What a mixed weekend at Rockingham! My Mercedes-Benz A-Class started the weekend well with the team working hard to find a good set-up on the car, a process which is always a compromise given the nature of the circuit: part fast banked corners, part twisty infield. With the car tuned for qualifying, I went into the 30-minute session with a car that I felt could deliver a competitive grid position but discovered to my frustration that the car felt different from earlier in the day.
It just felt different somehow, compared to the practice sessions. I don’t know whether the track surface had changed or quite what, but the set-up that had worked earlier in the day just wasn’t working when we needed it. Maybe I overdrove a bit as well to compensate but it was really frustrating especially with the understeer, where the car pushes out, mid-corner.
The team had a long look at the data to try to recapture the earlier pace as we lined up 28th on the grid for the opening race. I was determined to pick my way up the order and managed to finish in 19th place. So from 19th on the grid for the second 16-lap race, I immediately had to avoid other cars colliding with each other and that in turn let some of the pack behind me take advantage to get ahead. I attempted to get back into the mix but felt that the car was lacking straight-line speed, which made it hard to move forward.
The pace just wasn’t there and the set-up again didn’t feel as good. It is really weird because we aren’t changing things for the sake of it; we find a set-up that seems to work and then leave it but somehow the car just feels different and that compromises us. However I worked my way back up to 14th place, thus gaining 14 places from the original starting position for race one proving that progress was being made all day long.
From the seventh row of the grid for the final race of the day, I found myself right in the middle of the usual race three melee and ended up with some damage as the drama unfolded. That in turn led to the car losing pace as a consequence of the damage and I had to haul the dog-eared Mercedes home in 17th place, just missing out on a third points finish of the day. I seemed to be a target in that race! I had people dive-bombing me for places and there really is no need for driving standards like that. It has been an odd weekend because at times the car has felt good and fast and then it feels completely different a short while later. We wonder now whether there is something in the car as a legacy of an earlier incident, maybe, that we haven’t found and it could be affecting us.
That said, to gain the most places in race one was really satisfying because it underlines the potential of the car and what I can do as a driver, so we aim to qualify better which gets me out of the midfield scrum in the opening race and then make progress for better finishing positions. We will have a long look at the data and the car before Silverstone and come out fighting. I want another race win, to add to my Donington success, before the end of the season.
Looking forward to the next rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship which will be at Silverstone, Northamptonshire, on September 16/17.