Primrose Hospice – Who are my newest sponsors?

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

https://i2.wp.com/www.primrosehospice.org/images/primrose_hospice_logo_final_1_2_large.jpg

As you may have seen on Twitter and Facebook, Racing Team Vee have formed a proud partnership with Primrose Hospice for 2017!

Primrose Hospice is an independent charity supporting patients and families living with a life-limiting illness, across North East Worcestershire.

Their staff and over 450 volunteers are involved in a massive range of activities from supporting patients in the Day Hospice and Family Support Team to running fundraising events all year round.

With the main base in my own home town of Bromsgrove, the results of their help are well known to all my family and friends, and having recently witnessed how they helped my fiancée’s Dad come to terms with recovering from prostate cancer I knew I had to try and help out in any way I could.

The whole team is very positive and upbeat, and that shows with the strength and outlook it gives to their patients, too.

A unique thing I found on a visit is Trevor – the Therapy Dog. He wonders around the place making friends with patients and offering the kind of supporting ear that only dogs can. A brilliant idea, and you can follow his exploits every week on Trevor Tuesday on Twitter.

9_zpstkanng9p

I’ll be showing my own support for Primrose Hospice later in the year as I jump out of a perfectly good air plane for a tandem parachute drop – so watch this space and please help me raise some much-needed funds!

You can, of course, donate directly to Primrose Hospice, and I’ll be setting up a facility myself, soon.

For me, this is a great chance to give something back to a charity I really believe in, and I hope you will welcome them aboard RTV. Their branding will be prominently on display on James’ Sheane Formula Vee car at the legendary Brands Hatch racing circuit this Monday along with existing sponsors JooVuu.

Please like and share and stay tuned for an exciting year!

7_zpsjapdhkhy

Oulton Park Analysis

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

To read the short version, please visit the RTV team page or watch the onboard videos at the bottom of this page: https://racingteamvee.com/2017/04/03/oulton-park-international-rounds-1-2/

rainbow20mac20crash_zps71chinfj

It was all a bit close to make it – but finally, on Thursday evening, Glenn fired up the Sheane and we knew we had a car to race on Saturday!

Of course there was still a lot of prep work left, and that meant getting up stupidly early on Saturday morning and heading up to Cheshire for a very rushed race day.

Rolling the car off the trailer, it was great to be back amongst the Formula Vee paddock. It’s a long Winter off-season, but as soon as you meet everyone again it’s as if you’ve never been away! And it was good to see some of the new drivers this season, as well as a few faces returning to Vee after a break.

After the mandatory new driver briefing, scrutineering, and getting signed on, I found I wasn’t feeling very nervous about it all.

We’d gone back to using the engine from early last year that we knew was good (albeit with the same internals as the other engine), so although we had confidence in having more power, we’d had no time to test anything – in fact only a few months ago I’d thought my racing was pretty much over as Glenn wouldn’t be able to work on the car or have any time for racing, due to sickness in the family.

With all that in mind, we were taking the reluctant but sensible approach of using the day as more of a shakedown run. The brief was to ease the car in, get a feel for driving again after the Winter break, and above all to keep everything safe and out of trouble. If that all went ok, then I’d see if I could pick up a few places by working on getting the power down earlier – but realistically, with so many having tested at the track the day before, we would treat anything inside the top 20 as a bonus.

This was a shame for me, as I’ve done maybe as many as 200 laps of Oulton on 600cc sportsbikes, and so know it better than any other track. And the reason I was there that much was because I absolutely love the track! Still, the last time I was there was about 7 years ago, and I didn’t know how that could be translated into driving the car…

Qualifying

The track was cold and damp as I rolled out of the pit lane, dropping down towards the familiar sight of Cascades. I steadily eased the throttle on from mid-corner and heard a popping sound, followed by rattles and tapping.

Worse still, the car didn’t slew out of the corner sideways under power, as I’d been provoking – I’d lost all power.

I couldn’t see smoke in my mirrors, and pressing the loud pedal didn’t seem to make anything worse, so I quickly eliminated the horror of a blown engine from my mind – my initial thought being I’d popped an air hose off, before I realised Vee’s don’t have any air hoses! Was it yet another snapped engine stud?

If you don’t do 3 laps of a circuit then you don’t qualify to race, and you’re going home. As I cruised around the rest of the lap listening and watching the car very carefully, I figured the problem wasn’t getting any worse, and so I’d try and crawl around to get the 3 laps in, and then bring it in and hope Glenn could work his magic in time to get us out for a race.

I spun once in the Hislops chicane as I tried to keep up some kind of speed as I followed the racing line – but realistically I didn’t have the power to learn anything at all from the track as I limped around on 3 cylinders trying to keep out of everyone’s way. I was locking up on the brakes everywhere, someone else had thrown oil over the track, and I had absolutely no feel for the car.

If the gate at Lodge had been open I might have just drove straight out and gone home. As I drove in through the pits and back towards the garage, the revs suddenly shot up and I quickly killed the engine before it blew completely. Another problem?

A quick look over the car found the left rear sparkplug had torn itself out, along with all the thread.

wp_20170401_09_38_12_pro_zpsxymdma7x

Glenn said it was fixable at the trackside if he could find someone with the tools, but making the first race in less than 2 hours was unlikely. Disaster.

As I embraced the depressing realisation, whilst seeing my name on the time sheets in 26th and 25th places for the races, Alan Harding and the AHS crew swarmed over to my car and got to work with helicoils and inserts, and before I knew it they’d done their thing and fixed the issue!

It never fails to amaze me how even rivals in the Vee paddock will jump to help you in your hour of need. For how fiercely competitive AHS are, they’re always willing to help save your day at a moments notice, and I owe them a huge thanks for that!

So it looked like we’d make the grid – however, we still didn’t know what cause the throttle to jam open, and it wasn’t happening again when we fired it back up. It was either fixed or it would happen again – looking to the skies we now had another problem…

Rain was pounding down from the black skies…

Race 1

elsey202_zpsscmohezd

As we’d found out absolutely nothing in qualifying, we were re-setting and using this as the shakedown run, hoping everything with the car was now ok. With nothing to lose, I went for a radical set up and softened the dampers more than I ever have before, as I like it pretty stiff.

With the monsoon it was unlikely we’d get a great deal from this session, either, but after Croft I have learned to love the rain. I wasn’t going to take any chances, but part of me had confidence that I could claw something back from the day. If I could stay out of the inevitable carnage that was about to happen, and keep it out of the barriers myself…

The start lights went out and I rocketed off the line despite the wet, angling for a narrow gap along the pit wall, and making up 3 or 4 rows before getting blocked in and having to brake well before the first turn.

Blinded by the spray, I stayed tight to the inside at Old Hall, aware of something happening to the left of me, but more concerned with finding my own way through .

