The above picture by kind permission of P Baumber.
After arriving late in the evening to wind and rain we started early the next morning testing, pace was pretty good and the car felt strong so at lunchtime I decided to “park” the car under the awning and prep it for the next days racing rather than risk damage or destroy tyres any further as I was starting the season on old tyres from last year due to tyre budget not being in place. Qually was ok but not great, putting me 3rd on the grid. This is left at cadwell and upon race start the 2 cars infront were slow away, I saw a gap and kept the peddle down, however the gap was getting a little smaller and I clipped the car on the right, only a clip and kept going, after half a lap and holding 2nd the red flag waved and the race was halted, A huge accident on the start line had damaged 3 or 4 cars quite badly, after the restart one of the other drivers ran out of talent and caused another red flag, thus ending race 1 with no points for any driver.
So on to race 2, same grid positions as race 1, slightly slower away trying to have a clean race and I slotted into 3rd, holding the very fast Cerbera of Mike Saunders behind me, this was proving quite hard with Mikes newly upgraded car(480bhp and 12″rims to our 417bhp 9″rims!!) It was only a matter of time as the back straight became more difficult to defend as my tyres were going off thru the corners giving me less speed on the exit. Mike got thru and we ended up 4th. To summerise, could have been worse, could have done better, roll on ROCKINGHAM….
All the photo’s below are by kind permission of George Carter. Many thanks George, great shots.
Last weekend of the season at Oulton, a full days testing booked and all was good.
Testing on the friday before race day Sat, this went well, tho I started slowly in the morning, not really finding “my groove” until lunch, this was helped by words of encouragement from Warren at Topcats who was also racing with us this weekend. During the test my times tumbled, and by the second test in the afternoon I felt very comfortable with the car, a few tweeks to the suspension setting on the dampers and all sorted for qually.
Qually was dry but a little cold, it was 08:30am and I drove a couple of laps to warm the tyres correctly, Oulton is famous for having slippery patches in the morning under the trees and I did not want this to cause a trip to the fence, which is very close at a number of places if you think about it?? Once the tyres were hot and all was good its time to get “the lap” done, but with 24 other cars out trying to do the same, all at different cycles in the tyre and brake warm up and cool down its always going to cause traffic, and thats exactly what happened, I was unable to get a clean lap, and eventually our best put me 5th on the grid for race 1…
There was hardly time to think with a very tight schedule putting us out for race 1 at 11am and race 2 at 1pm. Race start was good and I gained a place straight away, now behind the red Sagaris no23, looking for a way past I managed to put the car next to his and perform a clean pass at the right hander called “Lodge corner”, Oulton is a rather narrow track with a few favorite passing places, on the next lap having had the door closed in 3 or 4 corners i managed the pass at the same place on car 99, putting me in second, but having lost time battling with the other cars Mark Hockin in the lead had a nice size gap of around 10 secs, lap after lap i seemed unable to catch the “aero equipped” tuscan, Mark was flying and I could not make any impression upon the gap he had built, infact it seemed to be getting bigger!! On the final lap there was a horrible loud noise as the exhaust had cracked ne moved, causing the system to “blow” and a resulting loss in power, under hard braking this seemed to sort itself out and we finished a very strong second, with good lap times meaning we looked good for race 2.
Havin inspected the exhaust system it seemed the split had occured at a joint and needed welding, this had happened because of the force thru the car as I run over the kerbs on the apex of a corner, I do love some kerb, it is for sure the fastest way thru a chicane, tho not the best for the car, so i made a mental note to give the bigger kerbs some room and not batter the car over them after the first couple of laps, 20 mins of smashing into them is risky, sometimes it pays off, sometimes YOU pay.
On the grid for race 2, all good, mind totally on the job, 4500 rpm, lights out, accelerate hard and on the change to second there is a loud bang from the engine, followed by a similar noise from the exhaust as before! “Oh S***” as I turned into the right hand hairpin called “shell” I noticed smoke coming thru the dash board, then my eyes were running, very fumey.. noise now worse than ever I had no choice but to pull in and return to the truck to inspect, by the time i got there Brian the savior from Topcats Racing was ready, spanner in hand, turned out the side of the car was catching fire because the exhaust had come out of the back box, this damaged had gone un noticed after race 1, with poor access to this area we were unable to fix the problem, and had to call it a day, my heart sank as i thought i had missed out on the points needed to secure third place in class championship overall. Turned out we had the third spot by 5 points regardless, phew.
