|Posted by Nathan Ward on December 25, 2009 at 3:23 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Nathan Ward on November 1, 2009 at 11:23 PM||comments (0)|
The Walter Hayes Trophy 2008
This is where it all began. The first time I attended a full weekend of Formula Ford racing. I remember being sat in the grandstand watching as 36 of the best Formula Ford drivers from around the world came piling into the slowest corner of the Silverstone National circuit and wished that I would be among them, not knowing for a second that it would actually come true.
Even walking around the paddock it was obvious that this was a world class event. With drivers from all around the globe coming to the circuit just for this one weekend was breathtaking.
One year later...
Thursday morning passed like a blur until 8.30am when engines were allowed to be run and then the sound of most of the 120 competitors firing up their engines brought me back to reality. Here I was, involved in arguably the greatest Formula Ford event in the world and with the best looking machine too. Three 30 minute sessions was to be all the time we had for testing, which the team and I decided to split into 4 x 10 minute sessions and then a last blast 20 minutes at the end of the day. The first few sessions were spent familiarising myself with the circuit layout, racing lines and braking points. After many hours spent on the Playstation leading up to the meeting I was at least aware of where the corners were going to be. By the end of the day the car setup was almost perfectly dialled in and I was putting in times within 8 tenths of a second of the fastest drivers in my group.
Friday was to be run much like the day before but with only 2 x 25 minute sessions, there were used to make sure that we were happy with settings and I was even able to make a pit stop during the session to change onto a new set of tyres. Now considering that all four wheels were secured with 4 wheel nuts and there was only one tyre changing bar to be used, I was very impressed that I was up in the air, tyres off, back on and ready to go again before I had time to think.
Saturday morning started early with a qualifying session and after battling to try and create some space to put in some hot laps I was able to make my way up to 10th place on the grid which was very pleasing as I was ahead of several drivers who I was not expecting to be. This put me in a good position for starting my heat. Being only 8 laps, the heat was a frantic race for earning positions and with every corner counting as an overtaking space the clock was fast ticking down as I fought to make my way forwards. I crossed the finish line in 7th which meant that I had done enough in both of my sessions to guarantee my progression straight into the semi final. This was very much unexpected as only the top drivers progress straight into the semi final and the remainder are left to make their way through 2 smaller races: The Progression Race and The Last Chance Race.
Sunday morning saw the start of the mayhem as experienced drivers who had not finished in their heats were desperately trying to move from the back of the Progression Race and make it into the top 6 by the time they took the flag. The top 6 then moved onto the back of the Last Chance Race and this is where they had to work even harder as the skill level was ever increasing and again only the top 6 drivers from this race made it onto the back of the semi finals. I was able to spend the morning watching these races and it gave me a useful insight as to tactics for coming through the complex on the first lap.
Finally as afternoon crept on, it was time for my first outing of the day. I started the semi final in 21st place knowing that only the top 18 drivers would make it into the Grand Final. After a very long wait on the grid, the red lights finally went out and we were racing. I was forced to hold position for the first half of the first lap because of waved yellows further around the track but was caught up in an unavoidable collision as I entered Brooklands for the first time. A car a few rows in front of me had lost control and was parked perpendicular to the direction of the track. With cars either side of me I was forced to brake sharply and although I didn�t lock up I was unable to stop before making contact. I quickly found reverse gear and extracted my nosecone from his rear suspension and pulled away again whilst trying to quickly assess for damage. As soon as I was onto the main start/finish straight it came to my attention that there may be some steering damage. My hands had not moved around the wheel at all but instead of the usual �quarter-to-three� position, I was now in somewhat more of a �half past twelve� situation and to make things worse, had dropped right down to 32nd place. The thought of retirement crossed my mind, but I was determined to finish and the handling seemed to remain consistent, albeit rather hard to find a straight line! Nevertheless I keep pushing and was soon making up places as other drivers fought for position and the ever increasing number of yellow flags told me that I wasn�t the only one in trouble. After a race long duel with a fellow Castle Combe driver I took the flag in 19th place. Although this one still one place off the requirement to move into the Grand Final, it was by far the most fun I have ever had racing and considering the state of my steering geometry when I made it into the pits, I couldn�t have asked for a better race.