I believe Steve Ough and Adam Macaulay touched wheels, causing all kinds of drama as Adam spun off to the outside, and an unlucky Rickard Rainbow, who’d already taken to the grass in avoidance, was a passenger as he t-boned Adam hard.

Both drivers were ok – the cars not so much so. They weren’t going to race any more today.

spin20r1_zpsukpnr3er

My heart sank a little as the marshals called everyone back past me to the original grid positions, but as the race restarted I made a carbon copy start, diving past everyone again along the pit wall.

I settled into a paced cruise that I normally use to feel out a new track, but seemed to still be passing people without trying.

Coming down towards the Hislops chicane I hit the brakes and it was so slippery the front wheels locked instantly, and despite frantic cadence braking I couldn’t find any grip to pull the car up. I bounced straight across the grass along with a few others who’d done the same, Darren Lomas spinning off in front of me just before Knickerbrook.

I carried on with what felt like a bit of a Sunday drive, still making really good progress on the treacherous track – I was loving every second!

Braking into Hislops again alongside Steve Ough, and I did the same again, with Steve alongside me bouncing over the grass. We both slithered around Knickerbrook and I was able to out-drag his Dominator up Clay Hill towards Church. In fact all through the session I was having to lift off the throttle behind people when I didn’t think I could make a safe, clean pass.

That second excursion had lost me a fair few places, and I assume it might be frowned upon to overshoot the same corner on 3 consecutive laps, so made sure I was braking stupidly early and gently for that one for the remaining laps.

Others were still having problems as conditions worsened, however, and David Leniewski spun to the inside at Shell as I caught Jamie Harrison and a 4 way battle with them, Mark Egan and Andrew Cooper.

Another mistake from Dave at Hislops let me through, as I chased down Jamie Harrison for 11th place, bearing down on him 2 seconds a lap faster on my charge, but unfortunately the chequered flag came out after only 4 laps.

Jamie, me and Dave were all covered by just 4 tenths of a second at the line!

I had absolutely no idea where I’d finished, but had enjoyed it all immensely. If I’d known Jamie was actually 3rd in class at the finish I’d have got more aggressive about things, but I had no idea how far up the grid I’d climbed! You can see on the video how much I was lifting off the throttle, still cruising, rather than stuffing it up the inside.

Don’t get me wrong – I was trying to go quickly, but I was still driving more as I would in qualifying. What I’m not sure of is if I was just naturally fast there because of my bike track days, or if the more relaxed approach brought the extra speed?

All I knew for sure is that I wanted more rain – the more the better – and then I’d show what I was capable of…

Race 2

elsey201_zpsrod2b8zd

Thankful of my blue iridium tinted visor, I rolled into the holding area under the burning sun, on the bone dry track, only 3 hours later. So THAT’S how it’s going to be, is it?

This would play directly into the hands of everyone who’d tested in the dry the day before, and I’d never been around a single corner in the dry in the Vee in my life, so for the second time that day had absolutely no idea where to brake, or how fast to take any corner on the circuit. Great.

Expecting everyone to just drive away from me as I struggled to learn the track, we once more opted to just bring it home safe, and get a feel of what the car was like in the dry.

Because I was so desperate for the rain, I even left tyre pressure and damper settings on the extra soft ones I’d used in the first race, still hoping the skies would open again to give me a chance.

For the third time in a row I blasted off the start and again tore past half the grid against the pit wall, having to hit the brakes behind John Hartin as he fluffed a gear change and I had nowhere to get by.

The problem now was that I was right in the mid pack, hammering down to Cascades, and not having an idea how fast I could go around the corner!

I chose the trusty technique of giving everyone a bit of room and then just braking when they did, then concentrated on getting on the power as early as I dared.

After following Hartin and returning Vee veteran Andrew Crighton around, slipping past Vaughn Jones and then Crighton just before Lodge, I got a good run and passed Hartin out of Lodge, then had a bit of a guess how fast I could get through Old Hall – straddling the curb precariously on the exit but managing to get it back on the black stuff still ahead.

I kept leaning steadily on the car – not getting out of shape and yet still seeming to carry a good pace. I bore down on David Leniewski who upped his own pace in return.

In hindsight we should have worked together more, but we did slow each other up a bit from there. Leniewski had the speed in the first chicane, whilst I was much faster in Island and the run up to Church. Unfortunately, sticking it up the inside in either of those places, especially as he defended, would likely have led to wheel contact and me cartwheeling off into trees and lakes.

Not the thing the way to end your first few dry laps in a car that was feeling good!

Despite slowing each other, we ripped into the gap to the next battle – Jamie Harrison and Neil Aldridge – and were soon swarming all over the back of them.

trying_zpsl1dd5bke

As we came out of lodge, Leniewski had a huge run on both of them, but I had an even better one on them all. Harrison jinked right to block, and I put two wheels on the grass, aiming to pass the lot of them on the green stuff down to Lodge, before my brain kicked back in and I abandoned the overtake.

Unfortunately, the chequered flag was out, and I didn’t get the chance to use my momentum… Again I had no idea where I’d finished as I came back in to the garages.

post20r2_zpstap4602d

I went to speak to Harrison to tell him I would have had him, and was gobsmacked when I asked where he’d come in B Class and he said he’d won! I congratulated him and then suddenly realised that I must have been 2nd!

I was chuffed to bits to pick up my trophy (plus one for 6th in the Class B championship from last year), and I was actually half way home before Steve Bailey posted a Facebook message telling me I’d actually got the fastest lap in class for that race!

Not only that, but I was now 2nd in the B class championship and 11th in the overall standings!

I was buzzing about it for days afterwards – and what a present on my 40th birthday weekend?

wp_20170401_16_37_33_pro_zpsla6yxxeb

So we’d gone from abject despair, barely getting around a damp track, to an amazing comeback drive in torrential rain, to an even better drive on a warm dry track – all in one day! My best results ever, and on my favourite track.

I was amazing to be back with the Vee crowd again, if the day was a bit rushed, and I can’t wait to get back out there on May 1st for the full GP track at Brands Hatch.

Brands is my least favourite circuit, so it should give us a good idea whether my Oulton track knowledge was what made me fast, or if we’ve got as good a car this year as I think.

I’ll also be announcing something else in a few days time, so watch this space!

close_zpsx8gfe6sc

Videos –

Race 1

Race 2

How To Get Faster

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Get Faster

Once you get a feel for the car that you’re racing – and that part is just down to getting laps in the seat – you’ll probably find that you have to have a bit of a think about how to get faster.

At first, it’s all your brain can take to be able to actually control your car at high speed, and try not to exceed the limits. This soon becomes a subconscious act, and you’ll find that you’re able to think about other aspects of driving – and here’s where you can improve.

