Anglesey Coastal 2016 – Rounds 9 & 10
Despite being so far away, the drive to Anglesey circuit is pretty special in itself. The A55 ‘coastal road’ takes in the beaches, but the A5 winds its way through the breathtaking beauty of Snowdonia National Park.
If you still have anything left in you, you arrive at Anglesey circuit, where we were on the Coastal Circuit featuring ‘The Corkscrew’ – the Welsh equivalent of its namesake at Laguna Seca.
A few drivers had been testing on the Friday, but due to time and budget, we were going to learn the track in Qualifying on Saturday morning and aim low for our first races outside England.
Glenn had done some extensive work on overall car set-up, improved 2nd gear selection, and in theory I’d have the Sheane at the best it had ever been.
Catching the weather out for once, the pack of Formula Vee’s rolled out onto an unscheduled dry circuit. I got my mandatory 3 laps in to qualify for the race, on what was a surprisingly slippery track, and then tried to tag onto the back of more experienced drivers.
I’d walked the track in advance, and was amazed at how much banking was in turn 2, and thought I’d fly around the first half of the lap taking full advantage. As it turned out, I was pretty useless in most corners, but did seem to be able to nail the right-hander coming onto the long back straight and make up time.
Second gear was much easier to get, but still not perfect, so was still fighting me around the tighter corners, and then it was amazingly difficult to get the line right from there, through The Corkscrew, and around the rest of the lap.
I’d said I was aiming for the top 20, and would be starting from 18th and 17th on the grid for the races. Knowing I could pull back seconds in certain corners, and the car was also very skittish, I was pretty happy with this. I believe it also made me the fastest of those who’d never turned a wheel on the circuit before!
In contrast, the rain had come well before the first race, leaving the track very wet but drying rapidly as the sun scorched its way over the surrounding sea.
I got an average start, but played it safe around the first few corners, staying on the back of a huge pack of cars down the long back straight.
As we all came to the very hard braking zone, Alex Jones dived up the inside of the pack on the wet line, unsurprisingly losing it on the brakes and spearing into Martin Snarey.
As the entire second half of the grid bore down on them, the pinball effect took out Sam Engineer in his new car, and everyone took avoiding action to try and get around the spinning cars blocking the whole track.
I had my own problems, however, as by this time I was at maximum braking heading towards Alex, and as I turned the wheel that tiny bit more the traction broke completely! I prepared for the collision, but somehow slithered out of harms way.
Caught out a little by still being alive, I was in 3rd gear for the tight right hander, and despite a valiant attempt to powerslide around when the rear broke loose, I spun slowly off the track.
Luckily for me (not so much for Martin and Sam) the race was red-flagged, and I was able to retake my original grid position for the restart.
After another average start I latched onto Craig Bell and Colin Gregory, but after a few laps they edged away leaving me in a familiar scrap with David Leniewski, John Hartin and Neil Aldridge. I came onto the pit straight to find Colin facing me in the middle of the track, and as I dived to the left for yet another close call, David went right and John also snuck through on the fast line for the first turn.
I used my favourite corner well again, taking the fast right-hander onto the back straight as fast as I dared, and got passed them both again on the drag up the hill.
I pulled a small gap and held that, but couldn’t catch Craig, eventually coming home 4th in class – just missing a podium again – and 12th place overall.
Adam Macaulay did the inevitable to get his first win in the UK championship, with Paul Smith following him home in 2nd after being unable to make it 9 wins from 9 races this year. Ian Jordan took 3rd place – wait… 3 Sheane’s on the podium? Who needs those £30,000 brand new cars, eh? Garry Newsome, another legendary driver from the Irish championship in a guest appearance won the B class – of course in ANOTHER Sheane (run by Peter Studer)!
I knew I could gain huge chunks of time around the track – especially into the banked turn 2 by braking much later into it. As the car had also been a bit loose I added another click to stiffen the rear shocks. Hopefully this would keep the car stable mid-corner and on the exit…
Martin Snarey had repaired his car with the help of the great Formula Vee crews in the paddock, although I thought he may suffer from The Fear a little bit after his accident. Fantastically, this wasn’t the case, and set up a great battle!
Even better was the scorching sun and clear blue skies, and a bone dry and grippy track.
Another mediocre start saw Craig Bell flying around me as I got stuck into him and Colin Gregory once more. I cut back off the banking at turn 2 and powered passed Colin and held it alongside Craig down the straight, with Colin all over the back of me as we all caught Martin Snarey.
Craig blasted passed Martin in the 2nd gear right hander, and then Colin came passed me and Martin through the Corkscrew.
Smelling blood I also took advantage of Martin’s lapse and went around the outside through turn 1, closing back up to Colin as we slung it around the banking.
We came up to ‘my’ corner again, and I pinned it, showing the penalty we’d got at Mallory for illegal restrictors meant nothing as I rocketed out of his slipstream and pulled out 6 or 7 car lengths by the time we hit the brakes! My Sheane was running good!
Unfortunately I then ran a bit wide, letting Colin right back up to me but then Tim Probert, charging through after starting from the pits, gave me a bit of reprieve as I watched them scrapping it out behind me for a few laps.
With little point holding Tim up, I left the door open into the banked turn, but then I cut back as he slid out wide, holding onto him down the back straight but ultimately finding the limits of the Sheane’s power against one of the fastest cars on the grid. He disappeared into the distance and that was the last I saw of Mr Probert!
Colin was also back with me, and also passed me easily when I missed 2nd gear, and followed Tim off up the track, and I had no answer for him.
Martin Snarey was now also tapping his nosecone on the back of my head, but thanks to some great advice between the races from James Harridge, I managed to get enough of an advantage through the corners I was good at, that Martin couldn’t quite find an opportunity in my less-good turns.
I gave the car every ounce of my skills for the rest of the race, at last meeting my objective of pushing the car hard into every single corner. There was still, no doubt, more to be had, but I’d got the car on opposite lock, powerdrifting with total confidence, catching the spin into a few corners as I pressed on.
It was easily the best I’ve ever driven in terms of how in control of the car I was. Maybe I’ve finally clicked and got that kind of oneness with the car I get on my motorcycles?
With my muscles screaming at me I wrestled the car around with the white Sheane filling my mirrors, and didn’t even see the chequered flag – only realising it was all over by how fast I’d caught Colin into the next turn.
I’d thoroughly enjoyed it all and had no idea where I’d finished – all I knew is that I felt like a Racing Driver!
Paul Smith got his 52nd all-time win, with Adam Macaulay picking up an excellent 2nd place after James Harridge was given a time penalty for exceeding track limits. Dave Hughes brought it home 3rd for Bears, with Harridge classified 4th overall but again leading home the B class to regain his championship lead.
I also have to thank the Vee Centre for holding the annual BBQ on Saturday night – an amazing way to get to chat to all the other drivers and crews with a beer and burger. I found it a massive help socially last year, and again got nattering to a few I hadn’t had the chance to before.
Oh, and I came home 6th in class and 16th overall. Proof that sometimes your position doesn’t really matter all that much.
I just can’t wait to get out there again so that I can refine what I’ve finally found, and start chipping away at that time gap to the leaders…