Silverstone International – the view from #18 – Part 2

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Race 2

We knew the only choice was to get the engine out and replace the oil seal. As I’d brought my fiancée in the car, I had to balance keeping her from getting bored out of her brain trackside and getting her home, with helping as much as I could. The delicate balance many of us drivers face!

Thankfully, and as is always the case with the helpful Formula Vee paddock, James Harridge, Jake Hockley, and my sister Michelle all got stuck in.

By the time I left, the engine was back in and Glenn doing his thing building it all back up. You can see how hot the flywheel had got with the slipping clutch!

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I blasted back to the track on my ‘sensible’ Yamaha FZR600R on Sunday morning to find the car sat ready and waiting to go.

I had another good start, but being on the inside of the pack in turn 1 I was a bit cautious as I didn’t want to risk spinning into everyone else.

I think I am pretty good now at warming my tyres up before the start, and perhaps I should trust them more?

I lost out a bit in the jostle for position, but could see Andrew Cooper ahead who I thought must be 2nd in Class B, and Colin Gregory and Mark Lawton were also all in the mix together, with Bill Stenning, Martin Snarey and Jamie Harrison completing a monster battle of B Class cars!

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On the second lap Ian Rea came absolutely flying past me and disappeared down Hangar Straight.

Unfortunately, he then misjudged his closing speed to a slowing car, spinning in the middle of the track on the corner entry.

This caused all kinds of havoc behind, as I slammed on the brakes and dived to the outside, and Bill Stenning came sliding through on the inside. There was then what looked like a car-width of a gap between Bill and Ian, and so I stamped on the throttle and got through the middle!

All the commotion meant I’d dropped off the back of the pack, and had become the new leader of the chasing group. I got my head down with clear track ahead and pulled out a safe gap.

It was at this point I realised something else wasn’t quite right. Normally I would get faster and faster – especially on my own with clear track – but despite pushing harder my lap times were the same. I actually set my fastest lap on lap 3!

I thought this was probably the tyres – they’re almost ready for the bin, so I’m sure they’re not giving great grip any more (they’ve served me well for 2 seasons, though!). I later found out the pressure is also quite badly down on one cylinder, so these probably account for the lack of pace.

Despite this I did chase down Colin Gregory, and then a few laps later was all over Mark Lawton’s Scarab. I braked late and went up the inside of him into Stowe and eventually survived his fight back and pulled a slight gap.

Still with clear track ahead, I could see the blue and yellow Sheane of Jamie Harrison cutting through the field behind.

I was watching and hoping he’d get tangled up in battle with Bill and Mark, but with 2 laps to go he must have caught sight of me and the final B Class podium spot, and caught me by almost 2 seconds a lap!

He got me going onto Hanger Straight, but I used the slipstream to glide back past him into Stowe.

Being on the inside line, I must have been on the brakes a bit too long, as he went in deep and got to my outside, meaning I couldn’t get back on the power or open out the steering for the exit!

I pressured him into the complex hoping to force an error, but he stayed strong.

I was stronger, however, taking a beautiful line through as I waited to take advantage, and as we came onto the pit straight I had a great run.

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I dived out of his slipstream and powered past, the move done before the start line, and got through the first few corners until I saw a marshal wave again!

I’d missed the chequered flag again, and knew I’d got over the start line ahead – but again the finish line is before that!

Jamie had got me, much the same as Martin in the first race, by less than 2 tenths of a second, and he’d taken 3rd in class B from me!

After a race like that I can’t even say I was disappointed, though. Despite the dodgy tyres , power loss, and losing a podium spot on the last lap, I’d had a great race! It’s funny how that works out sometimes!

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In fact I almost forgot – I finished 18th overall and 4th in class.

Next we’re headed to Rockingham on the infield track of the super speedway. It’s a track many hate, and it’s very hard on engines. Having done around 200 laps there on bikes, the place grew on me slowly, so I’m looking forward to trying it with 4 wheels!

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Silverstone International – the view from #18 – Part 1

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I did my ARDS Race License test on the Silverstone International layout, and also had my first ever race there, and so it holds a special place in my heart.

Much as I love the track, however, it seems to hate me.

In that first race I burnt a piston the day before in testing, barely making the grid. Last year, on the next visit there, with friends and family watching, I managed one lap before and engine stud snapped in the casing and ended the weekend.