Looking ahead now to winter car prep, and some testing early in the new year, hopefully this will avoid any delays like we had this season causing us to miss the first 2 rounds and go to the next without any testing. Now we are with Topcats Racing of Aylesbury things seem far more organised, fingers crossed.
Finally, a massive thanks to all involved, sponsors, supporters and family, racing is a massive part of my life and you all make it even better.
Back at Brands Hatch in kent, one of my favorite tracks, unfortunatly there was not an opertunity for me to test at Brands before the race day, so going out in qually would be my first laps here since the last race.
We arrived at Brands the eve before race day to set up and prepare, the forecast was not good at all for the Kent area, on our way down from Milton Keynes the sun shone, all was fine with the weather until we crossed the river at Dartford, rain…. As luck would have it Steve Glynn was racing with us supported by Tim Hood. This meant that they had the big truck and a massive awning with enough room for 4 cars, they only had 1, quick chat with Tim and after the offer of a pint in the bar my place under his awning was sorted, this helps a great deal as the EZ up shelter I have is only big enough for the car and makes doing anyhting on the car a real pain if its wet, not to mention windy.
Qually was wet on the sunday morning, and all expected the rain to last all day, I managed to set a row of 55 sec laps and then my best of 54 to secure P2 on the ront row, next to car 99, this was a very good time in the wet and only 3 secs slower than my best in the dry, perhaps we have found our rythm with the car.
Race 1.. DRY!! Still plenty of clouds but the tarmac was mainly dry with the odd damp patch. Slicks tyres are the go, 2 green flag laps were allowed to give us a chance of warming the tyres, car 99 managed to throw it off into the barrier at the first corner, paddock hill, he managed to rejoin but had to start from the back of the grid! Cold day, cold tyres and a little too agressive, he will not do that again in a hurry. This left the slot next to me open, “GREAT” that takes a lot of pressure off, not having to fight for the inside with that car, just the other 20 or so cars behind me now?? Lights out, great start and off into the lead, how happy, the car felt amazing, I felt really strong, totally commited to every corner and for sure completely in control of the car, we led for a round 7 laps with the length of the back straight between me and car 20 (deano) until a slip of the hand on a change thru the gearbox cause me to “tap” the dashboard very slightly, I did not give the dash a second glance untill turning into the left hander at surtees the car began to loose power completly, I had only gone and flicked the fuel pump off, IDIOT, with that Deano was past and fuel pressure built up again, back at it, but now in second place, after chasing Deano who is very local to brands and very good here also, the flag was waved and second was ours, not as good as it should have been. But with a personal best lap time of 49 seconds things were not all bad, on to race 2.
Race 2.. Again in second on the grid, with the finishing positions of race 1 giving the grid for race 2. A great start and off out infront, I really fancied my chances here, Deano right on my tail with a car that seemed to be faster on the straights, however we were a little quicker thru the corners, all I needed to do was stop him getting next to me, easier said than done, on lap 5 Deano managed to put his car next to ours and block our turn in to the corner, giving him the lead, the race from here was pretty simple, thru the corners I could reduce the gap and even had a couple of “looks” but on the straights Deano’s car had the power to keep us at bay. This resulted in another 2nd place…
Qually was OK here but highlighted the fact the car was set up a little too stiff, thru copse corner I could feel the rear of the car hopping from bump to bump, its amazing how a small rise/fall in surface affects the handling of the car at 100mph….. Nevertheless the I got 3rd on the grid, second row with a nice gap between cars 20 and 99.
