Jake Cook: Blog
So after a long time since my last blog, here’s my first one of this year, I’ll try and keep them more up to date this time! As it happens, the end of last year wasn’t much to write home about, as continued mechanical problems left me 2nd in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship, a reasonable result in the very unfortunate circumstances. As the winter progressed, I found myself, as usual, without a budget and I didn’t just want to race anything that wouldn’t be a progression, it always seems to me a waste of money! So we got to March without anything in the pipeline and me concentrating on my Economics degree at Newcastle University, as people will know, not my first choice of career! However, I got a call from Richard Ollerenshaw at Hillspeed offering me a drive in Protyre Formula Renault. We looked at the budget we had to raise, and seeing the great value for money, decided to go for it. Although we’re still looking for more budget all the time, and not just for this year, we should be able to get through, we always do somehow!
I’ll just thank now my Dad and Paula for helping me out as much as they do, and indeed Matt Hall for helping us out so much with budget, as well as everyone at Broadsword, I wouldn’t be racing without their help! And also to Jonathan Hatfield and Leanne Fahy who look after my website and press releases, again, I couldn’t do it without all their help. And finally to Richard and everyone at Hillspeed, they’ve given me a great opportunity and have been brilliant so far.
So that out of the way, on to the racing. Having signed up late, and with our budget constraints, testing was limited. Indeed, I drove the car just twice before qualifying at Donington on Saturday. We had driven there on the Monday of the race weekend, so had the set up of the car sorted, as well as me learning the track in the new car. However, we weren’t entirely sure how on the pace we were, but confident enough with our speed.
Saturday morning and a damp track awaited us as we arrived. Second out on track, we knew the track would dry before we qualified so we started with a dry set up on the car. Having not driven since Monday, whilst everyone else was out on Thursday too, I knew I had to get the maximum out of the 20 minute session. However, upon leaving the pits and getting into the first few flying laps, I realised the conditions were much different to the Monday! The wind was ridiculous; through Old Hairpin I could barely get the car turned in! It was the same for everyone of course, I’d just never experienced the car in conditions like this, whist many of my rivals were returnees to the series. Despite this, with lap times getting quicker and quicker, I was P1 until the last 3 minutes of the session. Having been on the pace all session, I managed to make mistakes on my last two laps, which dropped me down to 6th. It was disappointing because I knew pole was really where I should have been, so I was disappointed with myself, people who know me will tell you I’m not happy when I win never mind if it’s even worse! It also meant I was only P7 for race 2.
I knew where I’d gone wrong and knew I had pace to find for the race, my next issue was the start, having never done a practice start it was a step into the unknown for me! As it happened, my start wasn’t too bad; it was about 3 seconds after that it all went wrong.I knew I had to get away with the pack and that I had the pace to overtake; I always back myself to improve on my qualifying position. So starting from 6th, my initial getaway was ok, I held position, however, I hit the limiter in 1st which knocked my progress and allowed Taranov to edge ahead. However as he did this he cut across my nose, damaging my front wing and turning him into a spin, and in turn hitting Menchaca, putting the Mexican out of both races. I’m usually pretty understanding with crashes, everyone makes mistakes, but this was a stupid move. I had nowhere to go and if I’d have braked, the cars behind would’ve been involved in an even bigger crash! It was unavoidable and very disappointing. The safety car came out, and I, wrongly, tried to carry on with my damaged front wing. The car felt ok, and I didn’t want to lose any time. The team did tell me to pit, but it being my first race, I didn’t really know the procedure so wanted to carry on and see what I could do. I want to apologise again to the team, in future I know to trust them! They were calling me in on safety grounds, and eventually I did come in to remove the front wing. Unfortunately I got a whack on the rear which gave me even more damage! The pit stop dropped me a lap behind and I just drove round to finish. A disappointing start.
Race 2 and a P7 start, and I had making up to do. The team had done a fantastic job to get the car out again, I can’t thank them enough! I wanted a good result for them more than anything, as well as to stay in touch with the championship leaders after the first weekend. Unbeknown to me at that point, I cracked a bone in my hand in the race 1 crash, which didn’t make it any easier for me! However, despite a little pain, I got a good start and moved up to 6th. It was an 8 leading group and on lap 3 I made my next moves, passing Macleod on the outside of turn 1, and then Middlehurst into the Old hairpin on the same lap. When the 3rd place man spun, I couldn’t have asked for a better first 5 laps; upto 3rd and breaking away with the two leaders. However, for the first time running with aero cars, I understeered off at Old hairpin and dropped back to 5th. I was angry at myself, and still am, as realistically it cost me a shot at the win I should have had. It won’t be a mistake I’ll make again. So after dropping off the lead group, I set three fastest laps in a row to start bridging the gap. With 4 laps left, the front group of 5 were almost together again. I bided my time as there was simply no space to pass, indeed until 2 laps to the end the order was unchanged, however I spotted a gap and passed Ghanem into MacLean’s before moving my attentions to Taranov. I left my move until the last corner on the last lap. He didn’t really leave me a gap, but there was kerb on the inside to use and a little tarmac, however, with two wheels on the grass I locked up and despite getting the place, lost it again on the exit. It was worth a try no matter how ambitious, I’d have regretted not doing it.
So a 4th place finish was my best of the weekend, but with 2nd fastest race lap I knew I had the pace to do better. I was decently happy, if I’d finished 4th in both races I would’ve been satisfied, but the first race was unfortunate and most people will have an incident, I just like to think mine’s out of the way! I’m still well in touch for the championship, so with a little more time in the car before Snetterton and hopefully a better qualifying, we can come away with wins next time out! Until then, I’ll watch Wednesday stay up and continue enjoying university!
Again, one last thank you to everyone, especially everyone at Hillspeed!
After a much needed week back in England, the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship again went on tour, this time to Nurburgring in Germany. Again, this would be my first time on probably the most famous race circuit on the planet, despite us not driving the epic Nordschleife track. This was also a British and Eurocup round, so there were plenty of points and prizes on offer. I’d had a good week of training and sleeping after Zandvoort; it was just nice to be home again! We set off for Germany on Tuesday, only to reach Dover to find Paula had booked the ferry the wrong way round. Incidents like this are pretty standard on our trips, so having got there without any problems we weren’t surprised at this...
