From 2nd to 4th via The Naughty Step…

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Here is the full video of the yellow flag violation:

So, yeah, I had no idea I’d done anything wrong, as I either didn’t see the yellow flag (the only thing I cared about in that race was the white car behind me) or thought the marshals further on had the green flag.

Bear in mind the camera is much higher than my eye line, and so my vision was very much blocked by the cars between me and the incident (ironically, the stationary car causing the yellow was Jamie Harrison who had just won the B class championship!).

I wasn’t intending to violate the yellow flag conditions, the safety of marshals and other competitors was in no way compromised, and I later dropped four or five places down the order so didn’t gain any advantage.

I do not in any way dispute that I overtook under a yellow flag – only the fact that the imposed penalty took me from second in the championship down to fourth in the final race deciding the season.

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Called to the Clerk of the Course

My name was called after the race to go see the Clerk of the Course, and to take my video footage with me – which I did very promptly, breaking off celebrations and went straight there. I still had no idea I’d done anything wrong, and thought they were checking my footage to try to catch someone else doing something (I didn’t think I’d be able to help here, either).

I was told what I’d done after the Clerk had spoken to two other drivers, and we reviewed the footage. She said she had three choices of penalty for the offence:

  1. Exclusion from the race.

  2. A 10 second time penalty.

  3. Points on my race licence.

I pleaded for her to take the third option – especially as several other Vee drivers had been caught overtaking under yellows in the previous race, and NONE of them had been given any kind of penalty at all.

She was firm but friendly, and argued that the consequences to my championship were not her consideration. Fair enough but COME ONE!

I had no choice but to sign the document to say I’d done it.

I was told that I could appeal the decision on one of three grounds if I paid the fee (about £240!!!!!!!) in cash within 30 minutes:

  1. That the offence had never happened.

  2. That the penalty applied was too harsh or unfair.

  3. Another option that I don’t recall.

Of course my grounds for appeal would be that the penalty was far too harsh as it would decide my championship position, and lose me a podium trophy.

In the circumstances, I would be effectively paying £240 to make sure I held onto second in the championship. After all, nobody would be so heartless as to turn down my appeal on those gorunds, would they?

750 Motor Club were supposed to be there for us drivers, to keep us happy, and would make a sensible and compassionate decision, right?

Appealing the penalty to the stewards

I told the race organisers that I would be appealing, and that stopped the clock as I ran to the paddock to try to raise the cash – but someone had let it slip that they could take payment by card if they had to. I should hope so too! Who carries any cash these days – let alone that much?

It had already been around 2 hours after the race finish, so most were packed up and heading home. Tim Probert handed me my two third place trophies as I went past, but I gave one back telling him it was in dispute. Then I went back up to the Stewards with Glenn, Michelle, and James Harridge and chatted with them about my options and what was happening.

I had to write out a statement on my appeal form, in which I made it clear with my first point that I was appealing the penalty, but the Stewards were already pressuring me to hurry up as they wanted to leave for the day.

I waited while they sat in another room considering it, and reviewing my footage.

There were two stewards from 750 Motor Club, one head steward from the MSA, and an observer there.

They called me in and questioned me about my appeal, asking me to watch my footage again.

I thought this was a bit strange but did it, and they told me repeatedly that I’d overtaken under a yellow flag.

I already knew this, and had acknowledged that in my previous meeting with the Clerk of the Course.

The 750 Steward kept telling me I’d overtaken under a yellow flag and would not budge an inch or listen to anything I said. I seemed to be getting through more to the MSA steward, but every time I seemed to be persuading him to my side of things the 750 steward would chime in again telling me I’d overtaken under yellow.

He kept repeating that their recommendation for overtaking under yellows was to exclude me. When I asked why there were three options available to them he refused to answer or discuss it.

Again they kept going over the aspects of my yellow flag violation, speaking about the safety issue (oh, where the marshals were on the opposite side of the track, well off the track, and behind other cars??) and insisting that I had overtaken before the green flag post.

It was like I was arguing with a bunch of people that the sky was blue, but they just kept telling me that the grass was green.

