Bedford, England (November 5, 2007) â€“ The final three rounds in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy took place at the Snetterton Race Circuit outside of Norwich in Central East England. This event was titled the Snetterton MABA Shoot-out which drew in a flood of competitive drivers. The shoot-out determined which driver would be the sixth member of the prestigious McLaren/Autosport/BRDC Award and would go on to compete for a free test in a McLaren-Mercedes Formula One car at the end of the year. This weekendâ€™s final three races also determined who would be the 2007 FPA Autumn Trophy Champion.
Snetterton is different in almost every single way from Brands Hatch. The length of the circuit is 1.9 miles and it has six turns and features two fast long straightaways. The weekend got off to a challenging start with Friday practice. The aggression level was at a maximum, even for a Friday practice day. I wound up 15th overall after four sessions and Joel 13th out of 22 drivers.
Saturday qualifying proved to be one of the most challenging sessions of the weekend. The new tires brought down the times by nearly a whole second, even from last yearâ€™s fastest lap at a 1.05:332. The fastest time of the whole weekend was a 1.04:368. In Q1 I posted a time good enough for 10th on the grid for race one, four tenths off of the pole time. I managed a better position in Q2 with a time of 1.05:190, three tenths off of pole position, which put me ninth on the grid for race two. The final qualifying session was the worst of the day. Anytime I got a clear lap, there was either a yellow flag or someone coming out of pit lane in front of me. Once the session was over, I found myself 12th on the grid for race three.
Race one got off to a rough start when I lost two positions going into the first turn. When all 22 cars got on the long back straight, everyone was on the 50bhp boost and were fanning out to nearly four wide, all jockeying for position. At the end of lap three I found myself in 12th position, but half way through the race I lost control of the car going into Turn Three and fell back to 18th. I managed to pick off a couple of cars but came out 16th.
Race two was a complete turn around from race one where I fought hard for every position. I got a poor jump off the line and fell back to 10th, but after everyone had settled down I was able to start picking cars off one by one. Half way through the race I was in a fierce battle for sixth spot with Alex Brundle. We traded the position four times but in the end I came out with the upper hand and pulled out to a safe gap over seventh place. On the final lap 2007 FPA Champion Tim Bridgman was struggling to keep the car on course. Exiting the final turn to the checkered flag I was on his tail but wasnâ€™t able to get by for fifth position.
The result from race two was exactly what I needed going into the final race of the Autumn Trophy. Starting from the 12th position I once again got a poor jump off the line. I lost two positions going into the first turn, but quickly gained those back by the end of lap one. Half way through Race 3 I found myself in eighth position battling with Luciano Bacheta for seventh. With four laps remaining I managed to sneak by at the end of the long straight entering Turn 3 and pull out to a reasonable gap. Joel was next in line to battle with Bacheta for eighth and was successful. The checkered flag fell for the final time in the FPA Autumn Trophy and I crossed the in seventh position, just ahead of Joel.
It was an unforgettable experience competing in one of the most competitive championships Iâ€™ve ever been in against some of Englandâ€™s best young up-and-coming drivers. Jonathan Palmer did a fantastic job putting together such a successful, fair and competitive program for the future stars of motor racing. After racing in the Autumn Trophy, I go home with a greater knowledge and respect for the motor racing world.