Arriving at the track Wednesday evening, I first went out on track on the Thursday, albeit not in my race car. As there was no previous testing at the track, we three Jamun drivers booked on a track day just to learn the track, using the Clio of our driver coach, Phil Glew. He had raced there a few times before so was a massive help on the Thursday, and all weekend. My first impressions of the track were good; I loved it, in fact. It is very technical at the start but then has some good quick corners round the track, it’s a good mix and the elevation changes and camber around the circuit also make it a good challenge. Of course, you could drive the Clio a little different to the Ford – being able to take different kerbs etc. But for learning lines and working out gears, it was perfect. I also got to take Paula out on track which was nice. She’s never been out on track with me so it was good to show her that I’m a little bit grown up nowadays. She hasn’t been on a race track at all since ’04, so I think it took a while for her to adjust to the braking zones! It was a very helpful, and fun day – I really enjoyed driving the Clio; a race in one of them would be a good laugh... It was also 30 degrees, and driving a saloon with no air con all day made it a very sweaty day’s work!
We awoke on Friday to more beautiful wetter, indeed it ended up even hotter than the Thursday, which made driving racing cars very hot work – we haven’t had much of that at home this year! Two one hour sessions on the Friday seemed a good opportunity to learn the track and set the car up. We also had several new parts on the cooling system, and in the end, the first session for me was just making adjustments to these and checking they worked. We had a few teething problems, and I only did a couple of fast laps, which was frustrating, but I knew I had plenty of time in the afternoon to progress. I went straight out on new tyres, and knew quickly from my pit board I was around a second a half off the pace. I didn’t feel like I’d done a great lap, and came in and made a set up change. By now of course the best of the new tyres had gone, but I managed to equal my best time at the end of the run, which I was happy with given the state of my tyres. I was confused about my speed though, I had no idea where I was losing time as I felt I was driving really well, especially at the end of the run. Looking at the data we realised we had a problem – I was losing 2 seconds a lap to my team mate Eric down the straights – meaning without this I would have been comfortably quickest. This cheered me up slightly as I knew it wasn’t just me who was slow. The issue was however, that we didn’t know what the problem was, and it would stay throughout the weekend, putting me at a big disadvantage. We changed pretty much everything to fix it, and the team did an unbelievable job with the amount of work they put in on the car this weekend, but even at the end of it we still had power issues.
Saturday meant qualifying and a race. And it was wet, very wet. I was happy with this – I love those conditions and was confident of pole. Unfortunately on my 4th flying lap I locked up overtaking someone and put it in the gravel. This stopped the session, and luckily for me it didn’t restart afterwards, which I was very pleased about... I qualified 2nd behind Eric, 1.2 seconds behind, but still losing all of that time, and more, down the straights. There wasn’t a lot I could do other than that, and with my problems, 2nd was a good result. Race 1 was the most boring race of my life. The power problem still not fixed, I couldn’t stay with Eric never mind pass him, but I was comfortably faster than everyone behind so it left me in a very lonely 2nd spot. I drove conservatively because I knew I wouldn’t be able to match Eric’s pace because of my problem, and it wasn’t worth over driving – in those conditions it was too easy to crash. I was still losing a couple of seconds a lap down the straights, so I was happy with 2nd, but frustrated because I knew if I didn’t have the problem would’ve been quickest.
Sunday’s 2 races weren’t particularly fantastic either. Race 2 was in sunny, but surprisingly cold conditions, and I started 2nd. I got a great start and passed Eric for the lead. As I came out of turn 4 though, my hopes were dashed as the car just came out of the corner with no grunt. The turbo had broken on lap 1, and Eric quickly overtook me. I drove as hard as I possibly could; the turbo intermittently working but eventually packing in all together. I even managed to challenge for the lead again, but as the problem worsened I dropped back. I drove my heart out to try and keep 2nd, but two JTR cars simply drove past out of the corners because of my lack of low end power. Eric also slowed on the last lap with an electrical problem, so I repassed him and finished 3rd, just a couple of seconds off the lead. With the magnitude of my problem all race – having no turbo racing against those who did, I felt it was a good performance but I knew without it I would have won, so I wasn’t best pleased. It was probably one of my best races, but with the problem only gained me P3. My championship rival crashed out however, so at least I closed that gap a little.
Race 3 was just a disaster from the start. I jumped the start, I still don’t know why; it’s just one of those things. It was completely my fault and I was gutted to make that mistake. It earned me a drive through penalty, dropping me miles behind in the pack. I managed to make my way back up to 6th, but didn’t have enough time to make any further inroads – a drive through costs you around 20 seconds. It was a disappointing end; I knew with my power problems a win would’ve been hard, but I felt I could have driven around it to a podium. I felt I’d let the team down more than anything, they worked non-stop throughout the weekend to try and fix our problems, and I can’t thank them enough for all the effort they put in. Despite the disappointing weekend, I did cut the gap at the top of the championship to 78 points from over 100, so it wasn’t all bad! Again I have to thank my team for all the work they put in over the weekend, and for trying everything possible to fix the problems we had.
We now go straight to Snetterton, Norfolk, this weekend for the next 3 races in the championship. After a relatively quiet first few months, the last one has been non-stop racing, so it will be nice to finish this busy period off with 3 wins going into the month’s break. I need to purely for the championship! All the problems should be sorted for Snett, and it is a track I like, so I see no reason why we can’t come away with wins there! Keep a track of my twitter @jakecookracing, and my facebook page for updates!
So after a difficult and frustrating weekend at Spa, I travelled to Zandvoort desperate for some good results. With the racing finishing on the Saturday at Spa, it was nice to chill out and have a BBQ with some of the other teams and championship organisers, Racing Line; it’s not often I get too much time to relax at race tracks! We stayed at Spa on Sunday too, watching the British GP, Moto GP and Wimbledon final. The GP wasn’t a classic, but it was an exciting end and I was pleased for Webber, it’s nice to see him back on form after last year. Moto GP is also getting interesting, Pedrosa’s back in the hunt, and Stoner’s not exactly on form at the moment, and I do question whether his heart is still in it with his impending retirement. Wimbledon was a great final, Federer at his best, but it was nice to see Murray do so well. He’s definitely due a Slam soon, and it’s nice to see him getting some support for once, it’s just a pity it takes some tears for some people to realise he does actually care. I couldn’t have felt sorrier for him; even I was struggling watching that interview!