The whole atmosphere was extremely hostile, with all of them against little old me. I stayed polite and calm, but couldn’t help feeling they would just bully me down on anything I said. You are technically allowed to take in a representative, but are told in no uncertain terms that this is discouraged and the stewards don’t like it.

You can call in other drivers as witnesses – which I was asked if I wanted to do – but why would I when I was arguing the PENALTY??!

They asked me to leave the room as they discussed more, and I knew I had no chance at all – and the 750 Motor Club Steward was the main one properly gunning for me. Thanks for the support.

I was called back in and they told me that their decision would stand, at which point I again tried to tell them that they were deciding the championship with a penalty, and THAT was what I didn’t want to happen!

I was threatened with total exclusion again for raising my point, so decided to just shut up.

They told me to go back and wait outside and then they would be out soon with the forms to sign.

“Can’t you post them to me?” I asked, having been there for around three hours.

“No, you need to sign to say that you agree with our decision.”

I didn’t thank them as I left, but also resisted slamming the door on my way out. There was no chance I was giving them another second of my time, so told Glenn, James and Michelle that I was leaving now and wasn’t going to say I agreed with their decision.

I was left with the feeling that the appeal process is totally pointless and just a money-making scheme. I felt that the club at least would have cared that deciding the final race of the season with a penalty (that didn’t even need to be applied!) doesn’t look great for the club, and none of the drivers would appreciate it, either!

I have some pride shining through the bitterness over it all as I got the decision through the post a week or so later, when I read the “Driver left” bit where my signature should have been.

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I just have to remind myself that they can’t take away the fact that I did it on track – I won that second place in the championship with a great drive after a head-to-head scrap!

I have also filed a formal complaint with the MSA about how my appeal wasn’t even heard or discussed by the stewards in that meeting, which they have failed to respond to in their stated 10 days. I chased it up a few weeks ago and was told that it will be looked at, and they apologised for not sending an acknowledgement.

We’ll see how that goes – I’m guessing absolutely nowhere. Either way it won’t change the result – but maybe people standing up a bit will get them to change things in the future?

I’m debating uploading my full complaint letter to them, but will hold on and see what they respond with, first. So far it’s been over a month…

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Donington Park – Race 2

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Race 2

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With the track now bone dry and warm, it was set to be a very different second race.

I talked over my tactics with Glenn Hay – I was going to go for it, but if Colin Gregory was showing he was much faster, I’d just let him go and make sure I kept a safe finish to secure third place in the B Class championship.

I stiffened the front anti-roll bar back to dry settings, but left the dampers soft in the hope it would help me find the last of the grip from the worn rear tyre.

I felt relaxed but totally focused as we took the grid. I was in 18th place with Colin just to my right, his second best qualifying time 0.04 seconds faster.

Andrew Cooper was directly in front of me on the grid with Jack Wilkinson a few rows ahead – I was expecting Jack to disappear but thought I might be closer to Cooper in this one. Not that it really mattered, as all I had to to do was beat the white Sheane of Colin.

With the championship won and pressure off, I thought Jamie Harrison might come through strongly, but I knew I’d been faster than him here before.

I slipped a fingertip under my visor to wipe away my condensed breath one final time, as I inhaled twice deeply to oxygenate my blood and slow my pounding heart.

The lights went out and the Sheane shot forward instantly. I slammed it into second gear thinking I should give drag racing a go, and then Cooper was drifting across the track to cover the outside line as I pushed the lever forward into third gear.

I had to feather the throttle slightly with nowhere to go before we turned into Redgate, but we’d all got away well and I could see I had space behind to take a decent line – Colin was still behind but I had a few car lengths plus Phil Waterhouse slotting between us.

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Cold tyres down the Craner curves was always a hairy moment, and as I opted for the slow-in, fast-out line into Old Hairpin Colin passed Waterhouse with two wheels on the grass around the outside.

I was totally focused on the red and white Challenger of Cooper as he went through the final chicane all over Mark Egan’s Ray, and as Egan checked up on the exit all I saw was clear track to the left and had a run down the straight.

I still didn’t think I’d have the speed to stay ahead of Cooper, but was alongside Egan into Redgate, settling behind him with Cooper a few lengths behind me as I realised I was second in class and holding my own!

