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Blog (Aaron Morgan): Last round of the Marangoni Tyres Production BMW Championship at Donington

I went into the final round of this championship with high hopes. Donington Park is a favourite track of mine. I also had a new set of tyres so was hopeful for two more points scoring finishes like I had been able to achieve at Cadwell Park. I was to compete in both the Production BMW Championship (PBMW), and qualifiers and races of its sister series, the Project 8 Racing Saloons.

Qualifying for Project 8 was not until lunch time on Saturday, so having arrived at the track on Friday evening with my specialist adapted racing vehicle this meant there was no mad rush to get to the circuit early. Before qualifying took place I knew I would need to take a few laps at a steady pace as my new tyres were not scrubbed in yet and would not be at their best grip levels until after a few laps. When I got on the power leaving the assembly area the car was still wheel spinning after I changed into second gear. I sort of ignored this but a little slide at turn one showed me the lesser grip of the new tyres. After a few laps I felt more confident and started to increase my pace. However on lap 5 the red flags came out as a competitor had stopped in a dangerous place. This left me feeling a bit annoyed as I had only had a few laps after my tyres had come good and when the time sheets were released I had qualified in 22nd position, 5th in class F. However I was confident that I would be able to improve.

Race one took place at 6pm so light was quickly fading. My getaway from the line was not very good but I pushed hard into turn one to make up the time I had lost. On the way down the Craner Curves on lap one, tyre smoke appeared ahead of me as a competitor car spun out of control. I slowed down and took to the grass to try and miss it but it lightly crashed into the front of my car. I was able to keep going but there was damage to the car that meant I could only complete one lap before retiring. When I arrived back to the pits the damage to the car was mainly cosmetic and fixed quickly, but I could hardly contain my anger at what had happened.
PBMW qualifying was the first session on Sunday morning. Heavy fog meant that the start of the session was delayed by about ten minutes. When leaving the assembly area I tried to put the frustration of the day before behind me and improve on my qualifying time. However at the end of lap two I went into a corner and was unable to change gear. This panicked me but I was able to force the car back into fourth gear. After numerous other attempts to change gear during the next few laps, I managed to get the car back into fourth gear.

To avoid ruining my whole session, I knew I would have to set as fast a lap as possible in fourth gear. This was far from ideal but I pushed as much as I could. After arriving back into the pits, we found a cable had come loose in my clutch system. After reconnecting this the system was working again. This was a case of a simple problem making it a lot harder for me to finish in a good position. I had qualified in 32nd position; to my surprise I wasn’t at the back of the grid! My time was quite a way off what I had done in Project 8 qualifying so I was still very confident that I would be able to improve on this. I pulled out of the second Project 8 race on Sunday as it was just 40 minutes before the first PBMW race, which was my main priority.

My getaway from the line in race one was really good, however just before turn one a competitor’s bonnet flew off so I was unable to use my getaway to full effect as I had to brake and swerve to avoid the bonnet. After this I set about overtaking the cars ahead of me. Unfortunately a few cars rejoining the track hindered my attempts. I had made my way past two people and when going for a third I was unable to change gear using my clutch button on my hand control. After free-wheeling around the corner and losing time I was able to use my other clutch button to select a gear. I thought this was just a one-off incident so continued trying to use the button on my hand control. Then half a lap later a little spin at the hairpin meant that I lost a few places. Later, when trying to overtake again the button on my hand control failed again. On my in-lap after the race had finished I looked around to see if I could see the cause of the clutch button on my hand control failing. Quickly I noticed that a connector in the wire had come undone. After reconnecting this cable the button was working again. Frustration again set in with such a minor problem affecting my race in quite a major way. I finished the race in 29th position.

Race two came round and after an average start I again set about moving my way up the order. After gaining two positions by the end of lap 4, I lost a place to a car that spun at the start of the race. I knew that if I was able to latch onto the back of this competitor then this would help me improve my speed. I was able to push my way past two further competitors by using the speed of the car I latched onto. However going into the hairpin on the last lap I missed my gear change into second and went into fourth. With no time to change down again I knew I would have to take the corner in fourth, quickly change down on exit and hope to hold on to my position. I went into the last corner alongside another competitor but was on the inside so was able to hang onto my position. I finished the race in 27th position and was able to get my fastest lap of the weekend by 2.5 seconds! As much as I was pleased about this I was also frustrated. I showed the speed that I had but due to being so far down the grid was unable to use this.

Overall the final race weekend of the 2012 season was a very frustrating one. The red flagged qualifying, the crash on the Saturday and the car troubles of Sunday all hindered my efforts, preventing me from achieving the positions that I should have got and stopping me from using the pace I knew I had all weekend. However, this year has been really good one for me. I have been able to improve on my positions throughout the year, improve my championship position and have featured on TV coverage of the championship. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors for supporting me this season – Adapted Vehicle Hire, RAW motorsport, CCL Vehvac, City Gate Automation and Paul Winrow of Stratos Control Systems.

Aaron Morgan is a disabled racing driver sponsored by Adapted Vehicle Hire. He is also a sales executive at AVH, advising customers on their specialist adapted and wheelchair accessible vehicle requirements. Read more about him here.