Back on to the racing, and I arrived at Zandvoort on the Tuesday. Not being out on track until Thursday, I was hoping for some nice weather and a bit of beach time! Unfortunately we had clearly brought the weather with us, and it rained every day we were there – summer seems to have forgotten to come along this year. So after two very long, boring days at the track – only made better by messing around on a couple of Go-Ped’s; someone had handily placed a little track in the paddock – it was hours of fun, Thursday came along and we had two practice sessions. For the actual race, not the Ped GP.... I ended up the day in P2 and not far off, confident I had enough in hand for qualifying. My biggest concern was the live snatch system they operate there – with recovery vehicles actually attending to and towing cars around the track whilst we were at racing speed. Whether there are yellow flags out or not that is ridiculous, and I wasn’t particularly happy about it. It wasn’t the last we’d hear about the situation that weekend.
On to Friday, and qualifying. A wet qualifying. Sleeping in the motorhome I had been very aware of the rain falling all night – it’s not the most peaceful place in bad weather! I wasn’t concerned, I do love wet conditions and I knew I had a good chance of pole. As it happened, two crashes for cars early on brought the red flags out – our perseverance about the live snatch situation paid off. It was a big thanks to our clerk of the course, Dave Pierre for his help with this too. He also realised how dangerous it was, and put his foot down in qualifying. With the conditions how they were, it would’ve been ridiculous to have recovery vehicles out whilst were driving at full speed. Going back out after the red flags, I set pole three laps in a row, but as the rain stopped and the track dried a little, I knew it would get quicker and quicker. Unfortunately for me, I lost my last two laps to traffic, meaning I didn’t improve whilst Eric, with clear track set a couple of quick times. It was disappointing having been on pole for the whole session. But I was still P2 for two races, and pole for the other. With nothing else to do on Friday, we retired to the Ped track and I promptly retired from Ped racing. A shunt just damaged my pride too much!
Saturday morning and race 1 was at 9am. Now this is too early for many things in life, and certainly too early to be driving a race car... Although I’m not a big sleeper it does take me around 4 hours to actually wake up and be any sort of use for anything! As it happened, we wouldn’t be doing much... In assembly, and with a wet track anyway, the massive black cloud overhanging the track emptied itself as we sat waiting to join the grid. The 2 warm up laps started with torrential, monsoon rain and I thought then it would be touch and go. To make matters worse, the Dutch stewards, covering themselves in glory once again, had decided to have a rolling start without telling any of us, so as me and Eric were getting ready to pull into our grid slots, the lights went green as we were still moving. I, still being half asleep, couldn’t have been more confused by the situation as a Dutch driver flew past into the lead, promptly crashing at turn 2. As it happened, he would have been penalised as Eric and I hadn’t crossed the line, and you can’t overtake until then. The water was now ankle deep and the red flags came out straight away. The rain was that heavy my helmet actually started filling up with water going around the back, I felt like I was in an aquarium... Sat on the grid, the rain just got heavier and heavier, and we were soon dispatched back to the paddock. I was now drenched; Tom, my mechanic had had one too many the night before and the run to the grid was just too much. Nathan took up umbrella duties, and managed to keep himself under it whilst I got soaked! Back in the awning and boats were needed; the cars had to be put straight on stands otherwise they’d have been underwater! We took shelter as it rained, and rained, and rained. The meeting was delayed for around 4 hours, and our first race cancelled – not the best start! A Dutch Clio cup race was the first back out, and our fears were realised as, in horrific conditions, the marshals performed a live snatch and a driver ploughed into the recovery truck, completely unsighted. The car was a mess, and the last I heard he had serious back injuries and broken legs. I saw this, and said I would refuse to race if they continued doing this. In a single seater that would have been fatal, and for something so pointless, I wouldn’t risk it. They agreed to only recover vehicles under the safety car; I was satisfied for this and prepared for race two, which eventually started at 6.45PM – we’d have needed lights waiting any longer!
Unfortunately this didn’t improve the weekend, starting 2nd I maintained position, but Eric had a good start and pulled out a few car lengths. On the 2nd racing lap, my other team mate Luke and a huge crash at the last corner – hitting the wall and rolling. This brought out the safety car whilst the medics attended to Luke, now lying on the track. This never looks good and I and everyone else were appealing for them to stop the race. Luke, in the end wasn’t injured, just very sore, but as drivers you don’t want to have to drive round whilst friend is being treated on the track; you have no idea how serious it could be. By now the Dutch stewards were my least favourite people in the world. The race finished under the safety car, having only done 1 racing lap. No podium followed because of the accident, and it was another saddening race in a bad two weeks. Results didn’t really matter, and it was a relief that Luke was ok – testimony to the safety of the new car, because it was a big crash.
Sunday morning, and I was ready to go home! It had been a long two weeks, and I wanted to finish on a high. Starting on pole, I got a decent start but Eric got another rocket and passed me into the first corner. We then had the most enjoyable and probably the best race I’ve ever had. We were separated by no more than half a second all race. I shadowed him for what felt like forever. He defended very well and I tried everything to get past, but for so long I couldn’t. 2 laps from the end I finally managed it, only to get re-passed three corners later. Finally on the last lap, I managed to cut back underneath him into the turn 1 hairpin, and this time made it stick. It wasn’t an easy last lap, heavy rain meant the last few corners were incredibly slippery on slick tyre, but I managed to hang on for the win! Races like that – close, hard fought and full of battling – are definitely the most satisfying, and I was ecstatic to have finished with the win. So much so I even whipped out a little fist pump on the podium, or more shockingly, a smile! It was a great race and very enjoyable, we both drove very well and I was glad to have nicked it. It will be a good one to watch back, so don’t miss it on Motors TV, Saturday 28th July, watch my Twitter and Facebook for times...