In my experience, the most important things to work on:

Racing line

https://i1.wp.com/www.driftingstreet.com/images/racing-line.gif

Learn the racing line. The racing line will effectively straighten out every corner, allowing you to carry more speed through them. There is a natural line to most tracks that you’ll get a feel for quickly, but there are lots of exceptions where the racing line will be different because of bumps or the camber of the track. Playing games may miss out some of these things, but watching onboard videos and following other cars around will help you, here.

And it leads neatly into the next thing…

Use all the track!

r120004_zpsvbs3hhtq

If you’re ever more than a few millimetres away from the edge of the circuit, then you could have done it faster.

It’s amazing how even experienced racers will drive like they’re scared of the edge of the track – often sitting a foot or more away from the edge before turning into a corner.

If you concentrate on being as close as you can to the edge of the track, and follow the racing line, it will open the track up massively. Everything will feel less rushed, and you’ll be able to carry more speed everywhere. A few inches really can make all the difference!

Braking points

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/bc/f0/a1/bcf0a13a075a17bdcc6abe0fa9e205df.jpg

This is the main thing I watch videos for. I want to know exactly where the fast drivers are slamming the anchors on, so that I have a reference point to do the same. Consistent braking is the key, here, because you need to spend time working on it to be able to brake at the maximum.

And I should say that I’m talking about straight-line braking – once you’ve got this down, you should brake even later and trail brake up to the apex of the corner. Not everyone trail-brakes, and I suspect a lot also trail brake without knowing they’re even doing it…

Getting the power down

http://www.globalserve.net/~trauttf/Gilles/Gil_Vill.jpg

This one is actually between straight-line braking and trail-braking. If you’re on the power early, you should be able to carry more speed down the next straight. You should get the power on early enough that it carries the car right out to the very edge of the track on the exit – if you’re exiting the corner 2 foot away from the curb then you could have got the power down earlier, and done it faster.

This is also the safest way to go faster. if you go slowly into the corner but are fast coming out, it’s better (unless you’re racing another car that will stuff it up the inside of you and do a block pass!). If you go into a corner too fast you’ll just crash, run wide, or naturally have to exit the corner slower to stay on the track, so this is a far riskier way to get faster.

If you go in nice and safely and then get on the throttle, you can get off the throttle again if it all goes pear-shaped, or save it with some opposite lock (or drift it around on the power and look like a proper hero!).

“Slow in, fast out” is a great mantra.

Break it down

bryantphoto20003_zpso4iiikcj

Once you have all this, you’ll find you’re not doing it on every single corner. There will always be some corners that you’re slower in.

Take one corner at a time, and work on it. This is where testing helps a lot.

These are all the things you can do that can gain big chunks of time. There are a lot more smaller things that will chip away at those last tenths, and to be honest, even after a year and a bit of racing, I’m still not at a level where these smaller things are worth too much worry.

There are also the things that will make you smoother but not necessarily gain any time – heel and toe, anyone?

And so we’re nearly ready to kick off the 2017 season at Oulton Park on 01 April! I say “we” – my car still has no engine, but as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t be the start of the season if we weren’t still working on the car at midnight the day before the first race!

Good luck to everyone this year – let’s keep it safe and give everyone a great show of racing!

2017 Formula Vee Calendar

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

2017 Formula Vee Calendar

01 April – Oulton Park

01 May – Brands Hatch GP

27/28 May – Croft

8/9 July – Anglesey Coastal

29/30 July – Cadwell Park (non-championship 50th Anniversary Festival)

19/20 August – Silverstone International

9 September – Rockingham ISSL

30 Sept – 1 Oct – Donington GP

75020snet20002_zpse4hqkjec

And so the 2017 season is fast approaching!

With the legendary Paul Smith leaving Vee in favour of the RGB championship, the battle for the top spot is the most open it’s been for a fair few years.

Martin Farmer is always a threat if he’s able to commit to a full season. Or sticking with Bears, Paul Taylor and Dave Hughes could finally make the impression they’ve been pushing towards for the last few seasons. Graham Gant is always a serious contender in his Worms Eye View car – with the ever-charging James Harridge improving his own home built Maverick and as hungry as ever.

Whenever John Hughes and Pete Belsey put in an appearance they’re straight on the pace, but then Steve Ough is making his return to Vee after picking up a few wins in the Crossle Sportscar in his time away. Ian Jordan must get some luck from his Superman t-shirt soon! Then there are Ben Miloudi, Tim Probert, Craig Pollard, Jack Wilkinson and Maurice Gloster always pushing up to the pointy end – if they can keep some more consistancy they could be in there, too.

Or will Adam Macaulay – the only other person to beat Smith last year – take the British title to add to his Irish success? He’d have to scrape in as favourite for this year.

We may not see Ian Buxton for a while, as his crash at Brands Hatch at the end of last year leaves him still recovering from a broken back, but hopefully he’ll be back on track soon. I think Harry Webb could have been up there if he tried a second season in Vee, but he’s pushing for bigger and better things, and I hope that comes together for him.

Or there are the real outsiders, either brand new to Vee this year, or those like myself – still learning and getting faster all the time, just waiting for everything to click into place. And we’re the underdogs, so everyone wants us to win!

Whatever happens, we’re sure to see a lot of great racing all through the pack – and that’s what always makes Formula Vee such a favourite with spectators and drivers!

I’ll look forward to seeing you all out there!

sjn20photography20fvee-83wm2003_zps08xb6jir

Season Review and 2017 Plans

Tags

, , , , ,

r2001_zps0mpkbqey

Well, the end of 2016 was the end of my first full season – although the thing I wanted to do as a kid is still far from over.

I think I’ve come on a long way but am fully aware there’s still a huge jump to be made to get me consistently inside the top 10, and THEN I’ll still have to find something more to get in with the top boys!

I have the confidence in the car and my abilities to be able to push the limits, but still have to be conscious that it’s Glenn’s car and he’ll be the one doing 95% of the work to fix anything I break!

Testing would be a huge bonus, but my budget won’t really allow for that, so any progress I’ve made in 2016 has had to be done at very high risk in qualifying and in the races. This really becomes apparent with our wet set-up, at the moment, and I’d love to be able to get on track to be able to play around with suspension settings a lot more.

That said, I’ve consistently been the fastest or one of the fastest at a new track out of those who haven’t tested or raced there before, so I must be doing something right!

I may also try and brush up on my set-up understanding and knowledge by using computer games, so I can give Glenn even better feedback and try and find something big there.

I’m loving my little on track rivalries, and it’s been good seeing rookies come in the series and watching how they’ve developed, too.

clippings201_zpsmgx7zufq

I need to make sure I’m watching my footage back between races, as it’s no good identifying something I was doing wrong once I’m back at home and won’t be back at that track for a year or more.

