A full-page article of my race season is on Page 74 of this weekend’s Burnley Express. The original, unedited version is here.
Burnley Racing Driver Finishes Third in Championship
Burnley-based racing driver Peter Tattersall achieved a lifetime-best performance by finishing third in the hotly contested Caterham Graduates Racing Club’s Classic championship. This national series celebrated its twentieth year of competition by taking in such great British circuits as Oulton Park, Silverstone and Donington Park, while also making a European appearance at the historic F1 circuit of Zandvoort in Holland.
Peter’s season started with tragedy by losing his mum to a long term illness, OCPD, which leaves the victim fighting for breath more and more as the disease progresses. “What makes me most proud of my mum is the way she determinedly fought her condition. One of the last things she ever said to me was that she wasn’t ready to die. You see on the news of people who are suffering so much that they just want their life to end, but my mum was for too stubborn to admit defeat.”
The first meeting was held at Oulton Park which, at around an hour’s drive, just happens to be the closest race circuit to Burnley. Peter continues his story “I didn’t really want to go as I had conducted mum’s eulogy on the Thursday and, obviously, was distraught. In the end I decided to go for Friday testing just for something to do.” He was grateful for the camaraderie of the day and so took part in qualifying and then the races. The first race was wet and the second even wetter, conditions which Peter usually relishes but this time merely survived. Coming away from the weekend with a fourth and a sixth was surprisingly his best results so far at that circuit, a situation he was soon to get used to.
The next round was at Pembrey in South-West Wales, where Peter had previously written a track guide. He was quick in testing and therefore disappointed to qualify a ‘lowly’ second. Making a typically great start to the race, Peter led for the first few laps but his car’s handling had gone awry since the previous day, allowing his competitors to catch and pass him. He was always confident though, especially as he was dominant at the first corner, a hairpin where he was able to out-brake on the inside, drive around the outside, or even undercut from the outside, all moves he made for yet more stints in the lead. The last such move was on the final lap, which Peter completed by gaining his first-ever win.
There was another qualifying session for the second race where, on the first lap, Peter suffered the first of three differential failures that year! With a loaned diff. from competitor Marc Noaro, Peter had to start from the back, fighting his way through the field to lead the race, before dropping back to avoid an accident and eventually finishing second.
Next up were the rolling hills of Cadwell Park. In the first race Peter spun backwards into a tyre-wall so hard that the front swung round and also slammed into it, the car then bouncing back into the middle of the track. Somehow there was little enough damage for Peter to continue without losing a place, finishing third. Race Two was started using another loaned diff. (thanks again, Marc), but having just made a very good pass going into the tight Mountain section, Peter was punted off. Recovering in last place, Peter surged through the field to an eventual third.
Being the editor of the club’s newsletter, Peter wrote an article on rival Trevor Harbor, who had finished all of the previous 26 races. Guess who didn’t finish his 27th, at Donington Park? Trevor crashed into the back of Peter, elimination both drivers.
Croft was next where, for the first race, Peter’s car continuously stalled and bump-started every time it went round a corner. Not the fasted of ways, so tenth place was a good result. Peter explains “GRS, the team that look after me, searched for hours to solve the problem. From my descriptions of my problems, we hadn’t yet realised what was happening, but they eventually traced it to a loose wire.” Race Two could have been a third-place finish, but Peter made a lunge for second, locked his wheels and dropped to fifth at the flag.
For Zandvoort, Peter could not match the pace of the faster drivers. To make things worse, a ride-height issue was discovered. The car has to ride at least 50mm above the ground, a problem that Peter’s non-adjustable suspension should never suffer. But it did and the only solution was to fit adjustable units at the front. As there were no units available for the rear, the car was now pointing slightly upwards, a situation carried to the end of the year. Two seventh-place finishes were the result.
Out of desperation, Peter decided to fit new scrubbed tyres for the remaining two meetings. He explains “After Donington Park, where one tyre was destroyed, I fitted a new complete set. From that moment I seemed to be struggling under braking, costing me a podium at Croft. I could see that third place in the championship was still a possibility, so decided to invest in a new set of tyres, scrubbed down to 4mm. It worked, as my car was transformed.”