So after a hard two weeks, it was a nice way to end, and just as nice to be travelling home to my own bed! It was great to be back on the top step and I’ll be trying very hard to make sure I stay there! Once again I have to thank my sponsors, Kennett, MSH International, Broadsword, Daily Poppins and Wasteney’s Butchers. We move onto the final European round at Nurburgring next week, another exciting opportunity, and one that marks the restart of the British championship, with some serious catching up to do for me! Look out for my results! I’ll keep you updated!
After my disappointing weekend at Brands, I was keen to bounce back. And what a place it would be to do it. Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is probably, along with Monaco, the track that all young racing drivers want to drive, and to win at. So going there in Formula Ford seems an incredible opportunity. This was just a Eurocup round, so the pressure was off championship wise, which for me was nice. We travelled there on the Tuesday and arrived Wednesday, not before we ran out of fuel on the way though – motorhome’s aren’t the most economical of things! I’ve been to Spa many times as a spectator and always loved the place. It has a racing atmosphere, and being situated in the Ardennes forest, the setting itself is pretty incredible. Driving the track is something I’ve wanted to as long as I can remember; it’s just one of those places with so many famous corners. Eau Rouge is probably the most well known corner of any race circuit anywhere, and although it may not be what it once was because of the extra run off, it’s still a pretty incredible turn.
I found this out walking the track on Wednesday evening, because that is one steep hill! You never realise until you walk it; and it isn’t just there, every corner seems to have a massive gradient, whether it be uphill or downhill. It also makes for the longest track walk ever, not many take two hours to walk! This had only made me more excited for driving on the Thursday in testing. The track didn’t disappoint. Eau Rouge, although not massively difficult, is unlike any other corner and the back section is very quick. You seem to be at full throttle forever... Nick Tandy, former British F3 driver and Festival winner was in the JTR car this weekend, which I knew would set a pretty good benchmark. He’s a very quick driver with loads of experience, and experience of Spa, which we didn’t have. I was happy enough with testing, finishing the day P3 and not far off, having also taken Eau Rouge flat which is always a nice thing to be able to say. It’s not easy in a Formula Ford without downforce!
So I went into qualifying on Friday happy enough, however this time we’d have rain to contend with. It’s always a problem at Spa! As usual with us though it was drying and a little in between, so we didn’t go full wet set up, but went out with wets on. Spa is a long, long circuit and with this being our first wet running, finding the grip everywhere so quickly wasn’t easy. I probably went a little early too, pushing hard straight away and chewing my tyres a little bit. Indeed when I did find the right lines everywhere I just didn’t have the tyres left to do a quicker lap. I still qualified 4th for race 1, and 2nd for the other two, which I was content with given the situation. Slip-streaming is so easy at Spa so we knew the races would probably be close, so I wasn’t overly concerned.
Race 1 was dry thankfully, and I was feeling confident about getting a good result, at least a podium. I got a good start and moved up to 3rd at the first corner, closing on the two leaders. Unfortunately, half way around the first lap, the group behind us had a huge 7 car crash, one of the biggest you’ll see. Jos Kiekens, a Dutch championship driver was badly hurt and stuck in his car. We followed the safety car around to complete the race, meaning I finished 3rd. This however really wasn’t important as it was clear there was a serious injury. The medical team eventually extracted Jos and he was airlifted to hospital with two broken feet, a broken ankle and a broken leg. At the time we thought it was much worse. It’s never nice when this happens, you can’t just say its racing and if it doesn’t have an effect on you emotionally then there is something seriously wrong. It’s the first race I’ve been involved in where someone has been badly injured, and it was really sad. It will never change how I drive and it does happen, but when it does it is a reality check. It could have been much worse, and it’s a testament to how safe racing cars are nowadays. Luckily Jos is recovering well and he’s been moved to Amsterdam to be closer to his family. Unfortunately that wasn’t the last incident we’d have in our stint in the Benelux region. There’s been a lot said about the speed difference causing the accident, which is absolute rubbish. It could have happened at any point over the last few years, someone made a mistake and there was a big accident, nothing to do with the new cars.
Moving into Saturday in a more sombre mood, everyone needed a good race to lift the spirits in the paddock. Starting 2nd I knew I had a good chance. I did keep 2nd into the first corner, but only after a horrendous start. I’ve seen cyclists pull away from traffic lights quicker. It gave Tandy a big lead on the first lap whilst I scrapped to hold on to 2nd. In the end I had no hope – a damaged turbo meant a loss of straightline speed, which around Spa meant I may as well have been driving my Corsa... It’s all about top speed and corner exit speed, so I had little chance of staying with the leaders with my loss of power. I tried my best, but ended up 4th, which was the best I could have hoped for really. It was again disappointing to have mechanical issues, but it’s not one anyone could have done anything about.
So moving in the last race of the weekend, on a Saturday weirdly, and I needed a result to cheer me up! It had been a long weekend, not what I’d hoped for from my first races at Spa! Luckily, race 3 started well. I got a decent start and was on the tail of Tandy on the run down to Eau Rouge. He made a little mistake there and I managed to get around the outside of him up the hill, which was a little bit tense I must admit! I led going into the back section but a lock up cost me three places and I dropped to the back of the group. Nothing much seemed to be going right! All 4 of us towed each other around all race, always very close together. Unfortunately, being sat behind each other meant overheating problems. No cool air could get to our engines and we were all running dangerously high temperatures. Ultimately, my team mates Luke and Eric both succumbed to overheating problems, Luke’s race ending with a mini fire show... Seeing this all I could do was nurse the car home; my car was already running way too high so getting to the finish was my priority. I did so and picked up 2nd place, a decent end to the weekend, but I can’t say I was at all happy. Our problems stopped us from making a real challenge for the lead without risking retirement; luckily it wouldn’t be a problem after Spa because of new developments being fitted to the car.
So I ended up with a 2nd, 3rd and a 4th at Spa. Not what I wanted, but an ok weekend considering the mechanical issues. It was also a good experience, I loved the place and having the opportunity to race there was unbelievable, I just wish I could have finished with a win! It wasn’t to be, but with all our problems, I knew we’d come back stronger at Zandvoort. It was also a weekend marred by Jos’ crash; racing seems insignificant when that happens, so that put a downer on the weekend for me as a whole. I was definitely glad to be moving onto Zandvoort, a track I love, and where I hoped to put the Spa weekend behind me and go home happy...