So as I pulled off the motorway in my faultless Honda Civic Sport on Saturday morning to find the revs doing their own crazy thing, I thought it might be a bit of an omen.

Glenn had been there from the night before to secure us space in the garage (after being made to wait outside the circuit until 7pm along with everyone else who’d turned up early), so we just had to get signed on, scrutineered, and then we were ready to go.

Qualifying

As soon as I blasted out on track I could see spray in my mirrors. It was coming from the carbs.

Finding it a little distracting as I watched to see if the car caught fire, I got some laps in at a fair pace, but funnily enough didn’t feel fully into it.

When I pulled into the pits just before the session finished, I found that fuel pouring out of the lines was matched by oil pouring out of the seal we’d replaced a few days before behind the flywheel.

The fuel was easy to sort, but it would be an engine out job for the seal.

With only a few hours until the race, we put a temporary fix in place to hope it held.

Despite this, I’d still got 3rd fastest out of the Class B cars, and would line up 19th and 22nd on the grid for the races.

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Race 1

After lining up in grid formation in the holding area, it seemed to catch a few drivers out when we got to the grid to find there was no green flag lap. I was included, but realised this was a full race start when the red lights lit up on the gantry, and when they flicked off I was ready and nailed yet another great start.

Unfortunately on the inside through the first turn I didn’t have anywhere to go, so after jumping a few rows forward I was a bit bulked, and also trying to keep the car in one piece so we could concentrate on fixing the oil problem.

That problem soon bit back, though, and I found the revs were rising but the car wasn’t going anywhere – the oil had got onto the clutch plates and was making it slip!

I dropped off the back of Jake Hockley and Andrew Cooper, and then a group of about 6 all flew past as I tried to get some power down onto Hanger Straight and I knew that was pretty much race over.

Pretty sure I knew what the problem was, and that we’d be replacing the clutch either way, I stopped trying to fight for position and instead concentrated on getting the clutch to grip by feathering the throttle. I decided to just bring the car home as best as I could for the points, and got down to avoiding James Harridges nosecone right on the exit of Stowe!

It also wasn’t affecting me around the corners, so I tried to carry as much speed as I could. When I was on my own for a few laps pressing on, I also pulled off a huge filthy great near-perfect drift when I lost the back end into Village.

The front was still pointing towards the corner exit so I kept the throttle on and powered it out, clipping a perfect late apex on opposite lock ending at the exit curb with a mild twitch.

Notice the fist pump at the end!

This save- ahem, I mean skilful drift, also kept me in prime position when I saw Martin Snarey spin up ahead.

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I signalled cheerily to show him which way I was gong to pass his stationary car, then battled the slipping clutch onto Hanger Straight, knowing he’d soon be back on my tail but thinking I might just get to the end of the race ahead!

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the white Sheane was filling my mirrors.

Ironically, it was at Village when he dived up the inside, pulling away down Hanger while I tried to feather the throttle to keep the bit of the engine inside the engine as the clutch slipped…

I chased hard through Stowe, and a small lock up into the left hander of the complex put me right back on Martin.

A good run through the rest of the complex, and the clutch biting for once meant I snuck alongside down the pit straight, and with the inside line there was no way I was braking first…

… And of course my bravery was rewarded by a beautiful pass… before the tail stepped out (which I caught!), came back again (Argh! I’m going off, then, am I?), opted to go straight onto the concrete run-off area still mid tank-slapper (Oh no – not in the gravel again!!!) before finally gathering it all back in line safely!

I bumped over the narrow strip of grass and followed the white of Martin again, on what I didn’t yet know was the last lap.

Despite the lively excursion, I was only about 10 car lengths behind, but lost a little more as the clutch slipped down Hanger yet again. I attacked Stowe hard and made most of the time back as Martin took a defensive tight line into the complex.

Taking the regular line I actually got alongside before the flick right, then tried to cut back inside for the fast right onto the pit straight.

I shot out of the slipstream halfway down the straight and fired past into the first turn – I got onto the Hanger Straight before I saw the first marshal waving, and realised I’d missed the chequered flag. What happened to the usual plethora of waved flags from every marshal post to signal the end of the race?

Unfortunately at Silverstone, the finish line is actually before the start line, and so my move had been in vain – I’d crossed the line less than 2 tenths of a second behind the Snarey kid.

