got a terrible start. My reactions weren’t bad it just felt like the car bogged down for a second before picking up and going again. By the first corner I had already lost spots. The rest of the lap wasn’t much better. I tried to go around the outside on a couple of occasions but ended up out in the marbles with no grip which was not certainly not a fast line. By the end of the lap I had dropped to the back of my group of 10 and was looking in the mirror at the next group trying to close the gap. I took a second to pause and refocus. That laps behind me now, lets take this chance to get some overtaking done before I get caught. From that point on I was back on the attack, slowly picking off the cars ahead. I got in a good battle with Marc in #23. As I was battling past other cars the faster group from the back started to come through. A few got past but I was super frustrated with a couple of the dives they made. I was tapped twice as fast drivers dove down the inside of an already 2 wide situation making it 3 wide in the corner. People should be able to look ahead and see that only trouble will come from such a move, especially given the outside car is unlikely to see that it has become 3 wide thanks to a late move. Thankfully there was no major damage to my car but that wasn’t the case for everyone in the race. On the last lap there was a major incident up ahead of me at turn 4. Cars were desperately diving in all directions to try and get around the mess of a spin. I headed for the outside but had to go way further off into the grass than I expected and still ended up running over a bumper that had been torn from another car. I was glad to escape it but as I rounded the final two corners it was evident a lot of cars weren’t so lucky. Down the straight before the sweeper there was a car up ahead limping home, and with the green flags waving in this section there was a car behind looking to put a last corner move on me. I put my faith in the injured car staying out of the way and headed for the inside as the car behind looked to the outside to try find a way around me. Thankfully the limping car did the right thing and stayed out of the way which meant my plan worked perfectly as the car behind had to tuck back behind me and I held the position to the line. I ended up finishing 11th.
The grid positions for the third and final race on Sunday afternoon are based on points from the previous two races so it tends to be tidier than the reverse grid. I started from 13th. At the start I again struggle with the car seemingly bogging down when I needed the power the most. The first couple of laps was close action as always but after that it settled down. I ended up having a reasonable gap behind me with two cars ahead that I was slightly faster than. I was pushing to the max trying to find a way through, applying the pressure lap after lap. I had a few close chances but wasn’t able to make anything stick. During this race I also had a scare with the oil pressure gauge. Occasionally it would just drop to zero but then go back up to normal. We had been monitoring a very small tear in an oil hose so I was nervous my day might end with a DNF. But I carried on and everything seemed to work as normal so I have no idea what was happening (fault gauge maybe?). I ended up finishing 13th setting my fastest lap of the weekend in the process, a 1:23.8, not a bad end to the season at all.