Back to Pembrey on the ‘Classic’ circuit for rounds 5&6 of the Welsh Sports and Saloons Championship.
I stayed down the road at the usual place and with my trusty ear plugs in and had an ok night’s sleep despite my mates ridiculous snoring again. It was an early start with sign-on at 7.30am. Annoyingly we were the last race of the day as well at 5.30pm. It was going to be a long day in the hot sun…..
Still, it was dry and that’s how I like it as these caterfields just don’t seem to go as well as the saloons in the wet (or is it just me!) Quali went well as I dialled ina tidy lap having cleared the traffic early on the session. I was very surprised with 3rd overall, albeit the grid was only 14 for this race, down on what it normally is. It was tight with 4 cars within a second of each other from 3rd to 6th and some powerful cars behind.
Into the first race I had a shocker as I missed 3rd gear on the rolling start. That put me well down and my main championship competitor two cars in front. I just thought ‘get your head down’ and don’t panic as it’s class points that count – I won’t be winning any races outright. The two cars between him and I, passed him mid-race and on about lap 10 of 14 I managed to get past him, overtaking around the outside of the hairpin again. This car is great on the brakes! A class win and 4th overall was a result I was pleased with but a bit of a let off really as I screwed it right up at the start.
The second race was looking interesting as I was on the outside of the grid. I also had some powerful cars ahead of me so I had it all to do on the brakes into the first corner. But… just before the 1-minute board came out, main my class competitors got out of his car. Turns out he had left the filler cap off his petrol tank located in the rear of the car. Sportingly, my mate gave him a hand and he started from the pits, setting off as the last car went past. He had a great race through the pack by all accounts.
At the start, I got lucky on the brakes round the outside of one car in front of me, then managed to go round the outside of one other car before the back straight (I backed him up a bit before the straight as I thought he might just outdrag me otherwise) and before I know it I was second overall! It didn’t last! One very fast car that had a problem in the first race drove from the back of the grid and caught me on the second lap. Impressive stuff with only a 1.05 lap! Still, I managed to hold onto 3rd place overall, albeit with a lot of defending at the hairpin and doing my very best to get away in the twisty bits from the more powerful cars. 1st in class too. I was well chuffed to be on the podium (even if they don’t actually use it at Pembrey!). Fastest lap in both races was the cherry on top! In what must be the fluke of the century, I’m still leading the championship after 6 of 12 rounds. Rolly on Donny in July, one of my favourite circuits.
Bad race start:
Mid race shenanigans:
Good race start (up to second - that's a first for me if you can excuse the pun!!!):
So this was Rounds 3 and 4 of the Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship. The race meeting was with the Aston Martin Owners Club at Oulton Park in Cheshire, about a 3 hour trek for me. Not fun on a Friday afternoon, but taking the back route via Worcester was a pleasant drive. My wife was coming along to help.
I had not driven Oulton Park since doing a trackday there in 2012 and to make matters worse, the championship had a meeting there last year. I know I was going to up against it for this one. I tried to learn the track the best I could by watching the Driver 61 track guide (it’s a great website) and numerous Caterham races to understand the lines/overtaking/defending places. I was a little apprehensive when I woke up to overnight rain meaning the roads were wet. Last time I was at Oulton Park in the wet, I very nearly had a ‘big one’ exiting Druids and going backwards towards the Armco at silly speeds…. Thankfully it was just about dry for quali and dry for both races.
Quali was only 15 minutes so I had to tighten the belts and really go for it. I managed a 1.59.8 which I was pleased with. It put me 5th overall (a small grid for this meeting for some reason of only 14 cars) and most importantly 1st in class, but only just. Looks like it was going to be a battle again! No bother as I like to ‘race’. After quali I decided to measure the petrol I had used. I was carrying way too much fuel for the whole of the last meeting - its excess weight and all in the wrong place out the back of the car. I parked the car high on the trailer and used my trusty garden hose cut off to syphon the fuel out. It worked a treat in my garage….this time I choked on super unleaded and then spent the rest of the morning burping petrol (really – was degusting and reuned lunch which was all petrol tasting). Whilst the smell of petrol is actually quite nice in my opinion, I can say that the taste is, err…an acquired one and blooming strong. Still, 6 litres used minus a mouthful.
