April 15, 2023
Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador Sarah Hall kicked off her season in the Focus Cup at Donington Park recently.
Rookie race driver Sarah Hall is taking part in the Focus Cup for her first full season of racing. Here's how she got on at her first race meeting.
Sarah Hall Focus Cup Race Report
The weather was not on our side, with torrential rain most of the day meaning lots of standing water on the track. As you can imagine this presented some real challenges for all the drivers especially those of us with our ‘novice’ crosses on the back of the cars. The track was incredibly slippy and visibility was, at times, non-existent. Our sessions on track were also merged withthe GT Cup cars, who are considerably faster than our Focus fleet which meant getting in a run for a clear lap almost impossible – and I’m sure the GT cars were feeling the same frustration.
We spent time changing the set up on the car to suit my style of driving – tweaking the tyre pressures and suspension stiffness. We discovered an issue with the driveshaft which my mechanic team changed at lightening speed ready for race day.
Race day came and it was another wet morning for qualifying but thankfully no standing water left. A red flag in our qualifying session meaning we spent about 6 mins of the 15 min session sat in the pitlane waiting to go back out – not really enough time to get into the grove but I qualified for the race, with a safe set of the minimum three lap requirement in the bag.
A recurring shoulder injury reared its head after the test day so I knew that would be a challenge for me during quali and racing - I think some physio for the rest of the season will be the plan.
Now the nerves had set in. We waited in the holding area for what felt like four hours and was really around 25 mins. We lined up on the grid ready for the green flag lap, set off in formation, weaving to warm up the tyres and complete a lap around the track back to the start line. I’m in position, in gear trying to control the nerves making my leg shake on the clutch and watching the start lights intently. The lights go out and I try for a good start. Not too bad, could be faster but the only goal here was not to stall on the line. We all head into the first corner, I’m watching my mirrors to find my place and see where the other drivers are in the pack. The track was drier now so I could find a little pace. I kept my head down and followed the pack until the flag.
During testing and race one I just couldn’t get myself past the 1:36 lap. I finished Race 1 feeling frustrated and having had barely any seat time with my driver coach my confidence was low and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. So I took myself off with the coach and we sat and looked at my lap data and compared it to a driver at the front of the grid. It was really insightful to analyse where I was doing well and where I needed to improve. Some places I was matching the driving of the pole qualifier, but to see what I needed to change to get quicker was really informative and eye opening.
I went in with a plan. I was going to brake later and harder and get back on the power earlier. Easy right?
I really knuckled down and over the first half of the race I gained 2 seconds on Race 1’s times. I was feeling good and I was pulling a good gap from the car behind. Then unfortunately my car suddenly lost power for about 10 seconds on the back straight. No! - and the driver passed me, so frustrating!
I spent the second half of the race trying to catch up, which I eventually did and I was right on her bumper for a couple of laps with no real opportunity to overtake. As we went down the back straight and into the ‘esses’ I had a better run into the corner and saw this as my opportunity to come out faster and go for the overtake on the start/ finish straight. I went for it, and just as my front bumper started to pass her rear bumper – the chequered flag came down!
So she had the position, incredibly frustrating but that’s racing and I was laughing all the way. It was fantastic to have a good clean battle with Abbi. And when I looked down at my lap times I’d done a 1:32.1 – meaning I’d taken just over 4.5 seconds off my race 1 best lap. To see a big jump in progress between the two races was definitely the encouragement I needed and I can truly say despite the challenges and the learning I thoroughly enjoyed race 2 and climbed out of the car with a huge smile on my face.
Due to work commitments I know I won't have any seat time before making the trip from Middlesbrough down to Round 2 at Brands Hatch GP circuit. I have driven Brands Indy once previously and I will be hoping to at least get some time on the sim before the pre-round testing.
We'd like to say congratulations to Sarah on getting the first race weekend under her belt. All the team at Carbon Positive Motorsport would like to wish Sarah the very best of luck at Brands Hatch at the end of the month.
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