Still, considering the clutch problem, I was happy with 8th place in B Class and 22nd overall out of the 32 who started.

I was even more happy that I’d been involved in a close scrap on track with my old sparring partner Martin – whatever else happens in your race, as long as you’re involved in a bit of a fight you come out feeling like a winner! Unless you get pipped to the line, of course…

But now I had to find out if we’d be able to make the second race the next day…

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Teamworks Karting Experience, Halesowen

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For a racing driver, I have very limited karting experience.

So limited that I can actually sum it up in one sentence: I’ve done about 3 or 4 ‘arrive and drive’ sessions at a track that closed down, and 1 structured race even with a few mates.

Ayrton Senna I am not!

I have been told that karting will improve my racing, and have been meaning to go (for about 4 years!), and finally booked it in at Teamworks Karting in Halesowen.

The advantage here straight away was that you can book into a slot online, and then email or call their excellent staff who will let you add others to your booking without having to pay until they arrive. This saves the nightmare of having to coral payments from friends in advance, and made it all much easier!

We had a voucher which meant each of our group of 6 paid around £24 for 30 minutes of karting.

Unlike the last place I went to, this was split into two 15 minute sessions, so you get a chance for a bit of a breather and to chat in between your sessions. It’s also valuable recovery time if you’re not used to karting, as it does work some unique muscles in your forearms, shoulders, and hands.

Incidentally, it used to feel like someone had tried to rip the muscle off my forearms the day after I’d been karting. Racing Formula Vee seems to have cured this and I didn’t feel that bad at all – I guess I’m more used to it, now!

We all met up and had to book onto the session with name, email address, and nickname. This is automatically put into the session so you get a personalised printout of your lap times, and times also appear on the viewing screens.

We were then taken to the kit room to choose a race suit and helmet. My suit smelt a bit, umm… ripe, but it was late in the day, and if you were doing it often they’re cheap enough to buy (or I could use my own!). I did take my own helmet, but they have loads available – it’s recommended you buy a balaclava (£3) if you’re using theirs, or they can give you a free hairnet thingy to wear under it.

Gloves are also supplied (again, I used my own), and you’ll be fine in any sensible footwear – I again took my race boots, though!

After that we were shown a quick video about how to drive the kart and what the flags meant (red – stop, yellow – slow down, black – pull in for a harsh speaking to), then sent to wait for our session to begin.

We were assigned a kart by the staff, then they gave each of us a quick check to make sure we could use the brakes, and then we blasted out on track.

Now, bearing in mind I’m a racing driver – the night before I’d gone on YouTube and found some onboard laps of the track, so I already had a good idea where it went, and was able to get straight on the pace.

Speaking of which, Teamworks were happy for me to use a JooVuu X helmet cam to film the action – and they also let me stick a Mobius camera on the helmet of a colleague. I’ll put the video at the end of this.

To be honest I wasn’t that impressed with the track from watching the videos, but driving on it myself I have to admit it’s a very good track. It’s a good mix between flat out and technical, with a lot of lines available through some corners, and a lot of fun.

It wasn’t long before I was taking the first two corners on full throttle, blasting down the big long 40mph straight – that ends in a very tricky left hand curve which you have to brake on, immediately into a hairpin right. Then it’s tight around the left hander which leads up steeply over the bridge, trying to keep momentum up the hill, then back down on slippery wooden boards into another tight right hairpin where it’s easy to spin out.

It’s probably around a 30 second lap for most, with the faster drivers hitting low 23 seconds.

There are yellow flashing lights around the circuit so you know when to slow down if you can’t see anyone waving the flag, so it’s all quite safe, and there are tyres all around with smooth rubber bumpers in case you clip the walls trying to use all the track.

We had brilliant fun, with everyone improving their lap times in the second session now we were all settled in. I didn’t have it all my own way, and was pushed very heard by several other quick people in my group, but luckily just scraped the fastest lap – which also put me in the Hall Of Fame for the 4th fastest lap of the day with 23.547secs!

Not bad for an overweight 40 year old against all the young whipper-snappers (unless none of the fast ones had turned up that day)!

Teamworks also send you an email giving your fastest laps from previous sessions and notify you if you’re lucky enough to make the Hall of Fame – so great touch there! We also all got a £10 voucher for completing a few quick questions about your day.

Overall, it was a brilliant and very enjoyable experience! I’ll definitely be going back for another go, and we’re already thinking of entering as an endurance team for one of the proper race events they host.

