Snetterton Race Report

Peter Godfrey of GRS had offered me the opportunity to drive a Sigma, so I hooked up my caravan and left for Snetterton early in the morning. It only took around three hours and was fairly straight-forward, but I was exhausted on arrival; whether that was to do with looming old-age or just work, I don’t know, but I soon recovered.

I got to drive the Sigma a couple of hours after my arrival. There were a couple of issues due to it not being my car, but nothing serious. First off, I needed padding behind my back to push me forward a little. This had the result in giving me a kart-like seating, which also allowed my torso to move from side-to-side when cornering. Secondly, the brakes were a little long, but worked fine.

Whilst the Sigma is a much faster car than the Classic, and I have no doubt that the car I was driving was representative of the breed, I didn’t think that this car actually felt quicker, nor cornered faster. I must emphasise the use of the word ‘felt’; of course the Classic is slower. It just seemed like driving a Classic with a poor-seating position. It was alright, but not for me. In fact I was worried that driving my own car would be similarly unrewarding, especially as I did not enjoy the circuit.

In the evening I went off for petrol. On the way to Snetterton, I had seen a BP station around ten miles from the circuit, so decided to head there for some BP Ultimate. It wasn’t cheap, but I bought 100 litres of the stuff. The return journey was easy and I was pleased at how well things were going. My only worry was that the Sigma drive left me unimpressed and not happy with drivng. If things didn’t change, retirement was beckoning.

Friday

I was up and signed on before my alarm had even gone off, so things were looking good. Then Peter Godfrey popped my bubble by pointing out that BP Ultimate comes in two guises, only one of which is petrol. Yes, I had bought the diesel variety, but Peter had spotted the error as the fuel was poured into the filling-jug, not my car, so the only harm was to my bank balance.

TrevorHarber
TrevorHarber

It had been raining overnight and so the circuit was very greasy for my first session. My car was very reluctant to turn into corners, but other drivers seemed to be in the same position and so I just got on with it. At one point I was passed by a quicker class of cars at Agostini. I made a bit of a meal out of the corner, deliberately allowing Graeme Smith through at the same time. That allowed me to short-cut my learning as he turned into a couple of corners later than me. I tried his lines and they seemed to help. I stayed with Graeme until the track started to dry, and then drifted back.

The second session was dry and I felt that I wasn’t very quick. Perhaps I had not yet got myself up to speed, or maybe my full-depth tyres were slowing me a little. By now, PolleySport had arrived and so fitted my new scrubbed tyres. These were to be used for the remaining two afternoon sessions to bed them in, ready for qualifying and the races.

For the morning sessions I had arrived in the pit-lane first in order to have a clear run from the start. Prior to the afternoon session, the rain was coming down hard. I still went to the pit lane early, arriving first. Of course this meant I spent ten minutes getting soaking wet, but I would be in the same state within minutes of going out anyway, so why was it considered an issue? What it did mean was that I was first onto the circuit and I felt that I was very quick. I must admit to having a few offs, but they were nothing serious and I learnt a lot.

For the final session, conditions were nowhere near as bad as the third, but still very wet.  At one point I was closing on a SigMax, confident of finding a way past, but then the engine started to stutter with an electrical issue. I tried to limp back to the pits but eventually had to stop. After allowing the engine to cool down I was then able to drive back to the paddock where the GRS boys got stuck in. Time would tell if the problem was solved in time for racing.

The evening in the paddock was interesting. Looking at the sky the birds were going crazy, grouping together in clusters that looked to be in the order of hundreds, flying in all sorts of strange formations. They did not look happy. Not that I could blame them for, as calm as it was at ground level, the angry clouds were rotating at a ridiculous speed. All of a sudden a torrential downpour appeared and the wind whipped up, stranding anybody safely undercover and drenching those walking by. Within minutes it was gone.

Saturday

Peter had worked on my car in the evening and again during the morning. He changed lots of electrical items, including the plugs. It was vital that my car suffered no ailments in the races, as I was still in contention for third in the championship. The current dropped scores put me four points ahead of Paul Hawker and five ahead of Mark Carter, with Marc Noaro needing excellent results this weekend to drag himself back into contention.

Qualifying

The only duty of the day was to qualify, with both races taking place on Sunday.