The first race was a long wait and the start was a total mess-up. The invitation racer on pole set off way too quickly (after the safety car peeled in,) and then slammed on his brakes when as lights took a way too long to go out. This bunched up the whole pack and I was off the throttle when the lights did eventually go out (doing an emergency stop!). I held position, but my main class competitor drove past almost all of the main group at the front and it ended up with him in front of me and one car between us. I tried to go around the outside of one of the slick shod cars into Old Hall at the start and quickly regretted it as I was right on the limit of spinning. An big armful of ‘oppo’ just about keeping me facing the right way. Pure luck rather than skill really. I then spent the next 2 laps trying to get past the car in front (a Cupra touring car thingy) until he got past my class competitor and drove off. I was now right behind my class competitor - race on! As we did for the last 2 races, it was ‘hammer and tong’ for a long time with little between us. A few laps from the end I managed to get past, again, round the outside of the hairpin (Shell Oils). I then drove it home nervously for the class win. I was well happy with that and punched the air as I took the checkered flag. I must have looked like a right numpty. After the race, I spoke with the championship organiser who told me that whilst it was another great battle, it was academic. My competitor was due to be served a 10 second penalty for jumping the start. This never materialised as I eventually finished ahead of him.
Race 2 was late in the day – 6.05pm in fact and much later then I would have liked. It’s just too easy to mentally switch off. The winner from Race 1 choose not to race (not sure why) and one of the other cars ahead of me was a double drive (so they go to the back of the grid). One other car, the father of my main class competitor decided to ‘have some fun’ and go to the back of the grid. I was not convinced and said to my wife when we were in the holding area ready to go out ‘I hope he doesn’t get in-between me and his son’….. Still with the attrition at the front I was promoted to second on the grid. My first front row start which was a little weird. The start this time round was much better. I kept first place honest for at least one corner….. until he took off like the proverbial scolded cat (he was in another Cupra touring car thingy). I was side-by-side with my main competitor into Cascades and it was all very tight for the first few corners. He eventually got ahead until I out braked him on the following lap into Cascades, it was properly close stuff. We followed each other for a bit until I got outbreaked into Druids, a great by move by him to be honest and one I was not expecting! By the end of the second lap, his dad had joined the party. Great. He overtook me down the straight then ‘parked’ his car for nearly 4 of the 8 laps between me and his son (see the TSL timing extract below which is very telling - fastest three laps after he cleared off!). I used my frustration for motivation and tried to get the most out of the car. Taking risks, when his dad had finally cleared off, I nearly got past on more then one occasion, but it was not to be. I also managed to just touch him on the breaks going into the Shell Oils hairpin. I now need to repair my nose cone (I ordered blue Duck Tap specially on EBay this morning!)….that’s two bodywork repairs in two races…..woops (although the fist was not my fault). Speaking with his father after the race, I made the point that he got in the way. His response - 'I had a gearbox issue'. Quite a coincidence that!
Even more annoying was I don’t have any video. The SD cards were both saying full when they were empty. Meh.
So it was a bittersweet end to the day. I had fastest class lap in both races and a first and a second in class. I really should have been happy but felt a little cheated as I know I had the pace. Nevermind, there’s always Pembrey on the 10th of June and now I’m really keen to win my class again as I know it will put me in a good place for the Championship.
So this was my first race weekend with the Caterham. I stayed locally at a hotel with my friend and with the lesson learnt from Donny a few years back I packed the earplugs in anticipation of the ridiculous snoring. Luckily I got a good night’s sleep, but woke to very dark sky’s when I opened the curtains. It just started to rain as I left for the circuit and it was not to stop until mid-morning. This was not forecast and I had never driven the car in the wet before.
Quali was very damp and oil was dropped over the entire length of the circuit about half way through the session so it was driving on ‘tippy toes’ for most of it. The car felt great on the soft Khumos and I qualified 7th overall in a field of 20, 1st in class. Or so I though. Turns out the entry list was wrong and I found out a little later that the current Champion had decided to put some sticky tyres on and enter my Class for the year. Great. I was just behind him on the grid with a powerful (240 horses powerful) Westie between us (who was clearly going to drive away from us both on the rolling start). The grid was a little muddled-up with the rain mixing up the usual order. Game on.
