My last visit to Brands was somewhat eventful with a clutch problem followed by a misfire. It was also my first time ever at the circuit. So I was hoping for a better experience this time! This weekend we just have a single race on the Saturday, and I’ve decided not to go up for testing partly due to the expense and partly because of the time. I did however succumb to the temptation to join a few of our guys in the Bikesports races – due to their low grid numbers Robin Knight at the 750MC has been inviting our guys to join in their races. This adds an additional qualifying session and 2 races to the day which should make life interesting, not to mention the fact that most of the Bikesports are quicker than us as they run slicks, aero and lower ride heights.
I’ve really done nothing to the car since Anglesey. On Thursday I had a look at the Neuros to sort out the lack of sound and finally downloaded my log files from the DigiDash (my laptop died at Angelsey and I’ve replaced the hard drive). Friday was a day off so I made a start in the morning getting ready for the trip. The motorhome needed a good clean after being parked in the swamp at Anglesey, the tools etc. were all stacked ready where I’d unpacked them and the car was ready to go apart from doing my usual spanner check.
Although Brands is 230 miles compared to Anglesey’s 165 it’s an easy drive. The M25 was like a glorified car park on a Friday evening but we still got there in 5 hours. We’d been allocated the pit garages this time so we grabbed one between Tim Hoverd and Al Boulton and got the motorhome parked level, Fury in the garage etc. than had a couple of beers and some food. Tim had been testing and had a misfire again. he was desperately hoping not to have another Snetterton experience. As was I!
Saturday was going to be pretty hectic with scrutineering and 2 qualifying sessions in the morning and 3 races in the afternoon. The scrutes came to us in the garages and I had a particularly personable one. I also nipped down to George Polley in the main paddock to get my ‘wet’ tyre on my new front wheel. I planned to qualify on the wets to conserve the dry set hoping they’ll then last the season. We were out at 9.30 for qualifying, about 8 Bikesports and 8 RGB cars so not very crowded. I had a good session with some dicing with James Walker in his MegaBusa. The early laps were very slippery, James nearly lost it in front of me at Druids and one of the Bikesports spun in front of me at Surtees. My lap timer wasn’t working as I hadn’t set the DigiDash up properly but it felt faster than last time here in April. The results came out and I’d managed 54.85, James 54.64. I was 12th on a grid of 17 with 2 Radicals behind me. Poor old Tim was at the back as his engine was still not performing. Last time here I managed to break 57 seconds once on the test day but managed no better than 57.53 so a big improvement.
RGB qualifying came around very fast – the sessions so far had all been incident free so the stewards were bringing everything forward. It ended up a bit of a rush getting to the Assembly area for the session. It was the smallest RGB grid I’d seen with only 18 cars. My fastest lap was 54.94 but this time James did a 53.85 so clearly he’s a bit quicker than me. Tim was last again and on return to the pits decided to do an engine swap.
By the time we got to the afternoon they were running half an hour early. Since the Bikesports run slicks we had a green flag lap to warm up tyres, once we got back round to the grid I was alongside James and behind Austen. As the lights went out I got another great start as did Austen in front of me. I got in front of James and Adrian who was alongside Austen on the grid and past one of the Radicals in front and followed Austen and David Wale into Paddock Hill Bend in 9th place. What was nice was that I didn’t immediately fall away and I hung onto them round the first lap. A black Radical came past me out of Druids (he went on to win the race so must have been having a sleep in qualifying!) and Adrian had a little look along the Cooper straight but I hung onto my place. I knew it was only a matter of time before Adrian came past but I hung onto Austen even got a tow and was right up his chuff at the end of lap 2. Adrian was all over me round lap 3 but didn’t get me until we came around into Clearways. I got back alongside him along the straight but had no intention of challenging him around the outside of Paddock Hill! He and Austen got away from me a bit but then proceeded to have a great dice with each other and I caught them up again. On the one hand they were slowing each other down a bit allowing me to stay with them but on the other they were racing very close and both were sliding the cars round a bit (I’ve got some great video of them!) and I was minful that one of them making a mistake would take the other out and probably me with them. This was great fun until Adrian slowed at Graham Hill Bend (overheating) and Austen slowly got away from me then. On the last lap James started to catch me and it was all looking fairly comfortable till my engine spluttered coming round Clearways! It felt like fuel starvation and it came back to life again as I hit the power for the dash to the line. It cut again and James was gaining fast, I was ahead by 4 hundredths on the timing sheet Austen was only 2 seconds ahead of me after the finish at lap 21 so again I was pleased with my improved performance – still a long way to go and I’ll never be a driving God but fastest lap was 54.27 so over half a second quicker than the morning and definitely more competitive.
Back in the pit garage the DigiDash said I still had 8 litres left so I wondered if it was my slightly dodgy swirl pot. I stuck a bit more fuel in for the next race. Apart from this the car was performing brilliantly with no work needed between sessions other than topping up fuel. The prop and diff bolts had all been fine not needing any tightening since Cadwell.
We’d been in the Assembly Area for quite a while when Tim arrived to a huge cheer and applause. Apparently there was oil on the track so they gave us a green flag lap in the RGB race as well. This time I was 15th on the grid of 18 alongside Judi with James Waker and Richard Wise on the row ahead. When the red lights went out I got past 5 cars this time and was alongside Austen going into Paddock Hill. I definitely enjoy these race starts! It was all pretty frantic into Druids with a lot of tyre smoke and James Walker sneaked through the inside. Around Graham Hill and onto the straight Colin Chapman’s car was leaving a huge plume of blue smoke from his left rear tyre rubbing on bodywork after presumed contact in Druids. I was keeping in touch but inevitably the faster drivers I’d mugged off the line gradually made their way past me, first Adrian then Paul Rickers then of course Tim who was going well with his new engine. My red battery warning light was on but I decided that wasn’t serious enough to worry about and decided to ignore it. After about 6 laps I gradually lost touch with them and was on my own for a while. Around lap 16 I was gaining on Judi when the car started cutting out again around Clearways. I kept it going for a lap or two but it got worse and worse and everyone was streaming past me so in the end I pulled off – apparently that was actually the last lap and another 400 yards further and I’d have finished
Back in the garage I decided it was fuel related so I checked first the low pressure fuel pump flow then the flow in the engine bay and both seemed fine. I had a chat with Andy Bates and mentioned the battery light and he immediately reckoned that was the problem and diagnosed a failed rectifier. This all made sense and I remembered I’d left the 1999 engine’s rectifier on there when I did the loom swap, I wondered if the new one was in my box of bits in the motorhome but it wasn’t. So we packed up and made our way home.
Pity to miss the last race but if it is the rectifier it’s a 5 minute fix and apart from that the car’s perfect. My driving’s improving slowly, I’m definitely carrying more corner speed than I was and am getting onto the power earlier – I really noticed this out of Clearways, I was pulling gaps on people down the straight this time actually making some use of the power I’ve got.
So a little work needed before Mallory Park in 6 weeks but hopefully not too much. I’ve got some nice video with decent audio this time so I’ll get that up onto YouTube when I can get it edited.