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.
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…