Caterham Academy - Lydden Sprint 19 June 2004

Executive summary: I came seventh (yet again!), for 14 points out a possible 20, with five rounds still to go. My overall position in the championship remains in fifth, but I'm no longer sharing that position.

It's going to be a fairly short report this time, because I don't have any photos to add flavour, and I can't find the results sheets either!

Lydden was my favourite circuit on the bikes. Some people loved it, some hated it, but I always enjoyed it. It's a circuit which is simple to learn, but tough to get the best out of. At one stage I came close to getting the outright motorcycle lap record.

Hence I was hoping that circuit knowledge would allow me to improve on the seventh places I'd managed in both the previous rounds. Sadly, it wasn't to be...

Lydden circuit - image courtesy of BMRC
Click on image for a 22MB video of the first timed run
(Broadband only - not recommended for modem users!)


The deal today was one practice of 2.75 laps, then three timed runs of 1.75 laps each. The fractional part is because the run starts from the end of the collecting area - just before Paddock Bend, but finishes half way up the hill before the hairpin (North Bend).

I had two "tactics" to consider after the "track morning" a few of us did at Lydden in April.

First was which front anti-roll bar to run. An anti-roll bar is supposed to lock the front suspensions together, to stop the car leaning - or rolling - to the outside of the corner. Conventional wisdom is to use medium (or maybe hard) in the dry, but soft in the wet. However, Lydden seemed to be causing me lots of understeer and it's said that softer anti-roll bars give you less understeer. So - unlike just about everyone else in the paddock - I chose the soft one.

Secondly - what gear for the Devil's Elbow? Everyone else favoured second, but I reckoned it ought to be possible to carry third - and any loss in acceleration should be compensated by saving a downchange and an upchange. Additionally, when I'd used second on the trackday, I'd had problems changing up to third, getting it stuck in neutral or even going into fifth. I've no idea why this should be - it never happened when changing from second to third after the hairpin - but the possibility of this happening again reinforced my decision to use third.

In retrospect, I suspect both of these decisions were wrong.

Run One

This run was rather messy, as you can see in the video. I had slides at the Elbow and the hairpin on the first lap, and wasn't entirely sure I was going to make it round Paddock! Nevertheless, I put in a time good enough for fifth place, which I was pretty pleased with.

Run Two

This was all a bit rushed. I don't think the organisers of the meeting have any clue how long it takes to get yourself strapped in and prepared to race a Caterham. We were called up to the collecting area, and then very soon after they were telling us that if we weren't there this second we'd miss our run.

Under the pressure (and with no helper at this point) I failed to switch on the video, so no evidence from that run. I also arrived a bit flustered at the start line, which can't be ideal.

Still managed to improve on my previous time, but remained in fifth place, as naturally some others had improved their times too.

Run Three

Kim had a quiet word with the organisers, and this time we were given plenty of notice. A much neater run, as you can see in the video. A little bit slidey at times, but I think you need to be. It felt much quicker.

When the times went up on the board, I was pleased to see myself put up in third place. But then I was gutted when shortly afterwards another three people were put in front of me, relegating me back to my traditional seventh place!

Many people will say seventh place is nothing to complain about, but I really thought I could do better than that at Lydden. No surprise to find Jeremy Ellis in the lead again, but I was surprised that Tim Skipper - who had never been to the circuit at all - came in second (as, indeed, he did at Goodwood).

What could I do to get up with these guys? I really didn't feel I could go any quicker without crashing out.

Watching the videos suggest that a fair bit of lost time is down to that stubborn choice of third gear for the elbow. It might save a bit of time changing up on the way towards the hairpin - but you only do that once, whereas you do the elbow twice. I think the extra acceleration towards the finish line would have been quite significant.

I'm also not convinced about that choice of anti-roll bar, though it's hard to be sure about that.

So where are we...?

Nearly half-way, and Jeremy Ellis has a huge lead, after winning all three rounds. So he's very good at sprints. Will he be good at racing as well? Who knows. Maybe he won't be good in traffic. On the other hand - if he qualifies on pole and gets away quickly, he may not be in traffic - at least until he meets the back-markers.

Four of us - Tim Skipper, Peter Earnshaw, Kevin Dodds and myself - did a trackday at Snetterton this week. There we indulged in a certain amount of totally-non-competitive driving-round-together (honest).

There was absolutely nothing between us by the end of the day - though I have to say Peter is very impressive on the brakes at the end of the back straight - which could be a deciding factor. It's going to be interesting when we race there!

That's all the sprints done. We now have Harewood Hillclimb on the 1st August, then after that we're off to Snetterton on the 22nd for the "Real Thing".

The whole calendar looks like this:

24th AprilAintreeSprint
5th June GoodwoodSprint
19th JuneLyddenSprint
1st AugustHarewood (Yorks)Hillclimb
22nd AugSnettertonRace
19th SeptMalloryRace
2nd OctOulton ParkRace
9/10th OctBrands HatchRace

Waffle by Roger Ford - no rights reserved. If you think it's worth stealing, I'm flattered.

Read about other stuff I did in a previous life at