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I put a tyre half over the curb as we came back onto the pit straight, watching as Cooper picked up a tow off me and Egan pulled out another car length over me.

I snapped the gear lever into fourth as fast as I could… and got a big bag of nothing!

Cooper shot past me with inches to spare, followed by Colin. I finally got fourth on the third attempt as Ross Price also blasted by.

I’d lost momentum, but tried to hold onto them, knowing I was strong up the hill out of Old Hairpin.

Colin and Ross were side by side into McLeans, but Ross had to lift as he went wide. Taking the corner well I took advantage and passed him, but Colin was still a fair few lengths ahead, drifting a wide line around Coppice.

I love Coppice. The apex is blind and it takes balls to commit to it over the blind crest. I nailed it and was close enough to catch a slipstream down the back straight.

I took a dive up Colin’s inside at Redgate from a long way back, but never got close enough to force the issue as he closed the door – then I nearly jumped out of my skin as Ross went around the outside of me! Nice sneaky move!

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This time he got the better of Colin into McLeans, but ran straight over the curb on the exit, showering me in mud (seriously, there was a splatter right over my left eyeball on my visor for the rest of the race!), and we both passed before Ross was back on the tarmac.

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I closed right up into the chicane, but Colin had his head down and started to pull away. Ross slid up the inside into Old Hairpin and I thought he might be able to drag me back to Colin. Christian Goller also came through on a crazy charge from the back of the grid (he’s going to be seriously quick next year), but I wasn’t concerned as his Challenger is A Class. I tried to come back at him into the chicane but backed out rather than taking him and potentially Ross out as well.

What was concerning me was watching them all drop me as Christian passed the other two B Class cars and I failed to claw my way back to them.

By the end of the lap, Colin had at least four or five seconds over me and I was starting to think what could have been as I checked the empty track in my mirrors.

I looked for Glenn and my sister Michelle on the pit wall as I passed, settling in to bring it home for third in the championship… and it was about then that I thought:

“I can’t have that.”

Screw the slipping clutch and screw the balding tyres – I wanted this! I might never be in this position again, so what sort of racing driver was I if I didn’t try and do it?

I’d been consciously using every inch of the track and the curbs all weekend, and hitting my lines almost robotically. I cleared my mind and went for it, and by the end of the lap was totally in the zone.

Ross and Colin started getting more scrappy ahead, and when Ross again ran over the curb exiting Old Hairpin I blasted past up the hill.

I carried my momentum, taking seconds off Colin through McLeans and Coppice, even making enough to pull out of his tow into the chicane to force him into a defensive line.

He held me off down through Craner, but I was all over him up the hill faking a move to the outside braking into McLeans that he had to cover, going in too hot. I simply cut back and drove past him on the exit!

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Thinking I was clever, I forgot to brake into Coppice, flying straight over the crest and heading directly towards the fence. And I still didn’t want to scrub off too much speed and let him back through!

I threw the car hard right, the back end stepping out over the curb, but caught it instantly with a twitch of opposite lock.

But I was wide, and saw a flash of white and then black as Colin went through along with Ross!

My refusal to scrub off speed had left me close enough to catch their slipstream onto the straight, and as they went side by side into the chicane I waited to take advantage of the contact…

By some miracle they kept their wheels apart, but they’d lost speed and I hadn’t. I held the left apex a split second longer to bring me to the left hand side of the track on the exit, and had already passed Ross and was alongside Colin before he could move across to block me.

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Silverstone and Anglesey had taught me about over-defending, and instead I just drove, taking a mid-track entry into the final chicane to discourage Ross from making a dive as he’d got past Colin and was in my tow,

He still had my tow down the pit straight, pulling out to go inside me into Redgate – but I was never going to defend that move! I braked as late as I dared, trailbraking to the apex as Ross overshot the line in front of me, and I cut back again on the apex carrying full speed.

They had no chance after that. I set my fastest lap of the race even though I braked early into the chicane knowing I was safe.

I punched the air over the line as the realisation hit me that I’d done it!

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I was screaming in the car all the way around the lap, and it was an amazing feeling knowing I’d not only done it, but came back through after dropping back. I’d won it fair and square, and there’s no finer way to feel alive!