We’ve had some problems over Winter that were looking like Glenn wouldn’t be able to even look at a race car, let alone prep it for racing, but recently we seem to be back on again. We both seem pretty confident that we can make the grid this year – which if you’d asked me a month ago wouldn’t have been the case.

This has meant the search for sponsorship has taken a huge knock, but I believe UK action/dash camera company JooVuu will be in partnership with us again in 2017, and we have another few exciting things in the pipeline with others. I realise we’ve missed the main window for getting the deals done, but it’s not over yet – and if you’re reading this and would like to find out what we can do for each other then please get in touch.

2017 should see the Ray out as well as the Sheane at some point, and hopefully the multi-championship winning Scarab will be out in either rolling or running form, too. Glenn will be having a look at remounting the front shock absorbers on the Sheane, and finding more power from the new engine.

It is becoming a bit more obvious that I’ve missed out on the years of karting or other racing/trackdays that most others on the grid have, and my learning potential is definitely limited by it. It’s hard to know how to claw back some of this disadvantage – but that will be the focus of this year. If I have the budget and opportunity I’d like to have a crack at drifting, some off-road/rally stuff, and some karting, as well as continuing to ask questions, research everything I can, and listen to other drivers.

If I can improve on the 6th place overall in Class B, that will be good, but I have no doubt the competition will be even more fierce this season!

There do seem to be a lot of new tracks on the calendar for 2017, which is bad as I can’t compare my performance to the last time, but good in that it knocks out the advantage some others may have. And I have done a few track days at some tracks on two wheels, so should at least know where they go and which corners I can get my knee down on!

I’ll look forward to seeing everyone back out there again, and let’s hope everyone has a great year!

croft20stevejones20wide20crop_zpszatjsiat

A Walk Through A Race Weekend

Tags

, , , , , ,

A Walk Through A Race Weekend

When you first start racing it can all be a bit daunting when you become faced with the finer intricacies of getting through a race weekend.

As some of you will be reading this thinking of jumping in a Formula Vee for 2017, I thought you may find it useful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arriving at the circuit

More and more people seem to arrive the evening before. The main advantage here is that you can (hopefully) secure a spot in the paddock with the rest of the Vee’s. This is especially important if you have the garages, as most of the time there won’t be enough space for all the cars. Oh, and you want to be finding out where you are by looking in the Final Instructions that will be mailed out with tickets, or published online about a week before the race.

If you are testing at the circuit then you may have to move after your test sessions have ended.

Once you’ve unloaded your car and got yourself set up (tent up, sleeping back in the bag of your car/van, camper set up) then there will be thre options for you: relax, have a walk around the track or get the car scrutineered.

I’d advise always getting scrutineered the evening before, if this is offered, as it give you a lot more time in the morning, and possibly a lie in!

At this point, if you’re doing it the Posh Way, you can head off to your hotel or B&B. Otherwise there will probably be a few other drivers mooching around the paddock pub or restaurant.

If you’re getting to the circuit on the race day itself, be prepared to find you can’t get anywhere near the rest of teh Vee drivers, and you have to set up camp next to a few bins and an ice cream van (not entirely a bad thing!). This will make life harder because you won’t be able to see all the other drivers disappear to some meeting, or be able to follow them when they drive off to the assembly area etc. Not then end of the world – but not advisable until you’ve done a few meetings!

wp_20160820_10_26_14_pro_zpsivwmxumm

Race Day!

Have a bit of a panic, now – but remember to try and enjoy it!

First off – have a look at the programme. The times your qualifying and race sessions start are pretty important – but there are actually a few more important things here.

Signing on – Sometimes you can do this the evening before, too. You need to show your race licence and sign a register, and then you get a programme and a slip of paper that you need to get your car scrutineered.

Check the times that you can take your car to the scrutineering bay. All classes are allocated slots so they can scrutineer the whole class together, and get you all done in time to get out on track. Stick to the time, and be prepared to stand around in the queue for ages.

If you’re hiring they’ll probably do all this for you, but the scrutineer will still want to check your helmet and race kit so make sure these are available.

When they check your car over they’re primarily making sure it’s safe to race, so will be checking bearings, fire extinguisher, dates on seatbelts and brake fluid, so you need to strip off all the bodywork and have a few spanners on hand just in case. If you’re using a camera you must have it mounted so they can check it’s in a safe position and all secure. They will also check things like your rain light is working, and possibly get you to start the car and then kill the engine with the kill switch.

They will also have a magical gripe list of stuff to challenge you on, so you might have to fight your case! I’ve been pulled up in the past for things like having a tinted visor and having someone else’s name on my race suit… Stay calm and polite and do what they tell you, or you might not be racing!

The first time they scrutineer your helmet you need to pay a small fee (about £2) for a sticker, too.

New Driver Briefing

If it’s your first time racing at a circuit IN THAT CONFIGURATION (and that bit is key), then you must attend a new drivers briefing. These are normally about every 30 mins for the first few hours of the day, and times will be in your final instructions. You can be fined for not attending this before you go out on track. They will tell you where you need to wait before you go out on track, where you need to go when you come back in, and other information and helpful advice/warnings. This is where it all starts to get real, and if the butterflies haven’t started yet, they will do here!

These are for all drivers from all series, so you won’t just be with Vee drivers.

Driver Briefings

These will only be for the drivers in your series, and you won’t have one of these at every race. They are generally to bring things like driving standards to the attention of your race series. They can be held or called for at any time of the day, so if you ever look up and notice all the other drivers have disappeared, ask someone! Also note that you may well have a new driver briefing AND one of these on the same day – you must attend both. Most of the time these will alos be listed in your final instructions, but be aware of flash meetings arranged by word of mouth.

pit20001_zpsuwlhryef

Now things are flying along, and you’ll feel the buzz in the air!

Try to keep an eye on the programme in case the schedule is ahead or behind. You need to be ready about 30 mins before your qualifying session – as in strapped in and ready to go out on track, so make sure you’ve done everything you need to.

Again, if you’re a hire driver most of this will be done, and so you just need to make sure you’re ready to jump in the car and race! If you’re running your own car, or want to get a bit more hands-on, do these:

Fill up with fuel. This is easy to forget. If in doubt, just brim the tank – the chances are a few kg of petrol won’t be the difference between pole and last row. I once ran out of fuel when going for a best ever position at Donington because we adjusted a few things and forgot to compensate…

Check and adjust tyre pressures. Again very easy to forget. You’ll get a different answer whoever you ask – but Hoosier recommend 16psi in the front tyres and 18psi in the rear. As a base setting you won’t go far wrong with this. If it’s raining then you want more air in the tyres to open the grips up and help the tyres heat up a bit more. Some drivers go well into the 20s here, but if you’re around the 19-20 mark in the wet it won’t do you any harm. Tyre pressures are a black art, and if you’re new you won’t have a lot to gain here…

Adjust suspension settings. Another black art. Most of the suspension set-up is done the night before we put the car on the trailer – camber, castor, toe, rake etc and it’s all specific to your car and your suspension and weight distribution and driving style. It’s tough to even hint at a base setting here, so this is why you should have tested!

