The story of Croft begins the day before the race, when Rob & Dave made the decision that it was almost definitely going to rain the following day. So, before travelling all the way up the M1 and A1M, they decided to take the time to remove the rear anti-roll bar and wind back the camber by a degree on all 4 corners. Ironically, it was dry for the journey up and after nearly 4 hours on the road, we made it safe and sound to the circuit, dropped off the car and headed to a hotel just 10 minutes away.
As we woke up on the Saturday morning, it was already raining, so we believed we’d made the right decision on setup, despite it being a few hours until the session would start. We made our way to the circuit, grabbing breakfast on the way of course, ready in plenty of time to get the car through scrutineering, once again, no problems. For this round, Ryan was away and Dave had decided to drive the whole event himself.
As time passed, we were keenly keeping an eye on the clouds and the weather forecast, the rain wasn’t staying around for very long as the wind seemed to be pushing it away as quick as it arrived. With the AD08’s being quite a versatile tyre, we decided to stick as we were and headed straight in to qualifying. By the time the session had begun, the rain had stopped, but the track was definitely still quite slippery. With this also being the first time for the team at this circuit, it was very much an exploratory session for Dave as he patiently waited for the track to dry.
With a few minutes to go, the times were coming down and Dave was beginning to get in a rhythm. The fastest 3 laps were the last 3 laps and the very final lap would in fact grab 4th position on the grid (19 entrants) by just 0.1 of a second. A post qualifying inspection of the tyres would also suggest that by the end of the session the track was dry enough for a more aggressive setup, Dave did have a few moments during the session, including one trip across the grass, so it would’ve definitely been a bit of a risk earlier on.
After qualifying, we got the car up on the stands, with half of the car on a dry setup and half the car on a wet setup, we were getting ready to make a call on setup around an hour before the race. The forecast was suggesting it would be dry for our race, but we didn’t want to make that call until as late as we dared. At the minus 1 hour mark, it seemed obvious that rain was unlikely and so we committed to the dry setup.
As is now the norm, it was a rolling start and as the cars came around the very slow and tight final corner, the expectation was that the grid would hold station until the red lights go out. However, that wasn’t quite the case and the leading cars got gradually quicker and quicker as they approached the light gantry, the race began and we thought nothing much more of it.
Billy Hardy in the #9 Corsa made a bit of gap at the start and the following 4 cars (Dave included) proceeded to have a little battle of their own, all for 2nd place. One of these cars was Paul Mensley in the #22 Fiesta, who was expected to be faster than he was. We found out later than he was unable to find 3rd gear, so was driving around the problem, dropping him back in to this little pack of 4 cars. As the laps ticked by, Dave got quicker and quicker and managed to pick his way passed the other 3 cars, after a few small errors and coming up to the pitstops was actually running in 2nd place overall.
A quick and clean pitstop and Dave came out just in front of Paul Mensley, who had stopped the lap before. Paul immediately went back through the pits, he had been given drive through for speeding in the pit lane. So, as the #62 Peugeot had to serve a winner’s penalty and the #888 Civic had a slow stop, Dave was comfortably in 2nd place, with only Billy ahead.
Unfortunately, this is where it would all unravel. Prior to Croft, we had installed a heater box to clear the windscreen but had used a connector which was not necessarily suitable for the job. After the pitstop, with coolant temperature and pressure at it’s highest, this connector blew and as Dave travelled down the pit straight, coolant was gushing on to the rear wheels. Totally unaware, Dave turned in to find absolutely no grip at the rear, he was a passenger as it skipped across the gravel and came to rest against the barrier. A disappointing end to what was shaping up to be a very strong result.
The race continued for the other competitors of course and Billy Hardy would take the chequered flag, with Paul Mensley despite 2 trips through the pits 2nd over the line. However, after the race, the top 2 on the grid would receive 1 minute penalties for false starts, as they had accelerated before the red lights had gone out, giving Paul Mensley the win. With the gap we had at the time of the crash, we were very much in position to have been 2nd over the line and would’ve most likely inherited the win! Never mind.
Fortunately, it was only superficial damage from the crash, so it would be easy enough to repair. It would take more time to remove all of the gravel from the car, it had collected quite a lot getting dragged back out by the recovery truck. So, it was time to pack up and lick our wounds and to head off back down south. Next up will actually be Donington Park and only Ryan driving, due to various commitments, so we shall look forward to that one.