I’d recommend them – so go find your local track and get booked on! As for me, we’ll see how it helps with my racing…

 

 

Anglesey Coastal – Qualifying & Race 1

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Arriving in Anglesey on a sunny Friday afternoon, there weren’t many places I’d rather have been!

After the long but beautiful drive through along the Welsh coast, and past the mountains of Snowdonia, we arrived early enough that Ben Miloudi kindly let me jump in for the last test session of the day – something I haven’t ever done since my first race!

I was going easy on the car but still managed to get comfortable on a quick pace, so would be dialled in for once as soon as I hit the track the following morning for qualifying, assuming the car felt good after the Croft problems…

Qualifying

I was able to get straight on the pace, and the car felt good. The test session had given me my confidence back and I knew I could trust Glenn’s work as usual.

I was able to push the car safely, losing the front a few times but without any drama on what was one of the most grippy tracks I’ve ever driven on!

I qualified 20th and 17th – but this really didn’t do it justice, as the first 25 cars were covered by 5 seconds and first 20 within 4! All the fast guys were out and on it – including Graham Gant coming out of hiding for the first time this year to grab pole!

In B class, the usual aliens – James Harridge and Jack Wilkinson – were way up the front, but the rest of us were all packed together with very close times. Tim Crighton had done excellent to head the best of the rest putting his Scarab a few rows ahead, but everything was set for an epic B class battle.

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Race 1

With the sun still beating down on us (for once!!), I took it a bit too safely on the start (not wanting a repeat of Croft!) and let a few cars past me, tucking in behind Vaughn Jones, Martin Snarey and Dave Leniewski.

With 2nd gear selecting perfectly this year, I drove out of the tight Rocket corner and took Vaughn on the inside of the next turn, hassling Snarey over the line before making a move on the exit of my favourite corner – Church – and holding him off down the back straight as I set my lights on Leniewski.

I wasn’t making much progress on him for a few laps, and there was still a pack flashing left and right in my mirrors, until Leniewski went oil surfing through Turn 1 and spun. I squeezed past and Snarey just stayed clear as well, but it gave me enough clear track to pull a gap.

Unfortunately I found the same oil on the very next lap, getting very sideways but holding it. I did smile as I came out of the banked hairpin and looked across to see Leniewski do exactly the same thing again! The ol flags finally came out after that, so we were all a bit more tentative through there for the rest of therace, but at least there was no damage done!

Meanwhile, I’d seen James Harridge pulled off the track with more engine problems, Tim Crighton and Jack Wilkinson were well ahead somewhere, and then I felt a pang of excitement as I realised the car I was catching was Colin Gregory, who must be 3rd in B class.

I caught him quickly, selling him a dummy around the outside at Church before cutting back inside and using his tow to blast past down the back straight.

Snarey soon joined the party, with the dark shape of Ross Price looming in the background.

Gregory dived up the inside of me on the brakes into the banked hairpin on the last lap, and I again cut back, this time taking the inside as we were both flat into Church.

With wheels inches apart, I again tucked into his slipstream and got that extra boost to pass down the back straight, this time driving defensively whilst watching Snarey trying everything he could to get past Gregory.

I punched the air as I crossed the line, picking up the final B Class podium trophy – but above all bringing the car home alive and untouched after a great scrap and pushing as hard as I ever have!

I’d finally got the car so on edge that one end or the other was moving in almost every corner, so I knew I was driving well.

Again, the overall result of 14th doesn’t really do me justice, as I was less than 3 seconds per lap off the winners (Pete Belsey) time, so well up there!

And other than gripping the wheel through the first corner harder than the Incredible Hulk, I was pretty relaxed about it all!

After a meal in the cafe and a twilight track walk, I was feeling good about the second race…

Missing pictures!

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As you may have noticed, many of the pictures from this website have disappeared.

This is because the ‘free’ Photobucket account I used have suddenly decided that I have to pay them £400 per year or something daft!

Rest assured I’m migrating all the pictures to a reputable free hosting site and then I’ll have to relink them all from there… This may of course take some time, so sorry for the look of the site and blogs until then!

If you have any suggestions for free picture hosting sites that aren’t a rip-off feel free to share them!

The other RTV cars

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Glenn has a pretty impressive collection of Formula Vee cars stretching right back to the first ever UK Vee race in 1967!

