After a difficult weekend at Oulton Park, a month of coursework and the start of my GCSE exams, Rockingham was going to be my first time in the car for a month. I am very pleased with how well I did during the weekend, even though the technical issues with the car continued. With virtually no proper running in the car before I then had to race, I managed to get 5 places before having to retire from the race and from the weekend.
Rounds 4,5 & 6 at Rockingham were going to be my first real chance to get some solid experience in the car and some proper seat time in a race setting. The team had been working hard to isolate the problems with the car from the previous round. Team HARD had checked over everything they could. The car went on the dyno for official power testing and was looking really good!
There were going to be three practice sessions on Friday. I really needed them because I hadn’t been on this track configuration at Rockingham, not even on a simulator. The one pre-season test I did there was on a different layout and was a shortened test-day. My first session was going to be all about learning the layout and getting used to driving again, I’ve not had much time in a car anywhere really, so I was taking it slow.
The second session was my first chance to start pushing but straight away I was having problems with losing power. I had to come in. I went on track and got in a few laps before there was a red flag after someone had spun off! Finally, I got to go out again and felt like I was getting somewhere then the engine died. I was devastated. As usual, I picked myself up and once I was back with the team took them through what happened on the video footage.
The team did everything they could to swap out parts that they thought could have caused the problem. I went out in qualifying and immediately it happened again, a loss of power! I got in a few slow laps to get my minimum 3 for qualifying. This time there was actually an error code reported by the on board diagnostics! It pointed at a fuel pump issue so the team fixed it by Saturday afternoon. Then it was time for the first race!
I was quite nervous at first because I really didn’t feel like I knew the track layout, where the grip was, how much kerb I could use or anything. I hadn’t had a single session where I felt I could find any of the limits, in me or the car. Because of the problems in qualifying, I was starting 29th and last again! I decided to have the safest start I could…
It worked, I made up 3 places on the first lap. Then another 2 places on lap 2! I went from 29th to 24th! Then, someone spun in front of me and I had to go onto the grass to avoid a crash! I lost a couple of places then battled to get them back!
Then, the engine started to loose power gradually. The driver behind who I had overtaken and was slowly falling back before was now starting to catch me. Then, there was a sudden loss of power just before the pit entry. I managed to just get the car into the pits. That was the end of my race on lap 8. It was also the end of my racing for the weekend.
There is a fundamental problem somewhere in the car. They have 7 other cars that don’t have anything like this happening. We even went through all my video footage to make sure it was nothing to do with what I was doing and found that there was nothing wrong with my driving. If anything I could get more out of the car than I was but with all the problems I’ve been trying to be extra gentle with it – as much as a racing driver can at least. The team feel they are very close to finding the issue now but need some extended test running on a dyno while running full diagnostics to be sure. This meant I was going to miss out on the rest of the race weekend. There were two more races on the Sunday.
Chris Turner of catmanf1.com, winner of my competition last month, came along on Sunday with his friend Nick Abbott. I spent most of the day entertaining them and talking to them about the racing. Chris and Nick were awesome and I really enjoyed taking them around and talking cars and racing with them.
I also watched the final race from the pit wall with the team with the live TV feed. I really wished I was out there but I know my time will come so I just enjoyed the atmosphere, cheering on my team mates with the rest of the crew at Team HARD.
The hard part now is how to get the extra racing signatures I need to upgrade my racing license in time to race at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium in July. I’m a few signatures short due to the number of races I’ve missed and together with the team the challenge now will be time and budget for me to do some other races in between. Hopefully, we’ll find a way to fund the extra races for the signatures I need to make my journey to Spa!
You can support Damani in making his journey to Spa in a number of ways, from sharing his story, telling commercial sponsors about the amazing coverage he is achieving, even making a small one-off contribution to his racing budget or you can become one of his patrons. No matter how large or small, every little bit of support helps!