I have also come to the conclusion that as well as being very striking bodywork (having had many photographs taken and compliments over the weekend), it also appears to be very lucky for me as it has now been involved in two heavy collisions and is yet to suffer little more than a light rubber mark.
This meeting brings to a close my first year of racing in Formula Ford. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to the start of the next season in April 2010.
Thank you very much to Richard Wragg of Pipecowl, my parents, grandfather, my mechanic Gary as well as all at Swift Cooper and everybody else who has supported me this season.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I look forward to having free weekends to catch up with you all!
|Posted by Nathan Ward on October 3, 2009 at 9:07 PM||comments (0)|
I arrived at Castle Combe this morning and although it was almost underwater, I was incredibly excited to see my new bodywork completed. I barely recognised my car as I walked into the awning. With black bodywork, radiators and nosebox the look of the car was totally transformed. The car had a new sense of presence and I felt a lot more confident as I drove down to the formation area.
This confidence must have paid off as I was running in the top three overall (1st in class) throughout the entire qualifying session, until I missed a braking point and invalidated what was easily the fastest lap of the session. This dropped me down to 7th overall, which was unfortunate but still my best qualifying session of the year.
The race itself took place during another torrential rain shower and so after a very hectic opening couple of laps I settled into a battle with 2 competitors who I have been battling with all season long and eventually after what seemed the longest 12 laps of my life I brought the car home in 8th (4th in class)
It was a very pleasing day with qualifying showing that I had the pace to run at the front and the race proved that I was able to keep my head in adverse conditions when many more experienced drivers were struggling and some not making it to the chequered flag. Most of all I was glad that the new bodywork had survived its first race meeting with no damage!
This event concluded the 2009 Castle Combe FF1600 Championship; I finished in 12th place overall and 5th in my class. An achievement I am very pleased with for my debut year and I look forward to improving upon next season.
Thanks to all at Castle Combe for a fantastic first year, I am very proud to be a member of the club
|Posted by Nathan Ward on July 21, 2009 at 10:59 PM||comments (0)|
As I entered the latter stages of the championship, I was more determined than ever to improve even further and having proved to myself that I was capable of 1:12 lap times I was hopeful for the same sort of pace in racing.
With all weather forecasts predicting a dry qualifying session and a wet race, I arrived at Castle Combe not knowing what to expect. The weather was quite cool from the outset and there looked like being a good chance of rain, but it held off for the qualifying session.
I managed to get down to the formation area and join the queue for qualifying in third place, which would give me the perfect chance for a good session as I would be behind fast drivers and not catch up to back markers until I had put in a few hot laps.
Seconds before the green light came on, the grid marshal decided to take a wander down the row of 34 cars to ensure that all cars had the required scrutineering ticket attached. As I saw him coming towards me I suddenly realised what he was doing and I had forgotten to bring mine down to the grid. So my car was pulled out of the row and my chief mechanic made a dash for the awning which for the first time was at the other end of the paddock! By the time he had returned I had been passed by every driver but was still able to join the back of the row, so didn�t miss out on the start of the session.
The first two laps were spent trying to clear as many drivers as possible, but at the same time not wanting to risk damage and not wanting to be caught by the front runners who would have been at least 45 seconds up the road and with open track would be closing fast.
I finally found a clear spot in the order and managed to put in 2 hot laps before one of the drivers ahead of me had a radiator problem and started to spew out water and anti freeze. This was effectively the end of the session as the track was now too slow to put in good lap times.
Overall I qualified 16th, which was surprising considering the situation I had been in, but I was still determined to make my way forwards in the main race.
With qualifying over by 11am and the main race not until 5.35pm it was another long day spent looking around the paddock and waiting for the adrenaline to kick in again!
Finally the time came that I was back in the car and on my way to the formation area. Lining up on the grid I was aware that I was still surrounded by quick drivers, as they had obviously struggled in the session as well.
The formation lap was unusually slow which suited me as while other drivers were struggling to get heat into their tyres I was happy to follow at a reduced pace.
