Silverstone Race Report
Last weekend saw my first ever race on treaded tyres in the Cayman in the Classic Sports Car Club series on the Silverstone International Circuit. I love Silverstone, it's my home circuit and is a very special place for me for a number of reasons so I was really happy to be racing here again. The CSCC is a series that runs classes purely on engine capacity and instead of slicks the regulations only allow treaded tyres to be used. My Cayman is set up for the Porsche Club Championship which is run on a power to weight class structure and the regulations dictate that I run at 1350kg (and I'm currently running at 1390kg) with stock engine and brakes allowing little to no modification to the cars at all. I had no idea what to expect from the CSCC championship, how the car would handle on treaded tyres or my ability within the New Millennium Series.
Testing on Friday went really well. I had no expectations whatsoever and it was fairly relaxed. It was just my Cayman, Andrew and me with my trusty V-Box. It was the first time I'd driven on the International Circuit for a long time and I was extremely surprised and pleased to see that Silverstone had allocated each group 4 x 45 minute sessions, enough time for me to learn The Loop and the (opposite to GP) Hanger Straight entry lines well. The first sessions out were fairly slow and I was lapping in the 1.21s and really struggling with the new sensation of the treaded tyres. Andrew and I kept going through the V-Box footage after each session to see where I could improve and it was fairly evident that I wasn't being kind to the tyres at all. Every time I came in to the pits they were well above 30psi and you could see on the video that I was turning in on the brakes into Abbey and Stowe and sliding through Village and Vale. Slicks have made me lazy! But confidence grew throughout the day and with Andrew's help I managed to get down to a 1 minute 18.8 second lap times by the end of the day which I was happy with.
Quali on Sunday morning was busy. With three classes in the New Millennium series, we were also out with the Tin Tops which saw 52 cars out in the session. It was carnage but I was happy to see that everyone was very clean despite often having to run three deep into a corner. I did a few laps then came in for pressures. As we were out at 9am, the tarmac was fairly cool so tyres weren't quite up to temperature so I went out to push and two laps in I found some clear space. I set a 1 minute 18.3 seconds lap time and knew that I wouldn't find any more clear track. That time saw me 4th in class and in front of the other Porsches so we decided to save the tyres and brakes and be happy with that position. It was a forty minute race and I knew if I got a good start I might be able to improve on that position in the race.
Our race was at 3.35pm and it was hot. I spent the hour beforehand listening to music and dipping in and out of the shade alone by my garage getting my head in gear for the race. The New Millennium garages were full so I had camped out with the Puma Cup cars who had loads of space which was helpful as my mechanic Alex helps run the CSCC Puma Cup. I've never felt so relaxed before a race. I just sat out in the sun looking at the blue sky listening to the sound of race cars going round thinking how lucky I was to be doing what I do. When we got the first call, I took my time getting into the car as my air conditioning is still broken and because of my injury, I'm unable to sweat so I didn't want to be in the holding grid for longer than necessary. As we rolled out onto the track for the start of the race, I was so excited to get going, no nerves or sense of 'what am I doing?!' I just soaked up the atmosphere of my first introduction into a new championship.
It was the first time I'd ever done a rolling start and I made up 4 places on my first lap. I quickly got down to around my qualifying time but as I started to defend from the Golf and M3 behind me my tyres started to go off. At 27 degrees and on treaded tyres, not slicks, my excessive weaving and braking on the green flag lap had completely overheated my tyres by lap 5 - rookie error! As soon as the pit window was open, I dived into the pits for my mandatory pit stop and got Alex to reduce my pressures. I then went back out having no idea where I was in the race or where anybody else in my class was either. The tyres were a lot better but I soon began to struggle with grip again and was sliding into Stowe on every lap. About 20 minutes from the end of the race we had a code 60 as a Ginetta was stuck in the gravel at Club which was an opportunity for everyone to cool down their brakes and tyres, this was exactly what I needed to get back on the pace. The race got underway again and not long after I took the chequered flag having absolutely no idea how I'd done or where I'd finished until I came into the pits. As I drove up to where Alex and Andrew were standing, I could see they were jumping around like mad men punching the air. Andrew had his hand stuck out with three fingers pointing up and I knew I'd done it. My first proper podium.
I'm not usually one to compliment myself when it comes to racing, but this podium was in a competitive championship where I was no where near the fastest car, racing in unfamiliar territory on treaded tyres so it's well justified that I back myself on this one. The two cars that finished ahead of me were a Seat Leon TCR car and a modern Lotus Europa weighing more than 350kg less than me and lapping nearly 4 seconds quicker, I couldn't have finished any higher up than 3rd in class. And do you know what? I couldn't have cared less! This is my best result and I am so very proud of myself for having achieved it.
Last season pushed me to beyond what I though I could cope with in this sport but weekends like this make it all worth while and it certainly feels like a case of the lower the lows, the higher the highs. I was at a RedBull event talking on a panel with Shauna Coxsey last month and she said something so incredibly inspiring that I've vowed to try and think more like her. Shauna is a multiple World Champion in her sport and when asked 'what is your biggest achievement?' she answered, 'I've been climbing for over 20 years and my biggest achievement is that I still love my sport'. When she said this, something inside me just clicked. I've fought really hard to compete in a sport that I am so passionate about and I've put in and continue to put in all the hard work for one reason: I love racing cars. Nothing else matters. This result is a direct consequence of remembering why I do what I do. If you're passionate about something, the results will come. From now on the most important thing for me will be to remember that I love racing and to be more Shauna Coxsey. But for now...