In complete contrast to the last outing for the Lordes Porsche Carrera Cup Team, we headed north to a cold, damp little circuit nestled in the Fife countryside. Whereas the Snetterton weekend had been in the mid-thirties Celsius temperatures, on landing into Edinburgh, we were informed the temperature was just 12C!Testing – Friday 25th August
Given this was my first ever race around Knockhill, the official Porsche test on the prior Wednesday had afforded my competition a day of circuit familiarity, plus most of them had raced the circuit in 2017. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I was determined to gain the lost ground quickly.
Within 10 laps or so, team manager “Jelly” told me I was already in the mix posting 52 second laps. Our target was to break under the 50s barrier. On such a short circuit it’s not always easy to find two whole seconds, but I knew there was plenty of time yet to come; I had only done 10 laps! After the session ended I was keen to review the data to see where we could go quicker. My lack of circuit expeience showed, there was another 20-30 metres into the braking zone, which at 140mph is about the blink of an eye. To see an in-car lap from Knockhill please click here.
A lot of data studying and a few tips from Jonesy the driver coach we headed out on circuit full of determination. I knew that being a narrow circuit with the prospect of rain, passing would be risky, almost impossible, so a good qualifying position would be critical. It was a busy session, with several cars spinning off resulting in numerous red flags. Given we hadn’t made the official Wednesday test, getting laps in was essential. My quickest lap was set on lap 10 on my first set of tyres, but I was still learning the track, leaping forwards by tenths of a second every few laps, so had high hopes for my second tyre set.
Whereas in the first half of qualifying I had the benefit of an open track, the second session on my second set of tyres was very busy. For several laps I was held up by a slower car, with little or no opportunity to pass – the driver clearly not able to see the blue flags (faster car approaching, allow to pass).
Knockhill is one of those psychological circuits where you always think you could have gone faster, which invariably pushes you to do exactly that – go faster. From the Friday test to the Saturday qualifying session, we shaved 2 seconds off the time. Another 2 would have me on the front row with the Pros.
Given this was my first qualifying session at Knockhill, in the most competitive 1 make championship in the UK, with only a single test session, I was glad not to have been on the back row for race 1.
Wow – When it rains at Knockhill, it really rains. We arrived at a misty, cold soggy circuit ready for our first of two races. You would think we were in November, not August. The team overnight had made some changes to the car affording me the best chance of success on my 3rd and final set of allocated wet tyres. Adjusting the camber, toes and anti-roll bar settings would make the car as compliant and useable as possible in these astonishingly wet conditions. In over 25 years I’ve been competing in motorsport, without doubt, this was the wettest. Getting off the line without spinning the 500bhp Porsche’s rear wheels was going to be tricky.
Knockhill is only 1.2 miles long, so to get heat into the tyres the field was given two laps to warm the tyres – known as “green flag” laps. It is after that, we line up in preparation for racing. I was thinking hard, strategically how I would launch the Lordes Porsche forward into third off the line. I knew if I could just get into third, it would be almost impossible to be passed securing my podium. Obviously, I had my eye on first, but to launch the car successfully forward in the wet to gain three places would be quite a task.
My goal as ever is to win – why else turn up?
But given we were slightly on the back foot, I wanted a podium at the very least. The spray from the cars in front had the equivalent visibility of thick fog. Wow, what a buzz, I was doing 140mph in the rain and I couldn’t see a thing! I only knew to brake into the high-speed turns 1 and 9 as I got too close to the rear of Jennings’s car and saw the red brake lights were on. I just prayed 5th placed Robertson could see the same, or it was going to be one hell of a pile-up.
When flying around a circuit in triple digit speeds just a few centimetres from the guy in front (or behind) it takes a bit of trust and faith in each other to not make a mistake. I was amused how ineffective a thin rubber blade furiously sweeping left/right was at keeping visibility. Such an old fashioned, but unrivalled system. It was without doubt fighting a losing battle against the inclement Scottish weather. It had to deal with massive water droplets, plus the dense spray. As the race continued, I was quicker than 3rd placed Jennings so parked myself a few millimetres from his rear bumper and followed him round. I was hoping to force him into a mistake meaning I could just nip… past into 3rd. Problem is the minute you drove off the grippy racing line to make a pass, the car felt like it was going to fly off the circuit uncontrollably. A pass attempt was just too risky, I didn’t want to result in a DNF (did not finish) so assessing the risks I opted to stick to plan 1, to force a mistake. Unfortunately, Jennings who won the AM Championship in 2017, drove an honest race making his car as wide as possible at all ‘two’ of the available passing points on the circuit. As the chequered flag fell I had to settle with a 4th, but way better than the 4 or 5 cars that had gone off with huge damage.
