A Busy Race Weekend at Donington!

Sarah had one of her busiest Race weekends at Donington last weekend - and came away with 3 class wins in the Production Touring Car and one very interesting 4Two Cup race!

 

02/05/2012


We arrived on Friday to set up the awning for the weekend at Donington, one of Sarah’s favourite tracks. While we were waiting for Sarah’s Abarth to turn up, she took the opportunity to take the Smart FourTwo Brabus that she would be racing on Sunday out on track. This would be the first time Sarah was in a Smart since her dramatic accident at Silverstone in October last year.
“I was a bit nervous at first,” Sarah reflected, “but, after just a lap or two, I was just focused on getting to know the car I would be sharing with Paul Bates for the weekend.”
After a few pit stops to adjust the tyre pressures, Sarah was soon back down to the lap times of last year, when she won the race. Sarah would be sharing the car with Paul Bates from Smarts4You Racing for the weekend, meaning she would only get a very brief 10 minute qualifying and one 20 minute race, both on Sunday.


Saturday

Saturday was qualifying for the Production Touring Car and the first of three races of the weekend. It was meant to be the more relaxed of the two days with only one qualifying and one PTCT race, but it was anything but!
With the arrival of one of Sarah’s sponsors, Daron Brown of TMC Motorsport, as well as other friends and family, it got quite busy! Plus there was the added bonus of the weather and the prospects of rain showers. In view of this, Sarah’s first job was to get a set of the Dunlop Wet tyres.


PTCT Qualifying

Having not had any testing in the Abarth 695 since the first round at Oulton and never having driving the car at Donington before, Sarah used qualifying (which fortunately remained dry) to see how the car handled with the set up and chip away at the times.
It quickly became clear that Sarah had got much closer in times to the Class A cars than she had been at Oulton and that she was within reach of the back of the Class A grid. A great start to the weekend and Sarah qualified 9th on the grid.


PTCT Race 1

Against all expectations, it stayed dry for the start of the only PTCT race of the day.
Sarah got off to her customary good start but the Class A car’s power soon kicked in on the straights! Sarah tenaciously kept the Class A boys in sight, a tactic that bore fruit later in the race.

 
Sarah chipped away at her lap times, gaining in confidence every lap and then, a few laps in, rain fell on the far side of the circuit, at McLeans and Coppice. This caught out several cars as they were all on slicks. The rain shower on half of the circuit put a Class A BMW within Sarah’s grasp and, as she harried him, he made a mistake and spun and Sarah pounced! She got past him and quickly opened up a good 20 second lead. As time counted down, the BMW was gaining until he was right on Sarah’s tail. Sarah gave it all she could and managed to keep him behind her for the last two laps of the race, piping him to the chequered flag by just 0.6 seconds.
Another Class B win and fastest lap and 8th overall – but to beat a Class A car was a real boost to Sarah’s confidence, particularly in very difficult conditions.
Sarah said “Those two laps were the longest of my life! I was so relieved to see the chequered flag and to still have Dan behind me! I knew he had a more powerful car and that his only real chance was on the back straight. I simply had to come out of Coppice as quickly as I could in the hope that he couldn’t quite catch me on the straight and fortunately, he didn’t!”


Sunday


4Two Cup - Qualifying

Sunday was always going to be a hectic day with qualifying and one race in the Smart 4Two and also two Production Touring Car races!
It had rained over night but the morning was dry and bright.
Sarah signed on for the Smart 4Two race and, as she was sharing the car with Paul Bates, she got less than 10 minutes to qualify before coming in to hand over the car for Paul to qualify. This meant she only got 3 quick laps. Even so, Sarah managed to qualify 8th out of 21 cars. The car definitely seemed to still be slow in a straight line which did give Sarah some worries with the long, long Dunlop straight down the back of the circuit!


PTCT – Race 2


Sarah got another good start and kept the Class A boys in her view as long as possible but, with a dry race, there was no way Sarah’s little 1.4 litre turbo could keep up with the more powerful Class A cars.
She therefore used the race to again chip away at the lap times and work on consistency. This worked, with Sarah posting her fastest lap of the weekend.


4Two Cup – Race 1

The weather decided to turn and the rain fell steady just in time for the 4Two Cup race. This meant the cars got two green flag laps before the rolling start to the 20 minute race.
Sarah got a good start but it quickly became clear that there were problems with the car. It started to go into ‘safe mode’ meaning that, whilst her foot was flat to the floor, it simply didn’t accelerate! The only way to ‘clear’ this problem was to turn the engine off and on again which was a fairly interesting thing to have to do whilst racing in the wet with 20 other cars around you! Even without the limp mode kicking in, the car was definitely down on power and simply didn’t have enough straight line speed.
After a couple of ‘limp mode’ issues, Sarah had dropped down to 14th place. She pressed on and slowly made up the places she had lost as a result, one safety car incident helping in the task ahead. Her pace through the Old Hairpin was such that if soon became her favourite overtaking place! She also had a very impressive overtake around the outside of Coppice!


By the end of the race, Sarah had hauled herself to 7th place.  Sarah reflected “I was pretty happy with the results, all things considered. The car wasn’t set up how I like it and the ‘limp mode’ issues held me back but I still drove well and managed to achieve a good finish.”


PTCT - Race 3

Surprisingly, another dry race! And, for Sarah, another race with Dan Malone in his Class A BMW! This time he caught Sarah a bit earlier than he had in the second race and, whilst Sarah again did what she could to fend him off (and managed for a couple of laps), he simply had too much speed on the straight and managed to get by.
Sarah again finished 1st in Class B and 11th overall.
All-in-all, a very good weekend. Sarah remains in the lead of the Class B Championship and, indeed, third overall in the points for the combined classes.
Sarah reflected back on the weekend. “I’m really pleased with how the weekend went. The team did a great job and I think we’ve found a good set up that has enabled me to push the car even further. All objectives were achieved with 3 class wins and fastest laps. I think we made good progress with the car and with my driving. My lap times showed good progress and we were much closer to the Class A cars. I’m really looking forward to the next round at Brands Hatch!”

Photographs courtesy of Mick Herring and Jamie Peters-Ennis 

 

 

  • Date posted:
    02/05/2012
  • Author:
    Sarah Franklin
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