Line up after green flag ready for a wet race, suspension setings altered for wet as it was now raining quite hard, not the best day to have an open top race car! Lights on, lights out and straight off into the lead, lots of spray so very happy out front with Deano in car 20 in hot pursuit, the gap between car 20 and I stayed the same for about 3 laps, then a yellow flag in Maggotts corner allowed dean to close that gap, I had lap traffic infront and it is not allowed to overtake under yellow flag, Dean had no traffic between him and me and moved right on, on the exit of the corner the green flag waves, full throttle and the car stepped sideways big time, we lost drive out of that corner and Deano doesnt need asking twice, thru he goes, conditions worsening I settled in behind Deano waiting for a mistake, about 10 mins left, no rush I told myself, after a few more laps the 99 car was getting closer, turning on to the National straight car 99 began to push a little, this time i kept the car on full throttle all the way thru the gears as before I had been shifting early, around 5thousand rpm instead of the usual 7 to keep the car honest thru the ever increasing puddles at 140mph… Revving the car aggresivley turned out to be a VERY bad idea as coming under the bridge at full power it aquaplaned into the most hideous spin I have ever whitnessed, I went under the bridge backwards, then continued to spin round more than 5 times before pulling the car in a straight line and just kissing the gravel with the left tyres, fhew, I will not write my exact words here but rest assured it was the closest I have EVER BEEN. Amazingly I only lost 1 place to car 99, I think the cars behind were so shocked we were not in a thousand pieces they forgot to come thru!!! About 5 more laps and we finished in that position, second in class and third overall. Race two will be better!!
Race 2 was now dry and back in row 2 on the grid, but for some reason I didnt manage my usual good start, the cars revs died a little and we pulled off the line a little slow, into second then third and a hard press of the throttle sent the back of the car to the left as a well starting Mark Hockin was quite close coming next to me and we collided, my left front wheel hit his right rear with an expensive sounding BANG… Turning into copse corner full chat with 5 cars around me and 20 on the track not sure if the steering is damaged is a little unnerving, coming thru the car felt fine, then turning into Maggotts right hander I had understeer, the front of the car wanting to go straight on making me think something IS wrong, steering knocked, wheel out of alinement or perhaps a puncture????? I decided to continue thinking the wheel had a knock out of line and all was ok, just needed to watch those right hand bends, which at silverstone is most of the circuit. Unfortunatly as I turned in to copse for the second time the car began to let go on the Left front, arghhhhh…….. PUNCTURE……… I pulled the car into the pit lane, down to our garage and John from Team Wright Racing jumped off the pitwall to help, I jumped out the car to get the spare wheel whilst john removed the VERY flat tyre, new wheel on back out 3 laps down, nothing to prove just running to score some points….. We finished last for the first time ever, however, WE FINISHED the race, some didnt.
Not the best weekend as far as results go, but I am sure someone was looking after me with that spin in race 1, if the big fella upstairs reads this, THANKYOU, next round of beers on me…..
Anglessey is a track in the far northern corner of Wales, I had never driven the circuit before but had been told it was a “Real goodun”. We booked testing and looked forward to learning the track. The weather was not great with strong winds and heavy showers, nevertheless we completed 4 test sessions with no real issues.
Race day 1… Qually was not our best, the car felt a little unsettled in the corners and seemed to be struggling to put the power down on the tarmac, however, we managed second on the grid, seemed others were having the same problem. Race start was great and we led for the first half of the lap before Hockin squeezed thru, he was followed a couple of laps later by Cook and we had to settle in to third, keeping the faster AERO equipped cars honest, then break issues as the peddle squashed half way to the floor, luckily the gap between me (3rd) and 4th was pretty good and we managed to hold on to 3rd for a poduim.
Race 2 on sunday was a different story, the brakes were bled, suspension adjusted and driver full of lucozade. Ready to go, start felt good right in the mix until 3 laps in the brake peddle went nearly to the floor, I am not allowed to type the actual reaction I had. This was a massive problem, I had to tap the brake peddle on the exit of every corner to build enough pressure for the next bend, not a nice feeling when you are entering a corner at 100++ MPH and unsure of your brake!! This ended in a nasty spin in the hairpin because of too much rear brake bias as the fronts had boiled, allowing the cars behind to catch up and then giving third away to a well driven car by Ben Wright. This put us in 4th and I held on to that until the end.
To summerise, Anglessey is a great track that very hard on the car and driver, but I would go back tomorrow, hopefully without brake issues.