I did my ARDS Race License test on the Silverstone International layout, and also had my first ever race there, and so it holds a special place in my heart.
Much as I love the track, however, it seems to hate me.
In that first race I burnt a piston the day before in testing, barely making the grid. Last year, on the next visit there, with friends and family watching, I managed one lap before and engine stud snapped in the casing and ended the weekend.
So as I pulled off the motorway in my faultless Honda Civic Sport on Saturday morning to find the revs doing their own crazy thing, I thought it might be a bit of an omen.
Glenn had been there from the night before to secure us space in the garage (after being made to wait outside the circuit until 7pm along with everyone else who’d turned up early), so we just had to get signed on, scrutineered, and then we were ready to go.
As soon as I blasted out on track I could see spray in my mirrors. It was coming from the carbs.
Finding it a little distracting as I watched to see if the car caught fire, I got some laps in at a fair pace, but funnily enough didn’t feel fully into it.
When I pulled into the pits just before the session finished, I found that fuel pouring out of the lines was matched by oil pouring out of the seal we’d replaced a few days before behind the flywheel.
The fuel was easy to sort, but it would be an engine out job for the seal.
With only a few hours until the race, we put a temporary fix in place to hope it held.
Despite this, I’d still got 3rd fastest out of the Class B cars, and would line up 19th and 22nd on the grid for the races.
After lining up in grid formation in the holding area, it seemed to catch a few drivers out when we got to the grid to find there was no green flag lap. I was included, but realised this was a full race start when the red lights lit up on the gantry, and when they flicked off I was ready and nailed yet another great start.
Unfortunately on the inside through the first turn I didn’t have anywhere to go, so after jumping a few rows forward I was a bit bulked, and also trying to keep the car in one piece so we could concentrate on fixing the oil problem.
That problem soon bit back, though, and I found the revs were rising but the car wasn’t going anywhere – the oil had got onto the clutch plates and was making it slip!
I dropped off the back of Jake Hockley and Andrew Cooper, and then a group of about 6 all flew past as I tried to get some power down onto Hanger Straight and I knew that was pretty much race over.
Pretty sure I knew what the problem was, and that we’d be replacing the clutch either way, I stopped trying to fight for position and instead concentrated on getting the clutch to grip by feathering the throttle. I decided to just bring the car home as best as I could for the points, and got down to avoiding James Harridges nosecone right on the exit of Stowe!
It also wasn’t affecting me around the corners, so I tried to carry as much speed as I could. When I was on my own for a few laps pressing on, I also pulled off a huge filthy great near-perfect drift when I lost the back end into Village.
The front was still pointing towards the corner exit so I kept the throttle on and powered it out, clipping a perfect late apex on opposite lock ending at the exit curb with a mild twitch.
Notice the fist pump at the end!
This save- ahem, I mean skilful drift, also kept me in prime position when I saw Martin Snarey spin up ahead.
I signalled cheerily to show him which way I was gong to pass his stationary car, then battled the slipping clutch onto Hanger Straight, knowing he’d soon be back on my tail but thinking I might just get to the end of the race ahead!
Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the white Sheane was filling my mirrors.
Ironically, it was at Village when he dived up the inside, pulling away down Hanger while I tried to feather the throttle to keep the bit of the engine inside the engine as the clutch slipped…
I chased hard through Stowe, and a small lock up into the left hander of the complex put me right back on Martin.
A good run through the rest of the complex, and the clutch biting for once meant I snuck alongside down the pit straight, and with the inside line there was no way I was braking first…
… And of course my bravery was rewarded by a beautiful pass… before the tail stepped out (which I caught!), came back again (Argh! I’m going off, then, am I?), opted to go straight onto the concrete run-off area still mid tank-slapper (Oh no – not in the gravel again!!!) before finally gathering it all back in line safely!
I bumped over the narrow strip of grass and followed the white of Martin again, on what I didn’t yet know was the last lap.
Despite the lively excursion, I was only about 10 car lengths behind, but lost a little more as the clutch slipped down Hanger yet again. I attacked Stowe hard and made most of the time back as Martin took a defensive tight line into the complex.
Taking the regular line I actually got alongside before the flick right, then tried to cut back inside for the fast right onto the pit straight.
I shot out of the slipstream halfway down the straight and fired past into the first turn – I got onto the Hanger Straight before I saw the first marshal waving, and realised I’d missed the chequered flag. What happened to the usual plethora of waved flags from every marshal post to signal the end of the race?
Unfortunately at Silverstone, the finish line is actually before the start line, and so my move had been in vain – I’d crossed the line less than 2 tenths of a second behind the Snarey kid.
Still, considering the clutch problem, I was happy with 8th place in B Class and 22nd overall out of the 32 who started.
I was even more happy that I’d been involved in a close scrap on track with my old sparring partner Martin – whatever else happens in your race, as long as you’re involved in a bit of a fight you come out feeling like a winner! Unless you get pipped to the line, of course…
But now I had to find out if we’d be able to make the second race the next day…