For local racers James Dorlin and James Taylor it was an enjoyable “home race” in Donington Park’s rounds of the BTCC support series.
Now in his second year in the Renault UK Clio Cup Championship, Dorlin 2018’s season-opening races of the series at Brands Hatch were ones to forget for the Barnsley racer: having qualified 5th he was shoved sideways into Paddock Hill Bend on the opening tour of the circuit, Dorlin did well to recover and claim a top-10 finish.
Round 2 had Dorlin forced out into the gravel in avoidance at the same corner, fighting back to finish 12th, but chances of silverware had been spoilt.
However, Donington Park had a complete change of fortunes for the 19 year-old, his successful weekend beginning with him claiming pole position.
With too much wheelspin, initially losing the round 3 lead to his team-mate James Colburn, a bold move by Dorlin down the inside at Redgate corner grabbed the position back, from which he steamed away building a growing advantage and claimed a first win of the season - the third of his career in the category – setting the fastest lap of the race with a 7.1 second lead at the chequered flag.
“I knew if I could get a bit of a break early on, I should be alright, which is what I managed to do. Then it was a matter of maintaining the gap for the rest of the race”, Dorlin commented.
In grid 3rd for round 4, once again Colburn lead the duo away, but after trading 2nd position between them, on lap 3 Dorlin got through for the opportunity to attack the leader, with a chance move into the Old Hairpin he was through.
This time though Dorlin was under pressure to the very end, with Bradley Burns clinging to his bumper, and on lap 10 when he ran wide at the Old Hairpin, it allowed Burns to pass and demote him to 2nd. On Lap 11 Dorlin did not give up, he regained his composure to take the lead back through the Craner Curves, Burns stayed with him.
On the last lap Burns tried to pass at Redgate, but Dorlin held position, Burns passed at Schwantz, but Dorlin took the place back at McLeans.
Then the final lap had them side-by-side through Coppice corner and down the Exhibition Straight.
But with a cheeky last corner trip through the gravel trap, Dorlin re-took the lead – to cross the finishing line only 0.366 seconds ahead.
Having secured the maximum points, with another race fastest lap, from the weekend’s results Dorlin – a British Racing Drivers Club Rising Star – moves up to 4th in the standings, just 9 points adrift of the championship lead.
“My second win this weekend – it was hard work, harder than the first one. It’s been an amazing weekend and to come away with a perfect score is exactly what we needed. I am over the moon”, Dorlin beamed, “The performance has been there, but we haven’t quite had the luck so far this year, now we need to carry this momentum forward. The key is to stay focused and try and repeat that performance at every round”.
Worksop’s Sam Osborne had the opposite fortunes: while running in 3rd place, he had been battling for the lead in round 1 at Brands Hatch, only for it to go wrong entering the final lap as he was delayed, where he found himself 7th in queue of eight cars all trying to pass the hobbled ex race-leader’s car.
Having held 2nd-place early on in round 2, Osborne endured two lurid slides plummeting him down the order, but he then recovered strongly to 5th, but post-race was he handed a 5-second exceeding track limits penalty that dropped him to 9th in the final result.
Having qualified 12th in Donington’s round 3, he fought his way to an 8th-place finish.
Unfortunately, a round 4 start from 11th saw Osborne take the flag in 15th having been at the back of a gaggle of Clios battling over 10th-place.
Rotherham’s James Taylor, winner of a fully-funded 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship Scholarship season had a steady start to his circuit racing career in the series for 14 – 17-year olds.
With many of last season’s drivers having moved on, almost two-thirds of this year’s field are rookies so giving plenty of chances for fighting for podium places.
In Brands Hatch’s round 1, for his first-ever Ginetta Junior race Taylor qualified in 13th-place, and kept his nose clean on his car race debut, taking the flag in a respectable11th-place, and 6th-best rookie.
For round 2 of the series, Taylor lined up grid 12th in a wet race, and due to the conditions many cars around him were spinning off and re-joining further back.
So he moved steadily forward through the field and took the flag in 8th-place and gained his maiden Rookie podium in 3rd-place!
