So, Croft; well, as you already know, Croft is a circuit I like, I am still unsure why drivers prefer some circuits over others, but Croft is definitely on my tick list.
With the troubles we had at Snetterton in mind, our focus for our day at Croft was for me to get to grips with the car and just put the laps in; wet or dry, it didn't matter. Because we were so down on power at the Snetterton test a couple of weeks back, I haven't really driven this car yet as the power increase (to the correct power) completely changes the dynamic of how this car handles.
Wow, did the car feel different; So I got in the car for session one, drove out the pit lane, booted it, and it literally felt like somebody had strapped a jet plane afterburner to the back of my seat; full disclosure, I've never actually experienced that, but I am guessing it feels a bit like this. So I thought, 'yeah, this is it, this is the real deal'.
After spending most of the first session short shifting and being excessively delicate with the throttle, like many of the other drivers, I struggled to manage the wheelspin when the car came onto its boost coming out the corners. But, I put it down to lack of time in this car and drew a plan to work on my throttle control and short shifting for the second session.
Despite the circuit mainly having dried out, we felt it wise to still go out on wet tyres for session two, as there were some still quite large puddles through some of the faster corners. Midway through this session, I'd got a handle on the throttle control and short shifting and was happy with how well I was managing the wheelspin. However, my dash kept popping up with a water temperature warning light, so I bought the car back into the pits for the team to check it over.
Wisely, as nothing obvious could be found, such as a leaking pipe, we decided to retire the car to check everything over. Long story short, the turbo was over boosting massively, which was why I was getting colossal power delivery issues coming out the corners. That was also why the engine was getting a tad warm.
With the day's priority being track time for myself, the team decided to wind the boost right off to stop it over boosting and overheating, so I get out for sessions three and four. Unfortunately, this again brought the power way down, but it did allow me to get back out on the track to learn the car.
Session three was bone dry, and the car was ready for a slick tyre setup. This was when I really got to grips with the car; by this point, I'd had a fair amount of time in it, and I fully understood what was needed to really start to hustle the car. By about three laps into the session, the tyres had switched on, and I was absolutely on the limit and entirely comfortable with what the car was doing and how it was moving about beneath me. I firmly believe that if the power on the car was where it should have been, I'd have been right up there on times, a mega result for my confidence!
Unfortunately, toward the end of session three, I touched the curb on the inside of turn one, absolutely what I should have been doing, but it sadly broke something inside the differential. Something the team couldn't fix in time for session four due to the complexity of actually dismantling the differential. Hey, it's frustrating, but it's just one of those things, and I'd always rather break it in testing over racing.
Overall, I am happy with how the car is set up, what it does, and what I need to do to manipulate it in, through and out of the corners quickly. A great and productive day for team Gravett!
So we're back out tomorrow (Friday) in the car at Brands Hatch; it's looking dry at the moment, and the plan is to pick up where we left off. The team has worked very hard once again between these two tests to repair the differential and rectify the boosting problem. With these issues sorted, our plan tomorrow is to start trying to set some decedent, I hope, front running times.
Having now got to grips with the car's chassis, I am eager to get back into the car to really start hustling it. It's also terrific to have a short, one day break out of the car to digest and think about what I need to do to improve from Croft; it's all very exciting!