We just finished our second day at Brands Hatch getting prepared for the Formula Ford Festival this weekend with the Cliff Demspey Racing Team. The first day I was lapping the 1.2-mile Indy circuit in the low 50-second range, which we think is a fast time compared to the races that have been run recently. However, in the first session this morning, I was determined to break into the 49s.
At the beginning of the session, I was doing low 50-second times and thought we might need a few changes to the car to make it that much better. Then I saw a 49.9 on my dash. I knew it was a good lap but I didn't expect it to be that fast. So what happened next was even more unexpected – the following lap I did a 48.8!
After doing a few laps in the 49s, the tires started to get a bit hot, which made the car slide around a bit, so I pitted for the rest of the session. The team thinks that these times will put us right at the front, so it's very encouraging.
It seemed like we'd hit a bit of a wall in terms of improving lap times, so for the second session we decided to try changing the tire pressures quite a bit just to see how the car reacted. I found that the car was good for the first few laps but the tires overheated much quicker and I started to slow down. I came in and we dropped the tire pressures to what they'd been in the first session and continued to do low 50-second times, but no 49s.
So for the final session, my mechanic and I decided just to try something extreme: We went really stiff on the front and rear anti-roll bars, just to see what would happen. However, the car lost overall grip, so I came in within a few laps. When I was in the pits, I asked to go back to where we'd had it on the rear bar but to full soft in the front. The car felt much better instantly – the changes gave it a bit more balance and a lot more front grip and I was able to get back down to a 49.8sec lap. We didn't go out for the last session because we put in a different engine that will hopefully be a bit quicker.
So, overall the day went very well, and the various combination of adjustments we tried have helped me get a good read on how a Formula Ford behaves, how the tires react, and so on. All good experience. The car was handling great at the end of the day and I'm looking forward to trying out the new engine which hopefully will give us a few tenths. Tomorrow is another full day of practice. We get four sessions on track, each about 40 minutes long, which gives us plenty of laps.
A quick thanks to everyone who supports the Team USA Scholarship and obviously the Cliff Dempsey Racing Team. It's a great experience to be competing here in England.
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