Click here to view pictures and info on this fine stable, and see what we plan to get back on track!

If you would like to see your company or brand on these cars, please get in touch and we can agree a package that’s right for you!  You can contact RTV in the Contact section at the top of this page, or come and meet Glenn and James at any of the races or shows.

Remember Croft? Race 2

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A new day, and the sun was shining once more. I was starting from a decent position but wouldn’t really find out what the car would do until I hit the first corner at race speed – not great when the brief was yet again to try and keep the car safe.

On the warm-up lap I gave the car a bit of a slide into the second turn and could tell straight away that things weren’t right. Added to this, the steering wheel wasn’t pointing straight, so my thumbs and stuff were in the wrong places.

As I sat on the grid psyching myself up, I looked down to find my magical rev sweet spot to get another demon start. What I found was the turned wheel was hiding my rev counter!

I looked back up and the start lights had already gone out and I’d missed it!

I recovered fairly well, but with the random handling I stayed well wide through the first few corners so I didn’t end up hitting anyone else as I worked out what the car was doing.

The car didn’t want to turn in at all, and then the understeer snapped from no grip overall to oversteer and back to understeer seemingly at random through the corners.

I was dropping backwards down the grid and couldn’t seem to do anything about it!

Sam Engineer spun off causing a red flag – then we were held for ages before being put back in some weird grid order where I dropped back even further. Then Tim Probert caught fire a little bit, and we had to trundle around on a third slow green flag lap.

In between wondering if I’d catch fire, whether the engine would blow up in the heat, and if I could get the car to restart for the 37th time they moved us 20 yards forward, I told myself that the handling was all in my head, and I needed to give myself a slap.

I got a much better restart, and was all over the back of Colin Gregory for second in class (Jamie had already blown by me in the first start as I struggled) as I threw the car at the track as best as I could – not happy but not giving up!

I couldn’t take any of the usual corners flat out, and needed a big lift to get the front turned in through Barcroft, still missing the apex by a few feet.

This put me slightly wide on the exit, and as I straightened the steering wheel on instinct ready to brake hard from flat-out, I forgot a crucial thing…

Straightening the steering wheel with the repairs meant I was actually steering slightly to the left.

This put my left rear wheel just onto the grass as I slammed the anchors on, and the back wheels made my best overtake of the day on my front wheels. I was suddenly on the grass, backwards, on the right hand side of the circuit and the air pressure even opened my visor and I did what I could to stop taking Colin out as he turned right into Sunny In.

I changed the angle of my spin enough to miss him, but there was no way I could stop the car coming back across the track. Luckily we’d been pulling away, and Bill Garner was next on the scene with some nifty avoidance as he locked up and managed to avoid me as I rolled along the outside of the track trying to restart.

Crisis averted, I was now dead last and trying not to succumb to the red mist.

I locked up into the hairpin then got back in control and dropped back into the zone as I gave chase to Ian Rea.

I was still hammering an unpredictable car as much as I could, but had to dial it back a few notches as there’s no point crashing when you’re at the back anyway…

I slipstreamed past Ian out of the chicane and chased down Martin Snarey and the 6 car chain ahead.

It was taking an agonisingly long time in my head to make any progress, but I clawed past Martin on the start straight, and as I closed on Peter Cann saw Vaughn Jones spin up ahead.

Before he had chance to recover back to speed I squeezed around him almost on the grass and then the short 3 lap restart was given the chequered flag. I salvaged a 17th place finish, but had been expecting top 10 at a track I love and the car is suited to, so it was hard to get too worked up about.

It was an exciting race overall, but still a total disaster for me in the big scheme of things. Hence why I haven’t had the motivation to write this up (or the time!) until now.

As Anglesey approaches, I’m in a slightly more positive frame of mind again. If Real Life allows me to, I’ll prep better for this one, and approach things the same as I did for Oulton.

Hopefully this will be the one where I can show off the cars true potential. I’m at least going to try and enjoy it!

Remember Croft? Qualifying & Race 1

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Sorry that this blog has been so long coming! Unfortunately the major dramas that make up Real Life came into play, and my usual best escape of racing failed as that all turned out disastrous, too.

That said, it was brilliant getting away for a few days to hang out with the other Vee drivers. I know a few of us have some huge things going on away from racing at the moment, and hope the distraction of racing helps them as much as it does me.