In the first race it was damp when I left the paddock. I wanted to maintain the current set-up as it was a ‘known quantity’ from Quali, but it was a mistake. The sun came out immediately and with a long wait in the holding area and a breeze the track was dry by the time we went to race. Turns out my class competitor was also on wets. What ensued was one of the most epic battles I have ever had. We only changed places 3 times but were side-by-side for nearly 3 corners at one point and side-by-side for many others. He had the legs on my car but I think I was slightly better on the brakes – I went round the outside of him at the hairpin and I’m still not sure how! We both were racing hard, but giving each other just enough room. It was very close racing and great fun. However, it nearly ended in tears when one of the other BS class cars (on full slicks) joined in. I saw him approaching very fast at the new hairpin and thought ‘no way will he stop that’. He sped past me and my competitor, locked up the front and just missed us both (he later apologised as it was a little wreckless) he ultimately gained two places as we both tried to miss him, but we both got past him within a lap. Ultimately, I lost out on the penultimate lap as the leading cars came through and I got held up as I was block passed. I finished second by two tenths but gained fastest (class) lap as consolation.
To add to the excitement, my gear knob came loose after about the first lap. I spent the race trying to tighten it up on the straights. It was quite distracting as I had enough to think about!!! Reminded me of this brilliant video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k38LyqmUeM0). When I came into the holding area, I unscrewed it and handed it to my buddy. For comic effect.
Race two was dry and sunny. With grid positions determined by the finishing place from race 1 I was along-side my class competitor. It didn’t start well. I got tagged into the first corner by a overoptimistic Saxo, breaking my rear arch (see pic). I carried on nonetheless, but lost loads of time and in my fluster, missed 3rd on the corner exit. I had a bit of clear track so I looked to grit my teeth and get some quick laps in. Then it was red flagged for a car that was stuck, facing the wrong way on the at the other hairpin. Good for me as we would re-start the race.
On the re-start, the lights held for a long time. One car accelerated before the lights went out and it spread like the plague. Yes. I was guilty too, but I got away with it along with half the grid. It was another race long battle. We were both on semi-slicks this time so the speeds were greater and we drove away from the others in our class. We both maintained position until a car in front had a tank slapper and my competitor had to take evasive action. He left the track, lost his splitter and returned to track near to me (I was a little worried that he was going to ‘t-bone’ me at one point) but I got the position. Fortunate really. We raced for another 10 minutes, or so (side in many corners) and I was caught napping overtaking a slower car at the hairpin. He passed me with about 3 laps to go. On the last lap I threw everything at it. A last ditch move into Honda (the last corner and a fast right) nearly worked, but I just could not make it stick as he held it round the outside to finish just ahead of me. Close, but no cigar.
First looser in both races, but it was intense fun. It reminded me why I am penniless and spent far too many cold nights in the garage. Still, I got two tacky trophies for my efforts.
It’s going to be an interesting season.
Mid-Race Battle (Race 1):
Manic end of race 1 (I like this video it was crazy out there!):
New arch needed....
So having bought the Caterham in October of last year, I had still yet to drive the car. As part of the purchase, I had negotiated that the seller (who runs a Caterham motorsport outfit) to attend a trackway with me to help prepare and set up the car. I booked a trackday at Donny for Friday with MSV trackdays. I can recommend to anyone with a race or sprint car to attend one of these days as they are race car friendly, in fact, most cars were race cars on the day - Mini's, Exiges, BMW's, Clios etc.
I had approx 30 hours work on the car over the winter:
1. Trimmed and re-covered the bag seat
2. Perfected the fit of the tonneau
3. Greased the extinguisher lines
4. Replaced all the stickers
5. Painted the interior
6. Fixed the exhaust (which was squashed to say the least - record and re-packed for only £65!)
7. Given the car a blooming' good clean and tidy up
I should have been looking to this day but I was bedridden for 3-days earlier in the week. I still felt rough on the day but it was too late to cancel. Nonetheless, the day was dry and bright even if a little breezy. I got up early and trailered the car to the track, only to find one tyre had picked up a puncture on the way. No bother as I swapped the spare at lunch.