The start was all over very quickly, as the lights had barely all come on before they were out again, taking a number of drivers by surprise. My start wasn�t fantastic as I tried to pull away too quickly and the resulting wheel spin allowed the driver behind me to get alongside me as we took the first right hand kink. I left him plenty of room as we crested the brow into Quarry corner and the next thing I was aware of was him come flying across my nose backwards and taking out three other drivers in front of me. Somehow I managed to work my way through the debris and mayhem and had moved myself up to 11th place in the process. The rest of the first lap was spent trying to hold onto the back of the car in 10th position. There were yellow flags waving into Camp corner and I backed off the throttle as the driver ahead had slowed down much more than I was expecting and as we came onto the start/finish straight I saw the SC (Safety Car) board being displayed and reduced pace even further to match that of the car in front. Unfortunately the driver directly behind me must not have noticed the board of the flag as he came careening around the corner and smashed straight into the back of my car. This propelled him up and over the top of the right hand side of my head and he came crashing down inches away from my front right wheel. Very few racing cars could sustain this form of accident and as I looked to see what had happened I saw that his front suspension had completely failed. This event itself caused the safety car to stay on track for another lap, while his car was recovered.
The lights went out on the safety car and we all started to get ready for the restart. As the leaders started to pull away, I hesitated just long enough to provide myself with enough breathing room behind to allow myself to focus on what was happening in front of me. With only a couple of laps remaining I was able to pass two more cars, one of which was almost involved in an accident with a damaged car, so I was able to capitalise on his mistake.
Only when I returned to the paddock did I find out that I had finished as high as 8th and more crucially it was 3rd in class. This meant that as well as having my best race ever, I was going to receive a trophy for it.
This really was a fantastic day and to end the day with a trophy made my day, which of course will be the first of many to come.
|Posted by Nathan Ward on July 16, 2009 at 11:01 PM||comments (0)|
After a 5 week break I was glad to get back behind the wheel as I begin the second half of the 2009 season. With just 4 rounds remaining I am looking to make up some more places in the championship and continue what has so far been an amazing debut season.
The weather today was rather overcast with occasional light showers but the temperature was high, so the track didn�t take long to dry. This month�s race meeting is looking to be the busiest yet and not just for the Formula Ford category. This meant that the test day was very busy today with guest classes including Radicals and Minis.
I took part in the afternoon test session and completed 6 x 15 minute sessions. I was able to reduce my personal best to a 1:12.92, which will move me even further up the order provided I can duplicate it on race day.
The final two sessions were spent scrubbing in my new tyres so I am prepared in case it rains during race day.
|Posted by Nathan Ward on June 14, 2009 at 10:53 PM||comments (0)|
My first double header race started early on Saturday morning with perfect racing conditions, the sun was shining through the clouds and the temperature was warm enough for the tyres but cool enough for the engine.
I was on a high from setting a personal best in my Thursday session and was just hoping that I could do something similar in a qualifying situation. Starting off in the middle of the lead pack, I found myself hanging onto them a lot more easily than previous meetings and was soon down into the low 1:14's and then well into the 1:13's. I started to back off to make sure I gave myself enough space to put in a final, last minute clear lap and coming up to the last corner I tucked myself up behind the rear of a similar car in order to make the most of the slipstream effect.
I followed this car for the entire lap and crossed the line hoping that I hadn�t slowed myself down. A quick glance at the lap timer showed that I had posted a 1:13.15, yet another P.B., so I was very pleased and when the chequered flag came out on the next lap I was able to come into the paddock eager to find out where the time had placed me in relation to my competitors.
After what felt like an eternity the official race sheets were published and I had qualified in 9th position out of 34 entrants. This was my highest qualification to date and showed great promise for the race to come.
It was then just a matter of waiting for the first race which was to take place later on in the afternoon. The time seemed to drag on and all preparations were made in good time. Finally the time came to move the car to the formation area and for the first time I was able to move my car into the "Top 10" section of the formation area, a place I aim to be visiting a lot more often this year.
Lining up on the grid it was very obvious how much closer to the grid I was starting, the start lights were a lot closer and my wing mirrors were filled with a flurry of colour. Very soon the klaxon blew to clear the grid of all mechanics and the flag was dropped to start the formation lap. I worked as hard as I could to get the car up to running temperature but did not want to risk overheating whilst on the grid.
