It was a tough race going into Croft this weekend. I’ve had ongoing problems with the car since my crash at Brands and Croft was the first weekend where I had a properly fixed car to drive. You’d think that that would have given me some confidence but I was more nervous than I’ve ever been going into the weekend.
Friday was the toughest test session I’ve ever had. The track felt horrible! A leaky Marcos leaving a trail of oil online everywhere, pick up like I’ve never seen before and a set up that I found way too stiff for the bumpy surface at Croft left me wanting to go home on the Friday evening. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than get in that car for quali on Saturday morning. I took a deep breath, went out and got it done but qualified last. To my surprise, the track actually felt a lot better on Saturday morning. Chris Dyer a fellow Cayman driver came to chat to me after the session and told me that everyone had struggled on the Friday. If only I’d chatted to them the day before! I genuinely thought that it was just me who was struggling so chatting to a happy Chris who had qualified 4th lifted my mood a bit.
This weekend saw the first time since my first season that James Webley was running me. He’s someone who has been with me from the beginning and someone I gain a huge amount of confidence from. As we sat chatting in the holding paddock before race one, I felt really relaxed, it was exactly what I needed after my stressful start to the season. As I lined up on the start grid, my heartrate was barely elevated as I looked up at the 5 second board. I then had the best start to a race I have ever had! As the lights went out I managed to get the timing on my brake release and throttle application spot on and I made up 6 places by turn one.
No sooner had I settled into the back of class one than the safety car came out. The restart was slightly disorganised to say the least but at least everyone kept it clean. I struggled to keep my speed up through the Esses and lost a few places, only to inherit them back after people crashed out or had to retire due to damage caused in the first lap. I finished 11th which I was happy with considering most people’s cars were wearing a few battle scars as we pulled back up into the paddock. Race two didn’t go as well after a really poor start had me playing catch up from the beginning and I never quite made the ground back up. I finished both races which is what I set out to do and I go into the next round with that confidence banked.
I decided something this weekend: I’m allowed to struggle with racing. This season has been the most challenging thing I have ever voluntarily put myself through and I’ve made out like I’ve taken it all in my stride. I haven’t. I’ve been constantly questioning my ability, my mental strength and whether I’ve wanted to carry on. I give myself a really hard time about all of this too because to me, not coping is failure. Webbers said to me this weekend that I achieve more than the rest of the paddock by just getting out of bed in the morning and whilst I appreciate the sentiment, I cannot accept praise for just getting on with life. I chose motorsport because I want to challenge myself, I want to compete on a level playing field where my injury is irrelevant, and most importantly I want to win. Whilst I can’t accept any compliments that aren’t related to outright performance and results, I can accept that it’s harder for me to achieve this than my able-bodied equivalents. That is not to say it isn’t achievable, but the journey may just be a little longer and a little more arduous. This is not me giving up, far from it, this is just me allowing myself a little more time to get things right. If there’s one thing I’m learning on this journey, it’s that failure is just a stepping stone on the path to success. The more I fall down, the more I learn to get up bigger, better and stronger for the next time. I’m going to be strong at Brands, but more importantly, I’m going to really enjoy it.