So how does it compare to the Westie? Well, its hard to compare when I have been off-track for 6-months, but for sure, the chassis is more communicative and the turn-in is much better (it's got a quick rack). Its better on the brakes too, presumably due to the weight saving. The bag seat is not as comfy as the Tillet and the layout of the dash and pedals to too compact initially, until you get used to it. Power is comparable. Overall, I would say an improvement over the Westie, but not by any significant margin.
In fact, my best lap time was a 1.21.5. I think there is more to come when I heel and toe (one step at a time I thought) and can use the whole of the track (the grass was so wet a lot of the kerbs had sods of grass on them!) and under the pressure to perform during Quali....but my best time in the Westie at Donny? Yep. A 1.21.5. Funny how these things work out!
My first race for the dark side is on the 22nd of April at Pembrey. I'm in a difference class now with the 1.6 so I hope to be competitive. Wish me luck!
Pics below inc. some nice historic racers who occupied the garage after I had packed up. Interior shot in my garage at the end
So on Wednesday night I finally took delivery of the Supersport. I actually paid for the car last October but I asked for a tonneau to be fitted along with a load of other jobs prior to delivery so it was delayed until now. I now have a long list of little things to do to the car to tidy it up, nothing major but I like my car's to be just so. So far all I have done is strip all the old stickers off it. This took me ages last night but I'm just about there - just need to remove the residue before I get painting/general tarting up.
Purchased from LFP motorsport in Brum. Aaron really know's his stuff.
Really looking forward to the new season now! First outing after a trackday at Donny (date tba with my mate) will be 22nd April at Pembrey
My daughter like the car as well!
Ok. I didn't post a blog following my last race. I was so annoyed with myself after a very frustrating quali, where someone in a 420 just got in the way on the corners and then blocked my on the straights. On a drying track (I did try to hold back on two occasions to get some clear track) he insisted on racing me and as a result I was near the back, at a track that I know well.
I had a good start but annoyingly span at Coppice:
This sapped my confidence on a wet track. We then had a Code 60 period and the result was just a farse:
Now I have been thinking about a change for a while. The 1.8 just doesn't fit well into the classes for the Welsh Sports and Sloons and is in Group 2 for the CSCC Mag 7's.
So, I sold the Westie to a very nice chap who's going to use it as a road/track car and may even race it himself (He races in Historic F3) and I bought a Caterham.
It's a Supersport, one owner car. It's a little rough round the edges but mechanically sound. Gives me something to develop a little further.
SO its over to the dark side for me!
So this was my ‘home’ race really. I live about 5 miles from Castle Combe and I really wanted to race here as it’s the only race in the calendar that all my friends and family can conveniently attend. I was racing with the CSCC Magnificent 7’s.
It was all a bit of a rush to get the car ready as I managed to leave one wheel hanging off the car during my last race (see previous Blog). All was fixed (except a dodgy looking rear arch) but I had my concerns about the brakes. When I collected the car from my ‘motorsport mechanic’, there was not enough pressure in the peddle. I booked the car into my local garage and they bleed the brakes but I was not happy with the pedal position - Oh well, at least it stops and I can go racing….
The day before I dropped the car off at the circuit and set up the Gazebo to house it overnight. All good except the ‘squiffy’ Wife and quite frankly ruinously drunk two friends who had been on the Prosecco all day. They were a nightmare. They were as loud as three drunk ‘ladies’ can be and one of the ‘Processo Pit Crew’ was actually sick in the bushes. I was most unimpressed and I think some of the other racers/campers were feeling the same.
Still, being just down the road at least I could get a good night’s sleep in my own bed.
The next day was bright sunshine and the forecast was good. I met my twin brother who was helping me for the day and we headed to the circuit. Scrutineering and sign-on was uneventful and I want out to qualify. I was pleased with my lap time of 1.17.8, which was 1.6 second quicker than last year on a similar spec. I did have a spin though as I missed my braking pint at the chicane on a ‘fast one’ (tighten the belts….take you brain out of its box and really go for it when the fuel load is low). I put this down to 12-months racing experience and using the kerbs a little more. 12 No. other racers were using a little too much kerb (see attachment)
This is the first time I have seen anything like this before. The effected drivers were un-amused and vented during the driver briefing.
