Despite Fittzy not getting to compete Danny didn’t have an easy race, he didn’t have to put up with anyone deliberately pushing him into the wall or off the track but he still had to work for the race, from the instant the flag dropped on lap one of the race.
On the first lap, heading into the first corner, on nearly cold tyres after sitting on the grid waiting for the back markers to line up in the correct order for an abnormally long time Danny’s rear tyres slipped. They were helped by small nudge from Tony Gibbs in the number fifteen car but it was not a malicious hit simply a racing incident caused by half a dozen cars all trying to manoeuvre their way through a corner at the same time.
The fact that it was a racing incident meant Danny wasn’t enraged just a little irate, but mistakes were exactly that, everyone made them and everyone suffered because of them at some point. There was no point getting pissed off with such things, Danny just had to keep reminding himself of that because even on the first lap it was easy to let anger override what was a small unavoidable mistake.
Danny recovered easily enough but he did drop three positions, back to fourth, as he did so. Avoiding walls and other cars was his priority, given that any one of them could make things worse, but he also didn’t want to lose too many positions. Although things hadn’t quite settled down into race conditions by the second corner things had settled down somewhat, Danny was in fourth and the leading twelve cars had dropped into single file.
Danny didn’t regain the lead again until the 35th lap. He had picked up third and second before the end of lap five but out in lead Tony had managed to break away from the small group of three who were slowing each other down but fighting for their position. During lap three Danny’s ear piece came alive with a warning telling him to keep calm and that it was a long race which he didn’t need to win in the first ten laps but being a racing driver Danny heard the call bit didn’t immediately take notice.
For nearly thirty laps Danny fought hard in second position, each time he seemed to gain that ever important fraction of a second it appeared the following lap Tony would grab it back again. They ran tit for tat in the lap times, there was no yellow flags and no safety car to slow things down and close the gap.
When it came time for first mandatory pit stop, which had to happen no early than lap 34 and no later than lap 46, Danny’s team took the risk and brought Danny in early in the pit window. The hope was that Danny would get a clear run into the pits then a clear run on his out lap with cold tyres and cold brakes. It was also hoped that he would gain the precious few milliseconds he needed to jump Tony in the pits.
Danny and his team had a blistering pit stop, one of the fastest the team had ever done, and their prediction for the out lap to be clear of traffic was exactly right. But the thing that got Danny back into the lead position was a poor pit stop by Tony’s team. Seeing Danny’s team make their move for a pit stop too late to bring Tony in on the same lap the crew were slightly flustered and off kilter and that was all it took for them to make one mistake. It was only a simple fumble of the front wheel as it was going on after the brake pad change but it was enough for Danny to gain the advantage and when Tony left pit lane Danny was braking for the first corner, only a second and a half ahead, but a second and a half was a big gap in race conditions.
For the next leg of the race, up to the second mandatory pit stop, Danny led with Tony never far behind. Just like in the first leg where Danny struggled to get that extra fraction of a second advantage and over take Tony was able to keep pace but not pass. There was a few occasions when lapping back markers that the two cars got so close even the lightest of bumper rubs could have sent either car off the track, but that never happened.
Just like in the first corner of the first lap they traded paint a few times but there was no malicious intent just hard and fast door slamming action that kept both drivers on their toes.
Because all the cars were so closely matched after years of regulation to supposedly make the sport more fan friendly mandatory pit stops had been introduced as a way to make the race more exciting and add another element where a race could be won or lost. The teams had no choice but to embrace these pit stops and effectively make the crews race each other as much as the drivers.
The teams also had an allocation of regulated tyres for the race, how they were used was us to the team but they only got twenty four tyres for the whole weekend. Tyre strategy was as much a part of modern day racing as winning the race. Tyre usage couldn’t be kept from the officials but it could be kept from other teams and that was why a late in the race mandatory stop for fuel could make or break any drivers race.
As the final stop approached Danny knew the team would replace his rear tyres, he also knew that because of the bullshit with Fittzy they’d pretty much had to scrub one set of tyres. What that meant for him was that the last leg of the race would be started on tyres that had already been used, they only had twenty practise laps on them but they weren’t new. If Tony’s team had managed to keep a set of green tyres for the final leg it could easily give Tony the precious milliseconds he needed to over take Danny and stay ahead.
Danny was on edge as he pulled into the pits for the final time but what was going to happen in that stop was out of his hands, he just had to make the best of it and win the race.
Previous Racing story here.