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…

Brands Hatch GP – Race 1 (Part 2 of 3)

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Race 1

The track was almost dry as we took the green flag lap, but all the help we’d had in the paddock was suddenly in vain, as I tried to change to 3rd gear and just got crunching noises and revs. 4th was also AWOL.

Brands Hatch GP is not a 2nd gear circuit, and so rather than taking my grid space (by this time I’d managed to find reverse or 2nd gears) I dove into the pits.

I managed to get 3rd gear back by desperate gear lever wiggling and selecting, and so made a pit lane start a good 30 seconds behind everyone else.

The rain started as I made my charge to catch the pack, but I was going well!

Alex Jones must have thought I looked comfortable in qualifying, so he stuck it in the gravel at Paddock Hill and brought the Safety Car back out.

Perfect. I could make all the time back and get on the back of the chain for the restart!

I caught a silver car driven by returning driver Peter Cann, who seemed to be going slowly as the rain came heavier. I pulled up inches behind him and gestured wildly for him to floor it and catch the back of the pack, but he didn’t speed up.

I thought he might not know you can speed up to catch the back of the Safety Car chain, so was fuming! I got alongside him down the pit straight and pointed GO GO GO!!! but he just let me by him. I knew I couldn’t pass, so had to let him back through and tuck in behind.

I’m not mad at Peter, and to be fair I could see that his car was a massive handful on every bend. He did come over to me after to apologise, and I was absolutely fine with that, as he was going as fast as he could. It was just unfortunate and very frustrating!

After an eternity we got green flags and I shot past, knowing there wasn’t much hope of making up places but willing to give it my best shot!

It was all going well until I suddenly couldn’t get it into 3rd gear again.

I crawled around the rest of the lap making more gear changes than if I were doing the Monaco GP, before pulling into the pits to retire.

The cause? One tiny little nut had come loose on the gear linkage! At least I’d be out for the second race – but then the marshals were telling me I had to go up to see the Clerk of the Course…

I went up to the office an announced exactly what I thought I’d done – pulling alongside Peter Cann and gesturing him to catch the Safety Car – and was told I was right.

Unfortunately they wanted to do it all to the letter of the law, and with no scope of understanding I was told the timing line said I’d overtaken under the safety car and I would have a 20 second time penalty applied.

I pointed out the race was actually still on, at that point, but even the fact I’d retired didn’t sway them. And it would be applied to the results of that race.

Ok then…

James Harridge had a bearing failure on his engine and failed to finish, and a similar time penalty applied to Craig Pollard (for just as daft reasons) meant Adam Macaulay took the win, followed by Ben Miloudi and the returning James Clennell.

Jack Wilkinson won B class in 4th place overall, with Jamie Harrison and Andrew Cooper shredding my second championship place I’d had coming into the race.

Brands Hatch GP – Qualifying (Part 1 of 3)

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The legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit.

Despite the ridiculous entry fee (£450 just to get in the gate!), as soon as I saw we were getting a rare chance to race on the full circuit, I knew I had to do it.

I thought it might also serve as a much-needed escape from stresses back in the ‘Real World’ away from racing – but as it turned out, it hasn’t helped much at all!

We opted to make the 3-4 hour journey down to Brands on the morning, already knowing it would be a very tight and hectic day ahead.

Within 30 miles the trusty VW Camper van started making a worrying rumbling sound all of a sudden. A quick check delayed us as we looked camper and trailer over to try and find the source, and after a few more miles we pulled in again to check the wheel bearings weren’t about to fall off… half expecting to have to turn around and go home.

Luckily Glenn left the engine running as we got out, and it was soon obvious that the camper had blown something on its exhaust. Happy we wouldn’t die, we carried on.

With light traffic the rest of the way, we made it there on time easily, and thought our luck had changed. We were wrong.

Qualifying

True to form, the heavens had opened as we blasted out of the pit lane for everyone’s first ever lap of the full circuit.

It was instantly obvious that it was really slippery, with everyone sliding around all over the place. I followed Ben Miloudi through Clearways on a big armful of opposite lock, then we were both sideways on the power most of the way down the pit straight as there was just no traction to be found.

The inevitable happened, and with cars off the safety car came out (still better than a red flag!) as the marshals cleaned up.

I felt pretty good with the car, but the excellent wet set up I’d found for Oulton wasn’t working for me at Brands. To be fair it was probably just too wet for anything to be of much use.

The track, however, was fantastic! I’ve said before that Brands Indy is my least favourite track, but I do like the old GP section. I lose my favourite flat-out Surtees corner, but the new version is good an challenging, as is the new angle of attack for Clearways over the crest. I’m sure both would be even better in the dry!

