The weekend at Cadwell Park was shaping up to be a big one; Dave was back again from China for another short trip and hopefully the final one before his repatriation, which is scheduled for early 2017. Just like the Brands Hatch event of 2015, we booked on to a number of races, with Dave keen to get as much seat time as he could. Unfortunately, Rob was away and so Ryan and Dave would compete in the New Millennium race on Saturday and the Tin Tops race on Sunday. Dave also decided to join the Open Series race on Sunday too. We made our way to the track on Friday night, along with our photographer for the weekend Scott and our now regular mechanic Mike.
A relatively relaxed start to the day, but scrutineering was required, so a few bacon and egg sandwiches fired the team in to action. It wasn’t a warm day and there was a bit of drizzle around. As our qualifying session approached, the rain got a little heavier and it was obvious we needed to set the car to a wet setup. Off came the rear anti-roll bar, dampers were softened a few clicks and on went the Yokohama A048 tyres, which had proven to be a sound wet weather tyre when we first tried them out at Spa back in June.
Dave went out first in qualifying for what would probably be considered a baptism of fire; new car, new brakes, new tyres, a bit of rain and the first time driving on track in just under a year. Fortunately, 5 laps later and the car was still on the grey stuff and in one piece. Dave had made his own way in to the pits, as the screen was beginning to steam up and it was getting difficult to see. A quick wipe of the screen and Ryan went out to put some more laps on the board. Ryan’s confidence was high and he put in a great lap to put us 3rd on the grid ahead of a number of cars which should be a bit quicker than us in the dry.
There was nothing we needed to fix on the car and even though the rain had stopped, the track was still quite damp as we approached race time. So, just a bit of fuel and some driver change practice was all that was needed.
Ryan would take to the grid for the first half of the race. The Seat Leon of Thomson on pole failed to launch properly and Ryan had to take avoiding action straight off the start. A few cars came past, but by the end of the first lap, he was still in 3rd place after a nice move on the other Clio of Rik Garner. Thomson was soon back up to speed and by lap 2, we were down to 4th. For the next 5 laps, Ryan held that position and coming in to the pits, we were still in an aggregate 4th place.
We did an extremely fast pit stop and Dave would re-join the race in 2nd, but the quicker #91 Porsche and #27 Ginetta would soon come flying past to put us back down to 4th place. Dave would hold that place to the end. After the race, we were summoned by the Clerk of the Course to find out we’d been given a penalty. The eagle eyed marshals had rightfully spotted that during our super quick pit-stop, the car had not actually come to a complete stop before we had begun to the driver change. It was very close but we had to take the 36 second penalty and we would be classified in 7th place overall. A respectable race, despite the small error and we finished the day with good confidence ready for the Sunday’s Tin Tops race.
Once again, as the morning broke, uncertainty surrounded the weather conditions. A little more rain had fallen during the night, but it wasn’t raining as we approached qualifying for Tin Tops and so, we switched back to a dry set up. Ryan’s confidence was still high and it really showed as on only his 2nd flying lap, he posted a time of 1:43.864 putting us in provisional pole, which at that time in the session, was 1.8 seconds ahead of Billy Hardy in the #4 Corsa.
On the very next lap, Ryan was continuing to push hard and as he exited the downhill left hander of Mansfield, he ran a little wide. As he travelled across the still wet grass, he attempted to pull the car back on to the track, but as his left wheel touched the track, it gained traction and caused the car to head back on to the grass. Unfortunately, Cadwell Park has a chicane which is used for bikes, but not for cars and in the centre of it lies a small tyre barrier. Ryan managed to glance this barrier quite hard, causing a fair amount of body damage along the right hand side whilst also scattering a number of tyres across the track.
This brought out the red flag for the qualifying session and all cars were returned to the pits whilst the tyre barrier was repaired. We were still sitting on pole at this time, but obviously, unable to continue in this session. After the barrier was repaired, the rest of the cars went back out for another attempt to beat Ryan’s time. Another lap later and another of the lead cars (#72 Peugeot of Carl Chambers) made a mistake approaching Mansfield corner and had a very heavy crash in to the barrier on the right hand side at the bottom of the hill. The session was yet again red flagged and this time it would not restart due to the delays that had been made to the schedule. By some sort of miracle, we were on pole for the very first time and ironically, Carl Chambers had posted the 2nd fastest time.
