It was only a journey of an hour and a half to get from my caravan site near Derby to Silverstone, but I decided to take the whole of Thursday afternoon off work. After all, or so my excuse went, I did have to get back to the site from work and then carry out the arduous never-ending task of securing and hooking up the caravan. That would take an hour! Actually my reasoning was simple; the sooner I arrive and set up, the sooner I can relax and focus on the weekend ahead. Even if I would not be allowed into the paddock until late, I would still be there and able to relax in my caravan. This was especially important in protecting the small points advantage I had in the championship, sitting in third place.
Aside from the above, I gave myself the extremely unrealistic target of two pole positions and two wins in order to set myself up for next year. Bearing in mind that I have only ever had a single pole position, many years ago, plus the solitary win earlier this year, I was probably being a little optimistic. I wanted the pressure, but I also wanted to control it by staying relaxed throughout the weekend.
The main problem was that I knew that, for me, things never go to plan!
Amazingly, the previous day had gone to plan. Could this run possibly continue? The first target for today was to learn the International configuration, which I have never before driven. As it is a sub-set of the Grand Prix circuit, I expected to short-cut my learning and that is exactly what happened. Within the first half-hour of driving I had already got up to speed and was ready to experiment with the corners. The only problem, the tiniest of tiny, was that, in sight of the end of the session, my diff blew up and punched a hole through the casing.
My sign-on had been a little problematic due to my details being lost. I booked very early in the year and suspect that my details were written down and never transferred to the booking system. Thankfully the staff were very helpful and a place was found. Paul Hawker then arrived asking to be on the reserve list as he had attempted to book late on. He was now able to take over my sessions and went on to set a time that matched the lap record.
Trevor Harber very kindly loaned me his spare diff, while Steve Foster of GRS drove to a welders some miles away to repair the casing. The hope was to get me out for the final session of the day and Steve returned on schedule as Paul went on-circuit for his afternoon session.
I stayed away from the garage as I did not want to get underfoot. As a result, I missed all the action. The weld on the casing failed, but Ben Rockey came to the rescue with his own MIG welding equipment. Apparently this involved a small fire, or rather a large but short-lasting affair, which impressed all who saw it.
Thanks to Ben’s contribution, plus the work of all the GRS boys (Peter, Richard, Brian and Steve) I was able to get into my car and drive along the pit-lane, at the back of the queue, just as the green light came on to start the session. It was good to be the last of the drivers as I needed to run the diff in, so drove gently for the first few laps. As Mark Carter caught and lapped me, I started to pick up pace, with Mark pulling away only gently. By the time I was fully up to speed, after around six laps, Mark had disappeared and so I had no reference. I do believe I was slow. But I was in! Third place in the championship was still on.
I went for an evening meal with the GRS boys (minus Peter who had to be elsewhere) and Diane Rosen and Michael Segal. The meal was very enjoyable, although the most memorial part of it was the fact that it was hotter than the centre of the Sun.
It was a cold damp start to the day, but the rain didn’t come down too hard and there was never a threat to the day’s proceedings. It was good to have use of the very large F1 garages, which meant that the various support crews were saved a lot of set-up work.
I was still not up to speed and so was intent on getting towards the front of the queue in the Assembly Area. I succeeded, with Mark Noaro directly in front, Robin Webb further ahead and Graeme Smith just behind. The session went very well, with the group of us staying together throughout. I had a couple of lurid slides early on as I learnt how much grip was available.
The diff that Trevor loaned me was working well, but I seemed to be down on top speed. This could have been due to not getting the corners right or maybe there was lots of oil in the diff casing.
My car seemed to come alive in the final few minutes. Heading towards Club corner for the final time, both Marc Noaro and I were closing on Michael Segal. Marc got held up slightly but could see that I was on a quick lap and so gave me space on the exit, where I was able to pull behind Michael for a short slip-stream before pulling out to pass. This gave me my fastest time, which put me in fifth place on the grid for Race One. My second fastest time was only fractionally slower and so good enough for third on Race Two’s grid. Marc won two pole positions, with Graeme and Robin getting a second-on-the-grid apiece.
I reacted well to the starting flag, but got too much wheel-spin and so was only able to grab one place off the line, that of Robin Webb’s; that didn’t last long, as Robin quickly re-passed me into Village corner.
I was short on top-end pace, so kept dropping from the lead pack along the straights, only to close up again into the corners. Again, I suspected there may have been lots of oil in the diff casing to protect it, so I did not mind. At least I was able to stay ahead of the loan-diff’s owner, Trevor. I also hadn’t yet fully learnt the circuit and so my exits from some corners may well have been compromised.