As the lights came on, I settled down into my start routine and when they went out I was able to produce a very good start. I suffered very slightly with wheel spin, which put me at a slight disadvantage into the first corner as I was looking to defend rather than to attack, but I was still able to prevent a number of hopeful moves by other drivers. The train of cars from first to twelfth moved to the inside of the tight second corner and a few places were lost to opportunistic drivers who chose the outside line but I was still running in 13th place by the end of the first lap.
I soon settled into a racing rhythm and was battling with a couple of drivers when suddenly the car in front of me started to twitch in a manner that I instantly diagnosed as being very serious. I took evasive action to ensure that I was not directly behind the car and my suspicions were confirmed when the cars left rear wheel locked up. This put the car into a spin and out of control. The driver tried to control the car but was unable to and in the mayhem that followed collected my right rear wheel and bent the entire suspension system up at right angles. I felt the impact and a glance in the mirror told me that there was no way I could continue and I pulled to the side of the track. After a quick inspection of the damage I was ushered off the track and the race was put under a safety car period so my car could be recovered.
At the end of the race I returned to the paddock and told the team about the incident and when the car arrived they were able to assess what needed to be done and then got to work fixing the damage. The lower wishbone had bent but was able to be straightened, the upper wishbone had bent in all three axes and was replaced, and the driveshaft and bearings also needed replacing. The team worked efficiently and expertly to fix the car and were confident that the car would be out in the race on Sunday.
After an early night and a good hearty breakfast I returned to the track to find the car all back in one piece and looking ready to fight another day. Sunday passed more swiftly than the Saturday because I kept busy by watching racing and moving around the paddock to talk with other competitors.
My race was not until 16:40, so most of the day had passed and the weather was starting to cool by the time I headed down to the formation area. Due to my non-finish in the previous day�s race I was placed in 30th position for the second race. I found myself sat in the car parked right at the back of the grid thinking how there couldn't be much of a greater contrast to Saturdays grid position. The only difference this time was that my mind set was not "I have 8 faster drivers in front of me" but rather "I have 22 slower drivers in front of me".
Soon the grid was cleared and I made sure to practice my start when the flag was dropped for the formation lap. I set the revs to my usual level and as I released the clutch I realised that the grid had far less grip towards the back so I would have to lower my launch point by around 500 rpm.
Lining up for the start I was careful to remember that I needed this lower engine speed and sat waiting for the lights to extinguish. The lights went out and I was away. I went straight through the middle of the two cars on the row in front of me and then moved quickly to the left hand side of the track as all of the other drivers moved to the right hand side. The first corner at Castle Combe is a sweeping right hander and everybody was anxious to not compromise their starts by being undercut on the first corner. The overall result of this was that they all slowed each other down and I was able to take the long way around and made up 8 places by the time I reached the second corner. I knew that I had cleared the rear pack and stragglers and then focussed on working my way through the mid pack. Within 2 laps I had moved up to 16th position and was going strong.
I then felt as if I was racing on my own because the lead pack had broken away whilst I was dicing with the mid pack and I realised that I would need to be going seconds per lap faster than them just to catch up, let alone overtake, but I kept pushing hard and noticed that in the distance was a red car which had dropped slightly back from the pack and this spurred me on and I was soon catching it up. With three laps to go I was starting to think that I might be able to get passed him and one lap later I was right on his tail. Slipstreaming all the way up to the tight right hand corner, Quarry, I took a wider turn in line and a later apex and was able to slingshot my car out of the corner and after a tactical feint I left my car exactly where he wanted his to be as we entered the chicane. Realising he had nowhere to go he tucked in behind me and I then worked harder than ever to break the tow which my car would have been producing and as I crossed the line for the penultimate time I realised that I had gained enough of an advantage to be able to complete the last lap without being 100% on the limit. I was very grateful for this as the hot weather meant that the tyres were starting to struggle for grip and the last thing I wanted was to make a mistake after such a fantastic race.
I crossed the finish line and took the chequered flag thoroughly exhausted but extremely satisfied that I had done the very best I could have under the circumstances. I had started in 30th position and made it up through the field and all the way up to 15th position.