So another race weekend is close, and we are heading back to Brands Hatch, this time for three races on the GP circuit. As an added bonus, it’s the first round of the Formula Ford Eurocup, the others being the Spa, Zandvoort and Nurburgring rounds. Again it is another opportunity to win a championship, and one with European recognition too, so I will be working just as hard to win the Eurocup as I will the British Championship.
I’m going into this weekend not thinking of the championship really. We have a big gap in front of us so at the moment all I can concentrate on is race wins. I know I need to win as many races as possible until the end of the season, and hopefully that will put me in a good position. We also need a bit of mechanical luck! The last two weekends have been compromised with unidentified electrical failures out of our control, so we really do not need a repeat of that this weekend. Qualifying is also so important this year, and qualifying on pole is my main priority at first; that is where we have been lacking. Rockingham was an improvement in that sense though so hopefully we are making progress with this and I can take my first poles of the year.
The GP circuit brings a new challenge, and one that I will relish. I love the track; we don’t have many like it in England and it’s a great challenge for any driver. The Indy circuit is, for me, quite boring and it’s not the biggest challenge in the world. It’s a short lap with not much to it, but the GP track is quite the opposite. It has two long straights through the trees and Westfield, Hawthorns and Sheene make the back of the circuit fast and very entertaining to drive. This run of corners isn’t easy though, as they lead into one another so track position is very important. It’s a track I like though so I am really looking forward to it, and it usually makes for good racing with numerous passing opportunities. Hopefully I won’t need to use any of these though...
Away from the racing, and onto football. Euro 2012 is well underway and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with England. Of course the rest of the country can’t be positive so if you read any papers you’d expect us to have lost all three games, not qualified as winners of our group. We look solid at the back, and although our midfield does a holding job much of the time, when you have match winners like Gerrard and Rooney in the side, you can afford to do this. I’d back us to beat Italy on Sunday; I don’t think we have much to fear from them, and if we play to our strengths we can definitely get a result. I’m going to have to rush round after Sunday’s last race to find somewhere to watch it; it’s not something I want to be missing!
I travel to Brands tomorrow so keep a check on my Twitter @jakecookracing for updates throughout the weekend, and check www.tsl-timing.co.uk for in-depth results. If you’re around, come and say hello, if not, come down and watch some racing!
Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the MSA Dunlop Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain took place at Rockingham Motor Speedway, the only ‘real’ oval speedway in Britain. Rockingham weekends are never something I look forward to much, it seems very plastic and the whole place has no atmosphere. It’s the newest circuit we have, but the huge grandstands are ridiculously oversized and unnecessary, and it always feels so empty there. It’s not my, or many others, favourite place, but I actually like the track and have always gone well there so I was quite confident going into the weekend. This confidence was enhanced by a decent test there the week before, where we had run pretty well and I was very happy with the feel of the car.
This year we used a new track layout, and as it happened the previous test was important, because the Friday of the race weekend was miserable and wet. We had no dry running, so all our set up work the week before became even more important. I was quick in the wet, so I knew if it had ended up a wet weekend we were well set. I also liked the new track layout, with a new fast chicane and double apex left hander. It isn’t the easiest track in the world, and you have to drive very correctly to be quick, you can’t attack the track as much as you would at other places, as I would find out later on in the weekend.
Saturday morning, and the wind and rain had disappeared, leaving a dry track for our qualifying session. I went out confident, but the session never really went to plan for me. I got a little bit of traffic on my first couple of flying laps, and then I never really put together a clean enough lap for pole, which I only missed out on by two-tenths. We were told to pit after 5 laps no matter what to save our tyres for the races. I didn’t get a good enough lap in, and ended 2nd, 3rd and 4th for the 3 races, so not a disaster.
Race 1 was later on Saturday, and despite being disappointed by qualifying I was confident of a win going into the race. Unfortunately my start wasn’t great and I dropped into 3rd at the first corner. Buri and Williams were in front, and us three stayed close together as a group for the first 4 laps. On lap 4 however, Buri hit the tyres marking the inside of the chicane and sent them flying back, hitting Luke’s car and then rebounding in my direction, I took to the grass to avoid death, or at least a very painful impact! This unfortunately dropped me back to 6th, Buri unbelievably avoiding damage. My race then went from bad to worse as I lost all power coming out of the last corner, leaving me to pull up into retirement. We still don’t know what the problem was, and I was unhappy to say the least. Two races in a row an electrical gremlin had ruined my charge, and with Buri winning we couldn’t afford to drop more points. What was even worse was that when back at the awning, the car worked fine; the problem a complete mystery. What was equally as worrying was the way he pulled away down the straights, just driving away from me and Luke despite us being faster in the twisty parts of the circuit.
Race 2 I knew had to be an improvement at least. I again got away in 3rd place, maintaining my start position this time. I passed Luke at the start of lap 2 into the first hairpin to move into second, but Buri in the lead had already built up a two second advantage, so I started to push as hard as possible. I slowly reeled him in at around two tenths per lap, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. I caught him around lap 6, but just as I was afraid of, every time we got to the long straight he simply drove away, making it hard for me to pass, but then I would catch him under braking and in the corners. I got frustrated with this though, and a little bit of overdriving led to some mistakes and gave Buri some breathing space and left me to settle for 2nd. I definitely had the pace, but frustration got the better of me and I didn’t drive a great second half of the race after doing the hard work. I had one bad lap that dropped me back almost a second, without that I may have been able to win, but our straight line speed was still our biggest issue, especially because of our speed everywhere else, shown by my fastest lap, which at least gained me an extra point.