People were cheering me! I jumped out of the car and it was all hugs and handshakes, and excited chatter as I shook hands with Colin and Ross (who’d finished between us).

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I hugged my sister and even Glenn (a very rare moment for me!) knowing I’d done it and got second in the championship for RTV!

I knew I was third in class, so also had another trophy but didn’t even care where I was overall (17th), as I’d done everything I had to do.

I’d been told to take my camera footage to the Clerk of the Course, so did so happily, knowing I’d had a clean race and hadn’t seen anyone else do anything dodgy, so wouldn’t really be able to help much.

And then they took it all away…

When I’d overtaken Cooper at the end of the first lap there had been a yellow flag out for a stationary car on the grass on the right hand side (I couldn’t see anything as my view was blocked by other cars). Even though the safety risks were minimal, and I hadn’t gained an advantage (having dropped back four places within a lap), they decided to ruin the championship and decide the final race and championship results with a 10 second penalty against me rather than just give me points on my licence.

This dropped me to sixth in class, meaning I’d lose second in the championship… and third… and would end up fourth.

I paid £250 to appeal the penalty (not the reason for it) which was all a farce where the stewards refused to even discuss the penalty, and while all this was going on I missed the awards ceremony and everything.

I’m trying not to let this bitter ending ruin it for me but it’s hard.

I know I did it. I did it fair and square on the track, and everyone else knows I did it.

And that’s what I’m doing it for – to prove myself on the track.

Whatever the stewards say they can’t take that away from me.

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You can view the full onboard video here:

 

Donington Park – Qualifying & Race 1

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Once again we’re back to the track that I love – but it hates me!

I did my first ever Vee test here, making it three corners out of the pit lane before the engine seized… or there was the time I was winning B class until I ran out of petrol half way around the last lap… or the time an engine stud smashed through the case… or when I t-boned Buxton on the first lap of qualifying…

This time it was for the final round of the 2017 Ravenol UK Formula Vee Championship – and going into it I was third in the B Class championship and only one point behind Colin Gregory in second place!

After a year where I was sometimes faster than Jamie Harrison, he was more often much faster than me, and needed a single point to tie up the B Class championship. This basically meant all he had to do was make the grid for the start of one of the races…

To complicate things for me, fourth and fifth in the championship were the extremely quick Jack Wilkinson and Andrew Cooper – and they could both catch me and take my third place away if I didn’t finish high enough!

Because of the abandoned race at Rockingham, 750 Motor Club had give us all a free test session on Saturday morning, but with conditions slick and raining it was more of a chance to get your eye in for the track. I cruised around, changing gear around 6500rpm to save the tired engine for the races.

My left rear tyre was also now on the wear indicators, and seriously affecting grip. We swapped the left and right rear wheels over after the session, hoping it would bring enough grip back to make me competitive, although I was still setting some decent times. Unfortunately we’d also spotted some clutch slip changing from third to fourth gear, so had to hope that wasn’t getting any worse.

One more concern was that Andrew Cooper was clocked as second fastest overall! Some great driving, and confirmation that the pressure would be on me to get on his tail to minimise points damage!

Qualifying

The track was still cool but dry a few hours later as we rolled out. I left the dampers on the soft wet settings, trying to get a bit more rear grip, with a slight compromise on the front anti-roll in case the rain came back.

I still needed to get a decent place on the grid to be in with a chance of snatching second, but had to balance that with actually making the races.

I settled into a good rhythm, the rear wheel swap doing the job for grip, and although the slipping clutch was even more noticeable under almost full power, the car still felt pretty good.

As expected, Jack Wilkinson was the quickest B class runner, and Cooper second.

Colin was third, starting in 17th place on the grid – whilst I would be 18th.

Jamie had cruised around and then come into the pits, doing exactly what he needed to do, but unlikely to feature at the pointy end of the class battle in the first race.

Colin’s qualifying time?

1:24.16

My qualifying time?

1:24.17

It couldn’t have been set up any better!

Unusually, both races were to be held the next day, and so we all had the night to brood over tactics for the following day. We should have also taken note of Ross Price, behind us in 19th with a time of 1:24.23 – because he had no intention of leaving us two to scrap it out in the races!

