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Silverstone International – Testing and Qualifying

We went to Silverstone on Friday 21 August to test – my 3rd ever test, and 2nd dry one.

I steadily built up the pace in the first two 30 min sessions, before disaster struck in the 3rd one!

I was blasting down Hangar Straight when I suddenly lost power, and saw clouds of oil smoke in my mirrors… I rolled into the pits fearing the worst, and Glenn soon found that a piston had ‘picked up’ and trashed itself and the barrel. We think this was most likely caused by dodgy petrol – even though Glenn has always used Shell V-Power, and it’s my primary choice for my bikes!

Glenn’s skill got a new piston and barrel in by late evening, with a massive special thanks to fellow driver Graham Gant and his mate Paul(?) for donating half a pizza which saved our lives as we couldn’t go anywhere to get food!

Race day. After spending the night at the circuit in Glenn’s VW camper (nearly 40 years service and still towing the race car!), I woke up feeling the stress.

James Harridge (who wasn’t racing, unfortunately) drove me to get some more fuel, as we couldn’t risk what we had. I had to get to a New Driver Briefing with all the other n00bs before I could go out, then get the car scrutineered.

I decided in qualifying to short-shift at 6000rpm to try and save the engine because we weren’t sure what killed the piston, and I at least wanted to get a race. Most of all, I had to do a minimum of 3 laps (fastest and next best lap times would decide grid positions for both races), and had to keep the car in one piece.

I took it safely but quickly, staying out of trouble, but unfortunately someone spun in front of me just before the start line, ruining the fastest lap I’d managed and also the next one as I had to stand on the brakes to avoid his car.

Then, as I pulled into the pit lane the engine cut out. I thought that was game over, as it wouldn’t start… Luckily it was just because we hadn’t got the tiny battery on charge over night, and everything else was fine.

I qualified 29th and 28th for the races.

It’s easy to watch the slower cars racing in Formula Vee, and you like to think that you’d easily beat them… I found out that even the ‘slow’ people out there in the UK championship are REALLY fast! Much better than I was doing.

I had to reset my brain.

I’d followed Ben Miloudi briefly as he passed me, and noted how he was braking for a much shorter time than I was, and then just throwing the car into the corners at a speed that was mind blowing to me!

I tried it tentatively on the last lap and was surprised to find my car made it! There is no way I’d have made the corners at that speed on a bike without the front washing out.

I chatted to a lot of drivers through the day, and listened to all the amazing advice they gave me. I had to put my trust in them and in the car, and just go for it. It was either that or give in to the doubts creeping in about whether I should even be out there with these real racing drivers. All my time, energy and money wasted? I wasn’t good enough to mix it with them, as I’d greatly underestimated the skill levels in Formula Vee, and I didn’t have those skills…

Hell no! I realised I had to forget almost everything I’d learned to get through the ARDS test. I trail-brake to the apex on my bikes, so I’d have to do this in the car – braking in a straight line and then turning into the corners had to go, if I were to even get close to the other drivers.

Last weeks wet test had done a surprising amount of damage to my confidence in the car, but this was now my time to properly test myself – I couldn’t let myself down, and I couldn’t let Glenn down after all the work he’d put in!

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