Following the latest round of the Vodafone Dmax Champs last Sunday, I thought it was the right time to sit down and write the half term report. With five rounds completed and five to go, it is time to reflect upon the series so far and to download some of my thoughts as the Series Director about this year’s races and drivers.
We have enjoyed over double the entries this year from last. This is very rewarding from both a personal and corporate perspective as it suggests that the drivers like what we are doing with their championship. When I first got involved with the Vodafone Dmax Series early in 2011, we would expect entries of about 60 drivers per round – the two weight classes would race together in the endurance races and the heats event would be done and dusted in about two hours. So far this year we have averaged over 130 drivers per round, with separate races for all three weight classes in both the endurance and heats series.
This popularity has brought both pros and cons. The drivers are enjoying healthy grids and busy tracks but we are under intense time pressure to complete all the racing within the time allowed. The first round over-ran by nearly two hours and the heats finalists had a very late finish on a cold February Sunday in Milton Keynes. One month later, we had implemented the new system where drivers carried the timing transponders and this allowed us to turn each race around a lot more quickly and Round 2 at Whilton Mill finished exactly on time. One month later, we proved that this was now the norm at Daytona Sandown Park as we again finished within our curfew.
At Round 4 we headed down to Lydd and although we had one or two delays between the heats, we still managed to finish the days racing pretty close to our planned finish time. Round 5 saw us at Whilton Mill again and once again we finished on time – even including the need for the rebriefing that I deemed necessary before the finals.
At Whilton Mill on Sunday we saw incredibly close qualifying for all three endurance races. With less than a second between the top 17 or so drivers each time, the investment that Daytona has made in new karts, in increased general testing and in testing at the circuit on the Saturday before the race has paid off. Whilst this promoted even closer racing, it also unfortunately contributed to the serious increase in contact on Sunday. A number of the drivers at the last round were penalised for contact and nearly all the other drivers complained about the contact levels. At the rebriefing before the finals, 95% of drivers agreed that there was too much contact but 95% of them also thought that it was the other drivers’ fault.
I have reviewed some of the videos on youtube that drivers have uploaded since Sunday. In many cases it shows drivers losing control in the slippery conditions when it rained, but a few of them also show the alarming increase in drivers thinking that the overtaking driver is at fault when actually it is often the driver being over taken who is failing to give way.
Now I am not suggesting that it is always the overtaken driver who is at fault, but often it is. At Whilton Mill, there are two places where a quicker driver can easily get up the inside of the slower driver. Turns 3 and 4 both require a touch of brakes and a quicker driver can put the nose of his or her kart down the inside and brake a little bit later than the driver on the outside and then complete the corner safely and without any contact.
I have seen two videos this week where a driver being overtaken complains that he was hit by the other driver. In both cases, the contact was caused by the outside driver turning in and hitting the side of the other kart. To save their blushes I am not going to link to the videos.
Once again, I should point out that I will always penalise a driver who lunges up the inside into a hairpin corner far too fast and out of control leading to a collision. But I will not give a black flag to a driver who manages to get up the inside of another driver, in full control of their kart, even if they need to run slightly wide as a result of their late braking. I am a lot more likely to penalise the other driver if there is resultant contact.
There is another corner at Whilton Mill called The Boot. It is the right hander before the Pit Bend. On Sunday I watched many drivers forcing their way into that corner when the driver in front ran slightly wide. When the preceding driver then turned in tighter in order to get round the corner there was inevitable contact. It is really difficult to penalise the overtaking driver in this instance. The driver in front opens the door, the driver behind puts his nose into the gap, the front driver shuts the door, there is contact. Who is at fault?
Following the rebrief before the Finals on Sunday, we saw some great racing in the Finals. I had pointed out in the rebrief that I wasn’t enjoying overseeing the heats due to the levels of contact, but the drivers respected each other (and me) in the Finals and the quality of racing improved as a result.
We are back to Daytona Milton Keynes next month. I know the circuit and the venue very well. I aim to ensure that I stamp on any inappropriate driving very early on during the day so that we can enjoy some superb racing on the International Extra circuit. Considering the very different line into Turn 8 on the Extra track and the slower approach to Turn 9, it is likely that the drivers will need to work very hard to maximise the opportunity to win and minimise the risk of penalties!
See you all on July 8th.
Vodafone Dmax Series Director