Race 1

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Fittingly for this season, the heavens opened shortly before our early morning race began!

Here I’d like to thank James Harridge and Richard Rainbow who’d let RTV share their awning for the weekend. Personally I think it was the least Harridge could do, as he’d decided not to race but I could have done with him winning Class B to take points away from all the others!

There was a chance there would be carnage in the tricky conditions, and so my tactics were simply to finish the race in as good a position as I could. If that was ahead of Colin then even better, but there was still another race to go and he was my only real focus.

After two green flag laps, I’d felt that there was a surprising amount of grip on the track, and so believed I could push quite hard from the start.

The lights went out and I got an amazing start, blasting forward like everyone else was stood still.

Unfortunately Cooper saw my move to the inside of the track and moved over to block me – I’d got so much momentum already that I actually had to brake hard to avoid going into the back of him!

Paul Taylor snuck through around Redgate, but I was still on the back of Cooper, Mark Egan and a large pack. I’d left Colin for dead on the start line – as it turned out he’d got all kinds of sideways and ended up on the grass by the pit wall, and then had to fight his way back through!

The track conditions were deteriorating rapidly, and the car snapped sideways up the hill out of Old Hairpin as I changed into fourth – fair warning given and heeded. Steve Ough ended up on the grass ahead, but was back on track as I reached him, joining out pack, with Alex Jones looming in my mirrors.

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I didn’t fight as he slithered through at Old Hairpin, but now there was a thick line of oil forming around the racing line of the whole circuit, and Alex was caught out at Coppice on the following lap, spinning but rejoining behind me.

I was slowly dropping off the pack, but with nobody behind me (where were they all??) and with lots of oil down at all the places you really don’t want any oil, I was easing off anyway.

A flying Christian Goller caught me after qualifying problems had left him at the back of the grid, and an eager Neil Aldridge followed him through. On the exit of Old Hairpin Neil found the huge patch of mud and gravel someone had dragged onto the circuit, and he predictably swapped ends, letting me retake the place.

I eased off even more as cars were going off everywhere, and a charging Alex Jones caught me once more. There was nobody behind him and no point in me fighting, so I stuck on the back of him in case he lost it again, and followed him safely to the flag.

I was 16th overall, and 3rd in Class B – Colin was two places behind but still got 4th in Class B.

Jamie Harrison had officially won the Class B Championship, and predictably Jack Wilkinson took the race honours from Andrew Cooper.  In the main title hunt a third place for Ben Miloudi left him teetering on the brink of the of the title, with Ian Jordan taking the win from Craig Pollard.

Some quick maths from Steve Bailey after the race put me one single point ahead, and now second in the championship… but now the drop-scores would come into play.

As Colin hadn’t done every race, this meant I had to drop my two single point finishes from Brands Hatch.

So now, headed into the final race of the year, I was again just one point behind Colin, and the only way I could take second place was to beat him!

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Rockingham – Don’t hit the wall!

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It’s one of the tracks where I’ve done a few hundred laps with motorbikes, so it was going to be fine to jump straight in, avoiding the extra expense of testing the day before and on the morning.

Almost everyone else on the grid took advantage of the testing, and it was watching them in the morning session that I realised they were doing an extra hairpin on the infield!

This wasn’t in the plan! It also wasn’t in the BTCC track guide I’d had a look at to confirm my bike knowledge! Ah well, I’d just tag onto someone in qualifying and learn it then…

Qualifying

The first banked corner on the oval was also new to me, but I figured that was bound to be pretty much flat in the dry, and did it with a big lift to get up to speed. It was then that the front felt absolutely terrible, and the unstability made me think I’d gone far too soft on the front damping!

During a red flag (we had a few very paranoid reds due to cars spinning off the circuit) I peeled off in the pit lane hoping to get Glenn’s attention to give me another few clicks of front damping. Before he could get to the car, we were off again, so I blasted off figuring the track time was more important than fine-tuning.

The extra hairpin was amazingly tricky for me to try and get to grips with, totally upsetting the flow of the triple left I was used to. With the few qualifying laps we got in I didn’t get anywhere near familiar with it – but then I hadn’t with the braking points for the rest of the track, either!