Anyway, the safety car… 750 Motor Club don’t normally use a safety car, so being with MSVR for the day was a good chance to see how it works. For the most part it’s great, as it keeps you moving and out of track, but I will come back to this later with some things that aren’t so brilliant.

I never actually saw the safety car itself, as the group I was following didn’t catch up to it before we saw green flags.

I got back on the pace, and a very quick Christian Goller slithered by I followed him through Paddock Hill and then got on the throttle a little bit harder and sooner down the hill, and the back started swinging around.

I made a huge correction on opposite lock but then the rear bit again and fired me sideways into the gravel trap, ripping my nose cone to shreds and showering me in gravel as I stopped just shy of hitting the tyre wall backwards.

I tried to drive out but that was hopeless as I was virtually buried. I even had gravel on the inside of my visor! I switched off and jumped out, marvelling at how covered the car was.

I’d also taken a quick look inside the carb trumpets, and could see lumps of stone there waiting to get into the engine, so I had to wait until the session ended to be towed back on The Wagon Of Shame.

Of course, the rain stopped just as I needed it to clean the car off!

I need to give a special mention here to Chris Whitehouse and Vinoth Kumar who did an excellent job of cleaning the car up, and also to Dave Jordan for the loan of a vacuum cleaner to get gravel out of the car – without them we’d have no chance of making the start of the race, so it was hugely appreciated, and yet another display of the Vee crowd pitching in to help!

Covered in mud, I used my biker skills to create a workable nose cone out of duct tape, and got to the assembly area just in time…

Oh, and despite all the drama I’d somehow still qualified 18th and 16th for the races!

James Harridge took pole by about 4 seconds from Ben Miloudi and Steve Ough.

Primrose Hospice – Who are my newest sponsors?

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As you may have seen on Twitter and Facebook, Racing Team Vee have formed a proud partnership with Primrose Hospice for 2017!

Primrose Hospice is an independent charity supporting patients and families living with a life-limiting illness, across North East Worcestershire.

Their staff and over 450 volunteers are involved in a massive range of activities from supporting patients in the Day Hospice and Family Support Team to running fundraising events all year round.

With the main base in my own home town of Bromsgrove, the results of their help are well known to all my family and friends, and having recently witnessed how they helped my fiancée’s Dad come to terms with recovering from prostate cancer I knew I had to try and help out in any way I could.

The whole team is very positive and upbeat, and that shows with the strength and outlook it gives to their patients, too.

A unique thing I found on a visit is Trevor – the Therapy Dog. He wonders around the place making friends with patients and offering the kind of supporting ear that only dogs can. A brilliant idea, and you can follow his exploits every week on Trevor Tuesday on Twitter.

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I’ll be showing my own support for Primrose Hospice later in the year as I jump out of a perfectly good air plane for a tandem parachute drop – so watch this space and please help me raise some much-needed funds!

You can, of course, donate directly to Primrose Hospice, and I’ll be setting up a facility myself, soon.

For me, this is a great chance to give something back to a charity I really believe in, and I hope you will welcome them aboard RTV. Their branding will be prominently on display on James’ Sheane Formula Vee car at the legendary Brands Hatch racing circuit this Monday along with existing sponsors JooVuu.

Please like and share and stay tuned for an exciting year!

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Oulton Park Analysis

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To read the short version, please visit the RTV team page or watch the onboard videos at the bottom of this page: https://racingteamvee.com/2017/04/03/oulton-park-international-rounds-1-2/

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It was all a bit close to make it – but finally, on Thursday evening, Glenn fired up the Sheane and we knew we had a car to race on Saturday!

Of course there was still a lot of prep work left, and that meant getting up stupidly early on Saturday morning and heading up to Cheshire for a very rushed race day.

Rolling the car off the trailer, it was great to be back amongst the Formula Vee paddock. It’s a long Winter off-season, but as soon as you meet everyone again it’s as if you’ve never been away! And it was good to see some of the new drivers this season, as well as a few faces returning to Vee after a break.

After the mandatory new driver briefing, scrutineering, and getting signed on, I found I wasn’t feeling very nervous about it all.

We’d gone back to using the engine from early last year that we knew was good (albeit with the same internals as the other engine), so although we had confidence in having more power, we’d had no time to test anything – in fact only a few months ago I’d thought my racing was pretty much over as Glenn wouldn’t be able to work on the car or have any time for racing, due to sickness in the family.

With all that in mind, we were taking the reluctant but sensible approach of using the day as more of a shakedown run. The brief was to ease the car in, get a feel for driving again after the Winter break, and above all to keep everything safe and out of trouble. If that all went ok, then I’d see if I could pick up a few places by working on getting the power down earlier – but realistically, with so many having tested at the track the day before, we would treat anything inside the top 20 as a bonus.

