26.05.22 - A Word From Will
I may not be in a position to race myself, but rather than sitting idly on the sidelines, efforts to acquire sponsors and piece together a 2023 campaign are in full flow, and I’m also completely immersed in my role as driver coach to Radical SR1 Cup newbies, Darren and George Knutton.
I started working with the father-son pairing at a pre-season test day at Donington Park, immediately before the curtain was raised on the 2022 SR1 Cup at the East Midlands circuit (Saturday 9 April).
For the first time since the Gen 2 SR1 was introduced in 2018, I wasn’t the one being strapped in to the cockpit, and that was very strange.
That being said, I feel extremely fortunate to still be around my Radical family while guiding George and Darren through their very first steps in motorsport, and I feel more and more invested in them with each passing week.
It was clear during day one of testing at Donington that, although George drove karts at the age of ten and Darren has dabbled in GT racing, they needed an education in the very foundations of motorsport before delving deeper into the finer details.
Happily, I have two willing students who are keen to apply themselves, and while they each have their individual challenges, both have remained on an upward trajectory and are at a stage where the wheels are beginning to turn faster, literally and figuratively.
I’ve always said the Radical SR1 isn’t the easiest of cars to master, but I know them well enough to unpick data and onboard footage, to immediately identify where lap time can be found, and I’ve had enough time engaged in hand-to-hand combat to advise on racecraft, too.
I didn’t stay on in the East Midlands for raceday and that may have been the wrong call, but George and Darren still smashed our targets, improving in every track session and handling new, unfamiliar elements of the racing like rolling starts beautifully.
Much like the Donington opener, Round 2 on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit (21 May) was preceded by a day of testing, and both drivers continued taking significant steps forward.
This time we also walked the track, and seeing all the little intricacies proved to be a confidence-booster for both drivers, although the benefits were particularly evident in George’s performance.
Unusually, the championship organiser agreed that George and Darren could contest one race apiece, and that meant both drivers would have to complete a minimum of two timed laps in qualifying.
Darren started the session and went seventh fastest before passing the controls to George, who saw off some of the more experienced drivers to qualify in a highly respectable fifth place, a short way back from Frazer McFadden in the sister Track Focused car.
As ever, the fastest qualifying times determine the starting order for race one and the second quickest laps for race two, but there was a little controversy and confusion when a Radical representative insisted Darren should contest the first race, just as the SR1 field filed out of the paddock, with George already buckled up in the #45 machine.
Sadly, he was demoted five places to tenth for supposedly contravening the regulations, which Radical later clarified was not the case, but the red mist descended and my protégé reached his first major milestone, emulating my career progression by securing a maiden rookie victory as the sixth-place finisher.
Darren, meanwhile, was tagged while going three-wide into Paddock Hill Bend on the opening lap of race two, and that led to further mistakes, but I have two back-to-back days of testing to address this loss of composure and get both him and George dialed in to Snetterton – the next venue on the Radical SR1 Cup calendar (25 June).
The programme will start with me setting benchmark lap times for them to chase, and I’m absolutely determined to make the best of them.
In fact, I’ve been surprised to discover that I’m just as passionate about their racing as I am my own and, all things considered, I’m very happy with how far they have come over the last couple of months.
As I said earlier, it has been a pleasure to be in the Radical fold again, and the Brands Hatch round provided an opportunity to go back home to my former team Scorpio Motorsport and collect my 2020 and 2021 championship silverware.
They weren’t the trophies we wanted or deserved, but it was still rewarding for all of us and, truthfully, I’m pleased to receive the awards now rather than six months ago when I felt most disappointed to have lost out on the title.
Of course, I’m super keen to get back on-track myself, and I’m working hard to piece together a plan and seek sponsorship for something a much bigger and faster GT or prototype campaign in 2023, but I’m very much enjoying my coaching duties and I hope to take on more clients as the year goes on.