Alex and sponsors Carlube and MIS Motorsport blended perfectly to secure two strong finishes at Donington Park over the Easter weekend.
Rounds 3 and 4 of the Ginetta Junior Championship were held at Donington Park in Derbyshire over the Easter weekend, alongside the stars of the British Touring Car Championship. The Easter eggs had to be put on hold at the weekend for Alex as he had to focus on his racing debut at the famous Derbyshire circuit.
Due to his mock GCSE exams at Southam College, he had not been able to do any pre-testing at the circuit with the other drivers and his team. Therefore, Thursday’s two 30 minute free practice sessions would be the first time Alex could experience the circuit in racing conditions. With help and advice from his team, JHR Developments, and his driver coach, British Touring Car Championship Mercedes driver, Adam Morgan, they worked hard together to help Alex find the fastest way around the circuit.
With a lot of hard work, Alex finished the first session with the 10th fastest time out of the 20 other junior drivers. As the rest of the drivers, including his team mates, decided to fit new tyres to help improve their times in the second practice session, Alex stayed on old tyres so he could concentrate on finding the best performance from himself and the car. Without the benefit of the new tyres, Alex slipped to 12th fastest overall but found more performance in the car which resulted in him posting the third fastest speed through the two main circuit speed traps, with a top speed of 106.3 mph.
With no activity on Good Friday, Alex spent the time studying the video footage from the free practice sessions to help prepare for Saturday’s first race and qualifying. “Having only ever driven around Donington Park on a public track day, I know I had a lot of catching up to do. My team mates had fortunately completed a number of test days, which I was not able to attend, so they helped me with advice and suggestions on possible adjustments to make to my car.With this help and the extra advice from Adam, it was invaluable but I knew I would have to drive as well as I could to stand a chance of a good result in the races,” commented Alex.
The 1.979 mile Donington Park circuit is one of the UK’s historic and most exciting race tracks, with its mixture of hills and fast flowing corners. Saturday morning kicked off for Alex with a 15 minute free practice session to check he was happy with his car and give him the first chance to drive on new tyres. In the session, Alex set the 9th fastest time and ended feeling happy and ready to go into qualifying later in the afternoon. The fifteen minute qualifying session was held in dry conditions and Alex posted a fastest time of 1:25.788 which was the 9th fastest time. Unfortunately, he was judged to have exceeded the track limits so the time was disallowed and it was his second fastest time which was used to determine his starting position for the first race.
This time of 1:26.344 give him the 10th fastest time of the 20 competing drivers and would mean he would start the race in 10th place on the grid. With the next fastest time then deciding the starting position for the second race on Sunday, Alex’s consistent driving saw him secure another 10th starting position. Starting both races from the 5th row of the grid was a fantastic achievement considering Alex had never raced at Donington before.
In the first race and on a dry track, Alex got a great start and picked up two places by the end of the first lap. On the next lap a coming together of a number of cars, at the chicane, saw Alex drop down a number of places. Picking the pace back up, he caught and passed the cars in front of him and then set about chasing down the leading cars. With the last lap board displayed, Alex was up to 9th place and right behind the 8th place car. Wasting no time, he pulled off a fantastic overtake as the two cars raced into the fast downhill section of the track and moved up to 8th place overall. Crossing the line in eighth place was a great result, and in doing so he also set the 5th fastest lap time of the race, topping off a good debut race. “Finishing 8th with so little track time around Donington Park is fantastic“ said Alex. I knew if I could get a good start, I could stay with the more experienced drivers in front and following them would help me go faster. After the disappointment of Brands Hatch and having to pull out with a smoke filled car, this is like a win to me.”
Alex, however, still had one more race and the televised race on Sunday was likely to be more challenging as the weather forecast was indicating he would have to master a rain-lashed track. Having never driven Donington Park in the wet, it would be a completely new challenge for Alex and his Carlube and MIS Motorsport sponsors. As predicted, Sunday’s rain arrived and a wet track greeted Alex as he arrived back at the circuit. As the start of the race got closer the rain stopped and the wet race track started to dry.
It was now crunch time as the team had to decide how to adjust Alex’s car to enable him to drive as fast as possible. With the track still damp, the team decided to adjust Alex’s car to enable him to get the best performance from a wet track. With a slight delay as the previous race was cleared from the track and the cars on the grid, the team realised that the track was much dryer than they had expected. Now with no chance to change the adjustments on the grid, Alex would just have to drive as fast as he could with not an ideal set up on his car.
As the lights changed, another good start saw Alex gain three places and move in to 7th place. Driving as fast as he could but with the car set up for a wet track, he was not able to brake as hard as the other drivers and drive through the corners as fast. On the faster flowing parts of the track he drove as fast as he could, recording the fastest speed through the very fast downhill section speed trap. With his braking compromised and less grip through the corners, the gap to the following cars was gradually eroded away and he finally slipped to 9th place at the chequered flag. Disappointed but also very happy, Alex’s two top ten finishes were a well-deserved reward for all his hard work and a great tonic to take into the next round at Thruxton on the 3rd May.