14th October 2017
The final Knockhill race meeting on the 8th October brought my first season as a rookie in the Scottish Formula Ford Championship to a close. Having been in bed with the flu right up until the Thursday I wasn’t even sure I would be there but I was well enough to go down and I went into Saturday practise more confident than ever, having got much needed seat time in the car down at Anglesey, as a guest driver in the last round of the Britcover National Formula Ford Championship a fortnight before. The two Saturday practice sessions saw my team mate, Ross Martin along with Jordan Gronkowski and myself swapping fastest lap times throughout the afternoon with our fastest times at the end separated by just 5/100ths of a second.
Qualifying on Sunday morning continued in the same way and I was confident I could grab a front row starting spot for the two races later that day. The three of us again swapped fastest times for Pole position before Ross finally took Pole, with Jordan on the front row along side him and me lining up third on the grid with my quickest time of the year yet. The GBR team being pretty sure that it was the fastest time ever set by a rookie in his first year in cars too. I was a bit disappointed to be back in third place though but I knew I had shown the pace to challenge Ross and Jordan at the front and try and take my first win.
A good start off the line saw me slotting into third. I was having a small issue with downshifts into the hairpin and at the end of the straight as the race wore on and eventually I was passed for third place. Some over defending on the last lap did give me the chance to get along side again for third place but unfortunately a move that didn’t come off on this occasion so I was really disappointed with fourth place but was sure I could turn that around in the next race. Starting fourth for that one I didn’t manage to make up any places off the line as hoped and another frustrating battle for third place saw the two of us end up off the pace and falling away from the two leaders up front. Two frustrating races that had promised so much. I came into my last race meeting of the year confident that I now had the pace to challenge right at the front so I have to admit I was really disappointed to come away with a couple of fourth places.
But back in April, when I was first learning to drive a single seater, if someone had told me I would be swapping fastest laps by the end of the seven race meeting Scottish Championship and disappointed with a third or fourth place I might not have believed them.
So what were the highs of my first rookie year?
Well being part of the Graham Brunton Racing family has been everything and more than I’d hoped for. They are passionate about going racing. Also a brilliant laugh and great atmosphere all year with a great bunch of people. In particular, Neil Holborn, the calmest and coolest under pressure mechanic I could have asked for even when we had so many mechanical issues with the car in the first part of the year. Ross Martin for being the most helpful and encouraging team mate I could have asked for. His dad John for also taking me under his wing and looking out for me this year especially when I was away at races without my own dad. Ross and John as keen to see me at the front as they were to see Ross there and did everything they could to help and encourage me. And Ross, the deserved 2017 Scottish Formula Ford Champion and winner of the Mazda Road To Indy ticket winner.
But above all, Graham Brunton. Not sure where to start with this guy. Sponsored me a race suit way back when I started out in Cadet kart racing and made me a promise that when I was old enough there would be a Formula Ford single seater waiting for me to drive. And true to his word when I had no drive sorted for this year he put in the call that got me the use of the Formula Ford I campaigned all this season. Someone that has always felt more like family than just a friend and I will always have a special bond with. Like having a second dad at all the races! And that phone call that Graham put in? Well that was to the amazing Phil Hooker who generously gave me the use of his Ray GR14 Formula Ford for this year and saved my season. Its hard to find the words to thank Phil enough but I hope I did justice to his faith in me.
The support and encouragement from Knockhill Circuit and Gillian Sheddon was brilliant. There was my speed right at the beginning of the year down at an Oulton Park test that gave an idea of things to come. The weekend racing down at Snetterton in August that saw me come away with a second place trophy and just miss out on a third place as well, with a clutch problem. My pace in the dry down at Anglesey and a big step forward in wet weather speed on a soaking wet weekend. There was the reverse direction race at Knockhill in August which I was really looking forward to as I knew it would level the playing field and take away the advantage the other drivers have who’ve been racing round there the normal way during previous seasons. From the moment we hit the more technical reverse direction layout Ross Martin and myself where the quickest throughout the weekend. Front row in qualifying and two third place podiums capping off a great weekend.
And the low points of my first rookie year?
A lot of unforeseen mechanical issues with the car in the first half of the year, probably due to the car not being used last year, which held my progress back. A freshly rebuilt engine that caused problems in the Britcover National Formula Ford Championship weekend at Knockhill. Only finished a couple of the six races that weekend. But then finally finishing a race that weekend to pick up my first podium finish in third. Being caught up in a controversial and totally avoidable incident at the finish line of one of the June races which left Matt Chisolm with a wrecked car and a trip to hospital. Also seeing my team mate Ross Martin destroy his car after rolling it seven times in a big accident at the end of the main straight but thankfully walk away unhurt.
But finally, whilst there have been many people to thank for making it possible for me to compete in karting and then on into car racing, there are three people that it is difficult to find the words to thank enough. And for one of those, my dad, it really is impossible to find the words at all. My dad has driven me tens of thousands of miles around the UK over the last few years. He’s coached me at the beginning and been my mechanic all weekend when I was karting and then would have to quite often drive twelve hours home. My dad Mike, my mum Caroline and my younger brother Max have sacrificed an unbelievable amount for me and they go without so many things just to allow me to compete. Much more than people know and I hope more than anything that one day I will get the chance to repay them for the chance they have given me.
But thats not quite the end of my 2017 season! Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of family and friends I have been given the opportunity to compete in the end of season Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on 21st/22nd October and then on to the big Walter Hayes Trophy meeting at Silverstone a fortnight later on 4th/5th November.
These are two massive events for me to have the opportunity to step up to and will be a fantastic chance for me to gain a huge amount of experience. I have been doing an enormous amount of preparation for these events already. They attract entries from around the world so I can hardly wait to get on out on track and compete against the top drivers racing in Formula Ford at the moment.