“From karts it’s not a massive change, I tried to keep it fair, there was the odd nudge just a bit more ‘argy-bargy’, but only brushing door mirrors”, Taylor revealed with a grin, “and I’ve got a lot to learn on gear-changing”.
Also making his race debut, Worksop’s Jamie Osborne started from 17th, but unfortunately failed to complete his first race of the season.
Osborne performed better than in round 1, starting from 17th spot, he struggled in the conditions, although managed to finish in 18th-place, albeit one lap down.
Donington Park’s round 3 had 15 year-old Taylor lined 9th-place on the grid, 3rd-best rookie, although he lost places at the start, recovering to take the flag 9th, but down one, as 4th-best rookie.
For round 4 Taylor, in only his second weekend of circuit racing, gave a particularly good account of himself at his “home track”.
He managed to qualify in 10th-place and 2nd-best rookie, making a perfect start taking a couple of places, so on lap 1 he was in 7th-place and 3rd-best rookie.
By mid-race, Taylor was in sniffing distance of a ‘full’ podium finish in 4th-place, but had to battle hard all along the last lap.
He had his work cut out holding-off his teammate, the more experienced, Matt Luff, managing it for all but the very last lap, when Luff got past.
While it demoted Taylor to be 5th at the flag, he was still 2nd-best rookie and on the Rookie Podium for the second time in three races.
“One better than last time - It was good!”, Taylor was delighted with his performance, “Second-placed rookie is my best result to date - this is my second trophy in four races, but better than 3rd at Brands Hatch. On the last lap we were constantly swapping places, but on the last corner he got a better exit, I locked up and he passed me”. Although Taylor conceded, “I am still learning gear changes, but at least I brought it home!”.
“I am getting into the rhythm and looking for my first rookie win and full podium”.
Round 5 had Taylor starting in 5th-place as 2nd-best rookie and he was soon battling in the top-6 on the run through the Starkeys/McLeans uphill sweeps but lost out as he ran wide, dropping back to 9th.
With a trip across the grass at the chicane at the end of lap 4 also losing him another place, but by lap 6 he had clawed his way up to 6th-place, but by then the leading group were pulling away.
So Taylor held position for 6th at the flag coming home the 4th-best rookie.
While Osborne’s round 3 began 19th and 13th-best rookie, saw him make a slight improvement in both respects to end up 15th and 10th-best rookie.
Qualifying in 17th for round 4, Osborne was 12th-best rookie, with a stalled car in delaying him off the grid, he managed to regain 17th by lap 4, finally grabbing 16th-place holding it to the flag as 12th-best rookie.
From 17th Osborne started round 5 as 12th-best rookie, managing to get up to 13th by the end of the race, but for exceeding track limits he was given a 5 second penalty and thus ended up back to 17th and 12th-best rookie…
Chesterfield’s Seb Perez has moved up to the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain 2018 Championship – the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK.
At Brand Hatch’s round 1, Perez started 9th, and 3rd in the Pro-Am category, and on a wet track, was fighting for the category lead, but his race ended prematurely in the gravel trap, after 13 laps, following a bit of ‘contact’.
This meant he started round 2, from 21st - and last – place in a very soggy race where Perez put in an amazing recovery drive, climbing 5 places on the opening lap. With a further 2 places made on the next lap, he succeeded in advancing 11 places and was only stopped by the race being red flagged as the conditions worsened, his finishing position was 10th-place and 4th in Pro-Am.
At Donington’s round 3, from 9th overall, and 2nd in Pro-Am, Perez got a ‘good start and was running with the front of the pack’ in 7th, but as the race progressed Perez began to really struggle with his tyres overheating, and steadily dropped back to end up 11th and 4th in Pro-Am a the flag.
“The race was a tough one as my tyres began to steadily deteriorate and I lost places”, Perez lamented, but with one thing learnt about his Porsche GT3 Cup racing car.
