I love the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. My first ever race, my first ever top ten finish and now my first big crash. Despite everything that happened on that test day two weeks ago and dealing with the subsequent fallout, it was still one of my best days to date in my short motorsport career. My instructor Brad and I had made some real progress with my confidence in the build up to this race weekend and I felt really excited about the start of the season. The day started really well and we had a clear plan: to build up confidence and speed during the first three sessions with Brad’s instruction and then in the fourth session we were to put on new slicks and I’d see what I could really do with the car. We started steadily but by the time the third session came along I was already down into the high 53s. The tyres were pretty much down to canvas so the prospect of new slicks was exciting! After a few laps out on the new slicks I came in to bring the tyre pressures down and drop Brad off in the pit lane. I needed to prove to myself that I could set these times by myself without instruction. After a scrappy first lap out on my own I crossed the finish line with a 53.6 on the clock, a tenth quicker than I’d been with Brad, and immediately thought ‘right, time to tidy up these lines and chip away at the times.’
Unfortunately mere seconds after I had set that time my wheel bearing collapsed causing ABS failure. Braking hard at the end of the straight at 125mph without knowing about this failure would only end one way, a massive lock up and a big crash. I hit the wall hard and it hurt. Once I’d been towed back to the pits the medics took me to casualty to check I hadn’t injured my neck and give me the once over. My first big crash, my first having to go home from a race weekend having done no racing and my first realisation that I wasn’t invincible.
The last two weeks have been tough. Surprisingly, getting the car fixed has been the easy part but fixing me has been slightly more difficult. My shoulder has sustained some soft tissue damage that’s been pretty painful and hasn’t allowed me to sleep much. I use my arms and shoulders for everything I do so resting it is pretty impossible. I woke up on Monday morning and had to make a decision to pull out of my race this weekend. I’m very disappointed but know that this was the right decision, anyone who races will tell you that you have to be physically fit to race and competing whilst nursing an injury just doesn’t make sporting sense.
I’ve been trying to take the positives out of what happened at Brands and after speaking to my American mind coach friend (thanks Erik!) I have realised that events are not positive or negative, it’s the emotions that we assign to them that define them either way. So, I will take my positive test day at Brands through to my race at Silverstone. My times were quick, my car is now in the hands of a very capable team and I have joined the long list of racing drivers who have crashed, cried at the cost of the damage and come back stronger. I’ll see you all at Silverstone on the 17th June!