Our second race for the Lordes Carrera Cup team [shown live on ITV4] on the wet Sunday afternoon was to be started in single file behind the Safety Car (SC) owing to a spate of large accidents in the Touring car and Ginetta races earlier. Problem was, the Clerk of the Course didn’t tell us how many SC laps there would be. As we completed the first SC lap, it appeared everyone assumed the race had begun, so were already at racing speed. Not wanting to be caught napping at the wheel, I too put the pedal to the metal in full race mode believing we were racing.
Then I saw it… cars darting all over the place, left, right and a sea of red brake lights. Turns out the lights on the SC were still illuminated, and he hadn’t peeled off. But as drivers, we didn’t know how many SC laps there would be, so after the next lap the same thing happened again. Most of us were using the time to weave and brake hard to get as much heat into the tyre surface as possible; but with so much standing water it was very hard to achieve.
It was broadcast over the radio from the Clerk of the Course this lap 4 would be the last behind the SC. As with motorsport rules, laps behind a safety car are counted as race laps so we had the remaining 28 left to race. As the safety car pulled in adrenaline was high in all 23 drivers, eager to get racing.
And we were off, the spray was just as bad as in race 1 with visibility about as far as the end of the Lordes Porsche’s bonnet. Again, I was faster than 3rd placed man Jennings, but I couldn’t find a way past. Several times I tried moving off line to make a pass into braking zones, into acceleration zones, but I just couldn’t get the traction down. Grip was good on the drier racing line which lead to a false sense of confidence off line.
5th placed man Roberston thought he would take a lunge at me into the Taylors hairpin. I saw him coming in my OS mirror – he was travelling way too fast to make the hairpin in these conditions. I could tell as I was on the braking limit. I moved left slightly to allow enough room to let happen what was happening. He shot down the inside with all four wheels locked – that’s not something you see every day I thought - being overtaken by a car with locked wheels – then proceeded through 5 or 6 rotations across the gravel straight into the barrier. A second earlier I would have been turning right into Taylors hairpin and he would have T-boned me. Phew!
In the closing stages of race 2 I was still in fourth staring at the back of Jennings’s car. I could just about see my board being held over the pit wall signalling 1 remaining lap. This was it, I had to go for it or it would be another 4th place (all good points of course) and no podium. I had identified a small weakness in my fellow competitor’s entry to Clarke, a fast-right hander, so I decided to lunge up the inside for a pass. Adjustments SlideSports Engineers and I discussed had given me huge rear grip which I wanted out of the corners but to the detriment of the front tyres – they were overheating and over pressurized which means optimal grip had gone. Still I took the risk, I bet on being able to get the car stopped. I moved out of the spray onto the wetter line up alongside Jennings. Even though I was on the brakes, I didn’t have the feeling I was slowing down. My gamble had failed, there was little or no grip off line, I was understeering straight for the grass, I went down another gear which gave the rear some braking enough to turn the car in and avoid the gravel trap, but I was on the grass more than Bob Marley; it may as well have been ice. I spun a whole 360 degrees. Angry with myself for taking a stupid risk I engaged first and pulled away but had let Kyle-Henney through into 4th. So I started race 1 in 5th and came 4th I started race 2 in 4th and came 5th at my first weekend at Knockhill Circuit. Time to head south for some sunshine.
|1||Peter Mangion||100 points|
|2||Peter Kyle-Henney||90 points|
|3||Iain Dockerill||63 points|
|4||Richard Hawken||49 points|
|5||Shamus Jennings||48 points|
|6||Gary Eastwood||34 points|
|7||David Fairbrother||20 points|
|8||Fraser Robertson||15 points|
|9||Dan Kirby||12 points|
|10||Steve Gales||11 points|
|11||David Shaw||10 points|
For our next race, we head back down south to Silverstone’s National Circuit on 15th/16th September. If you’d like to spend the race day with the Lordes Porsche Carrera Cup Team for this or any of our forthcoming races, please let us know.
|14th – 16th||September, Silverstone|
|28th – 30th||September, Brands Hatch GP Season Finale|
NEW We are competing in the Premier UAE Gulf Sportscar Championship over the winter between November and March in our 2018 Carrera Cup Car. We have various sponsor packages and drives available currently, so please get in touch here if you’d like to learn more about it.
See you at Silverstone.
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