Alex Connor shines on British F4 Test Debut

September 24, 2018

British F4

Alex Connor made a big step forward in his racing career following a successful debut test in British F4 at Croft. Not only was it Alex’s first test in a British F4 car, it was the first time he had driven a car of any kind! However, the Dubai based 14-year-old took the challenge in his stride and his graduation from Karting couldn’t have got off to a better start!

Preparation

Although he had no experience in a car, Alex had been working hard to prepare for the test. As part of the Young Racing Drivers Academy (YRDA) programme for the past 18
months, he has spent time at our simulator facility at the Arden Motorsport factory.

Under the guidance of Steve Hutchinson, Alex had been putting in lots of laps of the Croft and Anglesey circuits which would be the two tracks he would be testing at during the
summer.

These sessions allowed Alex to become comfortable with the layout of the circuit and the driving techniques he needed to apply. Of course, being on circuit and feeling the forces is a totally different thing, but the plan was to help him adapt to the real car a lot quicker.

“I have been practicing mostly on the Croft and Anglesey circuits during my recent sim visits so I had a good idea of what to expect before my first test.”

Training

With the track and technique side well and truly covered, thanks to the time on the simulator, the next aspect was making sure Alex would be physically fit to make the most of the test. Thanks to the YRDA’s Performance Director, Chris Ray,  Alex has taken full advantage of the advice available to the drivers to create a tailored training programme.

“At home I’ve been training hard at the gym to improve my strength and running several kilometres a week to improve my endurance. I record the training I do in the gym and upload these as well as the training data from my heart rate monitor to ‘the cloud’ so that Chris Ray can see what I’m doing and give me the advice I need on what training to do.”

Day One

There’s no doubt Alex was well prepared, so with all the simulator and physical training sessions complete it was time to head to the circuit. Alex would be driving one of the Arden Motorsport cars and with the team having just recently finished a successful test day with Logan Hannah and Abbie Munro, there was a lot of confidence Alex would produce similar results.

Nerves and excitement are emotions that the team are experienced in dealing with and they were able to put Alex at ease very quickly, making him feel comfortable within the garage and around the car before going through the first session preparation. Preparation includes looking at data from previous tests and races to go through the areas they are going to concentrate on during the morning sessions.

After some sighting laps in a road car with Alex’s Engineer for the day, Brandon Wong, it was time to get Alex out for the morning sessions. The team were hoping for lots of laps to be completed and gradual progress over the two days. So, the morning of day one was all about Alex becoming comfortable in the car.

Building Confidence!

The key goal for the first morning - Confidence! By the end of the first session, that confidence was already there and growing at a rapid rate. Alex was adapting to the car a lot quicker than usual and given he had never been in a car before, his lap times were very impressive!

Having successfully completed his initial runs, Alex started going through his in-car data with Brandon and Steve, agreeing the run-plan for the next session and looking for areas to improve driving technique. There’s a lot to take in for someone of Alex’s age and experience, particularly at a challenging track like Croft, so it’s always a pleasure for an engineer to work with a driver who is responsive to feedback – which is a critical trait for a successful driver. For Alex this was a very positive sign!

“The morning sessions went very well but it was hard work as there is a lot of information to take on board while getting used to the car and the speed. The biggest difference from the sim was the vibration of the car, however the main focus of the day was to develop my confidence.”

Day Two

After a day of constant improvement day two had more focus on lap times identifying key areas where Alex could find more time. There were no real changes made to the car setup, so braking points were an area Alex and the team put a lot of effort into throughout the day as it’s something that Karting graduates can find hard to adjust to given the amount of force you need to apply to slow the car down.

Fast corners were another area to work on. Getting used to the movement of the car through the corners takes a lot of time. Session by session Alex was working on the chicane which falls before one of the longest straights on the circuit, losing speed here can cost you dearly, however, on the flip side, a good exit can gain you a heap of time!

New Tyre Run!

Day Two would see Alex get the chance to do his first run on new tyres. A first “New tyre” run is a big part of any test as it’s the best opportunity to enable a driver to set their best lap times. Alex made the most of them straight away which reflected well in his lap times. Having the data of the Arden Motorsport drivers from the recent British F4 race was also a big plus and it gave Alex an idea of where to improve every time he left the pits.

“My lap times were improving throughout the two days as my confidence was building. Brandon and Gary put a new set of tyres on the car mid-morning and I was able to set a good time. We looked at the data after each session and compared it to the current F4 race drivers so I could see where I needed to improve, or change my technique in the car. I was happy with the standard set-up of the car so didn’t need to change that. The afternoon of day two was spent pushing braking points and working on specific corners of the track like the chicane.”

After the final sessions were complete it was time to reflect on what had been a hugely successful test. Everyone in the Arden Motorsport team and YRDA were extremely impressed and proud of Alex’s commitment before the test and his performance during it. Alex was struggling to stop smiling and was already counting down the days until his next test when leaving the circuit!

“Overall the two days were really good and I was happy with what I had achieved. I left the track with a big smile on my face wanting to drive again. A second test session had been arranged a week later in Anglesey.”

Summary

Steve Hutchinson, TBOS Global: "Alex Connor’s journey in single seater racing may only just be beginning but looking back on his first test at Croft, there are already so many positives and things to look forward to. Over both test days he never put a wheel wrong and we were all very impressed with not only his progress, but his ability to implement our feedback and his consistency too. He had no fear on track and that allowed us to progress very quickly, something that doesn't always happen with a driver of his age. He's already showing all the traits of someone who can be successfull in this class. There’s no doubt he has a bright future ahead!"