Having previously had quite a good outing at Cadwell Park with almost no catastrophic failures, we felt confident that we were in good shape for the race at Brands Hatch. In the leading weeks, we’ve had our newest gearbox rebuilt, a few structural repairs, got some new tyres and stuck some stickers on courtesy of Ady at n2grafix. (Point of note, Dave actually stuck the stickers on and went home leaving me to do all the important things).
We made it to the track in pretty good time and set about wiring up the data logger which Ryan had set up over the weekend, then went out for qualifying. Previously, being the smallest of the three of us it was assumed that I would always drive second as it’s much faster to tighten up the seatbelts. However, I’ve glued together some camping roll mats into a rudimentary booster seat so I can see where I’m going and reach all the controls much better now. Unfortunately that means that I have far fewer excuses.
I went out first and was pretty happy with the car once the tyres had warmed up a bit, the front end is still quite positive but the lack of traction out of corners was much more evident than at Cadwell. Clearways (the last right hander) was especially tricky to get right. After about 9 laps, I came in swapped with Dave. It was actually quite a relief as I was suffering from some of the most acute crotch pain since I was mean to Elizabeth Riggs in primary school. We were using slightly higher profile tyres than before and happily the car felt very similar to drive and our cold pressure estimates were pretty good. We dropped the fronts by 2psi for the race which turned out to be spot on. Dave managed a 58.1 second lap which put us in 18th place which we were really happy with.
We had quite a while to wait until the next race but luckily the filler neck had sprung a leak which kept us occupied. We added a couple of clicks to the rear dampers to try and make the back end a bit more mobile through druids.
Soon enough it was time to line up in the assembly area, Dave gave me a rousing pep talk and after a thorough “arranging” I strapped myself in. This was the first time I’d started a race and we’d come up with a guess of “Hold it at 4000 and try and feed the clutch in”. I did my best to warm up the tyres on the green flag lap but once I dropped the clutch I didn’t seem to go anywhere. The wheels spun quite a bit and it was quite frustrating waiting for them to stop as cars overtook on either side. Eventually it hooked up and I set off.
It was quite busy for the first couple of laps but it soon settled down. I gradually started braking later and harder for Paddock hill bend which eventually had me spinning into the gravel. I managed to re-join the race several places down and cautiously set off after the cars in front. By the time I’d made it back to Brabham straight I was confident the car hadn’t suffered any damage and I’d better get on with it.
This time I spun infield which was particularly tricky to recover from. After that I decided the best policy was to use the brakes gingerly and make sure I hand it over to Dave in one piece. There’d certainly be a tantrum otherwise. I managed to keep it on the track for the remaining laps and came into the pits on lap 19. The driver change went well but the starter failed to engage. The bump start lost us a bit more time but by this point I’d decided that it’s the taking part that counts.
The days leading up to the event involved a bit of last minute preparation. Rob claims he was left doing the important jobs… but that’s always open for interpretation. We had managed to borrow a nice tow vehicle from work, so the journey down was quite a pleasant one and we arrived at the track at a reasonable time.
Qualifying ran pretty smoothly and the car was behaving well. The need for a diff was quite apparent coming out of clearways, but we still had some good pace in the car. Qualifying 18th with a low 58 was pretty much where we expected the car to be, so we were happy with that. The afternoon was soon upon us and time was soon taken up with fixing the fuel leak we’d developed. We then had a bit of time to get some driver change practice in.
The race was soon upon us and I found myself particularly calm considering it was my first time. I became a little tense when I saw that Rob had been building sandcastles, worrying that I wouldn’t get any seat time in the car. Fortunately, Rob managed to keep his head and the car came back in without any damage. After taking over from Rob and the hasty bump start, I was excited to get on with it. We had made those small changes with the front pressures and with the rear damper, so the first few laps were a case of just settling in. I soon got comfortable with the car and started pushing on.
The lap times started coming down and I found myself catching a few different cars. It got even more exciting when I managed to make a few nice overtakes, albeit to just un-lap myself. I had said just prior to getting in the car that my only aim was to get in to the 57s and so I was pretty happy when a 57.7 was achieved! We managed to bring the car home 23rd out of 26 finishers and 29 starters… not too bad considering how much time we had lost early on.
The car had shown good pace and the only thing to fix was the starter motor, so all in all a pretty successful day. Rob, Ryan and I would like to thank all of those who have helped out in one way or another; Paul and Nick providing some great track side support as ever, Ady for all the graphics seen on the car and all the family and friends that came along to watch.