And then came the crash…
My usual start took me forward a few rows and the car felt good, although still lacking power.
I was still in ‘safety’ mode so not trying anything daft, and I’d got myself into a pack of about nine cars, so that took a bit of restraint. I’d taken to dropping to third gear for Paddock as the engine seemed to handle the revs ok, and I was still getting that flat spot in fourth.
Neil Aldridge had an absolutely terrible lap and dropped right from the front of our pack and I had a great run on him into Paddock around the outside.
As I’d committed, Vaughn Jones cut from the outside line to the inside to make a move on the cars ahead, and spun on the inside of the corner just ahead of Neil.
I saw all of this and moved another cars width to the left so that I was right on the edge of the track and Neil had plenty of room to also move left as Vaughn’s spin took him across the track.
Unfortunately Vaughn either clipped Neil or he had to dive left more to avoid him, and I was directly alongside and going past.
Neil sideswiped me wheel to wheel, causing us both to spin with him now in the gravel.
I could hear his throttle fully open as he slammed into me again, his airborne rear wheel ripping a hole through the aluminium side panel inches from my head, this hard impact sending me off at a tangent across the track to the infield.
I was on the grass with the engine still running, looking very carefully at my right rear wheel where it felt like the main impact had been.
I knew the front would be bent, so wasn’t paying much attention to it as I eased the car forwards, and it was heading in a straightish line. I cruised up to Druids and was starting to think I could crawl around and pick up points, until I dabbed the brakes and the car slewed left and over the gravel.
I knew it was race over for me, and remembering how they’d red flagged qualifying when Bill Garner pulled off at that exact spot I was eager to get the car to a safe place where they wouldn’t stop the race.
I pointed left towards the marshal post and a group of marshals there were signalling crossing their hands in front of them in the ‘no’ gesture, so I pointed to the right, to the infield of the hairpin to a dirt road that would take me behind the barrier.
I should note that all this time I couldn’t see behind me, as the crest of the road meant all I could see was the top of Paddock Hill, 300+ metres away, so there was no way I could make out any cars. Everything else was hidden in the dip.
Still pointing to the infield, I looked at the marshals who were pointing repeatedly to the spot I was looking to go.
I gave a jab of throttle and crossed the track and into the refuge area – but as I ran up the curb on the infield I saw the pack stream past me in my mirrors. Close. VERY close.
I was fuming.
You can hear me, dripping with sarcastic rage, say “I don’t think they should have told me to do that!”, before getting out and stropping around a bit, moaning to the spectators about what had just happened.
A red flag came out for Neil and the marshals came over to help me.
I asked why they’d told me to cross the track when the leaders were that close and they told me they’d been saying “No – don’t go!” and were actually pointing to the approaching pack of cars and not telling me to go…
So we’d simply miscommunicated – not surprising as there are no pre-arranged hand signals between us, and, as demonstrated here, it could all be misinterpreted. I shouldn’t have used the marshals as my eyes when I couldn’t see – they already do a hard enough job and I shouldn’t have assumed we were on the same wave length.
It’s definitely not their fault, and do a brilliant job keeping us safe.
I also realise that this incident will look Very Bad to everyone, and on the TV coverage, so wanted to at least get my side of things across! Another lesson learned, and luckily no harm done.
I’ll do a separate damage report, but we do still hope to make Croft.
Thanks for sticking with this very long write-up!