Annoyingly my transponder was not working again (I’m car No. 14) and I found out from the Timekeepers that this is likely to be the subscription on my transponder. I renewed it recently and it has not worked since. I have emailed TSL and no doubt I’ll get it fixed soon.
The only annoyance was the brake pedal position. It was far too low so I could not heel and toe. It was also really difficult to smoothly come of the brakes and onto the loud pedal. This took a bit of getting used to and was an annoying distraction.
After quali I spoke to Andrew, a WSCC member who was there supporting Ross, a Caterham racer in the Mag 7’s who he was spanning for the weekend. Scott had had a huge crash in the Open race the day before when he was hit by an M3. The car was in a terrible state and Scott had spent the night in Hospital. Not good news at all and I hope him all the best.
There was a long wait until the race and even longer a wait in the assembly area as the tyre wall was damaged in the previous race. I hate trying to get in the right frame of mind for a race only to then be ‘stood down’ on more than one occasion. I went out on the grid far too relaxed in hindsight. I went round for the warm-up lap and then lined up on the grid with things up-to temp.
When the lights went out I had too much wheelspin. I thought 4k rpm was better than the 3.5k I used at Silverstone and it just wheel span. I shifted into second and all was ok ish I guess but I lost momentum. I managed to get round the first corner without incident and headed up to the chicane. I tried to go round the outside of one car, carried too much speed and understeered into the corner. Trying to avoid losing control I cut the corner a little and came out of the throttle. I lost a place which effectively ended the start phase of the race as the field spread out. I managed a good few laps and held station, even if I lost two places in one go around quarry as the car randomly lost power for a few seconds (it was like fuel surge and I still don’t know what happened?). I then caught two cars that were having a battle and joined in the fun. We traded places for 4/5 laps and I was really getting into the fun of the race. So much so, I nearly missed the pit window! I completely missed the time zip by and three pit boards saying ‘IN’. Oops.
I pitted just before the pit window ended and annoyingly having lost the back end, again, in the exact spot where I span in quali. I had just overtaken a car outbreaking him into Quarry and was defending the next corner. I carried too much speed into the corner onto the brakes and lost the rear end (this had happened before and I so very nearly held it…) Even more annoyingly, I just touched the tyre barrier with my nose cone (what’s the point of the tyre barriers if they are so hot on the track limits?) see photo.
The car stalled when I came to a stop but then it would not start. I lost 30 seconds but it felt like a lifetime. This lost me 3 places, possibly 4. That’s racing I suppose and another nose cone for me….
I went out for the final stint and put my spin to the back of my mind. I thought I may be able to catch the pack but it was not to happen. I finished 14 seconds behind the car in front who I was previously battling with. The lack of the lower class cars at this meeting meant there was little to race with in the latter stage of the race after the pit stop. Shame really.
To cap off what was a rather bad day in the office overall, a fly managed to squash itself right in the middle of my GoPro lens, blocking most of the shot, so not much race footage (any my internet not’s working at home either!)
Still there’s always Donny in three weeks-time. Surely my luck must change at some point 3 of 3 eh?)?
Regrettably, I have to write that I had my first racing incident at Pembrey on Sunday. The cars looking decidedly second hand at the moment as the rear offside wheel was literally hanging off. The upright had sheared in two places and will need to be repaired. I also sheared the brake line off the top of the calliper and the rear arch is completely mashed.
The race weekend started well as I finally found a hotel that’s welcoming, comfortable, with good food and not silly money. I packed ear plugs so my mates snoring didn’t keep me awake and all was looking good…except the weather. Well it is Wales I suppose. I manage to get to the circuit late after my friend insisted on getting his breakfast from the hotel (only as it was included and he wanted his…..sorry…...my moneys worth!). No bother but I decided to go on wets just before we were called to the assembly area so it was a little rushed for quali. I went out and only found out half way round the circuit that we were doing the new circuit layout, which was a bit of a surprise to say the least. It also just started to rain a little harder. I did a few familiarisation laps and then pitted to get my pressures done, only my friend had forgotten the pressure gauge. Damn. I went out for two last laps and pressed on. I qualified 9th out of 23 and I was happy with that.
