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

How To Get Faster

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How To Get Faster

Once you get a feel for the car that you’re racing – and that part is just down to getting laps in the seat – you’ll probably find that you have to have a bit of a think about how to get faster.

At first, it’s all your brain can take to be able to actually control your car at high speed, and try not to exceed the limits. This soon becomes a subconscious act, and you’ll find that you’re able to think about other aspects of driving – and here’s where you can improve.

In my experience, the most important things to work on:

Racing line

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Learn the racing line. The racing line will effectively straighten out every corner, allowing you to carry more speed through them. There is a natural line to most tracks that you’ll get a feel for quickly, but there are lots of exceptions where the racing line will be different because of bumps or the camber of the track. Playing games may miss out some of these things, but watching onboard videos and following other cars around will help you, here.

And it leads neatly into the next thing…

Use all the track!

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If you’re ever more than a few millimetres away from the edge of the circuit, then you could have done it faster.

It’s amazing how even experienced racers will drive like they’re scared of the edge of the track – often sitting a foot or more away from the edge before turning into a corner.

If you concentrate on being as close as you can to the edge of the track, and follow the racing line, it will open the track up massively. Everything will feel less rushed, and you’ll be able to carry more speed everywhere. A few inches really can make all the difference!

Braking points

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This is the main thing I watch videos for. I want to know exactly where the fast drivers are slamming the anchors on, so that I have a reference point to do the same. Consistent braking is the key, here, because you need to spend time working on it to be able to brake at the maximum.

And I should say that I’m talking about straight-line braking – once you’ve got this down, you should brake even later and trail brake up to the apex of the corner. Not everyone trail-brakes, and I suspect a lot also trail brake without knowing they’re even doing it…

Getting the power down

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This one is actually between straight-line braking and trail-braking. If you’re on the power early, you should be able to carry more speed down the next straight. You should get the power on early enough that it carries the car right out to the very edge of the track on the exit – if you’re exiting the corner 2 foot away from the curb then you could have got the power down earlier, and done it faster.

This is also the safest way to go faster. if you go slowly into the corner but are fast coming out, it’s better (unless you’re racing another car that will stuff it up the inside of you and do a block pass!). If you go into a corner too fast you’ll just crash, run wide, or naturally have to exit the corner slower to stay on the track, so this is a far riskier way to get faster.

If you go in nice and safely and then get on the throttle, you can get off the throttle again if it all goes pear-shaped, or save it with some opposite lock (or drift it around on the power and look like a proper hero!).

“Slow in, fast out” is a great mantra.

Break it down

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Once you have all this, you’ll find you’re not doing it on every single corner. There will always be some corners that you’re slower in.

Take one corner at a time, and work on it. This is where testing helps a lot.

These are all the things you can do that can gain big chunks of time. There are a lot more smaller things that will chip away at those last tenths, and to be honest, even after a year and a bit of racing, I’m still not at a level where these smaller things are worth too much worry.

There are also the things that will make you smoother but not necessarily gain any time – heel and toe, anyone?

And so we’re nearly ready to kick off the 2017 season at Oulton Park on 01 April! I say “we” – my car still has no engine, but as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t be the start of the season if we weren’t still working on the car at midnight the day before the first race!

Good luck to everyone this year – let’s keep it safe and give everyone a great show of racing!

2017 Formula Vee Calendar

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2017 Formula Vee Calendar

01 April – Oulton Park

01 May – Brands Hatch GP

27/28 May – Croft

8/9 July – Anglesey Coastal

29/30 July – Cadwell Park (non-championship 50th Anniversary Festival)

19/20 August – Silverstone International

9 September – Rockingham ISSL

30 Sept – 1 Oct – Donington GP

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And so the 2017 season is fast approaching!

With the legendary Paul Smith leaving Vee in favour of the RGB championship, the battle for the top spot is the most open it’s been for a fair few years.

Martin Farmer is always a threat if he’s able to commit to a full season. Or sticking with Bears, Paul Taylor and Dave Hughes could finally make the impression they’ve been pushing towards for the last few seasons. Graham Gant is always a serious contender in his Worms Eye View car – with the ever-charging James Harridge improving his own home built Maverick and as hungry as ever.