This was a shame for me, as I’ve done maybe as many as 200 laps of Oulton on 600cc sportsbikes, and so know it better than any other track. And the reason I was there that much was because I absolutely love the track! Still, the last time I was there was about 7 years ago, and I didn’t know how that could be translated into driving the car…

Qualifying

The track was cold and damp as I rolled out of the pit lane, dropping down towards the familiar sight of Cascades. I steadily eased the throttle on from mid-corner and heard a popping sound, followed by rattles and tapping.

Worse still, the car didn’t slew out of the corner sideways under power, as I’d been provoking – I’d lost all power.

I couldn’t see smoke in my mirrors, and pressing the loud pedal didn’t seem to make anything worse, so I quickly eliminated the horror of a blown engine from my mind – my initial thought being I’d popped an air hose off, before I realised Vee’s don’t have any air hoses! Was it yet another snapped engine stud?

If you don’t do 3 laps of a circuit then you don’t qualify to race, and you’re going home. As I cruised around the rest of the lap listening and watching the car very carefully, I figured the problem wasn’t getting any worse, and so I’d try and crawl around to get the 3 laps in, and then bring it in and hope Glenn could work his magic in time to get us out for a race.

I spun once in the Hislops chicane as I tried to keep up some kind of speed as I followed the racing line – but realistically I didn’t have the power to learn anything at all from the track as I limped around on 3 cylinders trying to keep out of everyone’s way. I was locking up on the brakes everywhere, someone else had thrown oil over the track, and I had absolutely no feel for the car.

If the gate at Lodge had been open I might have just drove straight out and gone home. As I drove in through the pits and back towards the garage, the revs suddenly shot up and I quickly killed the engine before it blew completely. Another problem?

A quick look over the car found the left rear sparkplug had torn itself out, along with all the thread.

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Glenn said it was fixable at the trackside if he could find someone with the tools, but making the first race in less than 2 hours was unlikely. Disaster.

As I embraced the depressing realisation, whilst seeing my name on the time sheets in 26th and 25th places for the races, Alan Harding and the AHS crew swarmed over to my car and got to work with helicoils and inserts, and before I knew it they’d done their thing and fixed the issue!

It never fails to amaze me how even rivals in the Vee paddock will jump to help you in your hour of need. For how fiercely competitive AHS are, they’re always willing to help save your day at a moments notice, and I owe them a huge thanks for that!

So it looked like we’d make the grid – however, we still didn’t know what cause the throttle to jam open, and it wasn’t happening again when we fired it back up. It was either fixed or it would happen again – looking to the skies we now had another problem…

Rain was pounding down from the black skies…

Race 1

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As we’d found out absolutely nothing in qualifying, we were re-setting and using this as the shakedown run, hoping everything with the car was now ok. With nothing to lose, I went for a radical set up and softened the dampers more than I ever have before, as I like it pretty stiff.

With the monsoon it was unlikely we’d get a great deal from this session, either, but after Croft I have learned to love the rain. I wasn’t going to take any chances, but part of me had confidence that I could claw something back from the day. If I could stay out of the inevitable carnage that was about to happen, and keep it out of the barriers myself…

The start lights went out and I rocketed off the line despite the wet, angling for a narrow gap along the pit wall, and making up 3 or 4 rows before getting blocked in and having to brake well before the first turn.

Blinded by the spray, I stayed tight to the inside at Old Hall, aware of something happening to the left of me, but more concerned with finding my own way through .

I believe Steve Ough and Adam Macaulay touched wheels, causing all kinds of drama as Adam spun off to the outside, and an unlucky Rickard Rainbow, who’d already taken to the grass in avoidance, was a passenger as he t-boned Adam hard.

Both drivers were ok – the cars not so much so. They weren’t going to race any more today.

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My heart sank a little as the marshals called everyone back past me to the original grid positions, but as the race restarted I made a carbon copy start, diving past everyone again along the pit wall.

I settled into a paced cruise that I normally use to feel out a new track, but seemed to still be passing people without trying.

Coming down towards the Hislops chicane I hit the brakes and it was so slippery the front wheels locked instantly, and despite frantic cadence braking I couldn’t find any grip to pull the car up. I bounced straight across the grass along with a few others who’d done the same, Darren Lomas spinning off in front of me just before Knickerbrook.

I carried on with what felt like a bit of a Sunday drive, still making really good progress on the treacherous track – I was loving every second!

Braking into Hislops again alongside Steve Ough, and I did the same again, with Steve alongside me bouncing over the grass. We both slithered around Knickerbrook and I was able to out-drag his Dominator up Clay Hill towards Church. In fact all through the session I was having to lift off the throttle behind people when I didn’t think I could make a safe, clean pass.

That second excursion had lost me a fair few places, and I assume it might be frowned upon to overshoot the same corner on 3 consecutive laps, so made sure I was braking stupidly early and gently for that one for the remaining laps.

