Jake Craig: The real fun begins

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Jake Craig

Published on October 14, 2018 with No Comments

DERBY, England – It’s been a busy week! Colin and I arrived on England on Tuesday, and the following evening, after we got fitted into our race cars, we were off to our hotel near the Donington Park Circuit — thanks to Michelle Dempsey for driving us. We had a nice dinner and met our new teammate Nico Gruber who is from Austria, then we were off to bed to get a good night’s rest before our first day in the cars. The plan was to do a couple of days’ testing before taking part in the final rounds of the BRSCC Avon Tyres British FF1600 Championship – effectively as a warmup for the following week’s Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

Our driver coach, James Theodore, has been super-helpful.

First thing Thursday morning we were introduced to the rest of the team. This was our first day on track and the weather was perfect, so that was great for getting comfortable in the cars. Colin and myself made minor adjustments throughout the day to and we both made a big improvement. Most importantly we kept it on the track! The tires that we are running require a little different driving style from what I’ve been on all year. That has been the biggest hurdle thus far. The team driver coach, James Theodore, has been a tremendous help in our improvement.

Friday was a different story weather-wise. The famous UK weather hit us and it was raining when we arrived at the track in the morning. It’s great getting rain experience in these cars before we go into the Formula Ford Festival next week at Brands Hatch. In session one I was going very well until I got into the braking zone too deep and got stuck in the gravel trap. I was quite happy with my pace in sessions two and three; I made improvements in both and the team made positive changes to the car set up. Unfortunately, session four was finished for us after a couple laps, because of a red flag. We ended the day with an awesome dinner cooked by Michelle Dempsey at the track.

When we returned to the track Saturday it looked like we were going to have a dry day. We started off with a drivers’ briefing, and luckily the rules aren’t too far off American racing so there wasn’t too much new information we needed to retain. After the briefing we were strapped in the cars for qualifying. As soon as we left pit lane rain started to come down. There was a small window that we needed to get our fast lap in, but unfortunately Colin and I both missed that. I ended qualifying 12th and Colin 14th.

After qualifying our coach, James went over some race footage from the past at Donington. They do standing starts in the UK, unlike at home where we have rolling starts. James talked us through everything we needed to know to best prepare us for the start. Luckily, my first standing start was a success, I didn’t lose any ground. I knew going into the race there was no time to wait before moving forward. The first few laps I worked my way up about four positions and slowly moved forward from there. Unfortunately, I had to avoid two cars getting together and I ended up losing the lead pack. The last few laps I had a really good battle with fellow American Carter Williams, who has been racing in the UK all season.

Sunday was wet!!! (JakobEbrey.com photo)

Once the race was over it was time for a much needed lunch – thanks again to Michelle! Then we had another debrief with James, looking at data and onboard video to see what we could do to improve our driving and perfect the handling of the cars.

Race two was another great race! It looked like it was going to rain while we were waiting in the grid area, but it held off. I had another good start off the line and then it was a big game of staying in the slip stream. I went for a pass about half way through the race and I had a little slide which allowed the leaders to get away just enough to lose the tow. From there it was a battle for fourth place, which I held until the last corner of the last lap when Carter managed to find a way past me so I had to settle for fifth.

The rain came back today for race three! We knew as soon as we walked outside the hotel it was going to be a wet race. When we arrived at the track we went over what to do on the start with James to get the best start we could in the wet conditions. It’s a bit tricky in the wet, because you want to reduce the wheel spin as much as possible. I was able to get off the line well and move to second at the start. Fellow competitor Luke Cooper pulled a little gap out of Turn One so I just put my head down and chased him. The gap stayed about the same the entire race and I ended the race in second. Even though results weren’t a priority for us here I was happy to bring home a podium for Cliff Dempsey Racing, the Team USA Scholarship and Jeremy Shaw.

Colin and I are both extremely happy with our efforts today. I think we set a great baseline for ourselves and we can keep improving from here. Huge thanks to the whole Cliff Dempsey Racing Team for giving us all the tools to make our first race day in the UK a success! I would also like to thank all of the Team USA Scholarship supporters. Without them none of this would be possible.

Thank you for reading,
Jake

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