This race report is slightly overdue! However, my plan was to write a doubled-headed race report about Silverstone a few weeks ago coupled with my Brands race report from last weekend about two really good sets of results. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…
Rewind to the 11th August and you would find me in a very happy place. My family were over from California and Edinburgh to watch me race on the Silverstone International Circuit and I was so excited to have their support. I was confident going into testing, I’d raced this circuit only a few weeks before in the CSCC and came third. During testing on the Friday it was forecast rain late morning and as I went out for my first session it started to drizzle. I had only been out for a lap when the session was red-flagged due to someone spinning off down Hanger Straight. As I sat in the pit lane waiting to go back out, it started to rain more. I watched the other cars in my championship head back to the garage to change onto wets as I stayed in the queue with the rest of the cars on treaded tyres and decided to go out on my slicks. The forecast was dry for both races the following day and I knew I had nothing to learn from testing on wets for my race. I wasn’t prepared to wreck a set of wets on a track that needed inters at most (which our championship doesn’t run) and I thought ‘how often do you get to test in these conditions?’. I love these conditions! As I drove out when the track was live again, I began testing out where the grip was. Although it did start raining a bit heavier during the session, there was no standing water and I had generated enough heat in the tyres to be able to still put some decent times down. I couldn’t help but feel slightly smug as the 997 in my championship on wets struggled to get by me for at least a couple of laps, and then really did not get away from me as he passed me through club. Confidence was very high going into the race despite the dry conditions and I decided that the only thing that mattered was to have fun.
Qualifying on Saturday went well. I qualified mid pack and was properly in the mix. I didn’t get a great start but managed to make some progress by the approach to Abbey. Unfortunately, a car had spun off the track at the apex of Abbey and to avoid this car and the cars avoiding him, I had to run completely off the track and was pretty much dead last by Village. By Village on the following lap, I’d regained five places and was on the hunt! My step-mom was watching from the ramp at Club when one of my competitors’ sisters turned to her and said ‘she’s got her tail up!’. I kept my pace up with the car in front and we steadily gained on the car ahead of him. We both passed him within a lap and I kept on the pace of the car in front from a distance.
About 7 laps front the end of the race my brakes started to fade. The pedal became longer and longer and I was having to pull myself out of the seat at Vale to stop. Regardless of fading brakes, knackered tyres and my air conditioning having failed again, I came in really happy. I finished 5th in class, 7th overall and had just achieved my best ever finish in Porsche Club. Unfortunately, race two later that day didn’t yield the same results as race one. My brakes only lasted for five laps before they started to fade. I was leading a gaggle of five Boxsters when I out-braked myself coming onto Hanger Straight and they all sailed past me. Having to manage a brake pedal increasing in length at every corner, I was just happy to see the flag and didn’t really concern myself with where I’d finished (which was pretty close to last). Despite this, I went away really happy and couldn’t wait to race at Brands in the Festival of Porsche a few weeks later.
In the weeks leading up to Brands we decided to put some harder compound pads on the rear brakes of the Cayman to try and stop them from overheating. We did a complete fluid change and everything was new. I wasn’t due to test before the race as I’d only raced there a few weeks before where I’d finished second in a CSCC round. My mechanic Alex told me to take it easy for the first few laps of qualifying to bed in the new discs and pads and then to come in for pressures. I did just that and went straight back out to put some times down. However, I knew pretty soon that there was a problem. The brake pedal became really inconsistent and I struggled to slow down at all into Graham Hill. My confidence dropped and I was pretty much braking over the finish line for the approach to Paddock. As I came into the pits half way through quali, the pedal was so long I almost couldn’t stop where my mechanic was standing! We decided that I’d boiled the fluid and that we would flush it through ahead of the race. I hadn’t put any kind of time down and was dead last. In the back of my mind, I knew I had a bigger problem than boiled fluid.
The race rolled around and I just knew before I’d even started that I wouldn’t finish. The start was a bit of a shambles as the organisers had left the sprint start in the system so instead of the red lights coming on then lights out signifying the start of the race, they put green lights on and left them on! We all went into Paddock not really knowing if we were actually racing or not until we passed the start line again. However, that was going to be the least of my problems! About three laps in, my brakes started to go again. A solid pedal at Druids was followed by a spongy pedal at Graham Hill and any confidence I had in the car or the ability to drive it at all was lost. I pulled into the pit lane and knew my weekend was over.
A disappointing weekend will not affect my love for Brands Indy and I can’t wait to race there again next season. We have one round left at Donington this Sunday with the CSCC and I’ve got all my fingers crossed that my brakes will be sorted by then. These last two races have taught me a lot about confidence and how important it is to focus on the positives in racing. You can have the quickest car on the grid and the best brakes in the paddock but without confidence you will not win that race. My GB Wheelchair Rugby coach once told me to ONLY worry about the things you can control. I can mitigate mechanical failures by having a strong team behind me but I can’t control all aspects of the mechanics of my car, that’s just racing. What I can control is how I think about the situation and the things I choose to focus on. Ahead of Donington, I am remembering my ability to drive on slicks in the wet, my last-to-seventh finish at Silverstone and all the silverware I’ve won this season. Trust me when I say that no one can believe in you more than you can believe in yourself.
I’ll see you all at Donington!