Whenever John Hughes and Pete Belsey put in an appearance they’re straight on the pace, but then Steve Ough is making his return to Vee after picking up a few wins in the Crossle Sportscar in his time away. Ian Jordan must get some luck from his Superman t-shirt soon! Then there are Ben Miloudi, Tim Probert, Craig Pollard, Jack Wilkinson and Maurice Gloster always pushing up to the pointy end – if they can keep some more consistancy they could be in there, too.

Or will Adam Macaulay – the only other person to beat Smith last year – take the British title to add to his Irish success? He’d have to scrape in as favourite for this year.

We may not see Ian Buxton for a while, as his crash at Brands Hatch at the end of last year leaves him still recovering from a broken back, but hopefully he’ll be back on track soon. I think Harry Webb could have been up there if he tried a second season in Vee, but he’s pushing for bigger and better things, and I hope that comes together for him.

Or there are the real outsiders, either brand new to Vee this year, or those like myself – still learning and getting faster all the time, just waiting for everything to click into place. And we’re the underdogs, so everyone wants us to win!

Whatever happens, we’re sure to see a lot of great racing all through the pack – and that’s what always makes Formula Vee such a favourite with spectators and drivers!

I’ll look forward to seeing you all out there!

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Season Review and 2017 Plans

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Well, the end of 2016 was the end of my first full season – although the thing I wanted to do as a kid is still far from over.

I think I’ve come on a long way but am fully aware there’s still a huge jump to be made to get me consistently inside the top 10, and THEN I’ll still have to find something more to get in with the top boys!

I have the confidence in the car and my abilities to be able to push the limits, but still have to be conscious that it’s Glenn’s car and he’ll be the one doing 95% of the work to fix anything I break!

Testing would be a huge bonus, but my budget won’t really allow for that, so any progress I’ve made in 2016 has had to be done at very high risk in qualifying and in the races. This really becomes apparent with our wet set-up, at the moment, and I’d love to be able to get on track to be able to play around with suspension settings a lot more.

That said, I’ve consistently been the fastest or one of the fastest at a new track out of those who haven’t tested or raced there before, so I must be doing something right!

I may also try and brush up on my set-up understanding and knowledge by using computer games, so I can give Glenn even better feedback and try and find something big there.

I’m loving my little on track rivalries, and it’s been good seeing rookies come in the series and watching how they’ve developed, too.

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I need to make sure I’m watching my footage back between races, as it’s no good identifying something I was doing wrong once I’m back at home and won’t be back at that track for a year or more.

We’ve had some problems over Winter that were looking like Glenn wouldn’t be able to even look at a race car, let alone prep it for racing, but recently we seem to be back on again. We both seem pretty confident that we can make the grid this year – which if you’d asked me a month ago wouldn’t have been the case.

This has meant the search for sponsorship has taken a huge knock, but I believe UK action/dash camera company JooVuu will be in partnership with us again in 2017, and we have another few exciting things in the pipeline with others. I realise we’ve missed the main window for getting the deals done, but it’s not over yet – and if you’re reading this and would like to find out what we can do for each other then please get in touch.

2017 should see the Ray out as well as the Sheane at some point, and hopefully the multi-championship winning Scarab will be out in either rolling or running form, too. Glenn will be having a look at remounting the front shock absorbers on the Sheane, and finding more power from the new engine.

It is becoming a bit more obvious that I’ve missed out on the years of karting or other racing/trackdays that most others on the grid have, and my learning potential is definitely limited by it. It’s hard to know how to claw back some of this disadvantage – but that will be the focus of this year. If I have the budget and opportunity I’d like to have a crack at drifting, some off-road/rally stuff, and some karting, as well as continuing to ask questions, research everything I can, and listen to other drivers.

If I can improve on the 6th place overall in Class B, that will be good, but I have no doubt the competition will be even more fierce this season!

There do seem to be a lot of new tracks on the calendar for 2017, which is bad as I can’t compare my performance to the last time, but good in that it knocks out the advantage some others may have. And I have done a few track days at some tracks on two wheels, so should at least know where they go and which corners I can get my knee down on!

I’ll look forward to seeing everyone back out there again, and let’s hope everyone has a great year!

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