11th June 2008

Reflection on half a season of Ginetta racing

Team PHAs I sit in PH Towers staring out of the window at the sun rays bouncing off the Thames it gives me time to reflect on the season so far. Secretly when you enter a championship you think that you have a sneaky chance of winning it, getting spotted by a big team, offered a drive for Le Mans, and then move to Monaco. In reality you get halfway through the season and take stock.

Since picking up the car I have struggled to get used to the different driving style needed for Ginetta racing compared to the classic MGs I had raced before. Of the top 10 drivers in the championship everyone except Russel McCarthy and I have raced at least one season in the car.

Despite the similarity of front engines and rear-wheel drive, racing MGs is very much a slow in fast out style of racing, accelerate through the apex and launch down the next straight. With a Ginetta it is more about momentum through the corners, and though in the wet the MG style works well, in the dry the corner speeds of that style leaves me pondering how the quick boys are a second faster. So heading to the half way point it is time to start modifying my driving style and attack the fast corners at Snetterton.

Slipstreaming down the straightNow I have favourite tracks around the UK and it would be fair to say Snetterton isn’t one of them. I have always felt the chicanes either side of the circuit ruin what would be a fast flowing track. Snetterton knows my feelings and decided to reciprocate the love with one of my worst points hauls while racing Ginettas.

Practice and qualifying were combined into a 30 minute session and held in driving rain. As I went out for practice I thought this would be a good chance to qualify in the top spots with my rain style of driving. On lap 3 of practice I locked a front brake going into Riches and had to abort the turn to slow the car in a straight line. Unfortunately the grass decided to get in the way and I slowly slid into the gravel trap. The rear wheels had escaped the trap so a simple select of reverse and my pole-setting could begin again. The gearbox didn't want to play and wouldn't engage reverse, combine that with a marshall giving me a three second count down to find a gear or get out of the car. It was all too much.

The car was towed clear and then after a little persuasion the marshals let me back out, but this only enabled me two flying laps in qualifying and with the other guys already 12 more rain knowledge laps ahead I could only put the car 20th on the grid. It was to be yet another race meeting battling from the back of the grid.

Pesky ChicanesIn race one I got a storming start and managed to climb to 12th place by the end of the first lap, 10th by the second and into 9th by the third. Then on lap four the brake bias wouldn’t move from the front and stopping for each of the chicanes became harder as my braking confidence disappeared. With locking fronts on every hard stop I dropped back to 11th where I stayed for the chequered flag.

Race two didn't see such a good start with spinning cars aplenty - I had only made it to 18th at the end of the first lap. Picking off cars one by one for the next few laps - making use of the slipstreaming down the back straight - I had climbed up to 11th again. On the tenth lap exiting Coram the back end stepped out and caught the grass sending me into a 720 spin. Dizzily I regained the circuit but had dropped back to 12th where I finished.

This poor point tally for the weekend leaves me 8th in the championship at the half way stage. Not where I wanted to be, but out of the 32 drivers that are entered it is certainly at the sharp end. Now if I can only win the remaining races, the championship will be mine, the phone will ring and I can think about Le Mans 2009… oh and a flat overlooking the harbour!

Race 1 Results

1 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB 20:42.233
2 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport + 10.684
3 9 Gary Simms Optimum Motorsport + 14.281
4 46 Andrew Smith Driver + 19.325
5 65 Paul Moden Rob Austin Racing + 21.878
6 21 Richard Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 29.045
7 28 Kieran Vernon Driver + 29.167
8 51 Russel McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport + 29.406
9 35 Tom Jones Jones Motorhomes + 29.931
10 14 Paul Morgan Driver + 35.731
11 74 Peter Dignan Pistonheads + 37.495

Race 2 Results

1 52 Spencer McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport 20:37.261
2 3 Julian Barratt Reflex Racing GB + 0.004
3 65 Paul Moden Rob Austin Racing + 9.409
4 46 Andrew Smith Driver + 9.431
5 4 Paul Marsh Tockwith Motorpsort + 12.011
6 9 Gary Simms Optimum Motorsport + 14.926
7 51 Russel McCarthy McCarthy Motorsport + 24.014
8 14 Paul Morgan Driver + 28.409
9 35 Tom Jones Jones Motorhomes + 29.263
10 20 Edd Straw Speedworks Motorsport + 30.689
11 21 Richard Sykes Speedworks Motorsport + 34.405
12 74 Peter Dignan Pistonheads + 35.060