2014 Formula Renault Season with Cliff Dempsey Racing

Whilst side-lined from a full season of racing since 2010, an opportunity arose for James to complete a one-off weekend back at the wheel of a Formula Renault 2.0 machine with the vastly experienced Cliff Dempsey Racing team. Having had a successful time, and narrowly missing out on a superb podium after over a year out of the car, James built a good relationship with the team which grew over time. James explains “I got a call from Cliff to do the race weekend at Croft and was happy to help out after he had a driver drop out at the last minute. We had a great weekend and although we didn’t get the win we were capable of I go on so well with the whole team. They’re a great bunch of people and I felt at home immediately.

After further contact with the team James continued the relationship in the form of becoming the team’s driver coach, starting during the 2012 FR BARC championship with Chris Middlehurst who James previously knew well from karting. Chris showed great potential throughout the season, going from a midfield runner to a true challenger for podium positions. The smooth integration into the team allowed further coaching opportunities during 2012 with Chris and Matt Brabham in the FR BARC Winter Series, in which they both drove exceptionally well to gain 3 podium positions between them during the mini-series.

2013 was a bit part season for the team with various drivers choosing to compete in only specific rounds, and so coaching opportunities were few and far between. CDR and James stayed in contact throughout the year, and after confirmation of two drivers for the full 2014 campaign it gave James the ability to build relationships with the drivers and watch them progress over a longer period of time. The drivers (TJ Fischer from the USA and Patrick Dussault from Canada) both had very little single seater experience upon their arrival in the UK but quickly got to grips with the more advanced aerodynamics of the Tatuus Formula Renault. With around 16 drivers lining up for the first round at Rockingham, most of them with far more experience than TJ or Patrick, the qualifying and race results in and around the top 10 were more than satisfying for the team all round.

Building from the first round, and with several test days in between for the drivers to acclimatise to the car, the guys went to Donington park for rounds 4, 5 and 6 with higher expectations. An exceptional qualifying performance from both drivers saw TJ line up P3, P4 and P9 with Patrick P6, P7 and P8. This was a massive improvement and was backed up by Patrick’s storming start en route to P4 in round 5, narrowly missing out on a podium place by a few tenths of a second. TJ was disappointed not to capitalise on his wonderful P3 start with an unfortunate DNF but both boys showed incredible improvement and were buoyed by the way they had closed the gap to the championship leaders.

At Brands Hatch for rounds 7 and 8 the boys again showed great improvement, and in the infamously tight qualifying sessions TJ qualified P5 and P7, just 1 tenth of a second off P3 and less than half a second from pole. Patrick was also right behind in P6 and P8. As expected the race proved almost impossible for overtaking opportunities and the guys didn’t sway too far from their start grid positions, although electric reactions from Patrick allowed him to leapfrog TJ for inter-team bragging rights.

The improvement both boys has shown has been incredible in their first season in advanced single seater cars, and James puts it down to the team community and their ability to listen. “The guys came over to the UK completely fresh and had to begin on the back foot against people with at least a year experience in these cars. From being (as expected) around 1.5 seconds a lap off the front runners they have now reduced that gap to less than 0.5 seconds in less than 6 months, with is a stunning rate of progression. The way they absorb the information I relay to them using both data analysis and on-board video is really positive and you can see they really are hungry to learn. Patrick’s 4th place at Donington and TJ’s 3rd place qualifying show that they are really hustling the front runners now and I guarantee it won’t be long before they enjoy the taste of champagne themselves. The team has a great atmosphere and is the perfect place to be as a driver, with no pressure yet a real focus to win.”

The championship continues at Snetterton during the last weekend of August and James will be pushing the guys to eke out every tenth in their locker to break into the hallowed podium club. During the season James uses and is competent with Aim Race Studio Analysis 2 data software, and as shown in the above article is able to utilise the data package to improve a driver’s performance. The rate of progression of both Tj and Patrick in the Formula Renault machinery show that James is able to teach competently and effectively, and for any queries relating to driver coaching availability please contact James via mobile 07588589125 or via email james@jamestheodore.co.uk

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