Other driver may help you out here, but be wary they might not know as much as you think, either!

These settings will pretty much stay the same on the car, unless we’re having some kind of issue, and it’s where Glenn’s experience comes in.

What we do adjust at the track are the dampers and roll bars. The Sheane only has one adjuster on the dampers for both compression and rebound – which keeps things simple, but isn’t ideal if, like me, you’d like to separate the two settings. The more expensive shocks with have separate adjusters to fine tune things more. Either way, the biggest quick change you can do with a Vee is with the dampers. In general, you want these softer in the wet, and the harder you have them, the faster your reactions need to be to catch a spin.

The roll bars front and rear should also be softened in the wet, but remember changing something at the front may well also change what the rear is doing. Get advice off an expert, if you can! Or play lots of video games where you can play around and learn what the settings do…

Noise Testing. Before you drive into the holding area, you’ll see a couple of marshals there holding strange long sticks and a clipboard. Stop near them and they’ll tell you to hold the throttle at three quarters or a specific RPM to make sure you’re not above the noise limits. At most tracks this will be about 106db, so if your silencer is any good you should be fine… if you’re over you may find you’re excluded from all the racing and putting the car back on the trailer. But no pressure!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Qualifying

Get to the holding area nice and early – but not too early or you might be the first on track with nobody to follow. At most tracks they will let you out on track in whatever order you’ve arrived at the holding area.

You must do at least 3 laps to qualify for a race – so get these in before any heroics. If the worst happens go and see the Clerk of the Course as soon as you can, and they may be able to get you to follow the course car around for a few laps between sessions or over the lunch break. Take your best puppy-dog eyes.

Once the session is over you’ll come in off the track, guided by marshals, and either stop in parc ferme where nobody does anything, you chat to the other drivers, and then push your car back to your paddock place, or they’ll let you go straight back.

Timing sheets. Relax, and wait for the timing sheets to be published at race control. Most races are now covered by live timing that you can get to on the 750 website, so you may find your Mum is already ringing you to find out why you’re the slowest car out there!

Have a look at where you wil be starting from on the grid, and take note of which cars will be around you so you know where to line up.

Recheck tyre pressures and make any tweaks to dampers/roll bars, and remember to refuel!

bucko_zpsuu3niwyy

Race 1

You need to go to the holding area again, but this time the marshals will line you up in grid order. When they give the signal, start up and follow everyone to the grid. Have a look to your side and try and find a marker to remember where your grid spot is – a post or advertising hoarding on the pit wall is a good one to look out for. The Vee’s will normally have a ‘Green Flag Lap’ – this means they wave the green flag and you all leave the grid and do one lap to warm your tyres and sight the circuit conditions, before returning to your grid spot.

This time look at the boards that are displayed from the start position. These boards say stuff like “3 minutes until start” but ignore that – it’s usually seconds between these boards and then you’ll see the red start lights come on.

Give the inside of your fogged-up visor one last wipe and set your revs, because those lights are about to blink out any second!

After surviving this you’ll then come back in, and much the same as after practice, you’ll either go to parc ferme, get sent straight back to the paddock, or if you’re really lucky be in the top 3 and have to stop somewhere in pit lane to speak to the commentator.

Race 2

This is exactly the same as race 1 – but check the time sheets as this time you’ll be gridded up according to your second best lap from qualifying.

Awards Ceremony

At most races, there will be a brief awards ceremony for A and B class, so try and attend and do some clapping and cheering! There may also be some information about ‘stuff’ relayed here, so it is useful to go along.

Then you load up, get out of there (or collect your card if you’re getting your rookie signatures done), and that’s it!

The rest of your day will be spent drinking water, going to the toilet, and finding out you can’t go more than 5 steps in the paddock before you end up chatting to someone else for the next hour!

Enjoy it all while you can!

race20120009_zpspbl0zzj4

Vee Festival Brands Hatch Analysis

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Vee Festival Brands Hatch Analysis

You can read the race report on the RTV team website.

garyhand20001b_zpsqatjzxg5

Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t like Brands Hatch.

OK, so that’s not entirely true – but it’s my least favourite track that I’ve done so far.

There are some corners that I just cannot get right, and watching others going through them at twice the speed irritates me.

That said, I do like the non-championship Vee Festival that MSV kindly put on for us, and it’s great to see some random Vee racers entered, and to have the Irish racers come over (even if they are all the quick ones!). It’s also where I’ve scored my best ever 9th place overall result, as well as the next best 10th place.

At least this year was set to stay above freezing, be mostly dry, and so not carry with it the abject fear that I would freeze to death overnight in the camper van, like last year.

Arriving early on Friday, we got to watch a few of the Vee’s testing, and they seemed to all be on it straight away.

Our aim for the weekend was to try and survive in one piece, if possible, so we can concentrate on getting the Ray out on track for next season. We were also testing Tesco Momentum 99 super unleaded for the first time, knowing we were still down on power for reliability.

pic20r320003_zpsrqnephj1

Qualifying

I tried to look after the car for this one, steadily upping the pace. With 3 races to go, and only the grid for the first one being decided on qualifying times, it was more important to stay safe.

I was settling into a rhythm despite the car feeling very sloppy, when Tim Probert dived into the kitty litter at Paddock, and we had red flags.

This was perfect, as whilst we were sat in the pit lane I asked Glenn to stiffen the dampers 2 clicks front and rear, and then I went out again a second faster straight away. Then I took another half a second off that.

Then the car jumped out of 3rd gear going into Clearways.

I thought I must have messed up the shift, and carried on – but then as I hit the apex curb at Graham Hill it popped out of 3rd gear into neutral again, when my hand hadn’t been anywhere near the gearstick since braking for Druids.

The following lap it jumped out again, and this time I couldn’t select any gears at all. I rolled towards the rear pit entrance and pulled off the track, thinking the worst.

When I was towed back into the paddock, Glenn also thought the worst, especially with the rhythmic clunking as we pushed the car.

I thought it was the end of the weekend, but Ben Miloudi stepped in and offered his spare gearbox – which would at least give us the chance to get out for the 2nd race the following morning. This is very much the spirit of Vee, and it’s rare that you’ll be left to retire if there is anyone else in the paddock who can possibly loan you tools, parts or experience to get you back out there!

