Having loaded the car onto the trailer Thursday evening David and I left just after 7am for the trek up to North Wales. We made good progress till we were north of Dolgellau where I foolishly ignored my instinct and took TomTom’s advice resulting in about 20 miles of very narrow very windy roads that were actually quite difficult to negotiate with a 7 foot wide motorhome with trailer. We got there just before 12 having averaged 33mph
The paddock was very crowded and there was no room on the tarmac so we parked up on a levellish bit of ground near the RGB section and got the car off the trailer and the new gazebo up. Phil Alcolck kindly lent me a tarpaulin to use as a groundsheet for when the inevitable rain arrived. You can see my nice new tyre rack in this shot as well.
I signed on to find we only had two 25 minute sessions for our money and our group had 37 cars! We went out at 2.30 with all the RGB cars and the Locosts which despite looking like some of the RGB cars actually aren’t. They have Ford Crossflow engine with a control cam and control tyres meaning they were slower everywhere – acceleration, cornering etc. I actually quite enjoyed it – one of the problems being a back-of-the-packer is that you don’t do much overtaking. I was seeing blue flags everywhere and this time I wasn’t (usually) the slower driver. The standard of driving was actually very good and they were letting us through very obligingly. I’d fully expected not to get a full 25 minutes but I barely saw any yellow flags let alone red.
I ended up with a fastest lap of 1:19.58 with which I was happy enough as I’d really only been finding my way around and there had been lots of traffic. I seemed to be getting some clutch slip though which was a bit worrying, and towards the end the rear end was getting very loose on the power, apart from that the car was fine. I checked the tyre pressures as soon as I parked up and they were a bit high, especially the left rear. The surface at Anglesey seems slightly lower friction than other circuits so I guess the sliding was heating the tyres up more. I let them all down to 21psi and got on with my list of checks.
The second session was also without incident and I got down to 1:18.64 which was getting closer to my fastest lap last year of 1:18.10. I was getting better at the overtaking – it definitely does require new skills, you need to be able to go into corners off the usual line and come out of them off line too, also second guess which drivers have seen you and which haven’t before you decide to go alongside them into a corner. All good fun. I checked the tyre pressures at the end and the left rear was still a bit high. I was undecided whether I was getting clutch slip or wheelspin and suspected a bit of both.
I spent the early part of the evening going over the car getting it ready for the next morning, we were first up for scrutineering at 8.30 and qualifying at 10am. Then it was time for a couple of beers, some food and brother Andy arrived with his family about 9.30 so we sat in their capacious tent out of the rather cold wind for a while.
The rain moved in overnight along with a stiff breeze, so the scrutineering queue was a mass of umbrellas. Today was the first day I’d just signed on without having to attend a first time at circuit briefing. The scrute didn’t spend long on my car then it was back to the motorhome again. Our qualy session was clearly going to be wet so following a chat with Paul I added a couple of psi to all 4 tyres – checking them cold the left rear was just under 15psi which is definitely lower than usual. I also removed the ARB drop links and softened the dampers off. I doubted I was going to notice the difference but everybody reckons it’s a good thing!
The qualy session was indeed wet so I tippy toed my way around trying to keep the car pointing the right way. The right hander out of Rocket was interesting, huge understeer all the way around then the rear stepping out as soon as I got on the gas, it’s quite tricky modulating the throttle in second gear with the Busa, it really does have masses of torque. Towards the end of the session as I caught Judi and was trying to work out where to pass her Derek came past me on the finish straight, watching him exit the fast left hander (Turn 1) was quite scary as he had the car sideways the whole way. Not just smoothly sideways either, lots of twitching and correcting going on, amazing car control skills. Even though it was Derek having a car sideways a few feet in front of you on the exit of a fast corner in the wet does raise questions in your head about what happens if he spins … so I backed off and Judi got away enough for me not to get close enough to pass. We took the chequered flag at the end of the next lap.
I’d actually enjoyed the session more than I expected, the grip was quite consistent, there was no aquaplaning and I did start to get used to getting to the sliding point and catching it. Needless to say I was pitifully slow and my fastest lap was 1:36.38 putting me 23rd out of 26 surrounded on the grid by all the usual suspects! I was closer to Tony Gaunt than usual, he wasn’t enjoying the circuit much and seemed to be struggling compared to his usual pace so he was only 20th. Unsurprisingly there had been no evidence of the clutch slip but there was lots of wheelspin during the session. Again the car needed nothing other than refuelling and routine checks – before every session I go over all the suspension rose joints, diff mounting bolts, prop shaft bolts etc. They’re all marked with paint so it doesn’t take long and it’s nice knowing they’re all OK before going out.