There had been discussion on the Forum about the Megas and Supers being lined up ahead of the Classics in the Assembly Area. The person who originally made the suggestion had the best of intentions, especially with concerns of safety, but I felt it was a bad idea. It relegated the Classics to a subservient role when there was no need. I pointed out that I had asked for this very system at Cadwell Park due to the narrowness of its track and the lack of run-off at some of its trickier corners. At Snetterton there are no such issues, there being plenty of straights for quicker cars to blast by.

I was told by unelected club officials that a democratic vote would take place to decide the issue, but was ridiculed when I pointed out that there were more Megas and Supers than Classics and so there was nothing democratic about it; indeed this is how whole demographics can be isolated. My continued protests were met with accusations of me being selfish and putting myself first. Let me get one thing clear; I have spent a life-time putting other people first, mainly due to a lack of confidence that I refuse to allow to infiltrate too deeply into my racing life. Some may consider my not having done a good job, but I’m currently third in the championship and that is were I am determined to stay.

I gave warnings of slower drivers in quicker cars being caught and ruining qualifying for Classic drivers, particularly if it was raining.

There was a briefing to be conducted by the clerk of the course, where I attempted to raise the qualifying issue but was unsuccessful. He was asked to ensure that the dropping of the flag to start the race would be carried out correctly; he was bemused by this, stating that there would be no problem.

Wilson Corner, with Pete Cannard ahead of Matthew Willoughby, who is on the inside of Nigel Lidell
Wilson Corner, with Pete Cannard ahead of Matthew Willoughby, who is on the inside of Nigel Lidell

Come qualifying I arrived late into the Assembly Area. Well, there was no point being first and getting stuck behind slower quick cars. We were released onto the circuit and I quickly got into free space and pushed during the out lap. Starting the first flying lap, a slower quick car was approaching the first corner. I had no way of knowing how he would take it, so slowed in order to get a fast exit. He was very slow going in, but gave a wide space for me to pass; again, I had no way of knowing and so was very tentative. Later round the lap I caught and passed another slower car. This was to be my fastest lap, putting me eighth on the grid for Race One.

A third of the way round the second lap it started to rain and the surface became very slippery. I suffered a minor delay in passing Trevor Harber in a Classic, who allowed me by, but the Classics that had departed the Assembly Area earlier had completed more of their second lap than I. Even so, I was quick enough to be placed fourth on the grid for Race Two. The rain continued and so there were no improvements in times.

Later in the afternoon I was able to watch the SigMax and Sigma race. First off from the lights were the Sigmas. Andrew Outterside, commentating, then reported that the flag was dropped to start the Sigma race, but no one moved. After a second attempt, the cars left on-mass. All Jon Harmer had to do to win the championship was finish; he collided with a SigMax while passing it and then spent the whole of the race fighting with a crabbing race-car as it changed direction in a straight line. Finish he did and so won the title.

It turned out that the starting issues were caused by the flag remaining furled; effectively a stick was being waved!

Sunday

Despite the busy day ahead, I did not have to get out of my bed too early. It was all very leisurely, but I had allowed myself to be wound up by the qualifying shenanigans. I was, though, intent on not allowing it to affect my racing and so kept myself calm. The usual friendly influence of Diane, partner of Michael Segal, helped to improve my mood.

Race 1

Matthew Willoughby
Matthew Willoughby

It was damp, but there was no rain. Lining up on the grid for the green-flag lap, I raised my engine’s revs as the field pulled away. With an angry, screaming engine, I dumped the clutch and spun the rear wheels as I slowly drew away. One lap later, as I pulled up for the start proper, I was greeted with the perfect sight of two dry lines to park on. I was about to have a dry start whereas those around would be starting in the wet.

The red lights went out and off went the Megas and Supers, together with the Classic of Mark Carter, starting from second on the grid. I had to ignore him for now. As soon as the flag moved, I reacted perfectly, but then realised that the flag was moving upwards. Mindful of not wanting the same penalty as Mark, I started to slow as the flag was dropped.

My start was ruined, but the dry surface ensured that I still jumped up to fifth, just behind Paul Hawker; this was a perfect position as I could afford to drop a single point to him, and there was plenty of time to reverse even that. Matthew Willoughby quickly found a way past me, which I did not mind as I expected him to get by Paul quickly enough. That did, indeed, happen, but I was not able to take advantage. Again, I was happy as there would be more opportunities as the race went on.

