Niall Murray: The ups and downs, but I can still win!
October 20, 2012 by Niall Murray
The end is near! Only one weekend left until I pack away the helmet and suit for another long winter. Sorry I haven’t written a blog for you guys for a while, but the leaving certs taking a lot of time from me!
Well I’ll start with Rockingham where the team are based throughout the year. Although it was our home event, I unfortunately could not get off school to do any test days which was particularly bad as there were a few test days the week before the race that all the top lads did which was frustrating but I didn’t feel it would make too much difference. The weekend started off fairly well when I was one of the quickest in the wet free practice sessions on old tyres. When it dried up in the practice session on Saturday morning the pace just was not there and I was really wondering where I was losing it as the car felt perfect. When we compared data to my teammates I was losing it all on the straights, which we thought, was because he got a tow and I didn’t. So we did not change anything for qualifying and as my teammate was very quick that weekend in all the sessions we decided to try run together in qualifying and tow with each other. Throughout the session we were both running in the top 3-4 but towards the end I noticed that even in his tow, Andrew would pull away from me massively in the straights which was very frustrating as I was catching him in the twisty part to the track. After the session I ended up way down in 7th for both races, however we did notice that the car was overheating massively due to debris in the radiator, which was causing the straight-line speed problems… We hoped!
In race 1 I (somehow) was turning the first corner in 3rd only to be met by a driver behind not braking early enough, shunting me straight into my teammate on my outside, which damaged both our steering racks. I battled away on lap one with my steering wheel constantly wanting to turn the wrong way. As I was going through the chicane side-by-side with Pepe Massot in 4th place, I was left with a half cars width between the tyres and his car, so unfortunately we made contact which bent the steering even more and put me in a half spin and I ended up dragging the car home to finish 8th.
Race 2 was a similar start going into the first corner in 3rd, but this time I managed to come out of it in 3rd! After a couple of laps swapping positions with Pepe Massot, Harry Woodhead and race 1 winner Ollie Chadwick, I began to pull away and catch the two lads in front. However after another couple of laps Ollie Chadwick and Pepe Massot stopped battling and caught me straight away and it was during that race where I really noticed my straight line speed problems when Ollie and Pepe would just drive past me on the straight and I’d get them back during the rest of the lap. On the last lap I was in 3rd heading into the final chicane when Pepe tried the same move I tried on him in race 1 and unlike him, I left him room for the right hand 2nd part to the chicane but then as I was on the inside turning left for the last part of the chicane, heading onto the main straight for the final time he turned left into me pushing me onto the grass and making him spin right in front of me. This in turn let Ollie Chadwick past both of us and finish 3rd dropping me to 4th place.
Silverstone was a very up and down weekend. Despite being unable to do any pre-event testing, I was confident of my pace around the Northamptonshire venue from the Media day back in March where I was quickest. Friday practice went well with myself and team mate Andrew Watson running at the front of both sessions until some of our rivals fitted new slicks to beat us by a few tenths. We were really delighted to see Andrew driving so well recently allowing us to work together in qualifying and the races. In qualifying we tried this but unfortunately we kept hitting traffic with other drivers trying to do the same. However the 15 minute session meant after a few laps I had to just back off and get some clear track myself to try and put in a few competitive laps. By the end of the session I managed to qualify 9th for race 1 and 8th for race 2 despite being unable to put a solid lap together with the assistance of another car to work with.
In race 1 I quickly made my way up to 4th place right behind my teammate. On lap 3 as he passed Harry Woodhead for 2nd, I was pushing hard to try get passed Harry too. However I got hit hard at the rear quarter panel from Sennan Fielding making me spin off the track and rejoin in 13th position. I pushed hard to try and regain some valuable championship points. Starting the last lap I was in 8th catching the battling Oli Basey-Fisher and Ollie Chadwick and managed to get passed the both of them, crossing the line in 6th. Thankfully after the race justice was served as Sennan Fielding, who finished 4th, was handed a time penalty by the Clerk of the Course, moving me to 5th. What made it even more frustrating was the fact that I had the 2nd best lap time during the race as the car felt perfect for the first time all weekend. However, this left me full of confidence for Sunday’s race 2.
Starting 8th for race 2 I managed to make my way up ahead of Andrew at the start putting me up to 5th on lap 1. Sadly just as I really felt I had the pace to pass the lads in front of me, the yellow flags came out at the last 2 corners leaving only the 2nd corner to pass at. Eventually I made my way to 3rd behind Pepe Massot who was now leading and Andrew in 2nd. I just managed to get passed Andrew as the yellow flags came in, but then as I was pushing to past Pepe, MORE yellow flags appeared! However, every cloud has a silver lining, and this was my championship rival causing the yellow flags, sitting in the gravel! I pushed everywhere I could to try and pass Pepe but he never put a foot wrong and after a few laps sitting behind him I knew it was going to be all or nothing. I tried a very ambitious move around the outside of him at the first corner but as I was trying to tuck back in behind him after the failed attempt, Andrew snuck back passed and just got his nose in front before we got to the yellow flag zone. The last lap in that race was the best laps racing that I think a lot of people will say they’ve seen in a long time. Four of us crossed the line to go onto the final lap within 0.8 of a second with Fielding in 5th another half second back. As we rounded the 2nd corner with Pepe and Andrew both defending I decided to follow the normal racing line to try and gain on them on the exit. However Will Palmer dived up the inside as I tried this so I just hung it around the outside and all this allowed Fielding to close in on us. As we were all going down the back straight heading into the last complex, Andrew was slightly in front in the middle of the track with Pepe to his left, I was directly behind Andrew with Palmer to my right and Pepe and Fielding to my left. As all this was happening I was shouting out a few prayers as I knew it would not be simple to get 5 into 1 in Ginetta Juniors! Andrew tried to go around the outside of Pepe and if he had of made it I would have followed him into 2nd, but he got a bit sideways letting Pepe up the inside and me with nowhere to go! I was braking for the last corner, a 180 degrees right hander and once again got a little love tap from Fielding behind pushing me on past the corner and allowing him and Palmer up my inside. Crossing the line I was 0.04 behind Palmer but he had a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits, as I was aware of during the race.
I apologise for writing such a long blog but there’s just so much to say and if I would talk about everything in these it would be 10 times longer!!
Big thanks to my team Douglas Motorsport and my Dad and brother for providing me with such a quick car but it was just unlucky for getting hit off in race 1 and all the yellow flags making it hard to pass in race 2! Thanks to my sponsors also, Kennett, P1 Digital and Murray Motorsport.
Speaking of my sponsors, Kennett, my newest sponsor this season have a fantastic range of products including watches, one of which I wear myself. To see the one I wear why not visit my website http://www.niallmurray.com where you will find a link on my homepage to see their full range of fantastic products.
If your still wondering what to do with yourself, have a look at my twitter account @niallmurray5 where I’ll post all relevant info and news over the weekend.
Thanks a million for reading!