Back in the paddock and it was obvious Carl would unfortunately not be competing in the race, but by another sort of miracle, our damage was mostly superficial and we would be able to repair the car. The impact had happened on the front right corner and the tyres had collided with the door and rear quarter panel, denting them very badly. Only the front right hand hub would need replacing, the wheel, brakes and steering were all unharmed.
We kicked out the dents in the door and quarter panel as much as we could, applied silver tape where necessary and hey presto, we had a working car again. We were even able to get the car ready for the qualifying session of the Open Series race and Dave would make his way out in that session for his first drive of the car in dry conditions. There were only 11 cars in this race, but a few that could prove close completion. Despite a very close call with the barrier on the exit of the last corner, Dave managed to post a time of 1:45.563 and was on pole, another first for Chase Racing.
After lunch, it was time to get ready for the Tin Tops race. Dave would take the start of this race and it would be another first, as he’d not had chance to practice doing a full launch yet with the new car. Fortunately, no mistakes were made and he head in to the first corner with a nose ahead of Billy Hardy in #4 Corsa. As they approached the gooseneck, Billy attempted to take the outside line, but ran in too hot and went across the chicane. Dave had to lift off the throttle to ensure Billy didn’t slam in to the side of him and in turn this actually gave Billy the place and the #44 Clio of Kev Jones also came through.
The race had been reduced to 30 minutes and subsequently there was no pit window, giving a big advantage to the single driver entries, who could if they wanted to pit at the end of the first lap. A few of drivers did this, namely our arch rival Tom Mensley in the #80 Clio and Mark Livens in the #54 Civic. Providing there wasn’t a safety car, this advantage might be minimised, giving us a chance of a podium finish. However, only a few laps later and a car had blown up on the main straight, leaving a trail of oil on the racing line. The safety car was brought out as the marshals proceeded to clean up the mess.
The whole pack bunched back up and we were sitting 2nd in the line, behind Kev Jones. As the safety car went in, a great battle commenced with Kev and Dave managed to get past 2 laps later. With clear air, the team decided to leave Dave out as long as possible, minimising the impact of the safety car. At this point, Tom Mensley was only seconds behind and getting closer. With just a few laps to go, Ryan took over, exiting the pits in 4th place overall. He soon caught up with #135 Fiesta, another car that had taken an early pit-stop. He passed him on the very last lap, only to run wide at the penultimate corner, handing the place right back. Over the line, he was just 0.112 seconds behind 3rd place. We would finish in a slightly disappointing 4th place and 2nd in class. Tom Mensley would take the race win and Mark Livens finished in 2nd.
After the Tin Tops race, we swapped the tyres round and checked the car over in preparation for the Open Series race. It was a 15 minute sprint race that would take part in and he would start the race from pole position, feeling confident that the car was capable of the win, based on the lap times we had achieved in the Tin Tops race.
Off the start, the initial launch was as expected, but as Dave went to grab 2nd, he couldn’t find it and the car was coasting at about 30mph as Dave frantically tried to get the car in gear again. A quick push in to 3rd and the car was in drive once again, but the entire field bar one had come past. The only car behind was that of 3rd place grid sitter Tony Blake in the #71 Porsche. Dave got back up to speed and started to catch the rest of the field, with Tony Blake following closely behind. After a lap and a half, they had both gone past 4 of the other 9 cars in the field.
However, the engine that we had been using in our cars for the last 2 years finally gave up and threw a valve, race over. Dave pulled safely to the side of the track at Mansfield corner to watch the remainder of the race from the marshal’s post. Another disappointing end to a race but the end of what was still a great weekend of racing and catching up with the rest of the great people who race with the Classic Sports Car Club. It’s unlikely we’ll have the time to replace the engine before the final race at Oulton Park, so this will be our last outing of 2016. Watch this space for the next chapter in the Chase Racing story.