With some relief, however, as Glenn began stripping the car down, he found the circlip had jumped off the end of the shaft (don’t ask me what shaft – just the one that sticks out the back!). The problem now became how to get the shaft out far enough to get the circlip back on.

wp_20161029_13_00_08_pro_zpszp2pzfcz

John Bowles advised getting a lever into the gearbox and trying to hoof the shaft back from the inside, which after much heaving, hammering sockets, and head scratching eventually did the trick! Of course we still didn’t know WHY it had happened, or if it would just happen again…

No matter – we had just enough time to get it all back together (I’d have liked to do a few laps of the paddock to test it, but sadly time was that tight!), and we’d be able to take our 12th place on the grid for race 1.

Race 1

Everything felt good on the out-lap, and I was getting all gears well enough to make a go of it.

I made up a couple of places before the first turn, but it wasn’t too long before Jamie Harrison and Gavin Buckley (his first time trying an English Vee) came back past me. Hard as I tried to hang onto them, they carried on easing away, leaving me in a bit of a gap on track.

I took advantage of the track space, concentrating on braking less and throwing the car faster into the corners to try and carry more speed around.

I must have improved quite dramatically at Druids, and was turning in and getting back on the power much earlier at Clearways. Unfortunately, I just could not get a grip on Paddock Hill – braking far too much, too early, and getting the line wrong every time.

Graham Hill I felt like I was doing well, but for some reason was still a lot slower through there than everyone else, whatever I tried!

For all my pushing, the car was still like it was on rails, for the most part – so I clearly wasn’t pushing it hard enough!

I’m definitely getting faster, but until I’m drifting it in on the brakes, drifting through the corner, and having to fight oversteer on the exit in every single corner I know I still have to keep forcing myself to go faster. It’s a mind thing, now, because I’m pretty sure I do have the skills to be able to sort it out if it all goes pear-shaped, so there’s no reason why I can’t be pushing that hard.

Oops – rant over! Back to the race:

I hammered it down the start straight and saw red flags and lights everywhere, so eased off to about 80% as I went over the crest to drop down into Paddock Hill… which is where I suddenly saw cars sideways on the track right in front of me!

r120thumb_zpsnaeyfhgz

Ian Buxton had hit Charles Merrill as he went to lap him, leaving an unlucky Ian Jordan nowhere to go as he ploughed into Charles, ripping both cars apart and ending their weekend, but not injuring either driver.

Buxton wasn’t quite so lucky as he hit the tyre wall backwards hard enough to bend his flywheel – then being lifted off to hospital and cut out of his race suit with suspected back injuries. (Don’t worry – he was ok enough to be seen hobbling around on Sunday morning back at the track to watch the action!)

The race restarted for a 2 lap sprint to the flag before Paul Taylor lost it at Clearways and brought out another red flag and the result was declared.

Final position for The Cater Kid – 10th, alive and unscathed.

Not bad – but the realisation soon set in that Race 2 would be a reverse-top-ten grid. To spell that out – I’d be starting the next race from pole position at Brands Hatch!

Race 2

fb_20161030_19_32_00_saved_picture_zpsc5bhpfjt

James Cater, on pole position to start a race at Brands Hatch.

Now that’s one for the scrapbook!

Ok, so it’s not earned by being the fastest – but don’t discount the fact that I was the 10th fastest Formula Vee at Brands Hatch on that day – so that’s still pretty special!

I’d spent the previous evening psyching myself up for the start. I knew that I could push the car more in the corners, and if there was any time to try doing that it had to be when I was starting from the very front!

I was confident that if I got a half-decent start I could lead the pack into the first turn, and then would throw it into Druids faster than ever and just go from there.

Stephen Morrin was on the front row next to me in the 1600cc Irish spec Leastone with smaller wheels, so he’d be into the first corner like a stabbed rat, but I still thought I’d have the edge.

I slept well after a celebratory pint of Guinness in the Kentagon, some fine banter, and a brief stint being dragged up to dance with a lovely marshal (Ginette?).

So I woke up to this:

wp_20161030_10_31_30_pro_zps0u7qu9f5

Thick, freezing fog that was keeping the race track very far from the dry grippy perfection featured in my overnight self-motivation. Basically it was exactly the kind of conditions where I’d normally let someone past me just so I could follow them and let them crash first.

But I was still starting from the same spot that greats like James Hunt, Nikki Lauda etc had started from – and rather than being intimidating, it felt oddly relaxing to roll up to that start line. Like it was my home…

I was determined to get as much heat in my tyres as I could on the green flag lap, so weaved and stamped the throttle all over the place before stopping in front of the lights.

The red lights blinked off and I dropped the clutch – but bogged down as the revs I was holding hadn’t taken the crazy camber of the start line into consideration!

The car picked up again, but that had been enough for Morrin to charge past me into Paddock, and then on the exit Pete Belsey and Ben Miloudi flew out of nowhere around the outside before I got to Druids.

r220thumb_zpskmyy5elo

The quicker cars mugged me down to 6th place at the end of the lap, and over the next few laps the rightful order reasserted itself, and I found myself back in a lonely 10th – unable to hang with those in front, but well clear of those behind.

In fact, I’d been dragged around at a pace another second a lap faster, and so actually lapped those behind me!

The race was clean for the full distance, and I brought it home 10th – having used my time to control my breathing, concentrate on not gripping the steering wheel, and pushing for faster lines and corner speed.

Race 3 – The Final

Back down the grid to start from my last finishing position in the final, I gave a wave to my dance partner as she ran down the grid, and was prepared for another lonely race, unless I could get my claws into Jamie and Gavin who were lapping about a second faster.

With another fairly decent start I was surprised to see the blue Hawk (called Harry!) driven by John Bowles all over the back of me.

This spurred me on, as there was no way I was going to let anyone else get away from me, and I turned in some decent laps (there goes another half a second!) until I dropped him.

Luckily, I then carried on pushing hard, as I saw a red car on the grass at Graham Hill, and quickly took advantage by speeding past the recovering Gavin Buckley.

As he got back up to speed and caught me, the leaders caught us both, and we had to lift to let them through, but I stayed ahead of Gavin as he tried to dive up the inside into Clearways.

Already lining up a defensive line into Paddock, as we blasted down the start straight I saw the chequered flag being waved!

I’d stolen it just in time, as I’m sure I’d have struggled to keep him behind me for another lap!

r320thumb_zpsuunhhy17

And that resulted in a best ever overall result of 8th place!

Even better, although totally unofficial, it also made me the first B class car home, and so if the MSV Festival acknowledged the classes, I’d have also won the B class!

So all in all, it was a pretty good weekend, and very productive.  Congratulations to everyone there – especially to the winner John Hughes.  He drove so well all weekend there was never really a doubt he’d come out on top – even with his lack of time in a Vee this season!  Results are all on the MSVR website.

