Silverstone Testing

The Newbridge team took the cars to Silverstone this week for both shake-down testing and coaching. My team mate Guillaume Gruchet has moved up from his 987 Boxster to a 997 GT3 Cup for this year’s races in the Britcar Endurance Championship and is being coached by ex-Formula 1 driver Mike Wilds who has bags of track experience and knows the GT3 very well.

Guillaume's 997 Cup
Guillaume’s 997 Cup

My regular coach Malcolm Edeson joined me for the first time in my own race Boxster after the Newbridge guys fitted a passenger seat and extra harness. We had a particular lap time as our target and got quite close to it on the Toyo R888s left on the car from last season. By late morning it was time to scrub in my first set of the Dunlops slicks I’ll be using in the Britcar Trophy races. These might offer phenomenal grip when hot (worth 2-3 seconds off the lap time on the Silverstone International circuit) but the aim was only to scrub them – not wear them out! So back on the Toyos for a few more sessions before the heavens opened and we got to within half a second of my target.

My Boxster in The Wing garages

Next outing is the test day before the first race, on the same circuit on Saturday 12th April.

Britcar Bound for 2014

As part of my long-term goal to compete in a 24-hour race, I’ve decided to move to Britcar for the 2014 season. They have just launched a new series of 30-minute races at circuits I’ve mostly already raced and that will suit the Porsche Boxster with little modification. Remaining part of the Newbridge Motorsport team, I will be racing alongside another ex-BRSCC Boxster racer, Guillaume Gruchet, who will take part in the Endurance Championship in his newly-acquired Porsche 997 Cup.

At the same time, I will continue as media representative for the BRSCC Porsches, taking photos and writing race reports and press releases. And will be attending the 750 Motor Club Roadsports series to watch my great friend and mentor Rebecca Jackson who will be pursuing her own endurance racing ambitions. Rebecca won her championship in her first season in a Boxster in my series last season.

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Damp Donington sees Boxster Season Complete

The Donington Park National circuit was the venue for our last Toyo BRSCC Porsche Championship round of 2013. Qualifying plus three races were spread over a two day “triple header”, combined with varying but reasonably warm weather – at least we missed the fog that dogged last season final round at the same venue. Sadly the prototype custom exhaust made for me by Vortex Performance Exhausts did not match our series regulations and we had to remove it, but their dyno tests did show a clear performance gain and a change to the torque curve – plus a noticeably fruitier sound!

Down through Craner Curves
Heading down through Craner Curves

Once again I set myself a target – to beat my best time from last year by at least 2 seconds for a 1:25 lap. Unfortunately rain put paid to that and a never-completely-dry track meant I wasn’t able to beat my 2012 best at any stage. The other, more important, target was for three finishes in order to at least maintain my 12th place in the Championship table – more of that later.

Joining us for this final round was Autosport editor Ben Anderson – a very experienced racer but for him his first races in a Boxster. With some of our regular part-timers returning, an impressive 31 cars lined up in the assembly area for qualifying on Saturday morning. After overnight rain, the track offered varying but mostly slippery conditions and I had a big and uncatchable spin on the slight left at Starkey’s Bridge; fortunately I didn’t hit anything – or anyone – and there was no damage to the car.

The first race was late in the afternoon – the rain had held off and with races in between, the track had mostly dried. I started from Row 8 next to Marc Mackenzie and with my great friend Rebecca Jackson immediately behind. She had already secured the Class B Championship as her only possible rival for the title, Bernie Printy, was unable to attend. But that didn’t mean for one minute that she was going to back off, and again we settled into a three-way battle between us and Michael Goodacre in the other Class B car. Adam Croft got a nudge on the exit from Redways and span right, with avoiding cars, including Garry Goodwin, going wide left onto very wet grass to avoid him. I carefully slotted my way through the ensuing confusion.

A couple of minor mistakes and after two laps or so Rebecca and Michael pulled away and I was never close enough to challenge them again. I finished 17 out of 26, last in class, but landing 9 Championship points. Five cars didn’t make the finish, including Rick Styrin whose 986 engine blew, leaving him potentially car-less for the rest of the weekend.