Ian Kinghorn just about avoids hitting me in the damp conditions
Passing Iain and Trevor after the long back straight
Passing Iain and Trevor after the long back straight

After a few short laps we came up to Mark Harrrison who was struggling with his Mega in the slippery conditions. He allowed the lead cars through, but not me. This was fair enough as he had to get round the corner, but he was a little rude in not allowing me by afterwards. Exiting Williams onto the back straight I had a much better exit than Mark and pulled out to pass him, but he just got on the power and pulled away. Fair enough. I pulled back into his slipstream, only to notice just how close Iain Kinghorn was. It was just about fair and Iain was happy about it later. Going into  Brundle, Mark was very slow, allowing me to easily catch him. He then refused to let me by through the Bomb Hole, Coram and again at the final corner, Murrays. Going along the Start Finish straight I flashed my lights and waved at him, hoping that such behaviour in front of officials would encourage him to let me by. Into the first corner, I went a little wide in my efforts, just drifting onto the grass enough to allow Iain and Trevor Harber by. Both of them quickly passed Mark in the run to Agostini. Here I drove around the outside of Mark to finally pass him, but he just used his superior power to re-pass me immediately, slowing me further through the next corner, Hamilton. I finally nailed him into Oggies and quickly pulled away, but Iain and Trevor were now some way off and Paul was just a dream.

My target was now solely to finish one place behind Paul and I very quickly caught the pair ahead. I passed them both going into Brundle and heard squealing brakes as I approached the apex of Nelson. I looked in my mirrors for Iain but could not see him, so decided to turn in; Iain later reported that he did not know how he had missed me and the rear-camera footage certainly is amusing.

That was it. I pulled away from those behind but was unable to make an impression on those ahead.

The race was red-flagged after an incident that took out three Classic drivers. The leaders of the Mega race caught up to Michael Segal, Nigel Lidell and Paul Gardner. The two leaders squeezed past Paul, who tried his best to leave space, but the third driver ran out of talent and into Paul, punting him into a spin and the path of both Michael and Nigel.

Both cars slammed into the side of Paul's, breaking his ribs and winding him badly; all three cars retired on the spot. Needless to say, Paul was unable to race again later that afternoon, but both Michael and Nigel were. Paul expects to be well enough to race at Silverstone.

Michael Segal is not the fastest of drivers, but he was potentially on course for winning the Best Consistent Finisher trophy, depending on Paul Hawker not finishing a remaining race or beating me to third in the championship.

I achieved my target of finishing behind Paul, but Mark’s punishment was merely a ten-second penalty which even he was bemused by; Mark had expected a ten-second stop-and-go. This meant that I finished two places behind Paul and one behind Mark.

My race problems were more than offset by the news of a great race result; Marc Noaro has long-since been banging on the door of a win and that’s exactly what he delivered this morning. It was hard-fought and well-judged, timing his pass on Graeme Smith to perfection, with Robin Webb finishing just behind. This result did finally remove me from theoretical contention for the title, that now being a straight fight between Graeme and Robin.

Race One Highlights

0 mins 0 secs
Mark Carter jumps the start.0 mins 16 secs
I botch the start.1 mins 15 secs
I challenge Robin Webb at Agostini.3 mins 38 secs
Matthew Willoughby passes me into Palmer.4 mins 25 secs
The leaders pass a slower car.3 mins 38 secs
Matthew Willoughby passes Paul Hawker along the back straight.6 mins 24 secs
The leaders pass another slower car, but I do not.8 mins 25 secs
I go wide at Riches, losing places to Iain Kinghorn and Trevor Harber.9 mins 29 secs
I finally pass the slower car.10 mins 46 secs
Trevor passes Iain along the start/finish straight.11 mins 27 secs
Iain attempts to repass Trevor.18 mins 00 secs
Red flag!

Race 2

I wasn’t really looking forward to the second race. Maybe work-related stress had exacerbated my feelings over the qualifying arrangements and I was annoyed by my first race being spoilt. I had to ask myself why I was there and the answer was simply my desire to be a racing-driver and, hopefully, win many more races. In that case I had to shut out external pressures and concentrate on what I had invested so much of my money in.

