Danny went out fast in the first free practice session, running a low one minute 26 second lap which was only 0.4 slower than the fastest time, but registered only as twelfth overall. Danny seemed a bit surprised not to be further up but on closer analysis his perfect lap – the four best sector times taken together – was actually fourth fastest. Still, there were things he wasn’t quite comfortable with, so some settings would need to be tweaked.
The plan had been to settle in during FP1 and then try some development forks in FP2, courtesy of our suspension support from K-Tech. However, the priority had to switch to getting Danny comfortable, and then it rained. FP2 coincided with a strange sort of heavy raindrops drizzle, the first precipitation for weeks. As you can imagine, the track was ingrained with rubber after weeks of dry running most days of the week. To say a drop of rain made things treacherous was an understatement. We stayed in the garage while a few brave souls ventured out. Nothing to be gained as the forecast for the rest of the weekend was for a resumption of the heatwave, and so it proved.
Comfortably through the first segment, Danny knew the pressure would increase as the times were incredibly tight, and fast. He was right! Running a few places outside the top nine, Danny was called in for a second tyre. (We’re allowed to use three new tyres in qualifying, ideally one per segment, but you could use them all in one, if you want to). With time left for only one flying lap, Danny didn’t get the full benefit of the tyre and although he clocked a 25.6 for P10, he was bumped to P12 in the dying moments, 0.2 of a second short of Q3. Later on, looking at the Q3 lap times, Danny was honest enough to admit he wouldn’t have been in the mix – his strength is the race, not ‘hold your breath’ qualifying laps.
Race 1: Very warm again for race one. Danny made a reasonable start from mid-pack and was soon on the back of Cooper. Unfortunately, in all the argie-bargie Danny lost a couple of places before re-grouping. Danny fought his way back up to P8, closing hard on Cooper and Hickman – at the line they held him off by less than a second, a couple of laps more and it would have been P6 at the flag. Not bad after a tough fight and P8 on the grid for race two, based on his best lap time in the race.
Race 2: Race two and a cracking launch and first lap saw Danny come around in P5, just ahead of his mate Jake Dixon. Danny held off Jake for four laps and a few close calls…. As the race progressed, Danny slipped to what looked like a safe P7. But Bridewell on a Ducati and Ellison on a Yamaha were slowly closing in. Danny was losing a quarter of a second every lap at Surtees – the long, uphill left hander on to the back straight, short on edge grip and not having the same drive. Remember the point about Ducati and Yamaha engine characteristics? On the last lap, on the back straight Bridewell got past but Danny held off Ellison in a blanket finish. Another P8 for Danny.
16 points scored at a ‘bogey’ circuit was a good day’s work. Danny is now only 4 points behind early season favourite Bradley Ray and a reasonably comfortable 23 ahead of Christian Iddon.
Roll on Thruxton!