The forecast for Sunday had not been good and we were all very surprised – and most of us were happy – to be on a dry track for Race 2. However, this proved to be the most eventful race of the weekend with a red flag and restart half-way-through when Will Sharpe’s Boxster suffered a suspension failure at Coppice. His car span and collected Rick Styrin – now piloting the new 987 that Ian Loggie had driven the day before – resulting in Will’s car stranded mid-track with a burst radiator.

After a long wait, we were carefully re-gridded in the precise order the cars were in at the point the race was stopped – in theory giving me an opportunity to improve my position and maybe re-pass some of the 924s that had got by me earlier. Will’s 986 had been forced to retire after the hasty fixes by the guys at Jasmine Porschalink proved not quite sufficient to sustain the race. A couple of laps in and on the climb up the hill under Starkey’s Bridge, Ben Anderson went around my outside and we made contact resulting in the loss of my wing mirror – the Newbridge lads had all season accused me of using my mirrors too much, so at least they were happy!

Rick Styrin made a tactical decision to back off the pace, gifting me with a unique opportunity to overtake him – this left him last in Class A, meaning we would be side-by-side on the front row for the final race of the season, which was to start with a reverse grid. I ended the race 18th in a 27 car field (Nick Hull being the only DNF), second to last in class, but with 12 more Championship points.

Those wishing for rain – which included Rebecca, master of a wet track – were rewarded for Race 3 when the heavens literally opened as we made our way from garages to assembly area. Attrition had left us with 27 starters under conditions as bad as I’ve ever raced in – and with me on the very front row. A chance visit by mental performance coach Gavin Gough – who works with the guys at iZone at Silverstone, who I’ve visited on a number of occasions – allowed an opportunity address personal deficiencies in confidence that appeared to be holding back my lap times over the weekend. Sadly the track conditions didn’t allow me to fully exploit the training, but Gavin was immediately able to diagnose and cure a vision issue – I’m hoping we can work together for next season.

A double green flag lap left me very concerned that I might have a DNF so I started extremely cautiously, going very wide at Redgate to let the bulk of the Boxster pack through by the time we reached Hollywood.

After my earlier knock with Ben Anderson, I had no right-side door mirror by this time, making me even more cautious on corners not to collect anyone as I turned in. I finished the last race of the season 20th overall but non-starters and retirements meant a Championship haul of 14 points – my highest of the weekend.

Me apparently leading a gaggle of cars round Old Hairpin
Me apparently leading a gaggle of cars round Old Hairpin

Having unexpectedly done one race at Rockingham, and with other drivers around me in the table missing later rounds, I had hoped to complete the season 12th – a place higher than last year. In the event, Garry Goodwin’s three finishes higher than me meant he leapfrogged my position dropping me back to 13th. I had, though, taken part in more races over the year and had a race at a track I really didn’t expect to ever race at (Rockingham) in a car I had never even sat in before (Rick’s “Red Rocket” from 2012).

Combined with the guest rounds in the Toyota MR2 Championship (albeit with dire results) and a 2nd-in-class from my first ever endurance race (the 750MC Roadsports series), 2013 has proved to be an even better season than 2012. This year has also seen me involved in the running of a Championship; alongside Nick Hull and Steve Potts in the PDA and John Clarke, Drew and Dominic at the BRSCC, we’ve brought in sufficient new drivers to expect to fill our grids at every round for the coming year.

Additionally, having written all the PDA race reports and press releases this year, my writing, photography and PR talents have obviously impressed as I’ve been asked to be part of a brand new race series for 2014, due to be announced shortly.

Michael chases Rebecca, plus Rick in the new 987
Michael chases Rebecca, plus Rick in TF’s new 987

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Richard Tovey, Dan and Marcus at Newbridge Motorsport who have looked after the car – and me – this year; Malcolm Edeson for coaching (even electronically, on the day); a whole slew of PDA drivers – especially Rick Styrin, whose personality is frighteningly similar to mine – who have encouraged me over the season; and finally the gorgeous Rebecca Jackson, who continues to be my inspiration and a very dear friend.

Still photos in this post courtesy of Steve Feakin.