We had a driver’s briefing at 2pm and we were due out at 2.30. The weather had worsened with a strong wind and persistent heavy rain. The briefing was mainly about exhorting drivers to not dilly dally on their green flag laps but the Clerk of the Course, Viv, did also say she was going out round the circuit to see if it was OK for racing and they’d let us know ASAP. Someone asked if we’d get a green flag lap (you don’t normally if you’ve been out in similar conditions), since it was pretty wet when we qualified we were told no green flag lap. I was already in my overalls etc. and ready to go so just sat waiting round till we heard them call us over the tannoy which they duly did at 2.20.
I must admit to feeling a bit more nervous in the Assembly area than usual – it really was very wet and I haven’t raced in the wet before. I wouldn’t say the Snetterton crash has made me a neurotic wreck but it does make you a bit more circumspect about joining in the inevitable melee of the first few corners. We went round onto the grid and I couldn’t see any of the boards being held up, they were simply too small to see from my back of the grid spot. I did however see them waving us off with a green flag rather than the red lights so although they were letting us race there was clearly some concern about the amount of water on the track. I was glad we did have a green flag lap – there was quite a bit of standing water at the apex of Church and loads on the approach into Rocket. Apart from that it wasn’t too bad. We made our way back onto the grid and waited for the red lights. I had my usual good start where I get the car rolling, get on the gas than have to ease off a bit as I catch the people in front. I was directly behind David Wale in Derek’s old BDN S2 and he had Tony Gaunt alongside him on the right. I moved across to the gap between them but that got closed off as the two of them caught the car in front. We all got safely round the first corner and I was tucked in behind Tony going into Banking. I was glad I’d got away in front of the slower cars as I just knew they’d be difficult to pass in the wet. It was much wetter than qualifying, there was spray everywhere down the back straight and I hit the brakes into Rocket on the end of a long train of cars. I kept in touch with Tony for 2 or 3 laps before I started to slowly slide back, I think the main place I was losing time was the fast bit between Church and Rocket, it was really very wet and you’re near the top end of 5th gear on a curve at not far short of 120mph, so I just couldn’t bring myself to use full throttle. After I lost touch with them I was on my own for a while until I started to see Phil Alcock in my mirrors. He closed me down and the final half of the race was great fun trying to keep him behind. I wasn’t blocking but there were bits where he was clearly better than me and others where I had the advantage. I was clearly braking earlier than him for Rocket and he obviously wasn’t getting quite the same amount of understeer as me round the second part of Rocket. At one point I did open a bigger gap but then Adrian rejoined the circuit just in front of me having spun at the exit of Banking and having a car right in front of me coming into Rocket slowed me more than usual so Phil caught me again.
After a few laps I could see Derek was trying to get past Phil and realised there was a risk that Phil could take advantage if I was too gentlemanly letting Derek through. In the end Derek overtook me up the inside of Turn 1 again and yet again his car was all over the place on the way out. It does inevitably compromise your own exit and I had Phil’s nose alongside me going into Banking. I managed to hang on to the apex and got away on the run to Church where Tim Gray then lapped me. For the next lap either I went a bit quicker or Phil slowed a bit but I opened a slightly bigger gap, Phil did close it a bit again braking for Rocket but he then ran a bit wide compromising the second part of the complex and I was away and had a clear mirror across the finish line for the chequered flag.
It had been an amazingly incident free race considering the conditions, a couple of the guys had had spins but there had been no car to car contact and I’d seen no yellow flags for the whole 20 minutes. It had probably been my most enjoyable race to date by dint of firstly keeping in touch with the quicker cars for a bit longer early on followed by the great tussle with Phil. I finished 21st, my fastest lap was 1:34.99 with Derek’s fastest 1:27.25 so I was pretty pleased.
Back at the motorhome the lake around us was growing Not good but not much I could do about it. It just carried on raining all evening. Our RGB barbecue still went ahead though and David and I ended up sitting up quite late and probably drinking a bit more red wine than we should in Andy’s tent! It was a bit of a wild night with the motorhome rocking around but by the time I got up at 7 it had stopped raining. The forecast was for more rain by lunchtime and our race was at 11.45 so we just had to hope it stayed dry.