Leading Gaeme Smith and Marc Noaro
Leading Gaeme Smith and Marc Noaro

By the time I was lined up on the grid, I was happy and calm. As I was starting from fourth, I had a view of a clear track around the outside of my rivals ahead; all I needed was a good start. It was; possibly my best of the year, and I led into the first corner. Heading into Wilson hairpin, I braked a little too late and so scrabbled around the corner, but I didn’t lose much time. I rounded Palmer without any issue and then saw a challenge from Marc Noaro into Agostini. I made no attempt to defend, giving him the tighter inside line and then beat him in the drag race on the exit. I would have preferred Marc to pass me there, as there was the slip-streaming battle to come along Bentley Straight. I needn’t have worried as I continued to lead into Brundle.

Marc Noaro
Marc Noaro

A minor mistake into the lap’s final corner, Murrays, compromised my exit, allowing Graeme Smith to take the lead. Into the second lap, Marc again challenged me into Agostini, this time winning. I was able to stay with these two into the following lap, watching Marc take the lead into Riches. Graeme took the lead back towards the end of Bentley Straight and I went around the outside of Marc at Brundle, tucking in behind Graeme.

It took a couple of laps, but I was able to stay with Graeme and finally pass him on the approach to Brundle, but again allowed Graeme an easy pass as I struggled with the entry to Murrays. That corner cost me heavily as it gave Marc the momentum to go round the outside of me at Riches, with Matthew Willoughby passing me on the inside of the same corner.

Trevor Harber, Paul Hawker, Mark Carter

One lap later, Marc took second from Matthew with a well-judge lunge at Riches, with me pulling off an equally good move on Matthew at Palmer.

Going into the last lap, Marc challenged Graeme around the outside of Brundle, whereas I went for the inside. Coming out of Nelson the order was Graeme, me and Marc. My last chance would be exiting Murrays and here I nailed the perfect exit, pulling out to accelerate alongside Graeme to the flag. As I drew level, our speeds equalised and we crossed the finish-line together. I had no idea who had won!

Showing off my second place trophy
Showing off my second place trophy

The difference between first and second places was just twenty milliseconds, with Graeme being the winner. I actually didn’t mind as it was such a fun, hard-fought race. With such a close finish there could still only be one winner and I didn’t begrudge my second-place. With Marc third and Paul Hawker fourth, my aspirations for third-place in the championship were back on course.

Robin Webb finished seventh, his worst result of the year, making Graeme the clear championship favourite; by my calculations he just needs a single fifth place result at the final meeting at Silverstone. Mark Carter finished eighth, dropping him behind Marc in the championship, who becomes my closest rival after Paul.

So it is all very interesting as Silverstone approaches. I need a zero-mistake weekend, but do not consider that unlikely. Thanks to GRS my race-craft has improved immensely and I even learnt a new trick at Snetterton. The new tyres have given me my performance back but there is more to come. Because of Zandvoort revealing suspension issues, I am currently running on platform-suspension on the front of the car but not the back. The parts should finally be delivered in time for me to be on platforms all round for Silverstone and so, even though I have never driven on that configuration and have a terrible sense of direction, I fully expect to be challenging for a couple of wins; in fact I consider myself as favourite!

 

Race Two Highlights

Race Two Last Lap

0 mins 14 secs
Good start from fourth, taking an immediate lead.0 mins 42 secs
I go wide at Wilson.

1 mins 12 secs
Fend off challenge from Marc Noaro at Agastini.

2 mins 33 secs
Poor exit at Murrays allows Graeme Smith an easy pass.

3 mins 10 secs
We pass a slower car at Wilson.

3 mins 40 secs
Marc Noaro passes me at Agastini.

5 mins 20 secs
Noaro passes Smith at Riches.

0 mins 40 secs
Smith and I pass  Noaro into Brundle.

7 mins 46 secs
Noaro challenges me at Riches.

0 mins 40 secs
I pass Smith along Bentley Straight.

0 mins 40 secs
I mess up Murrays corner. This results in me being passed by Smith, Noaro and Matthew Willoughby Riches.

0 mins 40 secs
Noaro passes Willoughby at Riches.

13 mins 00 secs
I tset up a pass on Willoughby at Wilson…

13 mins 10 secs
… and complete the pass at Palmer.

14 mins 26secs
Both cameras cut out at the same point, missing the rest of the race.

Marc Noaro’s On Board footage.

My video camera stopped recording, so I missed the exciting end to my race at Snetterton. Here it is from Marc Noaro’s car.

My car is V11 LOT (7 Lotus) and I lose out on the line by 0.02 second. I should not have pulled so far to the right!


 

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