Pulling to a stop in garage 22 at Rockingham Motor Speedway, I swiftly twisted the buckle of my four-point harness, popped off my Hans clips, tore off my helmet and balaclava and leapt out of the car. I made an immediate beeline for my phone, neatly sat on top of a plug socket and charging.
Why? Not because I wanted to check the progress of the royal wedding, that’s for damn sure. Nope: I was heading to the live timing page for our second sprint of the Car Throttle Caterham Academy (yep, that still sounds awesome) to see exactly where I was. What followed next was a mixed feeling of pride, joy and relief to see that I was placed fourth and had knocked two seconds off my previous best run.
Granted, quite a few cars were still left to run, but some quick maths in my head told me that even if all of those left to run posted a faster time, I’d still comfortably be in the upper half of the pack. In the end, I finished the third timed run of the day ninth, and so far, seeing my name in the top 10 is the most joyful moment I’ve had in these early stages of my motorsport journey.
Frustratingly, I failed to improve on my final run, but I still ended the day P11 of 29. Which doesn’t sound particularly impressive. But you know what? It felt awesome. And it was as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
For the reason, we have to look back to the previous round at Aintree. I lacked confidence in both myself and the car, and as a result of my overly cautious approach, I finished a much less impressive 21st. I was furious with myself. And as much as I just want to enjoy my first year of racing regardless of where I finish, it adds a hell of a lot of pressure knowing you have to explain to the Internet why you aren’t a bit faster given that, you know, your job involves driving fast cars rather often.
With that in mind, I was dreading Rockingham. What if I crash? What if I finish even further back? Did I remember to wash my Nomex under-layers?
In the end, it went brilliantly. I felt so much more confidence in the car: taking the chicane at Gretton flat before dabbing the brakes ever-so-slightly to ensure I could carry as much speed as I dared into Weldon Curve and Deene. What a feeling.
The programme drew to a close with me watching Chris Moore, Greg Monks and Dan Piper take their places on the podium, hoping that I might be up there at some point, but being fine with the prospect of just working on self-improvement and enjoying some decent mid-pack results. Because wherever you finish, taking part in motorsport is awesome.