Patrick Barrett – Wet and Wild at Brands Hatch

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Patrick Barrett

Published on October 28, 2007 with No Comments

Dartford, England (October 28, 2007) – A wet, wild and rough weekend here at the Brands Hatch Circuit in England. The weather for Friday practice and Saturday qualifying was dry and overcast, but all three Sunday races were held in the classic British rain which made for some intense and exciting racing.

The weekend started off cold and dry on Friday with three practice sessions which I consider to be one of the most challenging practice days I’ve ever participated in. Laps go by fast on the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit and passing is at a minimum. The competition in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy is extremely close. Many of the drivers had already competed in the FPA Championship earlier in the year and others in either Formula BMW, Formula Renault or Formula Ford. Despite my limited time in the FPA and on the Brands Hatch Circuit, I was able to come to grips with everything reasonably well.

One of the hardest things to learn with the FPA is the timing of the turbo. If you get on the throttle too quickly, you’ll get major wheel-spin, but if you wait to long, you’ll loose precious time and will experience turbo lag. At the end of the day I had a good feel for the car was looking forward to running on new tires for qualifying the following day.

Qualifying at Brand Hatch is extremely important because passing during the race is not easy. On the Indy Circuit it’s really challenging because there or only one or two good passing zones, but getting one clear lap in qualifying is even more difficult. In Qualifying 1 I was able to get a couple of clear laps in before a safety car period. I ended up ninth which was a good start to the day. In Q2 I was able to lay down a quick time for sixth on the grid for Race 2. In Q3 I ran a lot of consistent times but did no better than ninth. The results from qualifying were very positive, but knowing that there was a strong chance of rain on Sunday, I felt even more upbeat about this weekend.

Sure enough, the English rain came around 10:00 AM. There was no morning warm-up; we just went directly into the first race of the day. Throughout the two installation laps I was able to practice a couple of standing starts, which was good because the track proved to be quite slippery. I got a great jump off the line when the red lights went out and was able to move up into sixth place on the first lap. On lap three, entering Druid’s Bend (Turn Two) I was hit from behind and spun into the gravel trap. I was pulled out but only to find myself two laps down. I ran a majority of the race by myself but that gave me plenty of time to run consistent lap times within three tenths of the leader’s pace. On the last lap I used the six-second 50 horsepower turbo boost to catch the car in front of me, but entering Turn Two I locked up the right front tire and slid off into the gravel trap. I ended up finishing 21st, but my pace throughout the race was something to boast about.

In Race 2 I got a great start off the line and found myself in fifth place by the end of lap one. On the beginning of lap two, entering Paddock Hill Bend (Turn One), I made the down shift from fifth to fourth, but the gears didn’t engage properly. I locked up the right front and slid off the track into the gravel trap and stopped just short of the tire wall. That ended my chances of a scoring a possible top- five finish, but I was able to take some time to watch the leaders drive through Turn One.

Race 3 was my last chance to prove myself on one of the toughest courses in England. It was late in the day and was literally impossible to see your pit board. When the lights went out I was able to maintain my position in ninth. Two laps into the race and the red flag came out when two cars tangled and stopped in the middle of the track. We all lined up on the grid again, but one position higher from where I last started. I got a great jump off the line and found myself in fifth place, still in close quarters with the leader. About seven laps later, I spun the car on the exit of the last turn when I ran up on the white line and the turbo kicked in sooner than anticipated. I managed to keep the car running and pointed in the right direction, but I fell back to 12th place. I worked my way to ninth place behind my teammate Joel Miller, but wasn’t able to find a way past. The race went by fast and before you knew it the checkered flag was waving.

Despite not finishing two of the three races it was productive weekend filled with the ups and downs of motor racing. I learned a lot about the car, the track, the race craft and learned to always expect the unexpected.

Our next race will be at the Snetterton Race Circuit in one week’s time, November 3-4. The event will feature more drivers, a fast track, and the prestigious McLaren/Autosport/BRDC Award, which is one of the reasons for a competitive field this season. (Americans are not eligible for award.) It should be fun.

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