The first race was equally a rush to prepare for as I had a bit of movement in my seat and when fixing it, the seat was out when we were called to the assembly area. I also switched to my dry tyres (Avon ZZR’s), good job I borrowed a wheel gun. The circuit was drying with a dry line but soaked in a few places. The race started well as I went round the outside of the hairpin at the start and gained a place into 8th. I then out-braked two cars in one corner on the new hairpin, putting me up to 6th. I finished the first lap and was then out-dragged on the straight. I tried to outbreak the other car only to slightly overcook it and half spin. I lost 4 places and was far too keen to get them back….a few corners along I tried the same move at the new hairpin and just carried too much speed into the corner, unsighted, another car turned in and I collect him. I was gutted and missed out on a good place and the second race. I apologised to the other driver and had a huge slice of humble pie, with extra loss of pride drizzled over the top. The Marshalls said it was a racing incident, but I know it was too ambitious so lesson learnt.
The car is now at my local motorsport garage for repairs and I’m really hoping to get out there for the next race at Coombe. It’s my local circuit and I was really looking forward to it. Fingers crossed.
I found out afterwards, one other driver lost his cool , pulled up to another drivers car, opened the door and hit him on the arm! He was excluded from the result and no doubt will get points on his licence.
The circuit photographer summed up my feelings perfectly with a epic shot:
I have the video, but have decided not to post it as it just bad 'form' on my part when I hit someone else. I still feel bad about it now. Thats the highs and lows of racing I guess.
So this was to be my first time racing at Silverstone and I was really looking forward to this race. We were to use the International circuit including the new ‘Wing’ facility (the F1 pits and conferencing facility on the floors above). The race was also to be my first with a standing start (other than sprints). All my previous races were rolling starts.
I got to the circuit on the Saturday afternoon as I had a friend racing on the National circuit over the Sat and Sun. I ‘negotiated’ my way into the BRSCC paddock (with the CSCC pass) and watched his race.
At 6pm I was then to move the car into the allocated garage of ‘The Wing’ for storage overnight. Annoyingly the bloke at the entrance to the paddock would not let anyone in until 7pm. The queue of race trucks, trailers, cars and vans stretched half way round the Stowe circuit. I took the opportunity to walk the pit wall and have a ‘nosey’. When we were let in I got the car off the trailer and generally set up for the following day.
As I was one of a few not drinking in our group, I ended up driving most of the group out for a meal in Towcester. Was a nice night albeit, a late one. The hotel was at Newport Pagnell services and after dropping many a drunk back at the paddock I then had to drive to the hotel. It took much longer than I thought. As is normally the case, I didn’t sleep well at all. I last checked the alarm clock at 1.30am and I think it was another hour before I dropped off. The alarm went off at 6.15am….
I got up and collected my pit b1tch/friend to drive to the circuit. The rain looked like it was going to stay away as it was a beautiful summer’s morning. I got to the garage and went to sign-on. It turned out scrutineering was also at 7.30am, coinciding with sign-on and I nearly missed it! Luckily my friend managed to sort most of the process, only a larger ‘E’ sticker was required on the new passenger tonneau cover. I attended the obligatory drivers briefing and we all enquired about the rules for track limits, racing (within the 60kph speed limit) in the pit lane etc, etc.
Quali was at 9.15am and after managing to remember which way the circuit went (I had not driven the circuit since 2011), managed to get in some consistency in my lap times. I was hoping for the 1.18’s and I managed a 1.19.019. I was happy enough with that and the car felt balanced as always (thanks Adam R once again). This put me 23rd out of 28 and this was what I was expecting in a sea of Caterham 420R’s, barmy 2.3 litre Duratec Caterhams, and some more normal machinery. I was the only Westie and only an M K Indy was there to keep me company in the field of Caterhams.
I then had a wait until the race at 3.00pm. I took the opportunity to go watch my friends last race on the National circuit and then got back to find my race had been bought forward…bu44er. This was now tight on time. To cap it off, my Brother had just called asking to be collected from the gate (I had his ticket) and so I set off in the car to grab him. ‘Apparently’ I was a little too keen and got a ticking off by the bloke at the gate (yes – him again!).
