Seeing as it was the first race of the season and Dave was new to the “fastest circuit in the UK”, we thought it would be wise to head down the day before to take part in the test day. This would also give us a chance to fully validate that the new engine was performing as expected. The day was successful and both Dave and Ryan were able to put in a few fast laps in their busy test sessions. We also had the opportunity to get scrutineering out of the way during the test day, so we did that and the car flew through once again.
Seeing as we were in Hampshire, Rob’s parents were kind enough to invite us to stay the night, so we left the circuit in good time for a nice relaxing evening with Rob and his family. Well rested, we headed to the track in the morning with everything seemingly in good order. Qualifying was soon upon us, Ryan went out first and despite a fair amount of traffic, he managed to put a good time in, a 1:30.303 would put us 11th on the grid. However, during his session, Ryan complained that the gear linkage wasn’t quite right he was struggling to select gears on occasion. The linkage position was adjusted and we carried on towards the race.
With no rain forecast, no set up changes were made and we enjoyed the sunshine for a few hours. For the race, Ryan would take the start, with Dave still just seeking race seat time at this early stage in the season. As has been the case throughout 2016, the Clio seems to launch quite well and this was definitely the case for the initial getaway, with Ryan seemingly taking 3 places just in 1st. This was the point where it went a bit downhill. Ryan struggled to find 2nd and as the car began to slow threw it in to 3rd gear and continued on his way, losing plenty of places. As he tried to put it threw the gears, it became apparent that the rearward gears (2nd and 4th) were particularly difficult to find. He managed to figure out what could be done and found a way to get the car around using only 3rd and 5th. He managed to get within 2 seconds of the qualifying time without 4th and so we were circulating in 13th for the first 3rd of the race. As Ryan’s stint was coming to a close, it was becoming more and more difficult to select the 2 gears he could find.
Handing over to Dave, Ryan passed on the message that he would probably have to just drive around in 5th gear! And so, the team gave Dave an almighty push as he pulled away from the pitstop, entering the track in 13th position. Dave’s task for the next 20 minutes, bring the car home, a good finish was very unlikely now. Through the final chicane, down the pit straight and the complex, it was painful as the car was taking a while to get in to the power band, but it was a different animal around the back of the circuit and commitment was needed through the infamous church bend. Unfortunately, despite managing to get within 3.5 seconds of the qualifying time, Dave found himself being passed by usually slower cars and eventually, he would bring the car home in a final position of 17th. It wasn’t last, but it wasn’t up to the usual standards of course.
As the car rolled back in to the pits, it was very apparent what had happened during Ryan’s stint. With the difficulty of trying to find a gear, a lot of force has been repeatedly exerted on the gear linkage and it had eventually failed, merely holding on by a thread. Another few gear changes and it would’ve likely failed entirely, so it was a good job Dave didn’t change gear for his entire stint. With the race now over, the boys packed up and made their way home, the next step, get that gearbox out, check for any anomalies and replace the broken gear linkage.