Do I like Brands Hatch, now? Maybe a little more…

Next year is the 50th anniversary of Formula Vee racing in the UK, and there is talk of us using the full and very rare Brands Hatch GP circuit. Combine that with the potential to see 50+ Formula Vee’s entered, some big names on the grid (Ian Flux? Tiff Needell? Ash Sutton and Michael Epps from BTCC?) and a lot of media coverage, and we could be in for something epic!

Imagine if I can get it on pole for that, one way or another?

garyhand20002b_zps6e6dqprj

EDIT: Almost forgot the videos!

A ride in a Seabreacher

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

A ride in a Seabreacher

A few months ago I saw a pretty cool video doing the rounds on Facebook of some enclosed jet-ski-type thing that blasted through the water like a shark.

It was one of those things that you watch in awe, and then just forget about, as you know you’ll never actually see one in real life.

So as I strutted my blue-skinned self along the beach front of Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, I found myself doing a huge double-take as my eyes spotted this:

wp_20160916_18_49_13_pro_zpsrlw0yem4

I made a bee-line straight for it to get a closer look.

It’s called a Seabreacher – this model I believe is the X-spec one and the most powerful. Here are the specs as standard:

Two seat (Pilot: 6′ 4″, Passenger: 6′ 2″)

Rotax 1500cc 4 stroke engine

260 hp supercharged, intercooled

High output, low emissions

Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (52L)

Length: 17′ (5.18m)

Width: 3′ (0.9m)

Wingspan: 7’10” (1.9m)

Approximate weight: 1350lb (612.35kg)

wp_20160916_18_49_01_pro_zps8qhxo1cg

The deal was a 7km passenger ride for 110 Lev (about £45) – which is quite expensive in Bulgarian terms, but could I really pass up this opportunity?

Hell no!

I paid up and had to sit on the beach waiting to catch my first glimpse of the Seabreacher in action, as it headed over from another part of the coast, my heart rate already showing an excited 120bpm on my FitBit.

Now, I don’t really like the water. That said, I’ve always fancied a bit of powerboating – probably because of my racers mindset that nothing can possibly go wrong for me, so I’d never actually end up in the water.

As I saw the Seabreacher bobbing towards me, I was told to wade out into the Black Sea as the driver/pilot climbed out and pulled his seat forward to make room.

img_7835_zpstv5te4ae

I deftly scrambled into the cockpit and they strapped me into a 4 point harness.

Once the driver was back on board, the revs rose as he pootled out into deeper water with the canopy still open. Once there, he pulled it shut over our heads, and it was down to business.

It didn’t feel too claustrophobic to me, as it’s a big old canopy – but you are quite enclosed by the sides and the back of the pilots seat, and your legs have to go around his seat down the sides.

The whole craft vibrated as he spiked the revs up to 9000rpm, and we danced over the waves surprisingly gently. There was none fo the slap you get in boats and jet skis as it crests a wave and slams back into the water.

He swung hard right, the Seabreacher tipping right over on its side like a motorcycle or plane banking into a turn – the canopy turning a deep green as the sea covered us.

Then the sea started coming in over me! Reading the website, there is supposed to be some kind of seal that the driver inflates to seal the cockpit – but that was either broken or not used here. That meant that every time we went under the water, the water came in and absolutely soaked me! The Black Sea is very cold – but in 30 degree sunshine I wasn’t going to worry about this. You never feel like it’s going to fill up and drown you or anything – in fact I never even felt water pooling around my feet, so it must pump it out again pretty fast.

img_7861_zpsbpeqk0rx

Not that I had too much time to worry about this, as we came out of the banked turn by breaching out of the sea (hence the name – just like sharks, wales and dolphins do!), jumping out over the waves briefly before diving back in, full on the throttle.

He then killed the revs, bringing us almost to a stop, before suddenly opening the throttle fully, and the nose dipped down below the waves as we ploughed downwards into the green depths.

A few seconds passed in the green gloom before we were headed straight up, breaking through the waves at a 90 degree angle into the blue sky, even the tail fins launching clear of the water, before tilting and coming down belly first.

seabreacher20thumb_zpsydtp0ifw

Experienced drivers can get the craft airborne and do a barrel roll in mid-air, too!

It was a great and very unique experience, and a lot of fun!

However, it wasn’t as extreme as I thought it might be. that’s probably more to do with the fact I’m used to racing cars, or scraping my knees on the tarmac at 100mph+ – and I can see how it would blow most people’s minds. I think with an extra few hundred horsepower it would be an absolute beast – and I’d love to have a play around in even a standard one!

It was good seeing something I never thought I’d lay eyes on, and actually getting to experience it. If you ever see one, then do everything you can for a go, because it is worth it.

I guess I’ve already pushed the bar up so high it takes more to really get me going!

img_7911_zps9ffezvqf

And a short video I made from the footage:

Snetterton 300 – Rounds 13 & 14

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Snetterton 300 – Rounds 13 & 14

sjn20photography20fvee-83wm2002_zpsbbpfffn8

We had a new engine sat on the bench for next year, so with the disaster at Silverstone it was easier to salvage all the internals from the wrecked engine and get next years engine in the Sheane early.

Glenn did all the work in time for us to have a non-running car on display for the SPEAR (Sue Pike Equine Animal Rescue) charity open day. I’m not sure rescued animals would have fully appreciated a running engine, anyway, but the day went well with dog and horse shows and lots raised for the great cause.

However, when small children are jumping in and out of your racing car all day long, they apparently want to flick every switch in sight, and be warned if you have a brake bias adjuster in your cockpit at such events… I’ll come back to that point later…

A lot of other drivers either tested the day before the race at Snetterton, or took advantage of a 30 minute session at the start of the day on Saturday – unfortunately our preparation meant we could only be loaded up and on our way (very) early on Saturday, and so couldn’t test the new engine.

Qualifying

Knowing so many others were already warmed up and dialled in to the circuit, I opted to try and tag onto one of my usual sparring partners whilst using the bits of track information I’d gained from playing Project Cars, watching YouTube videos, and reading track guides.

The sun was shining and the track grippy and warming up as we headed out.

It’s surprising how well you remember a track you haven’t been on for a year, and it doesn’t take long to drop into the groove – however, you have to make sure you get 3 laps in to be able to qualify for the race, and with such a long lap this is half the session!

To make things worse, just as I was on my second lap and starting to push now the tyres were getting warm, the red flags came out to stop the session.

I didn’t see any of it, but Neil Aldridge had put a wheel on the grass on the exit of a corner, getting it sideways, and Bill Stanier had nowhere to go as he came off the corner behind. It looked like a pretty hard contact with both cars badly damaged and out for the day, but both drivers were unhurt.

wp_20160924_12_00_18_pro_zpsuseqqji1

The clean-up meant we sat in the pit lane for 20 minutes before we were finally let out again – but as this was only for another 2 laps I’d barely got up to speed again before the session ended. This wasn’t too terrible timing for me, as when I came into the pits for the red flag the car was stuck at 2,000rpm. Glenn checked it over and worked his magic with the spanners, and I still managed to get out on track with everyone else.