The reception that awaited me as I pulled into the team awning was fantastic, with everybody being very supportive and proud of how I had shown 'true racing spirit' and driven 'a very smart' race
Thank you to my Mentor (Alan Slater), my Team (Swift Cooper) and especially Mechanics (Gary and Matt) who worked very hard in ensuring that I had a fast and reliable car and completing the repair work in a very short space of time.
Thanks also to Carl Ward (Dad) for making all this possible. His support and advice over the years means the world to me and to see his smiling face after a long and exhausting race makes it all so worthwhile.
|Posted by Nathan Ward on June 11, 2009 at 9:45 PM||comments (0)|
Starting a test day at 1pm is a much more civilised affair. To start with it was daylight when I left the house and made the leisurely trip down to Castle Combe. My first few sessions were just acclimatising to the car and we then did some back to back testing with the air filter on and off. We decided that the engine response was a lot better without the filter so ran without it for the rest of the day.
After a few sessions I changed onto my newer tyres so that I could get used to the extra grip in time for the race this weekend. The effect was amazing, increasing my speed greatly to a point where I was able to keep up with and ultimately get past drivers who are far above me in the championship standings!
I managed to beat my personal best, posting a time of 1:13.39 and now have my sights firmly set on the low 1:13's and even towards the 1:12's.
A fantastic days testing and provided the weather stays dry I feel I am on a great setup for race day.
|Posted by Nathan Ward on May 25, 2009 at 10:00 PM||comments (0)|
It was an unusually late start at Castle Combe today as there was to be no qualification race. This meant that there would only be the qualifying session and then the main race. The day started off quite overcast with the constant threat of rain from around 7 am. Around 15 minutes before my allotted qualifying the rain started to fall and we made the quick change onto my new tyres which were going to be more suited to wet weather. I managed to get the car down to the formation area in time to line up second for qualifying and when the green light came on I moved out onto the circuit to begin the session.
During the first 3-4 laps I was stable in 9th position overall and looking good for 9th spot on the grid. It was only as the rain stopped and some of the more experienced drives picked up pace that I was shuffled backwards slightly, ending up in a still very respectable 12th place.
Then began the wait until the feature race, almost 6 hours after the start of qualifying and so I took this time to review the session and discuss tactics. The weather soon brightened and the track dried out enough for me to return to my older tyres, in order to save the newer rubber for wet racing.
The time finally came for racing and I lined up on 12th position, closer to the front of the grid that I have ever been before (even when I was in the qualification race!). The warm up lap was a bit hairy as the driver starting beside me on the grid decided that he wanted to use the part of track I was on to warm his tyres as he rapidly swerved side to side trying to get some heat into his tyres. We were soon lined back up on the grid and after a longer wait for the lights we were given the 5 second board.
The lights seemed to take an age to illuminate but then disappeared very quickly and I had a lightning start, making up places into the first corner. I held position around the first half of the lap until a slight miscalculation of braking at Tower corner allowed the car behind to gain an overlap and I was forced to yield position. As it was early on in the race and the pack hadn�t had time to space out, a number of cars followed through and took advantage of my lack of momentum. This pushed me backwards into around 18th position. I then got my head down and focussed on perfecting every corner and soon started to pick drivers off. I was running in a 12th place until the last lap when the driver behind managed to out brake me going into a fast sweeping corner, but I was determined not to let the place go and managed to get the run on him down the final straight before the last corner. He decided to move across to the middle of the track to defend his newly won position and I stayed out wide with the intention of cutting back behind him when he slowed for the final corner and possibly get the run to the line. He braked later than I was expecting and this left me on the outside of him all the way through the corner and ultimately left me sat on the racing line as the corner straightened out. This gave me much better traction and left him struggling for grip as I was catapulted towards the line to take back the position. The move was seen by the team and many spectators and generated a lot of interest as I was subjected to numerous questions as I returned to the pits. This must have been fantastic to watch and felt amazing. Easily my most daring and rewarding overtaking move in my racing career so far!
|Posted by Nathan Ward on May 21, 2009 at 8:38 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Nathan Ward on May 4, 2009 at 8:24 PM||comments (0)|