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Guest Blog: Aaron Morgan – Round 1 of the 2012 Marongoni Production BMW Championship

Aaron Morgan, 21, is a disabled racing driver from Basingstoke. He works part-time as a sales executive at Adapted Vehicle Hire (AVH), which provides sponsorship enabling him to pursue his professional racing career. At 16 he became the youngest ever disabled person to be awarded a Motor Sport Association National B Racing Licence. Click here to read more about Aaron.

Round one of the 2012 Marangoni production BMW championship was held last month at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. I went into the weekend focused on replicating the speed I had at the circuit during the pre-season trackday that I had done at the track.

We arrived at the circuit about lunchtime on the Saturday and watched the racing before my qualifying session. I also did some interviews for a documentary that is being made about me by some students from Sheffield Hallam University. It was then time to sign myself on and ‘scrutineer’ my car for the races. When in scrutineering there was a bit of a panic as my car failed with a cracked windscreen. But we bought a new one from a fellow competitor and all was changed in about ten minutes. After the drivers’ briefing, I got changed into my overalls ready for qualifying.

As I made my way over to the assembly area for qualifying I was a bit in the unknown as I had a brand new set of the new control tyres on my car. I had driven on a part worn set before but the new set needed to be scrubbed and until they were would have less grip than the part-worn set. As the cars made their way down the pitlane, I dropped back from the car in front giving the car quick spurts of throttle and then braking hard. When braking hard the front tyres were locking up, which informed me that I would have to be very cautious during the initial few laps on the track. After taking a few laps steady, I began to increase my speed. To my surprise the tyres were giving very good grip levels around the track, sometimes initiating a bit of a slide but nothing too major. After the session had ended, I arrived back at the pits and had a chance to reflect back on my experience on the new set of tyres. The timing sheets revealed I had done a time of 1:01.842 which was good enough for 27th position out of 37 competitors. I was pleased with the position that I had achieved but was confident that now the tyres were scrubbed in that I would be able to go faster.

After relaxing during the Saturday evening, Sunday morning arrived and I was looking forward to my races. The competitors were divided into three different races through the day due to the number of competitors. I was not in the first race which meant I could watch this race. I watched the first corner with interest as the new championship tyres do not heat up as quickly as the previous tyres and therefore would be slippery. All cars safely made it round the first corner and I then turned my attention to the cars that I would be racing. After the race I returned back to the paddock and got myself ready for my race.

When it was time for my race I drove over to the assembly area and in plenty of time got my helmet and belts on. This then gave me a few minutes to relax myself before going out onto row nine of the grid. After an average start where I got a lot of wheelspin, I got around the first few corners and then set about overtaking the cars in front of me. After lap one I was in 16th position and was in a cluster of cars. By the end of lap two I had dropped back to seventeenth and was struggling to overtake on the short track at brands hatch. I remained in this position until lap seven when I got a really good exit out of clearways and was able to overtake. This then provided me with some clear space and I set about putting in some fast laps. By the end of lap ten I could see a car in the distance up the track but knew it would be very hard for me to catch this gap before the end of the race. But after putting in three consecutive one minute laps, the middle one being my fastest of the race, I closed the gap to the car in front of me. By the time I had closed the gap there was only one lap of the race remaining. I knew my best chance of an overtake was coming out of clearways coming on to the start straight. I could see the car in front brake really early to cover the inside of the corner but he then drifted wide giving me a little gap up the inside which I tried to use but the car then moved across closing the gap. I finished the race in 16th position with a best lap time of 1:00.453. After finishing the race I was pleased with the position that I had finished and that my fastest lap was almost 1.5 seconds faster than my qualifying lap time. This marked a definite improvement from last year’s results and lap times so I looked forward to my next race.

When the time for race two came I again made my way to the assembly area and repeated my preparation for the race, getting my helmet and belts on in plenty of time before the race, giving me a few minutes to relax before making my way out on row nine of the grid again. My initial launch after the lights went out was very good in this race but I got cut off by a car in front meaning that I wasn’t able to continue my good start. I ended lap one in 22nd position, knowing that I had a lot of ground to make up if I was to achieve a similar position to race one. At the beginning of the second lap I was able to get a good run through paddock hill bend and make an overtake on the inside going in to Druids hairpin. Then in lap three a car spun, meaning that by the end of the lap I was up to twentieth position. I was again behind the car I finished behind in race one and knew that finding a way past would be hard. On lap six, in an attempt to make an overtake I made a mistake, running across the grass at a corner and lost a position. Following this I re-focused myself on what I had to do and after putting in my two fastest laps of the race caught back up to the battle I was previously involved in. I again felt that I was being held up by the cars in front but was unable to make an overtake. Then on lap eleven the car in front of me, in an attempt to make an overtake locked up his brakes meaning that he pushed the car he overtook and I wide in the corner. For the rest of the race I was unable to move any further up the field and finished in 19th position with a best lap time of 1:00.400. After finishing the race I was pleased that I had been able to further improve my fastest lap time of the weekend but was left frustrated that I was unable to make an overtake on the cars in front of me which I felt faster than. In particular I was annoyed that when the car locked up and pushed us wide, that I didn’t try and sneak up the inside of both of the cars.

Overall I was pleased with how I had driven at the first round of the season. On the new set of tyres I had I was able to set a competitive lap time that put me in a good position to achieve the places that I did in the races. I was also very happy by the amount of time that I improved my fastest lap time over the weekend also. This proved to me that I have the speed to be further up the pack and that I need to put in a good qualifying time, and work on my overtaking to enable me to get a better place. Unfortunately, due to commitments at university I am unable to do the next two rounds both at Silverstone. As a result of this my next round will probably be at Snetterton 300 on the 30th June/1st July 2012. Watch this space for how I get on!