Published on Monday, 13 May 2013 21:19
Written by BSI Editor
Darren at Southport National - Round 2
The second national in the 1/10th calendar was held at Southport, it was one heck of a drive on the Friday, but we arrived safe to an immaculately prepared track and excellent weather. It became apparent that this track was going to reward the more patient racer, as well as being tricky to find a place to pace in a race situation. Once the gazebo was up and nailed down we headed to the hotel on Friday evening for dinner and to relax from the long drive up.
On Saturday morning we returned to the track for the 2WD event and with the weather set to be sunny and dry throughout the day we were all thankful that it wasn’t going to be a contributing factor.
For practice I had made some considered set up changes in my prep, going with 4x54 with 25wt oil to speed up the shock reaction to cope with the small bumps also. I choose to go with Ballistic Buggy Greens for practice as that is what I have run in the past, but it was plain to see that there were many different tyre combinations being used. After P1 I felt as though this was too soft and slow to change direction; so for P2 I increased the pack going to a 4x55 piston that was certainly better but needed to make the car more predictable.
For the 1st round of qualifying I decided to stick with the set up from P2, but to cut the BB green spikes down so the car didn’t move around as much. The car was good in the first round and decided to leave it as is for Q2 and concentrate on my driving and get a solid run in. In Q2 I got the solid run I was after and posted 3rd fastest time in round some 4 seconds behind Neil and Lee who were on the same split. Happy with the car I decided to put on fresh rubber for Q3 and push a little harder; what a difference the new tyres made, the car was a lot more consistent and more traction all round that made the car easier to drive and push resulting in myself, Lee and Neil being within half a second of each other. Sadly I didn’t clinch the TQ for the round, but feeling confident in my car I planned to push even harder in the last round to try and get up the grid as far as possible. Once again in Q4 it turned out to be a re-run of the prior round, this time I missed out on TQ by 0.12 seconds from Lee after an unfortunate incident with a backmarker on the last lap. This lined me up 4th on the grid, which was a little disappointing as the car felt so good in the latter half of qualifying, but things were not over just yet.
For the 1st leg of the A I left the car as per qualifying and put some new boots on and focused on getting away cleanly and chasing the trio in front. Off the line and into the first turn I got tagged from behind that dropped me a few places, and then a small error on lap 4 sent me to the very back of the pack where I would not recover and wound up 10th. A disappointing first leg, but with 2 more there was a glimpse of hope of recovering a decent result. Despite my best intentions, another tangle in the first lap dwindled my chances of a decent finish and I was left fighting for the lower spots which I eventually decided to pull over and watch Neil’s and Lee’s cars to see how they were behaving and if I could learn anything. With the finals essentially over for me I was out to see what I was capable of. Off the line I got a solid start and tucked in behind the lead trio, following them around I held back a little so as not to be a factor in this race as they were fighting for the win, but a small error once more due to backing off ever so slightly sent me down the order and into 8th position where I would remain for the rest of the race.
A disappointing end to the 2wd event for me, car was good and being so close to Neil and Lee in Q3 and 4 really demonstrated the pace myself and the car had.
Returning to the track on the Sunday morning for the 4WD event we were once again presented with excellent weather that lasted the whole day and made a pleasant change to the normal national weekends where it is wet at some point and you have to worry about the ever-changing track conditions. 4WD is very tough with the new crop of 4WD on the market, but I aimed to make the very most out of it, with my main focus of qualifying for the 2014 4WD
For P1 I choose to go out on full spike BB Greens and the car was OK; a little twitchy and very positive meaning that I couldn’t lean on the car for fear of it grip rolling. Going on my prior experience in 2wd with the BB tyre, I decided to trim the spike down for P2. For me this made the car more predictable and easier to push and this is how I would leave the car for Q1.
In Q1 I tried to keep it clean, but a couple of mistake in the middle of the run cost me 6 seconds that would have placed me around 5th in round rather than 13th, demonstrating just how competitive the nationals are. Grip roll was becoming an issue so for Q2 I decided to stiffen the car in roll to try and take some of the grip away accepting the fact the car would be worse through the bumps. With a slight improvement over my 1st round time I was reasonably happy with the car, but upon looking at the lap times noticed that my fastest lap was slower. Having made the car a little more consistent I needed to improve the pace of the car and having seen many opt for the Schumacher Mini Spike with a 2wd tyre stretched over a 4WD rim commenting that they are faster without having to push giving more corner speed and stability. I’d had this in mind since practice and felt now was the time to try it if I was to have a shout of making the final. Sadly it turned out to be the wrong choice for me, I struggled to keep the car on all four wheels and as a result posted my worse time of the day. I reverted back to BB Greens for the final round of qualifying, but with no real improvement lined up 4th for the B final.
As with most finals they are fast and furious, and as I had one chance to get maximum points I would have to be careful in the opening laps to make the most of things. I got a clean start and made a move for the lead early on, being out front I could control the pace of the race; feeling comfortable in the lead I proceeded to push on but a challenge from second left me facing the wrong way and back where I started from which it was too late to recover.
All in all a very tough weekend, but I always expected it to be with this circuit in particular with limited experience here. Moving onwards and upwards, I plan to attend the South East Regional at EPR in order to test for the national at the end of the month, followed by the 8th Euro’s warm up in France where I will begin to prepare for the defence of my European title.