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.
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.