Taking place over 33 laps as opposed to the 23 laps of round 3, round 4 had Perez starting in 11th and soon he was up to 7th spot. However, when Perez almost ran into the back of a slowing car he ended-up spinning in avoidance, this was soon 12th position. But he got his head down and made up for lost places to take the flag 8th overall and 2nd in the Pro-Am category, so after four races he is 4th in Pro-Am points table.
The 2018 British F4 Championship could not have had much better opening rounds for Dronfield’s JHR Developments team whose star driver Ayrton Simmons got his season off to a great start with three pole positions, two wins and two fastest laps to come away from Brands Hatch leading the series.
Although he missed out on the ultimate prize of £10,000 for winning all three races in a weekend…
In Brands Hatch’s opening round 1, from pole-position 16 year-old Simmons, while leading the race, almost threw away the victory by running off track with a ‘wide moment’ at Paddock Hill Bend on lap 2.
Fortunately, a complimentary “small mistake” by new leader, Kiern Jewiss meant Simmons could hang on to his win, setting race fastest lap in the process.
JHR’s other drivers Josh Skelton, making his car racing debut, qualified in 9th but finished 12th, while Manuel Sulaiman qualified 11th to finish 8th.
For round 2, Simmons from 7th-place made a good start into 5th, but not as good as the front row two cars who jumped the start and both received 5 seconds penalties. So while Simmons finished 4th on the track, post-race this became 2nd-place.
Fellow teammates Skelton improved, while Sulaiman fell back, to finish line astern in 11th and 12th respectively.
Starting in pole-position for round 3 on a wet track, Simmons briefly lost to Jewiss for a lap but held the lead – even surviving a Safety Car re-start - despite Jewiss’ pressure only 0.5 seconds behind, to grab win number two, fastest lap and the Championship lead!
Skelton started in 7th-place moving forward to be 5th at the flag, while Sulaiman had a race he would rather forget.
From 9th, on the first lap he spun off to one side of the track and as he tried to re-join he ended up stuck on the wet grass at the other side and was going nowhere...
“A perfect weekend, we knew we had the potential, qualifying in tricky conditions, but managed a double pole – my first career pole, which is always a bit special”, Simmons smiled.
“Race 1 everything went to plan and I took the victory; we had a nice calm race 2 and brought it home in second. But race 3 was a hell of a race, with mixed conditions and a safety car, but I am really happy My championship quest has definitely been given a boost!”.
At Donington Park for round 4, JHR’s rookie Skelton had the best qualifying in 8th only to lock wheels at the start and go off at the first corner ending up facing the wrong way, he recovered but only to finish a long way down in 11th.
It was also a recovery drive for Simmons, following a trip across a gravel trap on lap 3, having qualified in 10th; he made a good recovery drive to take the flag in 6th.
“It was a really tricky race”, commented Simmons on retaining his Championship lead, “but I recovered to 6th, so I am pleased with that”.
Perhaps wondering why he returned to the series for a second season, Sulaiman qualified in 11th place and was promoted to 10th when Jewiss went off into the gravel.
On his 17th birthday, Simmons took up 6th-place for round 5 making 3 places into 3rd on the opening lap.
By lap 5 he was able to work his way through the field to be battling with Jewiss for the lead, and a lap later he was through, heading the field for ten laps.
Unfortunately it was not to be the perfect birthday present for Simmons as with three laps to go, Jewiss retook the lead, forcing Simmons to make do with 2nd-place.
Skelton translated 11th-place into a points-scoring 10th-place finish, while Sulaiman continued to suffer poor fortune, taking to the gravel early on, he finished 13th and one lap down.
The JHR trio had a round 6 that they would rather forget, all three went off on the first lap, Skelton and Simmons together took to the grass at the Old Hairpin, whilst Sulaiman went off into the gravel at the Chicane and did not continue.
Skelton and Simmons did manage to re-join the race, but towards the back of the field. Simmons did well on the last lap to take two places to finish in 6th, while Skelton came home in 8th.
Even so, some birthday consolation is that Simmons still leads the British F4 Championship by a useful 14 points, with Skelton 3rd in the Rookie Cup points total.