Today was the day that we got to drive the Duratec car and it was completely different to what I expected. The car has so much more power down the straights than the Kent-engined cars we raced last weekend.
It was a great day for testing with perfect weather and there were no mechanical issues at all. It was made even better because Scott Malvern, the guy who was runner-up in the British Formula Ford championship, came down to help us. His pointers and advice were a great help to me.
I ran the first two morning sessions of the Brands Hatch open testing day. I took my time to get used to the car, because it is completely different from the Kent car. I was surprised, because I thought it would have more grip, but to me it felt that the Kent car had better traction through the middle of the corner. Scott Malvern agreed with me that the Kent cars are better through the corners, so at least I knew I wasn't crazy!
The day went super well, I had no offs or scary moments and I'm really glad I got to drive the car. Thank you to team owner Cliff Dempsey, our mechanic for the day Peter Dempsey, and of course Jeremy Shaw for putting this together to let us test the Duratec car.
I got to Cliff Dempsey's shop in Corby, Northamptonshire late Thursday afternoon. I had to take five different trains to get here and it took almost all day, but at least I got there: I almost missed one of the trains because I was getting some lunch! I j-u-s-t caught it before it started to pull away.
Once I got there, we started to load the car and all of the tools into the truck. It didn't take long since there was only one car and then we left for Brands Hatch. It was nice to be back at Brands with no pressure and just go out and have fun. All five of us slept in the trailer that night and there was quite a lot of snoring going on! Peter Dempsey decided he couldn't take it anymore and went to the driver cabin to sleep!
When the morning finally came around, we topped the car with gas and got it ready for Felix who did the first two sessions in the morning. It was horrible to sit there and watch since I had been waiting to drive the car for so long, but that's all part of the deal. I didn't really know what to expect out of the Duratec-engined car other than a lot more power but after the first session I realized just how different it is compared to the Kent car. There was virtually no grip on cold tires; it was like driving on ice.
They took about five laps to get up to temperature whereas in the Kent cars, it only takes about a lap. The other major difference was how patient you had to be with the pedals. If you pick up the throttle too early it will cause the front to understeer. Because of this, in the first session I was driving the car wrong: I was driving it like I drove the Kent-engined car, which worked for those cars, but not the Duratecs.
So after going over the data and talking to the guy who drove the car all year, Scott Malvern, I learnt a lot about how to adjust my driving to improve my times. For the second session I changed my style and gained about three tenths of a second.
Overall, the cars were a lot of fun; I just wish I got more than two sessions! I am going up to Manchester tomorrow with Cliff to drop some engines off at Bold Race Engines so that they will be fresh for the Walter Hayes Trophy race at Silverstone in a few weeks. Can't wait to get back in the car!
Thanks to Cliff and the team, and thanks to you guys for reading.