Let’s go ahead and build a Formula Renault race team from scratch.
Sometimes, I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s not as if the Daytona Engineering Team wasn’t already busy but when I pitched the idea at Andrew Luck, our Head of Engineering at Milton Keynes, he seemed pretty keen. Andrew has a huge amount of prior experience running many different types of race cars and, without his knowledge and enthusiasm, the Formula Renault team just wouldn’t be possible. OK, stage one complete, got the spanners sorted – now stage two, convince the CEO.
That went down slightly easier than I had anticipated despite the cost, risk and general upheaval, although I do remember a phone call when he accused me of building myself my dream job. Yes, I replied, I am.
Convincing the driver that we could do a good job for him was the last part of the initial puzzle as we’d both be learning together but we put together a competitive package and we signed the contract after some keen negotiations. And translations, as our driver is Russian rookie Ivan Taranov. Ivan is tremendously determined and despite only setting foot into a pro-kart for the very first time just 18 months ago, has learnt very quickly and shown some superb speed in the DMAX championship.
As the youngest and by far the least experienced driver in the 22 car field, it was always going to be an uphill struggle but early testing went well despite the inevitable spins and offs. Testing in the winter was wet and cold but taught him much in the way of car control. It’s a huge task to go from 22hp karts with comparatively little grip, to a full 200hp slicks and wings, single seater with a 6 speed sequential gearbox, but Ivan progressed well… until Croft.
It had to happen. It happens to all racing drivers sooner or later…. the dreaded first big off. And Ivan being Ivan is not one to go about things half-arsed. The only chance to test at Croft before the July round was in early March. We pulled the car up, stayed overnight near the track and arrived at a freezing cold but
dry and sunny Croft circuit for the first of 4 sessions during the day. Ivan paced himself nicely in the first few laps learning the track and the conditions. On lap 8 however, he just touched the still frozen kerb on the entry to the fast turn 1 and spun round and slammed the tyre wall at around 100mph. The resultant damage was enough to write the car off. The tub was punctured by the front left wishbone and Ivan was lucky to suffer nothing more than a nasty concussion. We had 10 days before the official Media Day launch of the 2011 BARC Formula Renault Series and we had a trailer full of bits and splintered carbon fibre.
I tracked down another complete car, the insurance company were fantastic and we just about made the Media day with an unpainted, untested race car with a driver who had just about recovered from his injury.
Ivan is fast round Silverstone and he was running in the top 6 fastest times before fatigue set in, but the car felt good despite some technical niggles. A brand new livery came next courtesy of our Chief Engineer and creative guru – Andrew Luck.
Further pre-season tests followed before the first round at Donington. This was a nerve wracking affair for all of us – our very first race as Team Daytona. Ivan struggled a little in qualifying but he drove superbly in the races and finished 11th in both. A fantastic start to our season and a credit to Andrew’s preparation and Ivan’s controlled driving. Going from 2.2secs off the front in 1st qualifying to less than 1 second off the fastest in race two was an excellent effort.
During the 3 week break before Brands, the car got stripped down, checked and re-prepared. The latest car had a problem with the data logging and it took a complete re-wire and replacement to fix it. The amount of data you can get from the cars is astonishing and it’s a valuable tool for the driver. It felt like we were driving blind without it and going to Brands with a fully functioning data logger was a boon.
Brands Hatch Indy circuit is a tight, fast and tricky little beggar and it takes huge confidence to get it right. Despite being only 1 second off pole, the level of competition meant we qualified 17th for race one. In qualifying 2, we were only 8/10ths off pole but we were still 17th! The competition was fierce.
After a number of stalls, a red flag, a black flag drive through penalty and a few overtakes, Ivan brought the car home in 15th place in race one and a much quieter race two resulted in a 16th place finish and yet more points.
After 4 races, Ivan stands in 14th position in the points and is top rookie.
The team heads to a jam-packed Oulton Park race with qualifying and 2 races all on Saturday 28th May. Why not come and watch us?