2010 and 2011 Team USA Scholarship Winner - 2012 USF2000 Winterfest Champion - 2014 Pro Mazda Winterfest Champion
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Tough Week at Brands Hatch

October 20, 2011

Headline Photo

We arrived at Brands Hatch on Tuesday morning to help the guys at Cliff Dempsey Racing set up the awning and cars. Most of the Duratecs had already begun testing Tuesday morning! We weren’t scheduled to start until Wednesday so I went to watch at a few different corners to get some tips on the track. Even though I was at Brands last year, the Duratec is a lot different than the Kent car so there were things I had to learn. We had four test sessions on Wednesday and we improved every session. By the end of the day we were within three or four-tenths of the quickest guys. We knew what we needed to gain to be competitive and kept working on Thursday to close the gap. By the end of the day we were within a tenth so I was pleased with that. Throughout the two days we made adjustments to the car and to my driving style, and each time we went out onto the track we improved on both. Friday wasn’t used for more testing; it was used to bed in brake pads and our two new sets of tires for the weekend.

I was really looking forward to qualifying on Saturday morning because I thought we had a chance to be in the top three based on our pace in practice. After the first few laps of qualifying I knew something was wrong. The car had lost a lot of front grip overnight and the only thing we did was put the new tires on. With the field being so close, losing just a few tenths can cost a lot of spots and we qualified a disappointing 12th. Cliff and I were talking a lot about what could have been the problem. We thought that it could have been a bad set of tires that we were given. We went around to some different teams and it turns out we weren’t the only ones with this problem. There were a few other drivers that had been very fast in practice and off the pace in qualifying with the only change between sessions being the tires. Then we found out that during the week of testing several drivers had big time differences between brand-new sets of tires. But we couldn’t do anything about it because we had already registered our tires for the weekend. In the first heat I was only able to climb a few spots to 10th position.

I had three races on Sunday and the first one was the Quarter Final. I started 10th and had a really good first few laps. On the third lap I was passing for fourth going into Druid’s. The driver I was passing had gone off the track and when he re-entered the racing line his front-right wheel hit my left-rear and it destroyed that corner of my car. So instead of potentially starting the semi-final in the top five I was set to start in 15th. I was put into the first Semi Final originally but we weren’t finished repairing it so they switched me to the second. I was able to move up through the field to 7th in the 15-lap race. That would mean I would start on row 7 in the final, which after all we had been through, wouldn’t have been too bad. Then we were told that since I had switched to the second Semi Final, I would have to start dead last (24th) for the final.

Still, I made a pretty good start and was able to get a few people by the first corner. I worked my way up to 16th (above right photo, courtesy of Jeff Bloxham). My tires were completely shot and I was really struggling with the back end of the car. Overall it was a very disappointing weekend because we had a lot of potential that we didn’t get to show. These past two weekends were definitely some of the toughest of my career; I went in with no experience of the Duratec car and not much time to get used to everything. I learned a lot though and I have to thank everyone at Cliff Dempsey Racing, Jeremy Shaw and the supporters of the Team USA Scholarship for giving me the opportunity.

Thanks for reading,
Spencer