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The Donington Park Test

Anyone following me on Twitter and Facebook will already know that This Did Not Go Well.

Basically, the engine seized on the 3rd corner on my first ever lap, and unfortunately that means it’s season over for us!

I mentioned in my blog about the ARDS test that I have absolutely no frame of reference for driving a car on track, and although this didn’t contribute to the death of the engine, it did lead to my first spin.

I spent literally two minutes stalling the car in the paddock before deciding to hit the track and go for it.

Leaving the pit lane I dropped it into 4th (top) gear with the aim of cruising around for a few laps.  The tyres were not only cold, but hadn’t done a lap for 6 years.

It was here I also realised I hadn’t adjusted my mirrors! I couldn’t reach to sort them out properly, and could see a little, so thought I’d cruise around and pull into pit lane at the end of the lap to sort them out.

I turned through the first corner and saw some cars coming up fast behind me, and at the top of the Craner Curves a Ginetta G55 flew past me very close.  As a biker who loves filtering, this didn’t phase me, but pulling such a close pass on a Novice in the opening minutes of a test day did seem a little harsh.

No matter, I stayed in 4th through Old Hairpin, and on the exit the back stepped out.

Now, this was my first time ever driving the car.  I had no idea if I could go into that corner at 30mph or 130mph safely.  I honestly thought I was cruising at about 50% of the cars ability, so wasn’t expecting any loss of traction at all.  I took Old Hairpin FAST when I was last there on a bike!

From there it all happened very quickly.  I though it had just spun before I’d had a chance to do anything.  It was only when I watched the onboard video that I saw that I HAD corrected the slide on instinct, and kept a good constant throttle.

I’ve been drilling “Correction – Recovery” into my head for about a year.  Correct the slide then bring the wheel back to recover, so you don’t spin the other way.

The problem is I have no idea what the steering is like on this car, and as it came back into line I cocked it up and around it went.

Whee!!

I stalled it during the spin just before I remembered to get the clutch in, but caught it nicely so I ended up facing the right way and was hitting the starter button before I’d stopped spinning.

It didn’t start, so I thought it might be because I was still in 4th gear, so fumbled into first and it took a few tries before the engine roared back to life.

I felt like an idiot for spinning on a damned out-lap, but I guess I was asking too much of the car/tyres without knowing it.  

I was still perfectly calm (even with cars whizzing past me as I was stationary in the middle of the track!) and wasn’t having a flap.  I’d just take it even easier for a few laps and be ready to catch the back if it stepped out again.

I gave a stab of throttle and eased off the clutch, and it went about 10 yards and then died.

Thinking I’d stalled it somehow, I used the momentum to pull over to the right hand side of the track out the way and hit the starter button again.

*CLUNK*

I tried a few more times but just got the clunk.  I figured the battery must be dead, and got my hand in the air to let the marshalls know I had a problem.

They red-flagged the session, and I got towed back to the pits by the Wagon Of Shame feeling like a right dick-head…

Glenn knew instantly that the engine had seized, and getting a spanner on it confirmed it was locked solid…

We think it’s either a piston or main bearing, but we also had a very tight tolerance on the crank (or cam? Hell, I just drive the thing!) which could also have failed under load for the first time.

Either way, our test day was over.  And with no time in the car, even if we could get it fixed for the race on Saturday, we thought it best to withdraw our entry.

So that’s all for 2014 for me!  Gutted, but that’s racing!

We’ll make sure I get some proper time in the car to get the feel of it in early 2015, then will be able to think about doing a full season.

I hope you’ll continue to follow my progress, and thanks for all your support!

This video isn’t the proudest of my life, but I’m giving you the warts and all tale of my journey into racing, so it’s only fair you get to see this:

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