The final race weekend of the season was upon us and after a last minute business trip, Dave was back in the country. Dave was keen to race as much as he could and so, we decided to enter 4 races over the 2 days. On Saturday, we would compete in the New Millennium Series race, followed in the evening by the Night race. This was a special event that doesn’t happen very often, so it was a great opportunity to try something different. On Sunday, we would be doing the Tin Tops race as well as the Open Class race.
For all 4 races, Dave would drive and due to other commitments, Rob would only be joining us for Sunday’s Open Class race and Ryan would partner Dave in the remaining 3. Brands isn’t exactly local for us, but we do have a close friend who lives around 10 miles away, so we were able to get things dropped off at the circuit on Friday night and have a good night’s rest before heading to circuit on Saturday morning.
Saturday begun as every event does, sign-on and scrutineering. No problems at all and we even had the sign off on our mirror mounted spot lights that would be used for the Night Race later that day.
First up was the New Millennium race and in the interests of making sure the car was as it should be, Ryan went out first in the qualifying session. For 2 laps, everything was as normal, until he noticed a bit of play in the steering, soon followed by some nasty noises coming from the front end. He brought the car back in to the pits and we immediately saw that the front right bearing was completely destroyed. The hub nut had come loose and caused the damage to the bearing.
With no full corner replacement on hand, we wouldn’t have enough time to press in a new bearing and get Dave out on track. With a 1:03.088, we would be back of the grid, 20th out of 20. In our class, we were up against another 4 Clios and 2 Civics, but we had already put ourselves on the back foot going in to the race.
Having not driven the car in a year, Dave would be heading straight in to the race and looking to fight his way from the back of the grid. A great first lap saw him make up 7 places. However, after only 3 laps, whilst trying to pass one of the other Clios, Dave lost the back end of the car turning in a bit too quickly for the fast left-right of Clark & Surtees. A nice slide took him out on to the grass, avoiding the barriers, but losing 4 places and around 10 seconds. Half a dozen laps later he was back with those 4 cars and set about making his way passed them once again. Heading in to the pits to hand over to Ryan, we were sitting in 9th place overall.
A few more places were made up in the pits and we were sitting 2nd in class now, but still around 20 seconds behind 1st in class. Ryan would spend the rest of the race lapping slower cars and getting out of the way for faster cars, including the 2 cars we had overtaken in the pits. We came over the line in 9th overall, 2nd in class. That’s one race down, one trophy acquired.
Next on the agenda was the Night Race and due to the rules regarding races of this type, every competitor would have to go out for a practice session as the light descended, however, the times from this would not count as the qualifying times. The times that would make up the grid order would be taken from the qualifying session from your race earlier in the day. This was a shame because we were starting to hit our groove at this point and our time would’ve sat us in 10th overall. Instead, due to our issues earlier in the day, we would start the race from 21st out of 32.
Ryan would start the race this time out and another solid performance saw him pick his way steadily through the pack. Along the way he had a couple of bumps, including a very close call when a Civic drifted in front of him heading down the pit straights. No harm was done and Ryan brought the car in to the pits sitting in 11th place overall, 4th of the New Millennium.
Dave then took over for the second half and was sitting quite comfortably with a half minute gap in front and behind. So, it was another case of passing slower cars whilst watching for the faster ones coming through. Dave’s time in the car wasn’t without incident and with a few laps to go, he didn’t see a fast approaching Caterham dart up the inside and a pretty harsh impact was made. Very fortunately for both cars, they collided wheel to wheel and neither car suffered any more than a few rubber marks. After a retirement from another New Millennium car near the end, we would inherit 10th overall and land 3rd place in the New Millennium class, another trophy for the cabinet! And so ends a pretty successful Saturday.
After a local curry and a good night’s rest, we started Sunday full of confidence in the car, hopeful of another successful day. To begin, we would have the Tin Tops qualifying and getting a good grid position was very important. Dave would start this session and it seemed he was struggling to get heat in the tyres and find a bit of clear track space as his times weren’t quite that of yesterday afternoon. Heading in to the pits, he had only managed to clock a 57.8, 2 seconds away from his best of yesterday!
Ryan’s experience came through though and the times soon began to tumble, eventually sticking in a 55.953 right at the end. This would see us line up in 12th place, right in the middle of a group of 10 cars separated by less than a second! It was all to play for.
The next session we had to complete would be the Open Race qualifying but by this time, there was an ever increasing presence of fog. So, we began the session behind the safety car hoping that it was soon to pass. With less than 10 minutes left in the session, the safety car came in and Rob was able to complete a handful of laps, but only his first few laps in the car this weekend.
Rob then brought the car back in to the pits, knowing that we would have to head straight out for the Tin Tops race. As he brought the car in, he mentioned that he thought the car was misfiring. We took a few minutes to check things we could see or hear but couldn’t replicate the issue in the limited time we had. We put a bit more fuel in the car and sent it to the grid for the race.
Ryan took the start of the Tin Tops and held his own for the first half of his stint, getting up to 7th on the first lap and holding off the challengers from behind all the way until the driver change. It was clear from the pit wall though, that the car had a bad misfire and it was beginning to show a little in the lap times.
After another characteristically quick change over, Dave came out of the pits in 3rd place, with the 2nd place car of Carl Chambers only just in front. Unfortunately, the misfire was gradually getting worse and before too long, we were down to fifth and Dave was struggling to do any better than a 57 second lap, around 1.5 secs off the pace seen earlier in the weekend. As the final laps approached, the gap to the car behind was getting smaller and smaller with every passing lap and soon Dave would realise that it was Tom Mensley in the rival Clio and this was for the class victory!
With only 5 laps to go, Dave could do nothing to stop Tom driving past down the pit straight as the car popped, banged and spluttered its way around the track. We would cross the line 6th, 49 seconds off the lead. This might sound a lot, but when the car was a little over 1 second a lap off the pace in a 42 lap race, it makes one wonder what might’ve been. Lady luck decided that one final twist was in a store and after the race, we found out that Tom had been disqualified for a yellow flag infringement (or 2) and we had classified 5th overall and 1st in Class B. Third race, third trophy.
After the race, we returned to the paddock to assess the car, as we still had another race scheduled for today. We quickly found a loose wire on the coil pack, the sole reason for the misfire. It was apparent that during the race, the engine would run as normal when turning right and we established that this was due to the wire floating around and making contact in the bend. We fixed the wire and got ourselves ready for the Open Race.
However, the Open Race was never to happen and nor were all of the remaining races for the day, including another Night Race (we weren’t a part of that one). The fog that we had seen a few hours ago had returned and now the visibility was way too low for safe racing. The club had no choice but to cancel the remaining races. So, we packed up and started making our way back. Despite the slightly disappointing end to proceedings, we left happy with a set of results for the team and a good note to end 2015.