Wow, wow, wow. What a weekend!
My qualifying performance wasn’t anything special but the races we’re the best of the season. I made 30 successful overtaking manoeuvres in 4 races and each of them happened about four times before I got them to stick!
The battles were amazing….I’ll never forget racing wheel to wheel down Craner Curves with Glenn and just in case I might have forgotten we must have battled it out about four times down what is now one of my favorite corners. Like Paddock Hill at Brands, the Craner Curves have got that Roller-coaster feel and it’s awesome!
My car won here last year with Dickie at the wheel and I guess it must have remembered how he drove it because it seemed to be glued to the circuit even in the final wet race.
With qualifying and four races all on the one day it was certainly an action packed final meeting. So I’ll try not to get carried away but here’s how each session went.
Having had instruction from Mike Topp at Donington I felt confident as I headed out on to the circuit for the first session. Normally in qualifying and the races I’m still learning the circuit. This time I knew what to expect. The car felt great and I seemed to overtake lots of people in the first few laps. This might have been a bit short sighted as I then found myself all on my own. With no one to slip steam my best qualifying time was a 1:34.56, not bad but a second slower than I’d done before.
With 51 entrants and a maximum number of 36 cars allowed on track, the top 15 went straight through to the final. I qualified 38th and 37th respectively (based on my best and second best times in qualifying) which put me 23rd (of 36) on the grid for Heat 1 and 22nd for Heat 2 (again of 36). The top 21 in the heat would go through to compete in the final. 15 people from each heat would not go through. I needed to make up a couple of places if I wanted to be in all four races.
Starting 23rd on the grid I made one of the worse starts ever. Just before the lights went out the car started to roll, I pressed the brake to stop it just as changed then just in case that wasn’t bad enough I missed 3rd gear on the get away – doh! i can’t have been the only one who had an interesting start because amazingly although I slipped back from the cars in front, no one got past me! Luckily I then sorted my act out and by the time we crossed the line I’d already gained two places and was gaining on Simon Hunter. The car felt brilliant and it seemed to let me get away with anything. I could brake late and head up the inside of a corner or throw it down the outside and cling on like a wall of death as I went round other cars. I made up another 2 places on the second lap and a further 5 on the third and fourth laps. This was awesome!
Another lap later and I could see my usual sparing partner Mark Gogle ahead of me battling with Richard Hall. It took a few laps to close them down and on the final lap of the race I passed Richard to take 15th place.
(Started 23rd – finished 15th)
My 15th place in the heat put me in 30th place out of 36 for the start of the final. This time I made a much better start. Instantly I was back in the middle of a big pack as Mark Gogle, Gregg Castree, Richard Hall, Glenn Boyer and I did battle. Again the car felt awesome and Mike’s tuition had worked and I was able to get to the front of the battling group. I could see Garry Brandon at the back of the next group and concentrated on trying to catch him. I started to get away from the pack and it looked possible. Unfortunately with a 3 second gap ahead of me and no tow I slowly slipped backwards back into the clutches of the group I’d just been doing battle with. This was when the fun really started. Quicker than the other cars through Redgate I could jinx right and drop down the inside taking the line for the Craner curves which followed. Unfortunately Glenn soon got very wise to this and we had some amazing battles as I’d overtake him up the inside of Redgate only to find us wheel to wheel all the way through Craner Curves with him taking the line at the bottom of the hill. Similar and often simultaneous battles with Mark, Richard and Mike Page meant that we were heading through corners three and four a breast lap after lap.
In the end we crossed the flag; Richard, Mike, Mark, Glenn and then Me. I think all of us had massive grins, the racing had been determined and ridiculously close but very clean. It was fantastic fun and netted me a 25th place and another two points.
(Started 30th – finished 25th)
Starting back down in 22nd for the second heat of the day this time I had a brilliant start and made up four places in the first lap! This pitched me into a battle with Jason Gibbons and Lynfel Owen. On about lap three I found myself heading down Craner with Jason on one side and Lynfel on the other! Exciting stuff! Again the car was handling brilliantly and by lap 5 I was up to 15th. One lap six Jason again went down the outside round Craner and I dropped back to 16th, however we were both still moving up the order and I latched on to his back panel as we headed for Mark who was a couple of seconds ahead of us in 13th. Whilst hugging the back of his car (despite his attempts to throw me off the tow) I set my fastest lap of the weekend a 1:31.78. (Three seconds a lap faster than my qualifying!). We crossed the finish line Jason, Mark then Me, with me in 13th place. Nine places higher than I’d started, not bad for a 15 minute race.
(Started 22nd – Finished 13th)
Lining up in 28th on the grid for the last race of the season, the heavens opened. A green flag lap was added and we all slid our way round one of slippiest circuits in the wet in the UK. Directly under a major flight path for East Midlands the circuit gets a lovely coating of aviation fuel. Fine in the dry but very, very slippery in the wet. As I pulled away for the green flag lap my tires just spun (even at very low revs) it looked like a cautious start was going to be the way forward.
We all slowly snaked round the course trying to find the grip. On the back straight I saw Jason (two cars ahead of me) brake and the car slew sidewards across the track, Mark who was following was helpless to do anything (despite the low speeds) and T-boned him. I stopped unsure what i was supposed to do now! Lynfel and David Morrow drove round the three of us and I decided they had it right and followed them on to the grid. Now this is where the brain fade kicked in. Mark headed for the pits to check his car over and I lined up in 30th behind Lynfel. Jason had more sense than me and retook his original position. With the confusion I’d managed to demote myself two places when I should have been a place higher up! Doh! Oh well I had to have a really good blond moment at some point this season!
So starting 30th I crept off the start as the lights changed, it worked, cars all around me chucked up water, immobile as their wheels just spun and I had made up four places by the first corner. On lap two I made up another two places, one normal overtake and a gifted place from Glenn who’d just had a moment! Glenn clearly knew what he was doing and after a quick battle, which was much roomier than our earlier battles in the dry, I managed to follow him all the way back up the grid to 22nd. In doing so I again found myself two and three cars abreast through the corners though this time I had four wheel drift as well! What a way to finish the season. In nine laps of a very wet race I’d made up eight places!
(Started 30th (oops) Finished: 22nd)
A dream weekend where everything went perfectly. OK so i did get carried away with the recounting of it and if you are still reading you probably felt like you had to drive every lap with me but it was too awesome to skim over.
I can’t wait for next season, and the Birkett 6 hour relay later in the year.