I managed to get back just in time to fuel up and check pressures etc as I had parked the car up after Quali and just left it. Lesson learnt I think. I then sat in the assembly area for what felt like a lifetime, although this did give me opportunity to get in the correct frame of mind prior to the start.
We then set off out of the assembly area and round to the grid. I warmed up the tyres and got plenty of heat into the brakes. We made our way round to the grid and were shown our grid positions by a fast moving Marshall prior to the 5 second board going up. This was it – race time and don’t blink as the lights come on…
A few seconds later the lights went out and we were racing. I had an acceptable start but my lack of practice showed as I could have dialled in a few more revs. Before I know it I was right in the middle of a group of cars going into Abbey. I battled hard for the first few corners and went wheel to wheel with one car and just managed to get a nose ahead into the corner prior to Hanger Straight. I then seamed to drop the following pack of cars and got myself a bit of clear air. I was able to get into a rhythm for the first 10 laps or so prior to my pit stop. Annoyingly, I out braked myself going into Club and missed a good opportunity to pass one of the Supersports. Better luck next time mike.
When the pit board came out saying ‘PIT’ I went round only to be lapped by the leaders at precisely the wrong moment. I went round for another lap to ensure no problems/calamities. I entered the pits and waited for the minute to pass (the minimum time I have to wait). My friend Bob was attending this race having not seen me race before with the CSCC. He counted down the 60 seconds and waved me out. I could see a car close to me when I set off and thought not much about it…. After all, we are allowed to race in the pits. I went out for the second part of the race and managed to get up to 17th.
Then, a few laps later, I just caught the sight of a black flag on the pit wall. I had never seen a black flag served on a competitor in my entire Club racing days. Much to my gut wrenching horror, I then noticed it has my number next to it… What had I done now? I was completely mortified, was this race over? I went into the pits and looking back at the video, I had missed that under the flag it stated ‘Stop and Go’. I duly served the penalty and got straight back out there with the bit between my teeth.
Damn. My first black flag….
The rest of the race went as well as I could expect and I managed to break the 1.18 barrier and post a 1.18.731. I don’t think there was much more time to find so I was happy. I came back into the pits happy with my performance at least and finish 20th.
I packed up my gear and headed to the awards ceremony. Turns out, even if you are the only person in your class that you still get a trophy? Well like Mutley from Wacky Races I accepted it and got a copy of my times. At the bottom of the sheet it stated ‘Car 14 Black Flag for unsafe release from the pits’. I was gutted as this cost me approx. 23 seconds and that would likely have gained me at least one and possibly two positions. Well that’s life I suppose. My friend who was ‘helping’ with the pit stop timing is now known as ‘Bad release Bob’ or maybe that should be ‘black flag bob’?
Roll on Pembrey on the 23rd of June with the WSSCC. This racing lark is great fun, even if a little frustrating at times.
(Vid to follow)
So this was the first outing of the year for me in the Westie. It had been a long wait as I didn’t do too much to do to the car over the winter (or have the budget) and so it just sat in the garage gathering dust. What little work that was done to the car was a tad stressful. I dropped the car at my local motorsport garage a few weeks back, but only got it back on the Thursday night. The mechanic had a two-day race meeting over the intervening weekend and his wallet, cash and some tools were robbed from the cab of the lorry (which was parked in the paddock at Snett). This meant he was understandably delayed in finishing the works on the car as he had to cancel his cards etc. When I got it back, I worked on the car until 10pm on the Thursday, again on the Friday night and on the Saturday morning. Tiring, but finally I was ready to go.
The journey to West Wales to race with the Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship was broken up with lunch in the sun. My wife and I, along with 4 other friends stayed at a hotel near to the circuit. The place was a little tired to say the least with some quite frankly, hilariously Trip Advisor reviews. Maybe I should have read the reviews before checking-in….. Nonetheless, I got a reasonable night’s sleep. A rarity for me before a race (see my previous Blogs). I got up at 5.50am, had a quick breakfast and my mate and I set off to the circuit, arriving at 6.50am. It was a bright morning and I was looking forward to racing at Pembrey in the dry for the first time.
After sign-on and an uneventful scrutineering, I set up camp in Pembrey’s inner paddock. Qualifying was at 9.00am and I had to be in the assembly area 20-minutes before. Not a huge amount of time to get ready so it was all go.
