RACE REPORT: VAG TROPHY 2017 – ROUND 5 THRUXTON CIRCUIT – 2ND SEPTEMBER 2017
Saturday 2nd September saw the MaximumGroup.net VAG Trophy head to Andover and the UK’s fastest circuit, Thruxton for the penultimate round of the championship. Kyle was set for a long and challenging weekend starting with much needed testing as this track is always a test of skill in not only handling the constant high speeds, but also tyre management.
Thruxton, unlike most circuits, has very limited testing but, fortunately, Kyle has a great partner in Motion Simulation Ltd and had made very good use of their simulators in the weeks leading up to the race in order to get some circuit familiarisation in and to understand the different braking point and racing lines on the track. With the simulator preparation done it was time to head down to the circuit and get on track in his #GetacRacing race car run by Tony Gilham’s Team Hard Racing.
Kyle didn’t take to the track straight away, preferring to wait until the frantic early sessions had calmed down somewhat. As session 3 approached, Kyle got his race gear on and got re-acquainted with his superb office and headed out onto track. As he exited the pits and got onto the track, the car wasn’t feeling 100% and felt down on power. This is less than ideal on a power circuit where speed matters. With around 85% of the lap spent on full throttle, a power disadvantage could prove very costly. However, undaunted, Kyle persisted with the session, in order to get an actual feel for the circuit with the power that he did have.
Following this first session and the good understanding it gave him of the track, the team got to work on trying to identify the power problem. Having made some set up changes to the rear suspension and replaced some engine sensors that were suspected as being potential culprits, Kyle exited onto the track for a second time. He accelerated out of the pit lane until, at around 80mph, a race drivers worst nightmare happened; a massive bang!
In a split second, the car bonnet got caught by the increasing speed of air flowing over it and flipped up, smashing the windscreen and leaving Kyle with only a sliver of space to see through to stop the car safely while at the same time having to deal with shattered glass coming in to the cockpit. It was a complete accident, and something that happens in even the top flight of racing, but Kyle’s team were devastated, as was Kyle. Understanding that these things happen from time to time, and ever the diplomat, Kyle took time to reassure the team not to worry. Fortunately for Kyle it had happened on the practice day rather than during qualifying or the race. With a new windscreen fitted, it was unfortunately too late to head out for testing to establish whether the engine problems had been fixed but at least he could live to fight another day…
Saturday arrived, and the anticipation of what was to come. While at a disadvantage owing to a lack of track time the day before, and still unsure if the power issues had been resolved, Kyle took solace from the fact that at least his tyres would be in better condition than those who had done more extensive testing the day before. He strapped himself in and headed out for the 15 minute qualifying session.
Pretty much immediately it was obvious that the sensor replacement hadn’t cured the power issues. However Kyle persisted with the session, using as much kerb at the two complexes as possible to get a representative lap time in. At the end of the session Kyle had managed 12th and was only 0.02 seconds off 11th place. Not what he was looking for. However, due to being down on power, he hadn’t taken as much life out of my tyres which may well play into his hands come the race.
With the qualifying session over it was back to the pits and the team got to work on the car once again to try and rectify the power problems. Just in time for the first race, the team managed to make further sensor replacements and a change to damper settings to allow Kyle to be slightly more aggressive on the kerbs should he still be down on power. This is always a risk though as Thruxton is notoriously tough on tyres and taking more kerb risks damaging the tyres. It was going to be a tough balancing act but it’s not an uncommon situation for a driver to face so Kyle just made the call for what instinctively felt right and went for it.
Unfortunately for Kyle, and in spite of the best efforts of the team, the car was still down on power which meant a tough race was coming Kyle’s way. Kyle’s get away from the line was great but as he was accelerating he felt a little push from behind from a competitor that clearly had much more power. Undaunted, Kyle pushed on knowing that the setup changes he had made would mean that the corners would be where he regained some ground. And so it was with him executing the complexes perfectly lap after lap and taking “Church” corner flat in 5th gear. He ended up having a great battle with Martyn Cully all race long but, a little later in the race, someone had a tyre blow-out which left debris all across the circuit. The race was nearing its completion so the race officials, putting the drivers’ safety first, red flagged the race. In spite of the premature end of the race Kyle came home in 11th place. Whilst he had been aiming for a top 10, he was happy with the result, especially given that he was on average 12mph slower through the lap and massively down on power.
As soon as the car returned to the pits the every dedicated team got to work on the car once again to try and rectify the lack of power once and for all. After replacing yet more sensors, it seemed that there could be nothing more electronically that could be causing the power issues. The team then got to work on removing the front end of the car and found that the intercooler had a leak; a minor leak but a leak nonetheless. So, with the intercooler replaced, and all engine sensors replaced, it was time for race two.
With hope that the issues was finally resolved, Kyle headed out on to the track. It was soon obvious that the car was still down on power and that Kyle was in for another tough race. Nonetheless, the same spirit of dogged determination kicked in and Kyle set his focus on the start lights.
As the lights went out Kyle got a fantastic start, especially considering his power disadvantage. As the first lap unfolded it seemed that Kyle was in for another race long battle with Martyn Cully. With the leading part of the field pulling away, Kyle was taking even more risks over the kerbs in the complexes and was gaining massively on Cully in the corners where he had far superior grip but Cully was pulling a gap on the straights. As Kyle’s battle with Cully continued and the race neared its completion, there was quite a big incident with four cars involved, including some championship challengers. The safety car was called, and on passing the incident on the following lap, Kyle was relieved to see all the drivers walking away from what was left of their cars. It was only as Kyle pulled back off the track at the end of that lap that it dawned on him that he had finished in 8th place with some of this closest championship rivals not scoring points.
In a typically mature moment, Kyle later reflected on the weekend. Being down on power had taught him by far his biggest lesson as a racing driver to date; to take away the positives from a bad situation. He had come away scoring more points than a number of his championship rivals and now found himself sitting in 7th place with a healthy gap to his nearest challenger in 8th. The Team Hard Racing crew had done a superb job in persisting with their rugged determination in getting his #GetacRacing race car back up to power and he had come away from the UK’s fastest circuit with two finishes, a host of points and was sitting in a comfortable place in his opening season in very competitive racing.
Kyle later said, “This is all thanks to my amazing sponsors Getac who have seen potential, determination and dedication from me to represent them in the best way possible and on a huge stage. I cannot express my thanks to Getac enough, they are truly very special to me, and I will always be extremely grateful to them for seeing potential in me and my abilities. I have to also express huge thanks to Tony Gilham and his Team Hard Racing, along with each and every one of their mechanics who persisted with trying to get my race car back up to pace.“
“Thank you Getac for all of your continued support, and a big thank you to all the team and mechanics who persisted to get my car back to full power for the main event, it just wasn’t our weekend. I must also extend my thanks to Varoosh Sports Partnerships Ltd, Jellyfish Designs Ltd, Allprint Supplies (Slough), Slough Audi, Motion Simulation Race Room, Drift Innovation, Dread, Bespoke Automotive Customs and so many friends and family who have continually supported me every step of the way.”
With the final round of the championship looming in late October, Kyle is determined to finish the season in the best possible way as a way of justifying the belief shown in him by all those who are on this journey with him. The last round of the 2017 MaximumGroup.net VAG Trophy will take place on the 28th October at the Oulton Park International Circuit in Cheshire.