DRIVER DIARY: TESTING, TESTING

Hello and welcome to the first entry in my driver diary, which I hope will become a regular feature on the website, and a means of keeping you up-to-date with what goes on between races in the Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.

Life’s been pretty busy since we decided to step up to single-seaters for 2011 – I thought competing at the level we did in karting was hectic, but this is different, fitting testing in between college commitments and generally preparing for the season ahead.

Although I started testing the Fluid Motorsport Developments’ Van Diemen before Christmas, things have picked up pace this year and, having signed with the team for 2011, I have been getting more and more track time in recent weeks, trying to learn about the car and some of the circuits we’ll be visiting in the months ahead.

Although we’ve been to Oulton Park, Silverstone, Rockingham and Snetterton since the turn of the year, the last visit to the ‘Home of British Motorsport’ was perhaps the most important test so far, as it marked the first time that all of the major contenders for the Formula Ford series were together at the same venue at the same time.

As well as being the first official group test for the series, there was a lot more to the day, with classes and media duties to attend to between sessions on track. It’s all very interesting for a rookie like me although, obviously, I have had experience of both during my time in karting, particularly racing at national and international level.

I was happy with the way things went on track too. As I am new, not only to Formula Ford, but also to single-seaters in general, I was not setting myself any lofty goals, but I was able to run in the top three in my group in the split morning sessions, and then continued to lap quite close to the pace when the track was opened to all around lunchtime.

Although I knew what I was doing in karting, there is so much more to learn now that I have moved up, from the various set-up changes to understanding how to use new tyres and the routine of matching temperature to grip. With so much more to change, it hasn’t been easy, I can tell you, but we are not rushing things. We’re not making too many changes just yet, because I need to understand what difference each change is making. Just as in karting, making too many alterations at once will only cloud the issue and disguise which one did what.

On the whole, however, testing has gone pretty well throughout the winter and, thankfully, there have been few incidents to slow us down. It was good, too, to have a team-mate at Silverstone – although having Matt Parry and Matt Parr in the same line-up has the potential to be very confusing! It was good to be able to compare data with someone else in the same car, especially a driver with some previous Formula Ford experience, as I have been running pretty much alone up to now, and it was encouraging that we both looked competitive.

Obviously, we have been testing at Silverstone and Oulton Park quite a bit because they will host the first two rounds of the season, and I am happy that I have learned both circuits quite quickly. I wasn’t a fan of Oulton to start with because there was so much to take in on the long circuit, but I am enjoying it a lot more now, and look forward to racing there. I was only about 0.6secs off the best time in the last test there, so things are definitely improving, and I could have been even quicker had it not been for an oil spill when I was about to start a new tyre run.

I have been working very closely with Garry Findlay since joining Fluid, and he is having a positive influence on my development. Garry drove for Fluid a couple of years ago, and really knows the team and the car, which has helped me settle in, We’ve bonded very well, and Garry has been helpful in using his experience to clarify my feedback for my mechanics, Sam and Lee, so that they know what to tweak on the car. He also knows all the circuits too, so the only thing that is different for him is that Formula Ford now runs on Dunlop tyres, not Avons!

We’ve also been karting at Wildtracks between sessions, which helps on a number of levels. Not only does help to keep my reflexes sharp, but it also helps me to relax, as there is no pressure – other than making sure we don’t damage Garry’s kart!

There will be a few more tests between now and the first round on the weekend of 9-10 April and, as you read this, I will be at either Rockingham or Oulton, getting more mileage under my belt. We have already tried a different brake system on the car, which was an improvement, and I know that there will be a new look for the Van Diemen early in the season. That’s the benefit of running with the ‘works’ team, new parts can arrive at any moment…..

I’ll try and keep you up-to-date with what is going on away from the races, so don’t forget to check back from time to time. In the meantime, I will tell you to keep an eye out for a very exciting announcement about my season, which will be coming to the website very soon…..

Until next time,

Matt

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.