The final round of the 2013 Production BMW Championship took place at the fast Castle Coombe circuit, just one week after the Donington Park round. I was still on a high from my 17th and 14th place finishes from Donington Park and was keen to do the same again. If I was able to finish as well as I had at Donington, it gave me a good opportunity to finish in the top 20 of the 2013 championship.
Castle Coombe is a very fast track and one which is really enjoyable to drive. We were once again really lucky with the weather and the sun was shining over the track as I went to the assembly area for qualifying. I felt really good in the car from the off and immediately pushed to set a good time. However coming into the last corner on lap 5 I saw the yellow and slippery surface flags out. I slowed down and could see the oil over the track. A driver in front of me had missed the flag and went into the corner full speed. He span on the oil and I had to be at full alert to miss him. The red flags then meant the session was ended. On the in lap I hadn’t felt like I had done that great a laptime and felt I had more speed in me. So I was quite shocked when the timing sheets were released and I had set the 13th best time during the session. Racing is sometimes quite funny, when you feel like you aren’t going that fast you are and when you are really pushing you go slower! I was really happy to be in 13th, which is my best ever qualifying position but knew I needed to concentrate on getting a good start in my races as the run to the first corner at Castle Coombe is so long.
After being directed to my grid position for race 1 I focused on my start procedure as the rest of the grid lined up behind me. The lights went out to start the race and I got a great initial getaway from the line, pulling alongside the car in front of me. However when I changed from first gear to second I lost a lot of time to other competitors and again when I changed into third. This meant a lot of cars had overtaken me by the time I got to the first corner. At the first chicane I tried to overtake a driver around the outside but he moved over and I had to get off of the accelerator. This lost me another position. Along the next straight I then was slow changing from third to fourth gear and lost another position. At the end of lap one I knew I had a lot of work to do to regain my starting position, but I tried to relax and look for overtaking opportunities on the next lap. I gained a position by following another driver up the inside going into Tower corner. Within half a lap I quickly pulled onto the back of the next driver in front of me but again made a mistake changing from third to fourth gear and then the rear of my car slid out at Tower which lost me a position. I had undone all of my hard work and I was annoyed at myself. It then took me three laps to make up the time I had lost and I was unable to gain any more positions. The chequered flag fell and I was so disappointed with how I had driven in the race. I had an opportunity to finish in my highest ever position and I messed it up all through my own mistakes. The results sheet was released and I had finished in 21st position. In between my races I took some time alone to really think about what I needed to do in race 2.
At the start for race 2 I again got a good getaway from my start position but lost time with my gear changes again. I settled in and made up a position at the start of lap two. I continued to look forward but again lost the rear of my car into tower, losing me a position. I told myself to relax and brake earlier going into tower to stop the mistakes I had been making. A few laps went past as I looked for opportunities to make overtakes and I spotted a chance going into tower. I got a really good exit out of the first chicane and I moved to the inside for the corner making sure to brake in enough time to keep my car facing forwards. I did it and then looked ahead to the next person in front of me. Just over a lap later, as I closed in on the car ahead of me I pushed him wide going into quarry corner and got a good cut back gaining me another position. I knew there wasn’t much time left in the race and quickly closed the gap to the driver in front of me. I again held great speed through the first chicane and moved alongside the driver in front of me going into Tower. I made sure to be up the inside of the corner but was weary about not losing the rear of my car on the way in. I countered a little slide at the apex of the corner but was able to hold the inside line and make the pass. I got through the second chicane and the last corner cleanly and that was the end of the race. I clenched my fist over the line that I had made up the positions that I did during the race. The results came in and I had battled back up to 16th position in the race and set my fastest lap time of the day. I was happy about my race but was still thinking about what could have been if I did a better job in race 1.
Overall Castle Coombe was a great way to end the 2013 championship season for me. I had again proved to myself that I have the speed to run in the top 15 but need to work on my starts and gained more valuable points by finishing 16th in race 2. I did still leave wandering what could have been in race 1 but I need to learn from this and come back better. The 2013 championship has been a really good one for me. I have gained seven points scoring finishes and proved to myself that I am able to run inside the top 15. I have also gained a position just outside the top 20 in the championship. My goal for next year will definitely be top 10 finishes which is realistic for me.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my sponsors for the 2013 season, without you I would not be able to race. First and biggest one goes to my main sponsors Allied Mobility who have been brilliant in supporting me through the season. Next I need to thanks RAW motorsport for always preparing my race car to the high standard they do and City Gate Automation for their continued financial support. Thank you to Steve Baker for hosting my website for the year.