I tagged onto David Leniewski, sneaking past him but not able to shake him, and held him up twice at the hairpin as I struggled to find 2nd gear again (it was fine before!).

I was trying to get a bit of a move on, throwing the car into a few corners, but for some reason it didn’t feel like I was going very quickly.

After my 11th place overall finish last year, I was a bit disappointed to qualify 22nd and 21st for the races, but given the circumstances and lack of track time figured it wasn’t too bad.

The engine was making a few funny noises but the throttle problem wasn’t anything major. All my suspension settings seemed ok with the time I’d had, so I left it all the same, thinking any improvement would be more likely to come from me for the race.

Perhaps more seriously, I had Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” stuck in my brain, and was sure there’d be 3 seconds a lap improvement if I could just get the damned tune out of my head!

Race 1

race20120001_zpspshlyxnf

They lined us all up on the grid extremely closely, so I knew straight away it would be tough to find any sort of gap even if I got a good start.

The lights went out, and I blasted away with another great start, but then had nowhere to go. Finding some space around the outside, I made up 5 or 6 spaces on my second attempt, but then got hung out around the outside of the first turn as most of them got back up my inside.

Sam Engineer must have got an absolute flyer as he passed me into the hairpin – but now Dolly Parton had gone, and I got my head back in the game.

I passed Sam on the brakes into Agostini, locking the front wheels up all over the place as I pushed harder than I had been all day, and I remembered the brake bias adjuster, and all those inquisitive hands twisting it as they sat in the car. I made a mental note to tip the balance back towards the rear as soon as I got chance.

Jamie Harrison also had a bit of a lock-up in front of me, with Andrew Cooper sandwiched between all the tyre smoke somehow keeping out of trouble.

I tucked into Cooper’s slipstream down the straight, slipping through on the brakes into Brundle, chasing down Harrison to go down his inside into the hairpin. It seemed I had found the sweet spot with my brake balance again!

race20120r20006_zps9zobwlg0

I also decided to take the hairpin in 3rd gear, rather than trying to find 2nd, as I couldn’t see a massive difference between the two.

I tried to tuck in behind a James Harridge as he worked his way back up the grid after a spin, which lasted all of 20 seconds – but did pull me onto the back of Darren Lomas.

Making use of a good exit onto the finish straight, I held onto his tow to get around the outside before we got to the first turn, and then tried to hang onto the rapidly disappearing Harridge hoping the horde of cars behind would trip each other up.

Alex Jones must have also gone off somewhere, as he passed me into the chicane, and I could see Lomas, Cooper and Harrison all very clearly in my mirrors again.

To my surprise, I was also catching European karting champion Harry Webb – who must have been suffering some problems – as Harrison overtook Lomas in my mirrors and piled on the pressure.

As I powered out of the hairpin I saw a thick line of oil (Alex Jones had hit Craig Bell, damaging his oil cooler) on the racing line all through Palmer corner.

It was one of those spills that was impossible to avoid, as at some point in the corner you had to either brake or turn on the oil. All you can do is adjust your line to minimise this, and hold on for the ride!

I got through alright with Harrison still on my tail, but could see that Lomas had dropped right back.

With the hard-braking into the next corner at Agostini, I had to make the choice to either slow down and risk Harrison overtaking me, or go for it and risk being the first one to spin off into the wall.

Being a bit of an idiot, I quite enjoy sliding around on oil, and managed to keep the nose at the right end of the car. As I slithered over the exit curb I saw a flash of blue and yellow as Harrison went off backwards – not hitting anything, but being unable to restart and so ending our battle.

race20120r20013_zpsvtt5n7dz

Going into Hamilton – a small lift or even flat out but only one line through – was always going to be an interesting experience, but I somehow held that one, too, after several stages of lurid slide!

I could see Bell pulling onto the grass after the next corner, so was pretty sure that was the end of the oil, and got the hammer down, braking a little earlier and shifting a few rpm sooner knowing I now had a considerable gap over Lomas, with nobody within my sights ahead. There’s no point crashing out of a sure thing, but you also don’t want to lose your rhythm and slow too much or make a mistake.

The last lap board came out and I knew I just had to manage that gap and keep it safe on the oily bits, still getting it pretty sideways but virtually crawling around Hamilton successfully back onto grippy tarmac.

Driving out of the last corner towards the finish line I realised I must be well up the pointy end of the B Class, and began to suspect I was in the top 3!

race20120009_zpspbl0zzj4

A quick count of the cars in the holding area confirmed the B class was won by Jack Wilkinson with James Harridge 2nd – and some newbie called James Cater had finally fought his way to a trophy!

Race 2

Phew – that was long, wasn’t it? Fortunately (for you, the reader – not me) this one will be a lot shorter.

I made up a couple of places off the line but got blocked again and had to lift right off.

Within a few corners I’d edged past David Leniewski and caught the tail of Darren Lomas and Mark Egan, so all was set to resume the scrap with the big group before the oil in the first race.

On the second lap Jamie Harrison (after a terrible start) passed me down the back straight, followed a few corners later by Andrew Cooper.

I was driving much harder through the corners – for example, where I was dabbing the brakes hard into the first turn in the first race, in this one I was just giving a small lift… and yet I just couldn’t hang with anyone!

r220r2003_zps1i0t1sqs

I managed to retake Cooper and stay ahead for a lap until he re-passed me and pulled out a little, and then he managed to hold that gap until the finish. I was clearly missing something, and think we’d lost some engine power.

Alex Jones somehow came from behind me once again (I don’t know how he keeps getting behind me like that!), but other than that my mirrors were empty.

I brought it home a fairly lonely 18th (perhaps appropriately for the final race of the season?) and 5th in Class B, but did enjoy the drive!

After the flag a mixture of lack of concentration and “I wonder if I can take the corner like THIS” into the first turn meant I clipped a high part of the curb and ended up all kinds of out of shape on the grass on the exit. My main thought was that if I spun after the flag I might get into Trouble with the Clerk of Course, so that motivated me to save it somehow as I bounced wildly over the mud!

But nobody saw that bit, right?

I think hitting that curb bent something, as the car was pulling left as I came in – oops!

Up front was titanic as ever, with Paul Smith winning a controvercial photo finish over Dave Hughes, and Adam Macaulay a tenth of a second back from them!

wp_20160924_17_35_18_pro_zpsmetbtriq

So I have my first B Class podium after so many 4th places, and I’m chuffed to bits!

No doubt I’ll do a year review – but for now I’ll be looking forward to getting back on track for the Vee Festival at Brands Hatch on the last weekend of October. It’s cracking value for track time, and I hope a lot of UK cars turn out for it, because I know the Irish will come over in force again!