Race 3, and starting 4th this time was another outing which could have been better. Up to 3rd on the start, I followed Eric and Buri for the first 5 laps, unable to find a way past as we all followed in close proximity. I again set the fastest lap of the race, just before the safety car came out to recover Moreno’s car. With 3 safety car laps, the race laps were significantly shortened, and immediately after Eric made a move on Buri at the last chicane. Buri went across the grass, giving me a chance, but he rejoined just in front, meaning I had to slam on the brakes to avoid him. Next lap round however and his supremacy on the straights was shown as he drove past Eric into turn 1, and at the end of the lap I inherited 2nd as Eric retired with a broken throttle pedal. Unfortunately for me, this happened straight out of the last turn, and I again had to slam on and take evasive action, dropping me 3 seconds behind Buri and ending any chance of a race win. I settled for 2nd and another fastest lap, but overall it was a very disappointing weekend. I had the pace to win but with the disadvantage on the straights I couldn’t make it count, and it is something we have to rectify before Brands Hatch. I’m still 2nd in the championship, but with a gap to close, and that has to start next weekend. Every race where we haven’t had mechanical troubles we’ve finished on the podium, so wins next weekend will close the gap.
Again I want to thank everyone at Jamun Racing for their help this weekend and for giving me a great car to drive once again. And finally a massive thanks to all my partners, Daily Poppins, Kennett, MSH International, Broadsword, Wasteney’s Butchers, Likely Lads and The Racewire for their continued support.
Last weekend saw the return of the MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain and my second race meeting of the year. Coming into the race at Brands Hatch, I was in a joint lead of the championship after three podiums at Oulton Park. This meeting is always a busy one; we support the DTM championship at that brings in the crowds, making it a great opportunity to showcase your talents. Again I was hoping for wins and at the very least podiums, to continue the championship charge.
It was a long weekend; we seemed to be the enemy of the organisers and had an unusual timetable, with one race each day of the weekend. First though, it was qualifying on Friday morning. We had no pre-race test, which does make qualifying slightly harder, but it is the same for everyone so there’s no excuse there. Brands Indy isn’t the easiest place in the world to overtake, so I knew a front row start would be important. It was not to be however. Qualifying was a struggle for me, I must admit it was my fault more than anything, I just didn’t put a good enough lap together on new tyres, indeed my quickest was on my last lap of the session, by which time my tyres were well past their best. It was another disappointing session but I knew where I’d gone wrong and I just had to move on to the race. Traffic did cost me a couple of quick laps in qualifying but I really just didn’t maximise the tyres enough, and ended up 5th. It’s always close around Brands, and I was only a couple of tenths of pole.
Race 1 late on Friday was unusual to say the least. Because of the timetable, we were the last thing on track, and a big shunt in the F3 earlier had caused a delay in the schedule. This meant sat in the assembly area we didn’t even know if we would be racing at all. Just to add to the confusion, the rain came down and forced a switch to wet tyres for everyone. We were then informed it was a shortened ten minute race, a real sprint! Soon I would realise this was a positive for me in a way... It was pretty clear on the warm up lap it wasn’t that wet at all; barely even damp, but still enough for wets at that time. Starting 5th, a good getaway was essential, but I got the opposite – probably the worst start I’ve ever had. I nearly stalled and then got a load of wheelspin, and just didn’t move anywhere, cars streaming past. I was actually 8th going into the first corner, not what I was hoping for. I passed a couple of cars into the first corner putting me back into 6th, and one went wide into the gravel, promoting me one further to 5th. I was a couple of seconds behind the leaders, so I knew I’d have to just throw caution to the wind and go for it in a short race like this. I quickly caught the leaders at half a second every lap, enjoying the conditions. I then passed Corcoran for 4th around the outside of Druids, and then sat behind my team mates for a lap. I knew I was quicker and made an ambitious move on Luke Williams into Paddock, very late on the brakes but it paid off and I was 3rd. Next lap though, I got boxed in as the two leaders fought at Druids and dropped back to 4th, with my tyres fading fast in the drying conditions. Luke then went off at Paddock which left me to settle for 3rd and nurse my tyres home, behind Eric and Buri- my main championship rival. After the start I was happy enough with the result, but I knew with my pace in those conditions a win should really have been possible. It was more good championship points, despite dropping into outright 2nd in the points.
Race 2 was much simpler. Starting from 5th in a dry, full-length race, I got away in 5th into the first corner. In the first half of the race I struggled for pace because of some understeer, and was stuck in 5th. I then found my feet and upped my pace, but Corcoran in front defended well and I couldn’t find a way past until past halfway through. Again it was into Paddock, late on the brakes and up the inside, another nice move, and I must say I had some enjoyable races this weekend because of the overtaking involved. Into 4th, I was 3 seconds behind the leaders after being held up earlier on and I couldn’t bridge the gap despite catching them at 3-tenths most laps towards the end. Eric, my team mate however, slowed with overheating problems, handing 3rd place to me. It was another podium, but I was disappointed because I knew qualifying ruined any chance of a race win again, which my pace would have made possible. Buri won, so pulling out a little more in the championship, but I was still collecting good points.
Race 3 was even more disappointing though, the first real bad result of the season. Starting 4th this time, I got a good launch and passed Buri off the line into 3rd. My two team mates then came together at Druids, and I moved into 2nd, right on the gearbox of the leader. I felt out of Druids a problem though, my car seemed to have way too much power in the turbo, and I had no traction at the rear at all. I continued though, but then at Clearways the car began to lose power on the way out of the corner. I continued in 2nd though, worried all the same. Then on lap 3, oil had been dropped on Graham Hill bend. I slid wide, as did Buri behind me, but he slid into me, driving right over the top of the car and missing my head thanks to the new safety regulations. Luckily though, I had no damage and continued in 3rd, only to slow a lap later with my turbo issues. I pulled into the pits, race ruined, to try and find a solution. It couldn’t be solved so I just went back out to salvage some points, finishing down the order. It was a blow to the championship, but these things happen. I’m still in 2nd position and very confident that my pace bodes well for the rest of the season to regain top spot. We still have nearly twenty races left, which is a lot of time to win some races and catch up the deficit, so I’m still very confident, and happy with the start of the season.
Before Brands, I became a sports Ambassador for the Kennett brand, and I am delighted to be working with them, and am extremely grateful for all their help. The car was also liveried up last weekend, thanks to Broadsword for all their help with that. Have a look at the pictures on my website and Facebook page; the car looks good! A massive thanks to all my other sponsors, MSH International, Daily Poppins and Wasteney’s Butchers for their help too! We now move on to Rockingham in a couple of weeks, with a couple of tests in between, hoping for more wins and an improvement on Brands Hatch. Look out for updates in my Twitter and Facebook, and thanks for your support!