After 6+ hours on the road, we arrived (early for once!) at Croft – one of my favourite circuits from last year. After the many hours spent fixing (and de-gravelling) the car since Brands Hatch, the brief was to keep the car safe and just get some points back on the board.

 

Qualifying

I hadn’t done the sort of prep that I should have – watching videos, playing simulators etc – so started somewhat steadily in qualifying. When you’re not 100% sure where to break and turn in on every single corner, it’s amazing how much it adds to your lap times.

The car felt good, but then someone dropped oil around half of the lap on the fastest section all the way back to the finish and a few cars had spins.

As ever, I’m enough of an idiot to enjoy a bit of oil, but obviously with oil down from the 2nd or 3rd lap this meant all those who’d practiced the day before got much faster laps in before the track was ruined. I actually put my quickest lap in on my final lap, despite lifting off to let Adam Macaulay and Ben Miloudi through on flying laps – so at least knew I was doing something ok!

I did lose the lap before with a huge minger of a drift that turned into a spin, though…

I qualified a mediocre 17th and 16th – but with James Harridge blowing another engine and Jamie Harrison losing all power this still put me 2nd in class right behind Colin Gregory for both races. The first class win was in sight!

Race 1

With another fast start I pushed a few places up the grid off the line, having to lift for a few slower cars but still making good progress.

I got ahead of Mark Egan up the inside of the first turn, but then into the sharp Turn 2 I knew I could either get aggressive and perform a really harsh block pass on Mark, risking taking us both out, or back out as safely as I could, making sure I could hold the tight line around the corner. This would mean Mark disappearing on the exit, but I could live with that for now..

Unfortunately, Mark then cut hard across to the apex, I assume having not seen me, and leaving absolutely no room for me.

I slammed on the brakes even harder and got a nudge from behind from Peter Studer – but it was already too late and Mark’s right rear wheel slammed into my front left.

This broke the steering link, and as my wheel flapped around like some sad, dying fish, I was at the mercy of the rest of the field as I veered across the track and off the side to retire.

I was not happy.

Then, just as I got out and stood at the side of the track, it started thundering. Yeah, thanks for that.

The car was carried back on a crane, and some hasty bodge repairs made ready for the next day. As we were making a start on it, Ian Rea spotted the impact had ripped the front beam off the chassis, stripping the thread and bolt holding it on.

Gary Richardson kindly helped get the set-up as good as we could, but with camber, castor and toe all a bit wonky (we had to try and even things out by re-adjusting the good side!) I could tell I might have to drive around the faults for the second race.

The Clean Up!

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At Brands Hatch, I spun off into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill bend. Twice.

Whilst the gravel traps are brilliant, and undoubtedly stopped the car meeting the tyre wall at high speed, it still has some major consequences.

When you see the BTCC cars spinning off and then rejoining, shaking off the gravel, what you’re not seeing is the hours spent stripping the car afterwards to get all the gravel out of it – not to mention the damage it does to panels and paintwork and sponsor stickers.

And it gets EVERYWHERE.

Even after scraping out piles of the stuff, after trailering the car home 200 miles there was still masses of the stuff. Kilograms. All over the engine, literally filling the engine bay, and everywhere in the cockpit, too.

Vacuuming gets some out, but there is still masses behind panels and stuck behind chassis tubing, and the only real way to do it efficiently is to totally strip down the car.

The original plan was to jet wash everything, but without one easily to hand James got out the sponge and soap and went over the car.

Then we drilled out the rivets and got the side panels off to get at the rest of it, cleaning up the rest ‘dry’ using an oily cloth and more vacuuming.

Next it was onto the rear of the car – Glenn found that he was unable to crank the engine over by hand, and so the engine had to come out.

Luckily, once on the bench we found a pulped lump of gravel was blocking one of the pistons, and once this was removed everything worked again!

After more vacuuming and cleaning of the engine bay, the car is now ready to start piecing back together – there’s still a lot of work to do (repainting chassis and suspension parts, removing and applying new stickers etc…) but we should have it at least running ready to get to Croft at the end of the month.

Brands Hatch GP – Race 2 (Part 3 of 3)

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More drama, as the scrutineers had decided to check and seal our gearbox, and the only chance we could do that was right before the second race. I headed to the infield garages, taking all my kit and planning on going straight from there to the grid, if we could still make it in time.