By 10.30 it was make your mind up time and I decided to go for dry settings, so the ARB got reconnected and I let a bit of air out of the tyres. It stayed dry and we got called a bit early for the race. David hung around in Assembly for a little while then headed off for his vantage point on the hill above the Corkscrew from where most of the circuit’s visible. We went round to the grid and set off on our green flag lap. It was nice to be out on a dry circuit! Somehow Phil ended up gaining about 3 places on the grid during the lap so I suspected we might have a reversal of our previous tussle!
When the red lights went out I had yet another really great start. I was right behind Tony Gaunt for this one and wanted to try to keep in touch a bit better. As it was I shot past him but as soon as I had to slow for the first corner he came around the outside again and I was right behind him coming into Banking. On the way out he got stuck behind a black Fury and I exited the corner on the inside and was about to go past when he suddenly pulled out across me. All a bit close but no contact. I was all over the back of the Fury and over took on the right heading up towards Rocket with Phil in my mirrors and there I was behind Tony again! This time I was in a train of unfamiliar cars who were usually way down the road from me and I concentrated on hanging on as best I could. I think Doug Carter was in front of Tony. On the way out of Banking Tony ran wide onto the grass and I was through, then there were cars everywhere between Church and Rocket. Tim Cutmore was parked sideways, Duncan Marshall’s car was on the grass on the right, Rob Grant was in the tyre wall on the left and there was bodywork everywhere. I threaded my way through and we carried on only to be red flagged as we came round to the Corkscrew.
We had to wait in a queue while they sorted us out – they just seemed to put us back in our original grid positions, meaning that about 4 cars that were behind me were waved through to restart the race ahead of me again The crash on the back ‘straight’ was alongside us to the right so we sat watching and waiting while they gather up all the bits and recovered the cars. Quite a sober few minutes, we had no idea whether the drivers were OK or not but the cockpits of all the cars looked pretty intact although Duncan’s bonnet was completely split in two.
At the restart I got away well and got straight past Tony and was behind completely unfamiliar rear ends going into Turn 1 and the run to Banking – David Wale was there and I was only a couple of cars behind Tim and Doug Carter. I came into Church with Tony alongside on my right and he stopped me getting a line past Matt Green’s Fury again on the fast stretch towards Rocket. I was at the back end of a procession with Tim Hoverd followed by Henry Carr then Matt Green and Tony. Tony worked his way past Matt and I tried to hang on and over the next few laps only slid backwards very slowly, I still had them in sight. As Henry and Matt were scrapping each other I guess that slowed them down a bit. A couple of laps later as I came out of Turn 1 there was Tony on the grass on the right facing the wrong way but by the time he was visible I was on on my way past so that didn’t slow me. My mirror was clear with no sign of Phil Alcock this time. Matt got past Henry and I carried on chasing still only a couple of seconds behind. Henry got back past Matt then I had Tony back in my mirrors. He’s generally much quicker than me so I knew it was only a matter of time before he got me but we had a bit of fun for a lap or two, he nearly got me coming in to Rocket but I just took a tight line in on the left and there was no way past. The pic on the right is him chasing me on the exit form Peel. He got me exiting Church on the next lap though, it was definitely the weakest part of my lap although I did feel I got it right on some of the laps. I was slowly drifting back from him but it was gradual, not like at Cadwell where I could see the gap opening up in chunks every time I made a mistake. A couple of laps later and I passed Henry, he was on the grass facing the wrong way on the left on the back straight. I was watching for the leaders in my mirrors all the time and thought they were approaching but realised it was Adrian Moore who must have slipped off somewhere without me seeing as he wouldn’t be in the lead. He was starting to reel me in but the chequered flag intervened.
My fastest lap was 1:17.24, a second faster than last year but more importantly I was starting to get nearer to keeping up with the back of the main pack of cars. I know they’re Class C cars with less power than me but I’m slowly getting there. I also hadn’t been lapped which was another plus. I finished 15th having started 23rd, OK there were some retirements but it’s still my best result by miles. And, wait for it … the car was going back onto the trailer completely intact and needing no work before the next race! Which is a good job as I’m off to Le Mans on Wednesday for a few days to watch a little race out there then the weekend after is Brands again.
I do have some video but for some reason no sound. I’ll get some editing done and stick the clips on YouTube.