Race One – I forgot to say…

I forgot to tell you where I finished in race one. I’ve added the following paragraph to the post, but to save you finding it…

There was no way of telling where I finished, except by counting the cars in front of me when we went back to the pits. Although unlikely, it is possible that some of the cars in front of me could have been lapped by the leaders, but not me (maybe after a spin and recovery by the marshalls). Ignoring that possibility, I finished 9th, losing 5 places.

Race One

I had been allocated car 4 and grid position 4 for the first race. For the second race, the allocation would be reversed so that the person in car 1 would be in car 24 and last on the grid for the second race. I would therefore start 20th in the second race.

I’ve only raced in corporate events before; the sort of thing where your company arranges karting for a moral boost or a thank-you. My starts have been quite good in these events and I was hoping to make up a place or two.

Sitting in the grid in P4 on the left of the grid, waiting for the starting flag, I looked around to see what others intended. The driver in P5 had has wheels turned left aiming for the gap between me and P3. “I’m not having any of that” I thought, and made the decision to cover. The flag went down and off we went. I had covered my position but P3 went for the same bit of track, so I couldn’t get past.

Exactly what happened, I can’t remember. Imagine 24 cars all trying to get round a very fast corner. The picture above shows the exit of turn 1 and entrance of turn 2.

As the race progressed, I made a few passes, but was passed by more cars than I passed. It could be that the kart was slower, or maybe I was not as good, but I know my practice lap times were better than my race times. There were a couple of corners where I was nudged from behind which put me off line, resulting in three cars passing me. But that’s racing, I suppose.

There was no way of telling where I finished, except by counting the cars in front of me when we went back to the pits. Although unlikely, it is possible that some of the cars in front of me could have been lapped by the leaders, but not me (maybe after a spin and recovery by the marshalls). Ignoring that possibility, I finished 9th, losing 5 places.

This was the low point of the day for me. Knowing that with a clear track ahead of me I could put in some good times, but not being able to get ahead in the first corner was a disappointment. Luckily, I had lots of time between races to get my head together. There would be seven races going on and a 30 minute break for the TV crew and judges before I would go out again.

I’m going away tomorrow, so I’ll post more next week including: The rain comes down, a car on fire, race two, and the long wait for the judge’s verdict.

My TV Interview

While waiting for my first race, the TV presenter asked if he could interview me and a chap I was chatting to. He sat between us and interviewed me first. I hope it doesn’t get aired!

I think it went ok except for a comment I made that “I’m going to win today”. It’s the sort of thing that someone who had never been interviewed would say. I hadn’t been interviewed before, but that’s not the point! The rest of the interview went well. He asked why I thought I had a good chance and I explained that my previous practice times were good compared to the practice times I’d seen that day.

We had been told in an earlier letter that we could be asked for an interview. I had been a bit worried about it thinking I would be nervous, but when it happened I wasn’t nervous at all. If they could edit out my comment about winning, I’ll be very pleased with it. I hope I’ll feel the same if I see it in the programme.

Practice Session

After passing a few cars early on who were finding their lines, I drove up to the back of four drivers fighting for position, often two or three cars abreast. After about a lap I saw a passing opportunity as one driver was slow in turn 7. I got half way alongside him approaching turn 8 but he turned in on me, I braked and spun.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a bad thing because by the time I recovered I had some clear track ahead of me. My times were better over the next lap or two until I caught them again. The timing screen over the pit straight shows the 6 drivers in the lead and their previous lap time. My best lap time was second fastest overall, I think.

I’m through to the next round!

I’m pleased to report that I am now through to Round 4. It was a long day with highs, a low, and a long nervous wait. Oh, there was some racing too. We had: Dry racing, Wet racing, Spins, Crashes, Interviews with the TV crew, and a car on fire.

I arrived first at the circuit, just before 7am. At about 8:30 the promoter Tim Matthews explained the format for the day.

We would be split into groups of about 24 drivers, groups A to H. Group A would go out for timed practice, then group B, and so on. After practice, each group would have two races. The judges would watch all sessions and make notes. 60 of the nearly 200 drivers would go through based on the their position at the end of the races, and a further 15 drivers would go through based on other criteria; perhaps they hadn’t done so well in the race, but showed potential in some other way.

You can see a track guide at the Rye House website.

More to follow soon…

My first sponsor!

Today I confirmed my first sponsor! The excellent folks at IK Software have agreed to host my blog and do some design work to replace the template design. Thanks IK!

Part of the judges decision each round will be how well they think the competitor can do in the business side of things. Often, it’s not the best driver who gets the contract, but the one who can bring the most money to the team, as has been seen in F1. Sponsorship is almost as important as talent. On the business side, I’m a Partner in a small Financial Services Firm so I’ve got some experience there.

If you’re interested in sponsoring me, or you know someone who might be interested, please let me know. A big-money sponsor would be nice, of course, but I’m happy to talk to anyone who might be able to contribute financially at any level, or ‘in kind’ such as equipment or racewear manufacturers or suppliers.

The next update will be after round three on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Round Three – Practice day two

I arrived over an hour early for today’s practice session. It was hot again and I enjoyed my time in the sun watching a few private owners doing some laps.

About half an hour before my session, another competitor arrived. He has written some software for learning tracks before you get an event. He has been to this track a few times before to get data on the fastest lines for his software. I’m surprised by how friendly most competitors are at these events. I was hoping I could learn a bit from him on the track too, given the data he compiled for his software.

Two more people turned up, a competitor and his friend. Both have done some serious racing before, and this was their home circuit. They had all the kit; race suits, boots, gloves, and lids. There’s me with my own knee pads and newly purchased gloves, and there’s them with full race gear!

