Having recieved my adult race licence just 10 days before, I just didn’t get chance to drive the BMW 116 before the opening race of the season at Silverstone. However I had raced the circuit for last years JSCC round in the front wheel drive Saxo. With a new rwd car to get used to and zero experience in setting up the car, we were lucky to be joined by Mark Watts of BPC Motorsport. We are also grateful for the advice from Darren Thompson, and it was also great to have Aston of Nurburgring Tours with us, especially on the pit wall and comms.
Thanks to ADS1928 Racing for the photos
So with my exams looming and therefore Friday off school not being an option, the plan was for me and my ‘big brother’ Matty to run in the two Saturday Sprints to get some seat time for our main event, the 90 minute endurance race on Sunday. Lots of new experiences to take in …; new car, wearing earpieces, using radios, pit board, strategies, driver changeovers to practice.
Looking back we took the car out a little heavy on fuel for our morning qualifying sessions, and I came back with P28, and Matty P29. After a couple of set up tweaks ready for the afternoon races I set off for the assembly area and it unexpectedly began to rain,… this would be my first race and my first time driving my 116 in the rain, and we had just taken the best tyres off to save them for the endurance. So I was very happy to take seven places on a drying track and bring her back safe in P21. Later on Matty drove an amazing dry race, taking 16 places to get up to 13th by the chequered flag, we were now running at a decent pace and I also had some good footage/data to go through and compare with Matty coaching me to see how I could improve for Sunday. We also practiced the driver swaps with the team a good few times to make sure we were well drilled ready for the two mandatory 60 second stops.
The team in the garage made a few more tweeks in the evening and adjusted the excess weight we were carrying ready for qualifying on Sunday morning. I went out first but struggled to get a clear lap in, plus yellow flags and a safety car, but after the driver swap Matty qualified us P25 from a packed grid of 46, and despite the light fuel load we were confident that we could still find more time in the race.
It seemed a long wait until it was time to race at 2.35pm but it gave our team chance to discuss and make decisions planning strategies and pitstops. We decided that Matty should take the rolling start of the race, and we would wait for a good opportunity to complete our first driver swap. Matty made excellent progress in the first stint and got us firmly into the top ten with his own fastest laps, getting closer to the pace of the front runners. At this point I was a little nervous that I would not be quick enough to hold that position, and that the driver swap needed to be flawless too……We made our first live driver swap in race conditions and under pressure our fastest yet when Matty came up on traffic whilst in P6 about 40 minutes into the race. The team had calculated to drop me back out on track in a nice sized gap too, where I could get a couple of settling in laps without pressure. Once in my rhythm, and with the car getting lighter with the decreasing fuel load, I found myself climbing back up the order. Then, as the others began to make their second mandatory pit stops, in a golden moment we were actually leading the race, and I was setting some consistently fast laps…dare we dream of a podium finish??….. The team let me know the decision over the radio that I should stay in the car for the remainder, and our next would be a dummy 60 second stop close to the end of the pit window with around twenty minutes left of the race.
Again the stop went to plan, but a yellow flag incident came and when I left the pit lane I rejoined behind a safety car,…. because of where I slotted in line and when the safety car let me pass and then peeled off, I seemed to lose a lot more positions than expected. Once we were racing again we made it back to P9 but with a gap to maintain from behind. I pushed hard under pressure but we received a penalties for track limit violations which put us just outside the top ten in final results.
Still we were all very happy to pass the chequered flag in P9 after 90mins in our first race, especially with minimum seat time and lots to learn about the car. It was a huge learning curve for us all in every area, but gave us a great start to the season, something to build on and come back stronger for the next round.
So many people to thank for an amazing first weekend with the 750 Motor Club, racing in the Gaz Shocks BMW 116 Trophy. I think the result shows that we are so lucky to have an amazing team, we wouldn’t have made it here without, Adam Kluj Transport, Nurburgring Tours, Arthur Morgan Kitchens, Status Timepieces, MyMotorworld.com , JPC Specialist Motorsport, TeamKarting, XKart, Sata Tools, Also huge thanks to Anna Kennedy Online,
Racing With Autism.com, and Autism Supergood (Bikers for Autism), for your support. everyone who has taken the time to purchase space on the racecar roof (draw coming soon). Mum (once again, probably the best hospitality in the paddock), my hard working Dad, and my big “brother from another mother”, Matty Street.
Sandro is one of Anna Kennedy Online’s Autism Hero Award Winners. Closing date to enter is Friday 2nd June 2023