Firstly, sorry for the delay, every piece of technology I own is failing me at the moment! But anyway, luckily, my car didn’t fail me last weekend. I went into the first weekend of the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain and the first of the EcoBoost reasonably confident. I travelled up to Oulton on the Monday night, with testing on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. This did mean a week in our, let’s say, self-engineered motorhome, but it lasted well – duck tape is massively underrated. For most of the week, testing was wet, which luckily turned out to be a positive for the race weekend. We did get some dry running, and I quickly realised that there was work to be done.
In the wet, the pace was definitely there, I was quickest almost all week, but in the dry I was a little off the pace. We looked through a lot of data, made a lot of changes to the car, and by Friday evening, we were still struggling. It meant before qualifying we made some radical changes to the car, going in with a car setup we hadn’t run on my car before, but we knew the risk was worth taking. One bonus was that the forecast for Monday, when I would have two races, was wet. Very wet.
Saturday morning meant qualifying. I was confident that I had a chance of pole, but knew anything near the front would be good, and if we could just improve the car a little more that would be a positive. As it turned out, my dry pace was still lacking, qualifying fourth behind my two team mates, and the JTR of Antti Buri. I was disappointed, I always am, but it wasn’t the worst start to the year.
Going into race one, I told myself I just wanted a finish, and preferably a podium – no championship is won in the first weekend. Three solid finishes would be good. Of course this goes out of the window as soon as you drive out of assembly, but there is a need for some realism, just to take the maximum points possible. Starting was also going to be a lottery, none of us having done many practice starts we knew it would be hard work. I surprised myself and got a good getaway, my team mate Luke, got an even better one, unluckily for him he jumped the start which would do me a favour later on. The first 5 laps of the race were pretty similar, no real action and the front four just settling in behind each other. I quickly realised that it would be hard work though, my rear tyres were shot after around 6 laps and I was soon driving the equivalent of a drifting car. My pace dropped and there was nothing I could do to keep my team mate, Eric, behind me as he went past into 3rd. Luckily for me, Luke had to serve a drive through penalty, and I was promoted back to 3rd, which is where I finished. A solid start, but not a good one in my mind. My mood was slightly improved by Wednesday’s win at Huddersfield, although funnily enough no one else seemed to care...
We woke up, after a nice relaxing Easter Sunday, minus the chocolate, to rain. And lots of it. Races 2 and 3 would be wet, and very hard work. I was pleased, more so than most of the spectators anyway!
I lined up 4th for race 2, the lights went out, and I pretty much went nowhere. I got possibly he worst start I’ve ever got, I was just lucky everyone else didn’t get good ones... I arrived at Old Hall in 5th, and going down the hill into Cascades, chaos ensued, my two team mates going wide, as I passed Martin-Dye to move into what was now 2nd place behind Buri. Later in the lap I had caught Buri and was ready to make a move, but before I could he ran wide at Druids, a corner with absolutely no grip in the wet, as I would find out later on. I was now in the lead and knew I just had to push, easier said than done in these horrific conditions, with standing water on the exit of many corners. I knew I was quick in the wet though and as I went across the line to start lap 2 I’d pulled out a 7 second advantage, so I knew I could start to drive a bit less hard and just be consistent. But nothing is ever that simple with me, and true to form, the safety car came out because of an accident at Druids. After following for two laps, the race was back on, with me in front of Buri. I got a good restart, and again just pushed as hard as I could. I was loving the conditions, I genuinely found it so much fun, and I soon found I was pulling away at two seconds a lap, and quickly restored my advantage. It had almost been the perfect race, being that much quicker than someone doesn’t happen that often, so I knew I’d driven well in the conditions. I backed off considerably in the last two laps; it’s been a while since my last win so I didn’t want to throw it away. I passed the chequered with a 10 second advantage for my first win in Formula Ford. And I went a little bit crazy I must admit. It’s been a hard few years for me and the family, so to get a win was a massive weight off the shoulders, and felt like some of the work had paid off! To stand on the top of a podium again was just a relief, and it’s always great to share a win with everyone.
There was another race however, in slightly better conditions, but still very wet. Starting 3rd for the final race, I got my best start to move up to 2nd. Buri had found some pace though, and quickly pulled out a 2 second gap. I couldn’t just relax in 2nd either, Luke behind me pushing hard. I found some confidence in the car, after being over cautious in the first few laps, and was beginning to reel Buri in, when like him earlier, I made a little mistake at Druids, dropping me behind Luke and a long way behind the leader. Settling into 3rd with only 3 laps left, I could only hope for mistakes by keeping the pressure on, and Buri again went wide at Druids, promoting me to 2nd, but too far behind to catch Luke. It was another podium though, and meant I enjoyed a joint lead of the championship, with Buri.
Although I knew I probably should have won the final race, I couldn’t complain about the weekend. It was nice to be up there again and to come away leading the championship was very satisfying. Its only one weekend in but we’ve started well and now need to work to keep it up. It was emotional for me, purely because I didn’t know if I’d be racing this year, a devastating thought, and winning is just the best feeling in the world. I have to thank Jim, Tom and everyone at Jamun Racing for giving me an outstanding car and helping me throughout pre-season. A massive thanks also to all my sponsors, Daily Poppins, Broadsword, Brailsford Printers, and also JDH Motorsport Photography for helping me out a lot over the past year. The biggest thanks have to go to my Mum, Dad and Paula, for helping me out more than I could ever imagined, I couldn’t race without these people and I will never be able to thank them enough, as well as my girlfriend Charlotte, who has put up with me being a mardy bum enough over the past year!
So the first weekend’s over, next to some more testing and the next race at Brands in a month, where will be supporting the DTM’s. Come down and have a watch!
