The final rounds of the season at Brands Hatch on 5th and 6th November saw freddie win the championship with 1 race in hand.
Harrased all season by the other 2 top contenders, Lee Wood and Mark Willis, Freddie kept a calm head throughout, staying focused on the strategy of obtaining consistent top 6 places and maximum truck reliability.
Not only did he win the crown, but he has secured his position for posterity by becoming the youngest driver ever to have raced in, and won, the chamionship, and also is the only driver ever to win both the Pro2 and Pro1 class titles in the series 20 year history.
Rounds 21,22 & 23 Pembrey.
Freddie has always performed well at Pembrey and although we have led from the start and steadily increased our points all season, Pembrey, through the years, has often proved to be a turning point in this championship as it has three rounds.
The journey to circuit was fraught with the rig breaking down on the M25, fortunately it was repairable and after a two hour repair at South Mims services we were on our way. Eventually arriving late on Friday afternoon the team set up and prepared for the wet weather that had been forecast, and for once the weather men were correct. A mixture of sunshine and heavy rain, which fell every time the ‘Pickups’ pulled on to the circuit!
Beginning with a damp track, which looked set to dry quickly, Freddie elected to use old tyres for this familiarisation and set up checking session.
After six laps it was evident the truck and Freddie were good to go. Having delivered three ‘pole time laps’ we retired from the session with confidence.
Normally Freddie would chase the Pole position for the extra points, however a review of the weather forecast for Sundays racing led to a change of tactics. As the championship runs a reverse top six grid we decided to aim at a 5th/ 6th place which would put us on the front row and out of the ‘Spray zone’ of everyone else.
Session 1: Grid information is related via TSL live timing, but an intermittent signal made the information unreliable and in the end Freddie qualified in 4th place.
Session 2: With no TSL timing available for the session we went ‘old school’ and manually counted the times of the top runners. Achieving 5th place which placed us on the front row for race two.
Race 1 – 12 laps
As the Pickups went to track the heavens opened up. The starting single green lap became three laps in an effort to move some water from the racing line, but as race went ‘green lights’ the rain got even heavier. Within half a lap the Clerk of the course red flagged the race and the Pickups returned to the pits.
The ‘on track’ standing water and visibility was proving a problem for everyone but after a 15 minute halt, and a trip round the circuit by officials, the race lined up for a restart. Truck 50 (Geoff Dixon) an experienced racer, declined to restart on safety grounds. All proceeded with caution and armed with the grid information from the spotter, by lap 3 Freddie got himself safely into some clean air and completed the race, which was red flagged at 8 laps, without incident finishing in 5th place.
Race 2 – 12 laps
Another wet race but this time Freddie and his spotter hatched a plan to maximise the opportunity of the front row start. Securing herself a position on a high viewing platform the spotter was able to see most of the circuit and become Freddie’s second pair of eyes. Making a fast getaway from the line Freddie went straight into the lead by the exit of the first corner. As the spotter was continually relating the positions and distances of what was going on behind him, Freddie was clear to concentrate on racing the circuit, and the rain, and lap by lap he pulled away from the pack. 6 Laps in and the rain became torrential at which point race control issued a last lap instruction. However confusion on the start finish line meant the marshals did not put out the red and chequered flag, having once lost a race because we lifted due to the same confusion, the spotter issued the order to race until he saw the flag! which Freddie duly did and won the race, also producing the fastest race lap.
Race 3 – 15 laps
With conditions so bad that the karts cancelled their race, we were ordered to get track ready 45 minutes earlier than expected. As the truck fired up it was clear that something was wrong as it misfired and spluttered. Our engine builder (Paul Exon) leapt into action and identified a throttle sensor had gone down. A known issue on the Pickups so we had a spare, but could we get it fitted with 15 minutes to go? Just one problem: the engine man didn’t have his laptop with him to programme it! Realising the problem a fellow competitor (Steven Fishburn) come to the rescue with his laptop (the Pickup paddock is an amazing place).
Freddie sat quietly in the Pickup trying to keep his composure but wondering if this would be our DNF. The championship co-coordinator looked on nervously as she issued the ‘to track’ order.. But pointed out it would take her at least 15 mins to round up everyone else! The team were silent as buttons were tapped and throttle cables pulled and then HOORAY that sweet engine note roared and Freddie drove off to the track.
Starting on the third row, and yes with more rain, we had calculated that our championship win will be decided on the first race at Brands hatch, so the strategy was to finish safely and get the ballast out of the truck for the next round.. Running 4th for much of the race we needed people to pass us to ensure getting rid of the ballast.. The spotter, once again getting very wet on top of a lorry, assisted Freddie to get back to, and finish in, 6th place whilst avoiding the number of ‘on track’ incidents as the 2nd 3rd and 4th place championship contenders fought it out ahead of him.
