The track was almost dry as we took the green flag lap, but all the help we’d had in the paddock was suddenly in vain, as I tried to change to 3rd gear and just got crunching noises and revs. 4th was also AWOL.
Brands Hatch GP is not a 2nd gear circuit, and so rather than taking my grid space (by this time I’d managed to find reverse or 2nd gears) I dove into the pits.
I managed to get 3rd gear back by desperate gear lever wiggling and selecting, and so made a pit lane start a good 30 seconds behind everyone else.
The rain started as I made my charge to catch the pack, but I was going well!
Alex Jones must have thought I looked comfortable in qualifying, so he stuck it in the gravel at Paddock Hill and brought the Safety Car back out.
Perfect. I could make all the time back and get on the back of the chain for the restart!
I caught a silver car driven by returning driver Peter Cann, who seemed to be going slowly as the rain came heavier. I pulled up inches behind him and gestured wildly for him to floor it and catch the back of the pack, but he didn’t speed up.
I thought he might not know you can speed up to catch the back of the Safety Car chain, so was fuming! I got alongside him down the pit straight and pointed GO GO GO!!! but he just let me by him. I knew I couldn’t pass, so had to let him back through and tuck in behind.
I’m not mad at Peter, and to be fair I could see that his car was a massive handful on every bend. He did come over to me after to apologise, and I was absolutely fine with that, as he was going as fast as he could. It was just unfortunate and very frustrating!
After an eternity we got green flags and I shot past, knowing there wasn’t much hope of making up places but willing to give it my best shot!
It was all going well until I suddenly couldn’t get it into 3rd gear again.
I crawled around the rest of the lap making more gear changes than if I were doing the Monaco GP, before pulling into the pits to retire.
The cause? One tiny little nut had come loose on the gear linkage! At least I’d be out for the second race – but then the marshals were telling me I had to go up to see the Clerk of the Course…
I went up to the office an announced exactly what I thought I’d done – pulling alongside Peter Cann and gesturing him to catch the Safety Car – and was told I was right.
Unfortunately they wanted to do it all to the letter of the law, and with no scope of understanding I was told the timing line said I’d overtaken under the safety car and I would have a 20 second time penalty applied.
I pointed out the race was actually still on, at that point, but even the fact I’d retired didn’t sway them. And it would be applied to the results of that race.
James Harridge had a bearing failure on his engine and failed to finish, and a similar time penalty applied to Craig Pollard (for just as daft reasons) meant Adam Macaulay took the win, followed by Ben Miloudi and the returning James Clennell.
Jack Wilkinson won B class in 4th place overall, with Jamie Harrison and Andrew Cooper shredding my second championship place I’d had coming into the race.