First up Abbie had practice and testing on the Friday and also a session on the Saturday morning. She was hoping to have a good start to the season particularly as Silverstone is a circuit she knows well from her instructor work.
The cars had undergone upgrades for this season with some quite big changes to the suspension which affects the setup and how the car handles on track. The Friday testing had been wet so Saturday morning practice was Abbie’s first time on track with the new upgrades on the car. She knew straight away the car wasn’t right with massive under steer. The rest of the session was spent trying to improve the car. Despite the problems she was still third quickest in the session.
Things were changed for qualifying in the hope of sorting out the understeer but once Abbie was on track she found the problem had actually got worse. There was no time to make adjustments during the session and she qualified in fifth position feeling very frustrated and unhappy.
Abbie and the team stayed at the circuit until late working on the car and trying to decide how to fix the handling issues.
Race one was on Sunday morning and although rain was forecast it was dry before the start although the track was still a little damp from overnight rain. This made the decision on what setup to use very hard.
As the race got underway it became clear to Abbie that the setup they had gone for wasn’t right as the car was driving as though it were on ice. From fifth on the grid she dropped all the way down to twelfth. But Abbie wasn’t going to give in and she set about trying to fight back. By lap eight the car had improved and she scythed her way through the field quickly getting up to sixth. Unfortunately by that time the top five were a long way ahead and she crossed the line in sixth. On the positive side of things she was only four tenths of a second off the winning cars fastest lap and Abbie thought sorting the car would gain them more than four tenths per lap.
The team did further work to the car ready for race two which was the last of the weekend at 5:15pm. They took a bit of a gamble on setup thinking they were unlikely to make it worse! Things looked good right from the start as Abbie made a perfect getaway shooting from sixth to second by the first corner. This then became first on lap two as she passed race one winner, Mike Comber for the lead.
Unfortunately there appeared to be an issue with Abbie’s engine as Mike Comber powered back past on the straight. Dave Chapman was now right behind Abbie and with some excellent defensive driving she kept him behind despite his car also seeming much faster on the straight. After six laps though Abbie couldn’t hold him off any longer and Chapman too was past. But the top three were quite a long way ahead of the rest of the pack and Abbie’s car was handling much better. She easily held onto third for the rest of the race and crossed the line on the final lap to take a well deserved third place to stand on the Silverstone F1 podium.
Abbie was happier after that result;
“The car felt better, certainly from the rear, but the same problem we’ve been trying to solve all weekend does still remain. My engine doesn’t appear to have enough top end poke either. I’m currently fourth in the championship though so all is not lost. We’ll be booking a test session before the next round to try and solve all the issues. Thanks to the team for all their efforts in trying to fix the problems this .”
Abbie’s next races are at Brands Hatch in May. She’ll be hoping to have the car sorted and challenge for victories. by Marc Waller