The overall results of the weekend:
4th & 5th Places - Qualifying
1 x 5th Place- Race One
1 x WIN – Race two
1 x 6th Place- Race Two
He raced in difficult weather conditions and showed that if you keep calm, and have a good team around you, you can retain a championship lead of 242 points!
On now to Brands hatch, where all will be decided. If we just finish the first race the championship is ours, however if by any chance we DNF the first race, then we must finish in the top 7 in the second race to win the championship.
Rounds 19 & 20 Rockingham.
As well as forming part of the overall Pickup Truck Championship, the mighty Rockingham oval weekends are grouped together to form the ‘Rockingham Championship’ the only Nascar style championship in the UK.
With the season’s final visit to the Rockingham oval the team was focused on a top three finish in this Championship, and with only a 78 point gap between Freddie and the current Rockingham championship leader, veteran oval racer Mark Willis, the result was within grasp.
The twenty minute session gave Freddie plenty of time to re-familiarise himself with the oval and prove the trucks set up.
After only six laps, all of which would have placed him on pole were this qualifying, we retired from the session confident that Freddie and the truck were on the pace.
The Rockingham Oval is unforgiving as it is not only banked but also edged on both inner and outer sides by a concrete wall, If you get it wrong it’s going to hurt!
Qualifying is about racing the circuit, so you must let your tyres and the track surface warm up, whilst your spotter keeps you updated on competitor times so you can produce a time for the grid position you want.
Session 1: After several laps Freddie felt the conditions were right to put in his grid position lap and delivered a blistering 40.27 lap which placed him P2.
Session 2: Mindful of the two 35 lap races we had coming up in the afternoon, Tyres were a concern. Although this did not stop Freddie from putting in an early 40.36 lap, at which point we retired from qualifying and took the P2 position.
After-qualifying checks revealed a small leak on the back of the gearbox resulting in a small repair. A DNF at this stage could have cost us both a top three Rockingham championship finish and the Overall Championship. A team meeting left us all in agreement that Freddie should race hard but be aware.
Race 1: 35 Laps is a long race and strategy is a crucial part of racing on the Oval. The reverse grid placed Freddie on the 3rd row. Having
split away from the pack with the top six trucks, a yellow Flag incident on lap six allowed the pack to bunch up. Freddie remained mid pack
for the first half of the race, and as the Gearbox seemed happy, Freddie worked with No. 8 (David O’regan ) to produced some great
‘Bump Drafting’ as he picked his way to P3. Unfortunately a less experienced driver decided to try and bump draft on the back of Freddie
to gain position, which due to his in-experience resulted in not only his failure to gain position but also stealing the air from the rear
of Freddie’s truck, which resulted in Freddie having to lift as this can be very dangerous going into the corners.
Dropping to P7 with just two laps remaining Freddie continued to race and with a drag to the finish he came across the line in P4.
Race 2. It was evident that the gearbox leak had not been resolved and the team set about putting a repair in place that would allow us to get
through the second race.
For the final time Freddie lined up on the 3rd row and the hunt was on for that Rockingham Championship 3rd place, all we had to do was finish in the top eight.
The track had warmed though the day and so had the drivers. Racing was intense and all the spotters were kept busy as drivers swapped positions again and again.
An early yellow lap incident concerning ‘unidentified debris’ on the track lead Freddie’s spotter to issue a ‘proceed with caution’ instruction and for Freddie to do an ‘on track handling’ review whilst racing. This is a standard procedure instruction issued by race control to ensure drivers are aware that someone’s truck had clearly either lost a part or had simply left a screw driver or lever under the bonnet which had dislodged whilst racing. The result In either case can have dire consequences.
Happy that his truck was all ok, Freddie held P4.
Contact by truck No. 88 (Dave Weaver) in lap 12 resulted in Freddie kissing the upper wall and bouncing down to P9 as he regained control of the truck.
Knowing he needed at least P8 for a Rockingham championship podium, Freddie remained mid pack and looked after his tyres to give him an advantage in the last laps.
Lap 27 saw truck No.82 (Paul Jones) go into the wall on the pit straight and whilst unable to race he was able to limp the truck from the track.
Lap 28 saw truck No. 27 (Mel Collins) retire with mechanical failure, as did truck No. 93 (Michael Smith – 2nd in the championship) who had suffered all weekend with mechanical gremlins.
Lap 33 with just two laps to go saw Freddie move up to P5 but in the end he finished P7 in yet another drag race finish.
The overall results of the weekend:
2 x 2nd Places -Qualifying
1 x 4th Place- Race One
1 x 7th Place- Race Two
Which gives Freddie a 3rd place finish in the Rockingham Oval Championship .
He brought the truck back safely without breaking the gearbox and increased the lead of the championship to 255 points. – It was a good day at the office!
Overall championship = P1,
Rockingham Oval championship = P3