As I pulled into the garage the skies opened big time.

Racing was cancelled for a while as we had hail, the tunnels flooded, the pit lane became a waterfall/swimming pool, and other assorted skallywag behaviour came from the sky.

This was, of course, because it saw me driving to the collecting area and thought the Vee race was about to start!

Eventually it settled a bit, my gearbox was sealed, and I took to the wet grid to try and salvage something from the weekend.

Race 2

I spun the wheels a fair bit off the line, so had to get back off the throttle and didn’t make my patented rocket start – but it was still fairly decent and I didn’t lose out much and was right on the back of a big pack.

Andrew Crighton got a storming start and slipped past and I thought he’d be a pretty decent car to follow for a few laps to drag me up to pace.

I got a monster slide out of Druids which I held but I lost ground on the pack ahead. I could see the red and white of Andrew Cooper behind me but still had a bit of breathing space. With all the spray it wasn’t a bad place to settle in for a while and get some laps in.

I was having to be very definite when changing to 3rd and 4th gears, but other than that the gearbox was holding up and it seemed that the days gremlins had finally gone.

I eased the brakes on nice and early for Paddock Hill bend at the end of the first lap, and instantly locked up the rears.

I was on a slightly high line and figured I’d just hit a bit of track that was more slippery. I became very aware of the wall straight ahead which was now very quickly looming closer, and gave a couple of quick pumps of cadence braking which didn’t seem to help anything.

I realised I was crashing.

I really didn’t want to hit that wall, so got right off the brakes and flung the car to the right, then got lightly on the brakes to trail it in, not thinking I could make the corner in a million years, but preferring to spin it into the gravel over the crest of the track where I wouldn’t hit anything solid.

The back end inevitably swung around, but to my surprise I caught it with opposite lock. Oh wow, I thought – I might make this!

I was still headed for the edge of the track so eased it over some more and then the Brands Hatch camber took over as I went over the crest and I had no space for a correction, this time…

More gravel spewed over me and I realised I’d stalled and was reaching for the starter button before I’d even stopped moving, as my instincts kicked in. I was only a few feet into the gravel trap, so thought I could roll it out and get back on the black stuff.

The engine didn’t fire up, so I gave the starter button another press and this time just got a clunk.

My mind flashed back to the earlier spin and the lumps of gravel I saw down the carb trumpets. I also thought we hadn’t had the battery on charge all day, and there were several long delays to the start where I’d had to switch on and off. There can’t be a lot left in the battery after that?

(A quick note here – we don’t run any sort of charging circuit on the car. It’s what I’d call a “total loss system” on a bike. Stripping the charging components out saves a lot of weight, and you don’t need it. I haven’t asked too many questions about the Vee version, but I assume it’s the same idea.)

The other option, of course, is that the engine had seized. That might explain the strange rear lock-up I’d had (I was locking the fronts everywhere else so don’t see why the rears would lock up there?). Or I’d taken in gravel when I tried to restart the car…

So once again I was towed back on the Wagon Of Shame and left to reflect on how much mess gravel makes, and how I’d paid £450 for maybe 2 competitive laps. Ouch.

James Harridge had another theory about both my spins and that the cause was the same. I’d been holding 4th gear through Paddock Hill, which is fine in the dry, but with the reduced wet speed I should really have been dropping to 3rd for it. This means I’d have been getting pushed by the 4th gear inertia as the engine braking would be a lot less than if I’d slammed it down to 3rd.

For the qualifying crash, although seemingly totally different, being in 4th on the exit meant that when the back end started to lose traction and I reduced throttle input, the engine wouldn’t have reacted as quickly as if I was in 3rd, resulting in the spin that I should really have been able to catch.

I can see his point – probably more for the qualifying spin than the second one, but still a bit of an ‘accident waiting to happen’ brought on by me. Who’d have thought cruising around a little would end up causing more problems than pushing?

Now I’ll spend a lot of time cleaning the car up – time I can only see as wasted as Glenn and myself should be spending time getting the Ray and Scarab out on track.

It’ll be a huge job as that car is absolutely covered and even after being trailered back home 200 miles there are many kilograms of gravel STILL inside and all over the engine. Once that’s looking better we can crank the engine by hand and find out if it has died or not.

Fingers crossed – if the engine is stuffed then I might be out for a while, and definitely won’t be driving the awesome Croft at the end of the month…