For this race, we decided that it would be a sensible idea to get down to the track the night before to avoid a super early 2 and a half hour trip on the morning. So, we took the opportunity to take Ryan’s caravan down and set up camp the night before. It was pretty dark when we finally got settled down as we decided a curry the night before in the nearby town was a good idea!
After a bit of a broken night’s sleep, we awoke to a lovely fresh warm morning.
At 7am it was already nearing 20 degrees, so we knew we had a hot day ahead of us. Sign on and scrutineering was early for us as we were 2nd on the agenda. The car flew through scrutineering and it was then time to get ready for qualifying. There was only a couple of small jobs to do, so whilst I applied the numbers, Ryan supervised, looking official in the fresh new teamwear.
As we had been at Castle Combe less than 2 weeks prior to the race, we were reasonably comfortable with the setup of the car and we felt we knew the track pretty well. I was out first in qualifying and was keen to make sure I got a clear lap.
After 2 laps finding some space, I made sure I got a good run out of the last corner and headed down the main straight with some intent. Approaching the first corner (Avon Rise), I thought I would try pushing the limits a little further carrying a lot of speed in to it, hoping to time my braking for quarry just right. To put it simply…. I got it wrong, for the first ever time in this car, I lost control. A little bit too much speed and touching the brakes at the exact wrong moment caused the back end to come very loose at over 90 mph and I just couldn’t get it back. I slid backwards towards the tyre wall, hoping that I wasn’t about to ruin the weekend for everyone involved.
This time, I was very lucky. The car hit the tyre wall at an angle which managed to avoid quite a bit of damage. If it had been more biased towards the front of the car, the damage might been a lot worse. Looking at the data, the speed on impact had got down to 26 mph by the time I finally hit the tyre barrier; which, really did its job.
After driving the car off the grass and back on to the track, I couldn’t see or feel a great deal of damage, so I drove back to the pits to get it all checked out. The boys took a quick look and couldn’t see anything amiss, so out I went again. After a reasonably swift out lap, I found myself in a fair amount of space, so cracked back on with it, managing to put in a 1:21.453, not too bad for standard power!! Another couple of laps struggling to find space and I bought it back in for Ryan to give it a whirl.
Ryan’s qualifying laps were far less eventful than mine, but he did manage to get a good handful of clear laps in, with a handful of low 22s, validating some of the raw pace we seem to have in the car.
So, the 1 flying lap I had managed ended up being our fastest lap, putting us 11th on the grid. After the pleasing result, it was time to get ready for the race. We decided to have a full check over of the car after the qualifying bump and fortunately, after a quick stringing, we found everything was still straight. There was just a little dimple in the rear quarter panel.
The race was soon then upon us and time to gather in the assembly area. I was to start the race, my first race start in fact! The start was quite a strange one really….. just before the lights went out a number of cars had jerked forward and then stopped. So, when I pulled away, having reacted to the lights quite well, I had to come off the throttle and navigate round a car that had paused momentarily on the grid. I took to the inside and tried to hold my position.
A number of more powerful cars started making their way past on my left, but I kept it to the inside and held that position all the way through Avon Rise and in to quarry, keeping the inside line. I managed to grab a couple of places back on the brakes, but then seemed to get swallowed up again accelerating out of quarry and up to the chicane.
A few laps soon went by, the heat in the car was rising (30 degrees outside!) and I soon found myself following round the Selby/Adam Puma. As I got stuck in to trying to get past, I didn’t really pay any attention to the rising coolant temperature, which probably wasn’t help from following the Puma quite closely. The laps soon ticked by and I still hadn’t managed to make it past. I received the lap board and in I came to hand over to Ryan.
A super fast pit stop by the boys led to us coming out of the pits in 4th place! Ryan was straight on it defending hard from the upcoming faster cars, which were no doubt going to be bemused to how we had managed to get that far up the field. At this stage, we were feeling good about our performance and were on for a top ten finish assuming some of the faster cars right behind us were most likely going to just drive past on the straights.
A few laps went by and Ryan appeared to have settled in to a rhythm. Coming down the main straight, shifting from 4th in to 5th, he lost all power. A cycle of the ignition and a quick lift of the clutch confirmed that it was a race ending failure with a horrible noise coming from the engine bay. Ryan managed to coast round Avon Rise and Quarry and ditch the car right next to a marshal’s post.
All of this was out of sight of us all on the pit wall, so we were completely oblivious to what had happened. Our first thoughts were that he had emulated my antics from qualifying and wasn’t able to recover…. But the lack of safety car and even yellow flags made us realise that it was most likely not too big of an incident.
The end of the race couldn’t come sooner and after 5 minutes of hanging around, Ryan was towed back in. We were all relieved to find he and the car were in one piece. We straight away wanted to see the extent of the damage, a quick lift of the intake manifold clearly showed a catastrophic failure.
Once we’d got the car back to the workshop the following day, it was time to lift the engine. As you can clearly see from the pictures, cylinder 4 has had quite a coming together with its associated valves even managing to smash the heads clean off the stems.
Piston 4 (flywheel end) has totally destroyed itself and everything around it!! The only thing salvageable from this engine is the crankshaft, the rest of it needs to be scrapped. So, we will get hold of another engine and do a swap still with the aim of getting to Donington Park for the August Bank Holiday TinTops race.
Below is the video of our race in full.