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July ’14 Update & Castle Combe Race Report

Another break between races and another holiday to fit in; Ryan and I went down to Le Mans for the 24 hour race and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! As soon as we got back though, it was time to crack on with a few jobs that needed to be complete in time for the upcoming race at Castle Combe.

First up, we needed to fix the cooling issues. Changing the water pump was a must, but we also had a look at how we might be able to increase the cooling capacity. A bit of research and we found an alloy radiator from a VW golf that fitted with millimetres to spare and even had the pipe fittings in the same location! All for a bargain price of £87.50… I love eBay!

One other job we wanted to do before Combe was to fit a sliding seat rail. We have constantly been messing around with the seating position in order to compromise for our various body sizes, so we decided the best way to fix it was to rip it all out and start again. As you can see from the picture, we cut out the original ribs and welded in a new set which the rails will sit directly on to.

Once all these jobs had been completed, we were ready and raring to go for the race weekend. The race was scheduled for Sunday, but Ryan had decided to go down separately with his caravan on the Friday evening to watch Saturday’s races. Rob and I followed down on the Saturday, still worried about the weather forecast. We had decided to get hold of a dedicated set of wet tyres, opting for the Nankang NS-2R’s…. we were hoping not to need to use them.

Sunday morning broke and the skies were still overcast, but the track seemed to be dry. The car sailed through scrutineering and we made the call that the track was definitely dry enough not to warrant the wet tyres. Rob took to the track first, gradually building the pace in the car. Soon enough his 15 minutes were up and it was my turn.

A quick check of pressures, a swift driver change and out I went.  The skies were still overcast but no rain had yet fallen. I get up to speed reasonably quickly and manage to pop in a time of 1:19.391 just before the rain comes down! We were 7th on the grid, yet again, just tenths behind the black Clio of the Collins boys and with that pesky Civic of Dan Turner alongside us in 8th.

Race time was soon upon us and we’d decided that I would start the race. I was really looking forward to the race as I anticipated a nice tight battle between ourselves and the other two aforementioned competitors. The race began smoothly at the front of the field, but little did we know about the mayhem behind us. By the first chicane the red flags were out and we were told to line back up on the grid. A few minutes past and we were told it may be a while, so we jumped out of the cars to cool off; the weather was quite nice by this time. Five minutes later we were told to return the cars to the pits and that they would get the next race out on track.

Due to the fact that it was our race that had caused the hold up, they decided to try and move everything forward with the aim to get us back on the track at the end of the day. So, with no real guarantee of whether we would even get a race we sat in the paddock, watched some racing and waited to hear what would happen. At 5.45, with the track curfew of 6.30 fast approaching, we found out that the race was to last approximately 15 minutes and that it would be a single driver race.

So, we had to make a decision as to who was to drive. The deciding factor was that I needed a few more signatures on my license in order to hit the magic six by the end of the year. Rob kindly agreed that I would drive…I’ll have to make it up to him somehow.

Due to the fact that the race was limited for time, there was to be no green flag lap and we’d be heading away from the grid at race speed on cold tyres. I was a little overly cautious off the line and lost a couple of places in the first few corners, dropping to 9th. I managed to keep my speed up coming out of the first chicane and managing to dive back inside the No.1 Puma in to the right hander of tower. Once I was passed, it was time to get after the DC2 Integra that had got passed straight off the line.

After a couple of laps I was lining up to pass the Integra. He made me work for it, but I was able to stick it up the inside in to the first chicane. By this time, the Collins Clio had pulled a gap on me, but the Woods Focus and one of the 306s had bumped in to each other and knocked themselves out of the race. We were then running 6th on the road.

I got my head down and tried to be as fast and smooth as possible, clocking 6 laps all with a quarter of a second of each other!! The gap seemed to be closing, but by just tenths at a time. I had also seen the Ainge DC5 Integra had been given a 5 second time penalty for track limits and I could see him only a few seconds ahead of me on the road. So, seeing that I was barely catching the Civic and Clio in front of me, tried to make sure I remained within 5 seconds of the Integra so I would inherit 5th place. Despite a bit of lapped traffic getting in the way, I just managed to do that and gained a place by default. On the final lap, the Carl Chambers 306 had a very unlucky engine blow out and I inherited another place.

A solid 4th place finish in a one-off sprint race was a good result, still a sense of what could’ve been though, with quite a bit of understeer that needs to be remedied. A big thank you to all those who came to support and personally to Rob for letting me take the seat for this race. Our attention now shifts to the Anglesey round where we’ll be looking for more progression and hopefully another successful event.

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