Others were still having problems as conditions worsened, however, and David Leniewski spun to the inside at Shell as I caught Jamie Harrison and a 4 way battle with them, Mark Egan and Andrew Cooper.

Another mistake from Dave at Hislops let me through, as I chased down Jamie Harrison for 11th place, bearing down on him 2 seconds a lap faster on my charge, but unfortunately the chequered flag came out after only 4 laps.

Jamie, me and Dave were all covered by just 4 tenths of a second at the line!

I had absolutely no idea where I’d finished, but had enjoyed it all immensely. If I’d known Jamie was actually 3rd in class at the finish I’d have got more aggressive about things, but I had no idea how far up the grid I’d climbed! You can see on the video how much I was lifting off the throttle, still cruising, rather than stuffing it up the inside.

Don’t get me wrong – I was trying to go quickly, but I was still driving more as I would in qualifying. What I’m not sure of is if I was just naturally fast there because of my bike track days, or if the more relaxed approach brought the extra speed?

All I knew for sure is that I wanted more rain – the more the better – and then I’d show what I was capable of…

Race 2

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Thankful of my blue iridium tinted visor, I rolled into the holding area under the burning sun, on the bone dry track, only 3 hours later. So THAT’S how it’s going to be, is it?

This would play directly into the hands of everyone who’d tested in the dry the day before, and I’d never been around a single corner in the dry in the Vee in my life, so for the second time that day had absolutely no idea where to brake, or how fast to take any corner on the circuit. Great.

Expecting everyone to just drive away from me as I struggled to learn the track, we once more opted to just bring it home safe, and get a feel of what the car was like in the dry.

Because I was so desperate for the rain, I even left tyre pressure and damper settings on the extra soft ones I’d used in the first race, still hoping the skies would open again to give me a chance.

For the third time in a row I blasted off the start and again tore past half the grid against the pit wall, having to hit the brakes behind John Hartin as he fluffed a gear change and I had nowhere to get by.

The problem now was that I was right in the mid pack, hammering down to Cascades, and not having an idea how fast I could go around the corner!

I chose the trusty technique of giving everyone a bit of room and then just braking when they did, then concentrated on getting on the power as early as I dared.

After following Hartin and returning Vee veteran Andrew Crighton around, slipping past Vaughn Jones and then Crighton just before Lodge, I got a good run and passed Hartin out of Lodge, then had a bit of a guess how fast I could get through Old Hall – straddling the curb precariously on the exit but managing to get it back on the black stuff still ahead.

I kept leaning steadily on the car – not getting out of shape and yet still seeming to carry a good pace. I bore down on David Leniewski who upped his own pace in return.

In hindsight we should have worked together more, but we did slow each other up a bit from there. Leniewski had the speed in the first chicane, whilst I was much faster in Island and the run up to Church. Unfortunately, sticking it up the inside in either of those places, especially as he defended, would likely have led to wheel contact and me cartwheeling off into trees and lakes.

Not the thing the way to end your first few dry laps in a car that was feeling good!

Despite slowing each other, we ripped into the gap to the next battle – Jamie Harrison and Neil Aldridge – and were soon swarming all over the back of them.

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As we came out of lodge, Leniewski had a huge run on both of them, but I had an even better one on them all. Harrison jinked right to block, and I put two wheels on the grass, aiming to pass the lot of them on the green stuff down to Lodge, before my brain kicked back in and I abandoned the overtake.

Unfortunately, the chequered flag was out, and I didn’t get the chance to use my momentum… Again I had no idea where I’d finished as I came back in to the garages.

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I went to speak to Harrison to tell him I would have had him, and was gobsmacked when I asked where he’d come in B Class and he said he’d won! I congratulated him and then suddenly realised that I must have been 2nd!

I was chuffed to bits to pick up my trophy (plus one for 6th in the Class B championship from last year), and I was actually half way home before Steve Bailey posted a Facebook message telling me I’d actually got the fastest lap in class for that race!

Not only that, but I was now 2nd in the B class championship and 11th in the overall standings!

I was buzzing about it for days afterwards – and what a present on my 40th birthday weekend?

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So we’d gone from abject despair, barely getting around a damp track, to an amazing comeback drive in torrential rain, to an even better drive on a warm dry track – all in one day! My best results ever, and on my favourite track.

I was amazing to be back with the Vee crowd again, if the day was a bit rushed, and I can’t wait to get back out there on May 1st for the full GP track at Brands Hatch.

Brands is my least favourite circuit, so it should give us a good idea whether my Oulton track knowledge was what made me fast, or if we’ve got as good a car this year as I think.

I’ll also be announcing something else in a few days time, so watch this space!

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Videos –

Race 1

Race 2