When we actually got started, I left the pits third but was leading by the end of the first lap. Alright, it wasn’t a race, but it’s good to get ahead anyway. Later on I did pass several cars, but I’m not sure who and how many times.

The circuit has an electronic timing board on the start/finish straight. As you finish the lap, you can see the time for the previous lap. I was pleased to see that I was quickest almost every lap. They were getting times in the 42 or 43 seconds range mostly, and mine were mostly in the 41 something range.

Each lap I’d see the board and see my fairly consistent times reducing slightly. As they did so and got around the 41.4 second mark, I really wanted to get a sub 41 second lap.

It’s amazing how consistent the times can be. On a track with 8 turns and a 40-odd second lap time, it’s amazing to see some consecutive laps within 5/100s of a second (that’s 0.05 seconds for those born metric). The analytical ones amongst you would have worked out already that that’s 0.1% difference. If I could remember my A-level statistics, I could work out the standard deviation too.

Anyway, working really hard to shave a few tenths here and there worked. On three out of 70 odd laps I did achieve a sub 40 second time. The lap chart afterwards confirmed that, with 40.74 being the quickest.

I think I’m pretty well prepared for the event next week now, given the fact we only had seven days notice of the venue. It’s hard to predict how quick I am compared to the 200ish competitors when I’ve only seen three of them.

All 200 are taking part on the same day, as far as I can work out. No doubt the judges will be looking for quick times, but also sensible driving and a good attitude. The event is being filmed for TV too. Men & Motors is going to air the event in eight prime time episodes. Maybe you’ll see me on TV!

I was on TV last year when I entered the event, but only for a few seconds in a crowd of others. This time though, I’m hoping they’ll do a few interviews. What they do is pick a few competitors, and follow them through the rounds until the final. It’ll be good for any sponsors I get if I can get some exposure.

Round Three – Practice day one

I’ve been at Rye House Kart Raceway in Hertfordshire, practicing for Round Three of the Shell Optimax F1 Driver’s Challenge that takes place on Tuesday 16th May.

It’s a big, fast track with good facilities and friendly staff. Being outdoors you’re at the mercy of the weather, but today it was hot and sunny.

I had a one-hour practice session including tuition. The instructor advised me on line and speed corner-by-corner; well worth the extra £20. I won’t go into the details in case my ‘competitors’ see the blog before the event next week. I wouldn’t want to give my secrets away!

I was using a ‘pro-kart’ provided by the circuit. These karts are twin-engine carts capable of up to 75mph (I think). Also on the track were a few privately owned karts that were clearly faster than mine, and in the hands of people who have driven there before. Of course, I did my best to stay out of the way and learn what I could from them.

About 45 minutes into the session, I lost all power. The kart had seemed a little slow to pick up speed all day, but you never know how quick a new track’s karts are. However, when the thing could barely get back to the pits, I knew there was something wrong. “Overheating” said the mechanic, and I’m happy to bow to his superior knowledge. That’s the first racing driver’s excuse I’ve used. Probably the first of many!

I switched to another kart and this one was much better. It had softer tyres, and was so pointy I nearly ended up in the tyres on the inside of the first corner as I turned in.

After my session, I hung around the circuit to see what else I could learn from others. There was a corporate event with about eight participants. Two had clearly done some karting before, and I picked up a few tips on passing places.

I’ve got another session without tuition booked for tomorrow.

I wanna be a racing driver!

Hi, and welcome to my blog.

I wanna be a racing driver!

I’m a motorsport fan, F1 especially, but I’ll happily watch anything on four wheels. In this blog I’ll talk about my efforts to become a racing driver and anything else that takes my fancy.

Currently, I’m a competitor in the Shell Optimax F1 Drivers’ Challenge, an annual event in which over 2000 entrants compete to become a fully-fledged racing driver and test in an F1 car. This event isn’t for those who already have a racing licence; it’s more for the “average man in the street”.

So, am I average? Well, I’ve been married for 10 years and we’ve been together for 20, so on that score, no. I was born in 1967, and I live in Essex, England. I’m lucky to have a great family (but no kids), and a busy social calendar. I’m a Partner in a Financial Services Firm and have just started a second business (more on those later perhaps). My other interests include business and finance, computers and technology, and fitness.

Being average is no bar to being a racing driver. Later in the year, I’ll tell you why I think that even those at the pinnacle of motorsport are average people, just doing an extraordinary job.

For now though, I’ll concentrate on the competition. I’m through to round three. Round one was karting (go-karts) at regional karting centres around the UK. I think I did pretty well with that; I got good times and liked the short technical circuit. There were supposed to be around 80 entrants going forward from each circuit, and about 8 circuits. I’m not sure there were as many as 80 entrants for my circuit, so I guess everyone went through. I know from talking to the staff at the circuit that my time was pretty quick compared to the others.

Round two was a fitness test on an assault course, including a test of memory while under immense physical strain. I thought I was going to die on this round; I’ve never felt my heart beat so fast or hard. I really didn’t think I would get through to round three, but thankfully I did. I might write more on rounds one and two later.

Round three will be more karting, round four saloon cars, five is racing saloons, then single seaters. The three competitors who make it through all these rounds will be taken to Germany to take part in a test in an F1 car before the winning driver is selected and given their first race in August 2006.

I’m not sure what series the winning driver will compete in, but it’s a proper racing series. As they say, I’m taking it one step at a time.

Well, that’s the background. I’m new to this blogging lark, so be gentle with me. I’ll give you updates as things happen, and write about other things that interest me when there’s no racing news. Come back soon, or better still subscribe to the RSS feed and stay up to date with my progress automatically.