Knockhill is probably one of the most critical test days I'll do all year. As I alluded to in my previous article, Knockhill is not an easy circuit to drive. It has plenty of high-speed blind turn-in points, huge curbs that you need to use and rather large inclines and declines one needs to understand.
So, having arrived in a rather wet Scotland late Sunday evening, I'd pretty much accepted that it was going to be a wet test day, and, when we arrived at the circuit the following morning, I was not wrong; it was absolutely throwing it down. I don't mind wet weather driving, but this was the first time I'd driven the JCW in the wet, so to be honest, I didn't really know what to expect.
Having arrived at the circuit at around 8:15 am, with our first session at 9 am, we didn't really have the chance to fit in a track walk, which was a tad frustrating as I wanted to have a closer look at all the curbs and where I thought I needed to be on track. Nevertheless, we asked a local circuit guru if they'd kindly drive me around in their road car to tell me where I needed to be and what I needed to do, and they did. This was my first experience of Knockhill; okay, I'd seen it on YouTube, but I'd never been around it, nor had I driven it on the sim, so this 5-minute guide was invaluable.
The test day was split into four 30 minute sessions spread throughout the day, so we had plenty of time to hunt for the wet weather grip, make setup changes on the car, and get used to Knockhill.
I used the first session of the day to find my way around the circuit and better understand how the JCW handles in the wet. To my surprise, I was pretty shocked at how much grip the car had in the wet; now, I don't know if this is because Knockhill has a whole ton of grip on its surface or if our Goodyear wets are just super sticky, but, either way, grip is grip. After I realised how much grip the car had, I knew that to be quick at Knockhill; all I would need was trust and commitment in the car.
Because of the rain, we only had around a 15-minute first session as there was a whole load of standing water on the circuit, which was firing cars off (excluding mine) left, right and centre. But, despite that, after the first session, I pretty much knew where I needed to be on track, which, to my surprise, was more or less on the dry line despite the amount of standing water. Although, to be honest, the circuit is so narrow in places there isn't much choice for a wet line anyway.
Throughout the day, I improved massively on my lap times and having Max there with his front running data was an absolutely brilliant advantage, not just for myself but for Max too, as we both learnt a lot from each other and were able to actively try different things to see what happened. Using each other's data with planned session tactics definitely pushed us both forward, without question.
We continued to do the same throughout sessions two, three and four, and by the last session of the day, session four, we were both very quick. Crucially, however, my times were most impressive, as in session four, I was quick enough for P6, and I was only a handful of tents off the fastest drivers of the day. Additionally, I also had knackered wet tyres that I'd been running all day, and of course, I'd never even driven Knockhill or a JCW in the wet; I think it's fair to say it was a pretty successful test day.
Moving into this weekend, I am definitely feeling confident; having such a great test day on Monday has meant I have come away from Knockhill feeling very positive. This means that for FP1 on Friday morning, I'll be on it from lap one, as the circuit is fresh in my mind, and I know exactly what I need to do and where I need to be. Plus, on top of that, usually, when I test at a track and go back to it a couple of days later, the break gives me a chance to reflect on the day and how I can improve, and usually, I go even quicker. This means that if I play my cards right on the weekend, there is a good chance I could be right at the front; it's very, very exciting!
This weekend I genuinely believe that I have a good chance of getting a very decent result; where or what that is, I don't know right now, but I'll have a much better idea of what that might be Friday afternoon. One thing I do know is I was half a second quicker than the next best rookie on Monday; that rookie finished second at Oulton Park last time out; I'd say that bodes very well for me. So a rookie win could be on the cards; we'll have to see.
As always, we'll be focusing heavily on getting a good qualifying position. I am aiming to be in the top ten in qualifying, but ideally, I'd like to be in the top six as that'd give me the best opportunity for the best possible result, and I firmly believe I can do it; bring it on!