Brands Hatch – 11th of June 06

 

The Preparation

After a good run at Thruxton all that needed doing to the car was to swap the diff back and get the tyres buffed so they wouldn’t overheat so quickly in races – this turned out to be a very wise move as when the Brands Hatch weekend came round the forecast was for brilliant sunshine and soaring temperatures!

 

Thursday night I went up to my parents house to collect the car. The only thing I had to do was swap the buffed wheels on to it and set off on our 6hr drive! I pulled the trailer out and decided to take the car off it as it makes changing the wheels so much faster. My big mistake was trying to be too independent and do this on my own in a small space. The car normally rolls half way off then stops and needs a hefty shove to go the rest of the way…not this time! Obviously raring to go after two weeks of being ignored it rocketed off the trailer in one swift movement and straight in to a wall. Doh! My best efforts to stop it just resulted in me pulling a muscle in my leg! Feeling pretty stupid and limping slightly I surveyed the bent back panel and changed the wheels. I know with all the highs of racing there are going to be low points to but it just seemed such a stupid thing to happen and I was gutted.

 

After the fun and games of the evening we finally set off at 9.30pm. Luckily as both my Parents were coming to watch / help me at Brands they had booked a room in the Brands Hatch Thistle Hotel. My Dad wasn’t getting back from Spain (where he’d been working) until Friday lunch time so I was able to nick his spot in their hotel room. This was very welcome when we arrived at 3am on Friday morning. I like camping but I’m not so keen on pitching tents in the early hours of the morning.

 

Friday

Friday was a beautiful sunny day and Jason, Mark, Brian, Karen, Andy and I had great fun blasting round Brands Hatch on the Test Day. The track (and the inside of the car) was very hot and sticky and my lap times slowly began to fall. Four red flags in the final afternoon session meant only 2 flying laps but it was all good fun and felt great to finally run the car in nice weather.

 

Saturday

There was no Locost racing on Saturday so it was a relaxing day spent polishing the car, cleaning the engine (removing the final sooty remnants from Snetterton) and fixing the back panel. Thanks to Jason the back panel is now straighter than it was before Thursday nights’ mishap. There was also the chance to watch some great racing and enjoy the sun.

 

Sunday

Sunday was equally hot although as we’d be allocated the garages the cars stayed cool. (Unlike Friday when any and every bit of tank tape on it melted and fell off!) With no first time drivers briefing (we’d been here before) there was a very relaxing start to the day, we even had time to sit down at the café by the garages and enjoy breakfast!

 

Qualifying (10th in my session. 24th out of 42, overall.)

Qualifying went well. I resisted the urge to run and hide from the other cars (a problem in earlier races) and put myself in the middle of the pack where I could get a bit of a tow and see what sort of lines other people where taking. It worked, my lap times were falling every lap and on the 4th flying lap my lap timer showed another drop in times and my best ever lap time! Paul who’d qualified in the first Locost group put out a pit board with a minus sign on it and I gave him the thumbs up. The car felt great and we were flying.

 

The euphoria wasn’t to last for long, as I turned into paddock hill bend to start lap six I was tucked up close behind Garry Brandon. Unfortunately the back end of his car stepped out and he spun, I jinked right and managed to avoid him but in doing so spun and went in the gravel trap. He carried on but my car wouldn’t start and it wasn’t long before a marshal put his hand on my shoulder and told me it was time to get out.

 

It was my first spin (after 13 races) and my first trip in to the gravel trap. I was fed up not to be able to complete the session but the marshals were really nice (even sharing their water with me) and I guessed once I’d emptied the car of gravel we’d be off again.

 

The impact had pulled one of the tyres off so I returned to the garages on the back of a recovery truck. Once back in the garages the damage became evident. The impact of hitting the gravel trap was so hard it had snapped one of the engine mounts, the engine had then dropped ripping the electrics out of the dizzy. Everything was full of gravel even the insides of the tyres and I’d damaged a half shaft!

 

The Repair Job

Yet again everyone showed just how amazing the Locost Championship is as help came from all angles. My Mum and Dad set about removing gravel from every part of the car including the inside of the brakes! Matt and Tony Cherrington lent us their welder and Aaron welded the engine mount back together, Lynfel gave me a new half shaft and George Polley and his team emptied the tyres of gravel, checked them over, re-inflated them and then used their airline to blow gravel and dust out of the car.  Meanwhile Richard Pearson who made the mistake of living near me and introducing himself at Mallory set about putting everything back together and re-wiring the dizzy. He’s now helped me with so many different aspects of the car that he could probably build a Locost in his sleep! When the call to the assembly area came the car was all straightened out and had stopped firing gravel at anyone who dared to stand near it! (Personally I thought this was an interesting feature although probably more suited to wacky races than the 750 Motorclub!)

 

The Heat (Starting position 15th out of 32, Finished 16th) 

 

I started 15th but made terrible start and was down to 23rd by the end of the first lap. After a couple laps (mainly spend battling with Glenn) I finally settled in to the race and started to make up places. I gained 2 places on Lap 3 when two cars ahead of me spun right in front of me at the top of Paddock Hill. As I saw their rear ends step out and the resulting tyre smoke I thought for a terrible moment I was headed for a repeat of qualifying and a return to the gravel trap. Luck was on my side this time. After I’d missed them I was sliding towards the gravel but as I hit the green painted edge of the circuit the car snapped back under control and I was on my way again. (I do love my car!)  I then made up another five places on laps 5, 6, 8 and 10, some from overtaking manoeuvres and some due to cars ahead of me going off. In the closing stages of the race I also had a fantastic view of the battle going on between Dougie and James ahead of me although I couldn’t catch them up to join in before the chequered flag fell and In the end I netted a very respectable 16th. Overall a great fun race, where I gained seven places, what a shame I had to loose eight first though! The great news was that I was in the final and would get to do it all again! :-)

 

The Final (Starting position 25th of 32 Finished 23rd)

 

Starting 25th I was determined to make a better start but fluffed it and again lost places although this time I held my line through paddock hill and was able to get some of them back round Druids. I was in the middle of a massive 5 car battle when the red flags came out.

 

Lining up on the grid for the third time that day I made a much better start albeit with some wheel spinning and held my position. In the second half of the race I had some great battles including one with James O’Donnell which gave us both an interesting moment as we came into paddock hill bend two abreast to find a stricken car already occupying the inside line! (What is it about me and Paddock Hill bend!) That avoided it was back to our five way battle and as I crossed the finish line in 23rd the five of us were still all within 2 seconds of each other.

 

Overview

Overall it was a tremendous weekend. I knocked 30 seconds of my fastest lap from our last outing at Brands, had some great battles on track and the car felt brilliant, even the weather was very kind to us. Fantastic!