The last venue for our two Formula Gulf Academy graduates was none other than the prestigious Silverstone GP circuit, made even more exciting with the guarantee of rain on one of the days.
Testing was a busy day, learning the 19 turns was a tough challenge, made even harder by the general testing rules that allow cars such as Radicals and GP2 cars along with our FGA cars on the track together. By the end of the day both Cato and Omar had pulled together a great lap and were confident going into Qualifying the next morning, along with their 48 competitors.
However, as promised by the UK weathermen the rain came, it really came. This would prove to be a real challenge for both drivers, especially Omar who has never really driven in the wet before, as Formula Gulf Academy driver coach Andy Pardoe said -
“It rarely rains in the UAE and this means that drivers are driving constantly in the highest grip conditions; this means a constant challenge to find the n’th degree of grip, so going out in the wet is actually not too daunting, things happen slower braking points are early and the car is a lot less sensitive in a way.”
Andy was not wrong, the cars worked well and both drivers put in fantastic performances in Qualifying, taking 1st and 2nd in class, with Cato placing 8th on the road ahead of 40 other cars, including many of the F3 Dallaras and Lola’s, a great performance.
Race 1 was a true challenge. Unless you were on the front row, visibility would be at a serious premium. Conditions were bad but the guys were excited for the challenge. Making a fantastic start, Cato was able to take a couple of places on the first lap and with the leaders coming together he would run 3rd on the road, while Omar was driving with little to no visibility a few places back. Amazingly and to later compliments from the Clerk of the Course the race finished without incident. Given the conditions and the size of the grid everyone was very impressed. For our guys it was a one two, a first and second in class, with Cato narrowly missing out on an overall podium.
Day 2 and race 2 could not have been more different. The sun was out and the track was fast! On new tyres both drivers were hoping to make a lasting impression. Both drivers certainly did that, with Cato setting another outright class record (one also set at Rockingham) and Omar clawing back up to a 3rd place after an early race spin. It was a great end to the summer training program.
This whole UK activity proved to be a great extension on the winter Formula Gulf Academy program in the UAE. Learning the UK’s best circuits, grids of over 40 cars and of course wet conditions- it’s exactly what is needed to close the loop on this training program. Keep an eye out for news on the 2017 summer program where the training will be expanded to a 4 driver team.