Mind you, Race One at Snetterton did not go to plan. After a poor qualifying session, Peter jumped to sixth, with his nearest rivals just ahead. The grid was shared with a faster class of Caterhams that had their own race, starting ten seconds before the Classics. With this race being wet, the fastest Classic drivers soon caught the slowest of the Mega class. Whilst the five in front of him got by easily, it took Peter a whole lap before he very aggressively barged his way through and set about catching those ahead. It was too late and Peter finished sixth. Race Two was different, with Peter starting from fourth and jumping into an immediate lead. “Snetterton is a slip-streaming race, so whoever is leading into the back straight is unlikely to be leading out of it. What was worse is that I was making very poor exits out of the final corner; I just could not get it right.” For the final lap, Peter was third, right behind Noaro in second. Entering the chicane after the back straight, Marc challenged for the lead and Peter nipped between the two. All he had to do now was make his best last-corner exit ever, which he duly did, but it was not quite good enough. Drawing alongside Smith, Peter finished just three milliseconds behinds. That’s 0.003 of a second!
Testing at Silverstone saw an exploding diff at the back of Peter’s car, with Trevor Harber offered the loan of his spare. For Race One he was not competitive, but Peter really only needed two top-five finishes to secure his target. Halfway through the race saw Peter and his closest rival, Paul Hawker collide, with wheel-arches flying high. Subsequent video footage shows that Paul was making a close pass, but neither his nor Peter’s hands moved. It was a very windy day and so the conclusion reached was that Peter’s car was literally blown into Paul’s. The race ended with Marc gaining his first ever with and Peter finishing fifth, just behind Paul. For the final race of the season, a little oil was taken out of the loaned diff., which transformed Peter’s speed, allowing him to lead the middle period of the race; slip-streaming down the Hanger Straight meant that would not last long. Heading into the last lap, Peter went from fourth to first at Turn One, helped by the fact that nobody wanted to lead going into Hangar Straight for the last time. Including Peter! Drat! He did his best, but those behind did not make a mistake, so Peter was third going into the final complex of corners. Ahead, Marc challenged Smith and went a little wide, giving Peter a sniff of an opportunity as he squeezed his way into second.
So that was it. Third in the championship. This was quite a progression from the previous year’s eighth place and was as much of a testament to GRS as himself. “The previous team who looked after me always told me to sort out my driving, rather than complain about the car. But GRS listened to everything I said and dealt with all the little issues, together with a few big ones. All these years, I never really had to sort out my driving, but at least I taught myself new techniques as I tried to claw myself towards the front of the grid. I’m still learning, even trying a new trick at Snetterton which I had not previously thought of and it worked a treat. The other thing I like is the way that the GRS staff look after me. Richard, for example, always tightens my belts so that I can barely breathe, just the way I like them. By the time I am on the grid, the belts have slackened just a little and so I am comfortable.
“That brings me all the way back to the start of this article, my mum. How she could cope with her lack of breath for so long, I will never know. She was so incredibly brave and I still don’t know how this mummy’s boy can survive without her. Obviously I wish she could still be here to see my results because, well, she’d still be here. She was proud of me when I was meandering at the back of the grid, so I know she would be showing off her son’s results now. Anyway, I don’t know if it means anything, but I’d like to dedicate my season’s outcome to my mum, Mary Tattersall.”
Next year’s calendar is already organised, with the season starting on 17th March at Oulton Park. Silverstone will be visited, with the club competing on the Grand Prix configuration, while the European round will take place at Spa Francorchamps. As for Peter’s target for next year? “It will be tough to compete against the five-times champion Graeme Smith, but that is my target. Why not?”
For more details about racing with the Caterham Graduates Racing Club, visit: https://www.graduates.org.uk/ Peter Tattersall has his own web site describing his racing exploits: www.RacingPeter.com