Still, I somehow qualified in 14th and 15th place for the races – amazing as I was struggling and really expecting to be around 25th with everyone else having tested here.

Not that it really mattered…

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Race 1

…Because of course the skies opened just about an hour before we were due to race, and the track conditions were horrendous!

Rockingham gets slippery (like ice!) with just a few spots of rain, and for this you could see the standing water.

I’m still trying to love the rain, and with my limited testing time figured this was probably best for me to get me on an even keel. However – how fast can you take a banked oval turn in the wet?

It’s about 240mph in an Indycar in the dry, but then they don’t even go out in the wet! We wouldn’t have that luxury.

Weirdly, there seemed to be some unspoken agreement with almost all the drivers that we’d take this turn incredibly slowly to survive it, and then go for it on the rest of the lap. If you hit that wall in a Vee it’s going to hurt you, let alone seriously kill your car, so this rare sensibility from racing drivers was even more strange!

Anyway – the race! I loosened off the front anti-roll bar and softened the dampers at both ends – but not too much at the front as I still wanted some stability.

Slithering around the green flag lap, we could all tell how bad it was out there.

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When the lights went out just about everybody span their wheels off the line, but I hooked up a decent amount of grip. Unfortunately I was on the outside braking into the turn 2 hairpin, and cars streamed up my inside before I could turn in!

When I finally got turned a car had spun on the exit, so I had to avoid them, too.

Braking gently into the chicane, I felt everything lock instantly, and cadence braking didn’t do a thing. Two or three cars ahead were also going straight on and bouncing over grass and gravel – I reluctantly chose the gravel and was promptly airborne as I crossed the thinnest pit on route back to the circuit.

The car still felt ok and wasn’t full of gravel, but then the red flags came out again and it was another restart…

On the restart I got another good – although sideways – start, but was again hung out to dry on the outside for turn 2!

To add to the déjà vu, Pete Belsey spun on the exit in front of me, followed by Dave Leniewski exiting the next turn, and Colin Gregory a few corners later!

Every time I brushed the brakes I locked up, and every time I eased the throttle down it spun up. It was brilliant but very slow! And somehow I was fighting with Jimmy Furlong with Pete Belsey and Paul Taylor behind me!

As the rain eased going into the final lap, it was watching these two that became my downfall. I left my braking a little later, having taken the banked turn a little faster, and locked up a little. As I ran deeper into the corner, I could have just clipped the corner of the grass on the outside and carried on, but as I aimed for it I saw it had become about a 12” drop off the tarmac, with a puddle of unknown depth below that!

I had to abort and turn right up onto the banking through the cones, turning around and then rejoining the track having lost 12th place and dropped to 16th behind Mark Egan in his Ray. It also dropped me to 5th in Class B.

With conditions on the infield still bad, and with oil spreading out at key spots, I was unable to catch Mark and had to sit behind him over the line.

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Race 2

After almost drying out, the skies opened again during the RGB race just as we were due to go to the assembly area. I’ve never seen huge rooster tails from the RGB’s before, and evidently neither had the organisers, as they cancelled their race due to weather.

This then left all us Vee drivers in an awkward place. We were all set to go out, but as the current race had been cancelled there didn’t seem much point to us all going to the holding area to get soaked through, and have water go into our open carb trumpets as we sat there.

I mean, evidently they weren’t going to send a single seater class out if they’d cancelled a race!

As I stood kitted up next to a marshal under cover of my garage, 3 cars went down. I then heard radio chatter saying they didn’t have enough cars to run the race, and that “Vee drivers are voting with their feet”!

Err, no we’re not! But as the rest of the radio chatter is calling for the safety car to go out to assess the track conditions – why do you want us to sit in the rain?? I asked the marshal to let them know we were all ready to go, but waiting for the track report, which he kindly did.

Even though I was raring to go out in it, as were many of the others, the organisers finally made the decision to cancel the rest of the days races. It was frustrating, but also definitely the right choice.

That wall is just too unforgiving, and us idiot drivers would have still risked it, albeit slowly…

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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.