To say it’s been a little while since my last blog would be an understatement, but unless you want to hear me moan at Sheffield Wednesday every week you’ll thank me for the break! Obviously last season was a disaster for me really, we got there late, without any testing and zero budget. I was up against it from the start and in the end we didn’t even get past halfway through the season. Disappointing at best. The past two years have been incredibly hard for me, not being able to do the thing you love and having to watch it every week is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But luckily we’ve had a really good winter and I and everyone connected with me have worked incredibly hard. We’ve tried some different things, and luckily we’ve found a group of partners who are willing to help out!
So I’ll put my violins away, and move onto the racing. And it’s an exciting year for everyone connected with Formula Ford; we have a new car. The new EcoBoost Mygale will form the premier Ford category, and signs so far are promising. The car is reliable for the amount of track time it’s had – starting testing in March wasn’t an ideal scenario. There’s still a lot of work to do with the new car, indeed everyone will be finding more and more time for it throughout the year, just hopefully we’re in front of everyone this weekend at Oulton! I have to pay a massive thanks to James Mundy, my mechanic Tom and everyone at Jamun Racing who have worked so hard to get the cars ready and have worked even harder to try and make it go fast! So hopefully that will pay off, and we will be the pacesetters this weekend, as that is our only aim. I realise this is a very important year for me, so winning as many races as possible, and the championship is my only aim. But to be honest we can only look ahead to tomorrow, and testing at Oulton, because there is still a lot of work to do!
It is very hard to judge where we are with others, indeed the main comparison I have are my team mates, and in testing it has been close, so here’s hoping to a Jamun 1-2-3 this weekend. I would love to start the year with a win, but qualifying is the first step and with a new compound tyre this year that will change again. Planning may be different in qualifying, but at the end of the day that is the first time we’ll see who has got real pace.
Oulton Park, in my opinion, is one of the great tracks we have and I for one love it there. However, I’m hoping that it won’t be me who has the seemingly mandatory crash at Island bend, I had plenty enough of that last year! It is a very fast flowing track, a track that really gives you an opportunity to get into a rhythm and drive properly. It’s also a track I have never won at, so I want to put that right this weekend. I can’t go through a blog without mentioning football, and with Wednesday playing two games on Easter weekend, I will be keeping more than a close eye on them, and so if I’m in a bad mood, you’ll know why!
Before I go, I do need to mention two very important causes I’ll be supporting this year; the Sheffield Children’s Hospital (SCH), and Drive It Home. SCH is one of the best paediatric hospitals in Britain, and has treated me many a time, so it really is a worthwhile cause to donate to. Drive It Home do a great job on educating children on all things road safety, again something so important these day. So check out their website, www.driveithome.co.uk for more information! Also, I have to say a big thank you to JDH Motorsport Photography, Daily Poppins, Broadsword, Brailsford Printers and Wasteney’s Butchers for all their help in getting me on the grid. Also, look out for the Likely Lads logo on my car, they’re a great upcoming band and you should check out the link on my website.
And finally I want to say a massive thanks to all my family, my girlfriend and friends for putting up with me for the last half a year. I haven’t been the most pleasant person to be around, but I’m back in a race car and smiling again, so thanks to everyone for their help!
Anyway, I will be keeping you all updated on my Twitter: @jakecookracing and on my Facebook, and you should also check out my website, newly updated this winter, www.jakecookracing.co.uk. I’ll be back next week after the race, hoping I’ve mean able to treat myself to an Easter egg after a successful weekend of racing!
22/06/11 - Qualifying problems make for tough weekend at Brands
On the back of a tough start to the year, I came into Brands looking to put that behind me and start the rest of the season with some good results. On a test day the week before on the Indy circuit, we seemed to have put to bed all the niggling car problems that had caused so much trouble in previous rounds, so I went into it with a much better mindset. Unfortunately, with me being one of the youngest drivers and still being at 6th form, I had an exam on the Friday, meaning I missed the test day. This was a blow as I missed the round on the GP circuit last year due to budget, and this was the only track time available, so I was immediately on the back foot.
I was therefore taking qualifying as a learning experience, trying to learn a track I had never driven in a Ford before as well as trying to get as far up the grid as possible, especially important due to the bigger grid size with the influx of Europeans for the first Eurocup round. Unfortunately, as soon as I left the pits I knew qualifying was a write off. The car had no power and a bad misfire, so I immediately returned to the team. They did their best to find the problem, and sent me back out. However in such a short space of time we were unsuccessful so I just had to do my three laps to qualify and accept that I would have work to do. As it happened I finished 23rd out of 26th, with my car 20mph down on the straights.
With the car fixed, I went into race 1 simply with the intention of overtaking as many as possible. After losing a place at the start, I passed 9 cars in 3 laps to get up to 15th. At this point, the heavens opened, and the race stopped. We streamed into the pits to change to wets and were told the race would be a restart of 3/4 laps. I was put back to 22nd on the restart after some unorganised officiating and managed again to work my way back up to 15th, a satisfactory effort under the circumstances.
Race 2 was much more straightforward and enjoyable. With dry weather throughout, I was able to get into a good rhythm and up my pace. After gaining 8 places in the first 3 laps, I then got stuck behind Corcoran for 3 laps which hindered my progress. After a late dive at Surtees however, he was cleared, and then another to put me into 12th. I was a second behind Jesper Egebart going into the last lap, but managed to set the quickest first sector of anyone, and catch him round the back of the circuit, and then pass him as late as the start finish straight, to move me into 11th over the line, which pleased my mechanic no end! It was a fun race for me, full of overtaking, it was just unfortunate that I was starting at the back, as i set the 5th quickest lap of the race, and that was being heavily held up in traffic, so my pace was good enough to run at the front.Race 3 was almost a carbon copy of race 1, me getting up to 14th and then the rain coming down and forcing a restart. Part 2 was a 2 lap sprint, with me ending in 15th place.
Despite the results, for me it was a pleasing weekend. I felt very comfortable in the car for the first time this year, and my pace was very good, which bodes well for later on. It was just more bad luck preventing me from a good result, but I don't think its possible for any more bad luck to come my way! Hopefully the weekend was a good starting point for the rest of my season, which will continue in August at Zandvoort, a track I absolutely love after a podium finish there last year, so I'm hoping for another good result. In the meantime, I will keep you updated with any news, as it is a pretty long break over summer!