Prior to Saturday’s race, we had a test day booked up on the Friday to which we arrived slightly later than planned due to a hiccup with the trailer straps. Luckily we were in the second group so didn’t miss anything. We started the day on last year’s Dunlop tyres and found we had quite a bit of vibration. The new brakes needed some bedding in but came good after a couple of laps.
Towards the end of the session the car became a bit wayward. Woodcote is normally flat out and uneventful but the car over-steered quite a bit, the same happened at Copse and Becketts so something wasn’t right. As Rob came into the pits and pulled to a stop, steam started coming out of the bonnet. It turned out that we hadn’t properly bolted the alternator bracket on. The bolts had rattled loose and the belt had slipped off, preventing the water pump from turning and subsequently overheating the engine. Coolant was clearly boiling over and making its way onto the rear tyres causing the iffy handling.
We bolted it all back together and there didn’t seem to be any lasting damage. The remainder of the day went well and we got some good time in the car. Swapping the tyres front to rear lessened the vibration, a result of the the flat spotted tyres, which had obviously occurred from leaving the car on its wheels over winter. We also got ourselves a set of Yokohama tyres, which we believed would be more suitable if the track was cold and damp and with the weather forecast predicting rain the following day, we thought it best to scrub these tyres in during the afternoon. The Yokohamas were no faster than the Dunlops we had been using but were much more reassuring.
On to race day and seeing as Silverstone is just down the road from us so it was back to our own beds Friday night and a relaxed 9:00am start in the morning. It was bright and dry for qualifying. Rob went out first and gradually warmed the tyres and brakes up. To begin with some of the cars which we’d expect to be a bit quicker than seemed to be inching away. The Clio did go a bit quicker when Rob noticed the handbrake was on! A few laps later and Rob managed a 1:09.056 second lap. Ryan took over for the second half of qualifying but between the traffic and the fuel pump packing up, he didn’t manage to better it leaving us 12th on the grid.
There was a bit of drama whilst we sorted a replacement for the fuel pump but we managed to sort it in time and were all ready for the race. At around 14:30 the rain came and the race before ours started on a wet track. We put some extra Rainex on the windows but by the time our race came it had passed and the other race had dried up the track quite a bit. We still decided to stick with the Yokohama tyres despite our concern about overheating on a bone dry track. We put a couple of PSI extra in the front tyres to stop them moving around too much and headed to the assembly area.
Ryan started and in a change to the original schedule, there was a rolling start. He managed to take advantage of that and from the sixth row made up several places and started hunting down the #54 Honda Civic of Mark Livens. He made the pass in to Luffield on lap 4. By this time, the next 2 cars in front were Carl Chambers and 1st in Class B Tom Mensley. With Ryan battling with Mark Livens, Carl and Tom soon got away and we didn’t see them for the rest of the race. Ryan held on to fifth place up until the pit stop where Rob took over.
By this point the field had spread out a bit. Rob lapped a few back markers but a few laps into his stint he noticed there was a stop-go penalty for car 179. He didn’t think there was a car 179 in our series so started wondering if it was meant for us and thought they made a mistake with the numbers. He had run wide at copse a couple of times. The following lap, number 172 came out, although with no sign next to it. Questioning whether he had exceeded the pit lane speed limit or done something else against the rules, he thought it best to come in, so on that lap he entered the pits. There wasn’t anyone waiting in the penalty area but from the driver’s seat, you could see the black and white track limits warning flag. There was no need to come in at all.
The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. We’d promised Paul Anderton that we wouldn’t crash into his car again (after giving him a little love tap last year at Oulton Park) and the chap driving it took full advantage of that pushing me off on the pit straight and getting in the way a bit at Becketts. We soon got by in the end and finished up 6th overall and 2nd in class. The unnecessary trip through the pits had only cost us 1 place in the end, so still a reasonable result for the team.
Overall, the car seems better than last year. The brakes are great and the gear ratios seemed to suit Silverstone well. Our next race will be Spa so hopefully the shorter 5th will give is a bit more speed along the Kemmel straight where we struggled to accelerate much last year.