At the end of the second lap I made a much better job of Club Corner than Paul Hawker and so moved up to fourth place. Paul stayed with me and tried to tow past along Hangar Straight but I was braver on the brakes for Stowe Corner, where I was again able to close on the pack.
One lap later, Paul tried again. I had to keep my steering very straight as he was squeezing me and then he just drove into the side of me so hard that our rear wheel-arches were ripped off. Or at least that was my view of the incident. I have since seen Paul’s on-board footage and he also did not move his steering wheel as my car drove into his; my hands can be seen on my steering wheel and the only movement that I made was to steer away from him. It seems that a gust of wind caught my car, pushing it into Paul’s. Anyway, Paul dropped back while I stayed flat and re-caught the pack.
The next time along Hangar Straight we were greeted by a yellow flag and the debris from our collision. The same yellow flag and debris greeted us after another lap, so I was nonplussed to be passed by Paul. I felt that I was quick through Village Corner and this finally came good as I was able to re-pass Paul here, before he repeated his previous lap’s misdemeanour at the yellow lap zone.
Robin Webb started to drop back, which was worrying for both of us; he needed a win with Graeme third or worse, while I didn’t want him between me and both Paul and Marc. Going into Club, I challenged Robin around the outside, going wide a little on exit apex in order to be sure of no contact between us. Now in fourth, I had to let a lapping car by into Abbey, with Robin following.
For me, that was it. Aside from being lapped by many cars I saw no further action. Robin, in the meantime, came alive, caught the lead pack and took the win. Graeme finished second to win the title with Marc and Paul following. The result was satisfying as I only dropped a single point to Paul and two to Marc, thus strengthening my claim for third in the championship, second having now gone to Robin.
Race One Video – First few minutes
All I needed to do was finish no more than three places behind Paul and Marc; four behind Marc if he didn’t win. I felt confident of getting fifth as I had the pace on Trevor and the rest, but I could not see myself finishing higher.
From third on the grid, this time I reacted well and initially got away perfectly. I was closing on Marc when I botched the change up to third; it was only a momentary loss of momentum, but enough ensure I rounded Abbey in third. My car was alive and only a poor exit out of the link stopped me from challenging for the lead before Stowe.
After a single lap I was confident of a top-four position, depending on Robin’s recovery, and was able to relax, moving my car around through Farm Curve to try and distract Graeme, or later Marc, into taking a poorer entry into Village and so be vulnerable on exit.
It took a few laps, during which time Marc and Graeme traded places several times, but I worked out the fastest way to exit the link to be competitive along Hangar Straight. I was finally able to challenge along here and drew alongside Graeme where he gave a hand-signal to indicate that he would not fight me into Stow. A yellow flag suddenly appeared and Graeme’s signal changed to a wave, which was a fair and good sign.
There was a lot of ducking and diving from myself, but not much in the way of passing, as I did not want to do anything stupid; just one minor lock-up could end up in tears. I did manage to seize the lead just as the Megas were coming up to lap up; this was good news to me, as this is how the Classics can become separated, and I tried to instigate the process. I held my line into corners and allowed the lapping drivers by on exit. As the quicker car drove by me, I ensured there wasn’t another lapping car before tucking in behind and grabbing the car’s slipstream. This went well with about half a dozen Megas and Supers before I was on my own with the Classics having dropped back. All I needed was a red flag! I’m not that brutal and so did not wish for it, as those behind quickly slipstreamed their way back towards and then ahead of me.
With Robin having joined the lead pack I was fourth as we entered the final lap. The lead car was a little slow, causing a jam, so I seized the opportunity and drove around all three at Stowe. I was rather hoping to lose a little pace on exit and so lose a place, but could not force the issue as I would probably have lost more. Instead, I had to push as hard as I dared and try to make a mini-break before Hangar Straight. As expected I was a sitting duck, dropping to third by Stowe. Heading towards Club Corner, Marc challenged Graeme for the lead and braked too late, going slightly wide on entry and so compromising his line through the exit. I didn’t really expect to gain anything, but pounced anyway and squeezed by at the exit. Marc’s front wheel barely touched my rear wheel-arch as I pulled ahead to take second-place.
That’s it! Third in the championship! How on earth did that happen? I didn’t quite achieve my aim for two wins this year, but I did lead in four different races and challenged for the lead in a fifth. Aside from my win at Pembrey I also took three seconds and two thirds; in my whole racing career with the CGRG I earned a total of two podiums before this year, so I am more than a little happy. I’m just possessed with the sadness that my mum is no longer here as she would have been so proud; it’s a mother-and-son thing.
Race Two Video – First few minutes
Both cameras stopped working after just a few minutes. I suspect a spurious signal as they are both controlled from the same remote.
|Front Camera||Rear Camera|