Sitting in the assembly area I was a little apprehensive as I have not driven the car at all since the previous September, except only for giving it a run down the road to bed in the new rear pads. As expected, I was properly rusty. Qualifying was over in a blur and my driving was annoyingly inconsistent. Still, that was to be expected without testing/practice so I dwelled on the positives (what few there were!). I posted a 1.08, which was a second quicker than my dry qualifying time of the previous August. I was happy with that, 11th out of 20.
The first race was after lunch so it was a bit of a wait. We had to wait longer than expected as the trucks were racing and doing a great job of smashing each other to bits and generally making a lot of noise / vibrating the ground under your feet. I was on the inside line for the first hairpin and I intended to stay there. Indeed I did and I managed to get an ok start, hampered by the car in front obscuring the lights at the precise moment they went out. Lesson learnt. Despite this, I managed to get the jump on one car, although I was a little worried at one point as I momentarily had two wheels on the grass. Still, plenty of grip!
I followed the pack round the hairpin and then lined a car up a car for a pass on the rear straight. I was drafting him as we went through the fast kink, mid-‘straight’, only for him to get a massive tank slapper, presumably on cold rears. He span in front of me and by backing out of the throttle a little – I didn’t know which way he was going to go I managed to avoid him, much to the relief of my Wife who was watching. Thankfully he also missed the tyre wall/bank and was able to carry on. Just as I was getting the bit between my teeth, the race was red flagged as a car had broken a wishbone at the hairpin and had to be recovered. Damn. I now had to do it all again. The restart meant a 10 minute race +1 lap, instead of the usual 15 +1 lap. I had a good re-start and managed to gain a place, only to be out-braked coming in to the hairpin, spending the rest of the race on my own from thereafter. I used the time to perfect (well I tried anyway) my lap and posted a 1.07.6, finishing in 9th.
The second race was over in such a blur I can only remember overtaking two cars, both by out-breaking them into Honda. I bettered my lap time with a 1.07.3 and finished 7th overall. I was pleased with that and more importantly I was now lapping much more consistently. Cobweb’s well and truly blown away!
A good time was had by all and most importantly the car and I were in one piece. Next I’m off to Silverstone with the CSCC on the 28th of May. I can’t wait to get out there again.
Race 1 Re-start:
On the grass:
Spring is finally in the air and I have been gearing up for the new season. I have registered for the Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship and Classic Sports Car Club (Magnificent 7's Group 2) series once again having had such fun last year.
My first outing will be at Pembrey on the 23rd of April (WSSCC), then off to Silverston at the end of May (CSCC)
So far I have replaced the front arches, greased the extinguisher lines, serviced the extinguisher, cut down my aero screen, about to purchase a tonneau and half doors and gave the car an oil service. I have it book into Corinium Motorsport for a but of TCL at the end of the month as well (new swirl pot being on the list along with a shift light)
I have a new GoPro as well so I well and truly ready for getting out there.
Oh, and I bought some more Super for the Mountfield RS ready for the summer!
So the season is now over for the year. I’m missing the racing already and this makes me think about the winter upgrades....
On the list is:
Carbon fibre tonneau cover and half doors (to help with the aero): Aerodynamix are in the process of bringing a tonneau cover to the market so I might well be one of their first customers
Swirl pot: Fuel starvation at Pembrey was an issue and this will allow me to run the car lighter on fuel in Quali.
Starting problem: I have an earthing issue I think so I need to get the volt meter out!
New front arches: Needed after one came off mid-race down Craner Curves! I bought a pair from Carbon NV
Oil and filter change
Grease extinguisher lines: So they can move freely when required.
New number plates: Already purchased and fitted, including Velcro for the rear for easy removal
Lap timer: Aim Solo GPS will be purchased (see post in the forum) and fitted to help with quali and testing
Exhaust wrap: I have bought the wrap and I think I’ll take the headers off to do this
Pit board: This really helped during quali at Donny (30 mins). I have already bought one of these: https://www.merlinmotorsport.co.uk/p/3-row-aluminium-pit-board-pb-03 I then bought some custom vinyl on ebay and I’m pleased with the end result:
Upgrade of licence: from National B to National A. I got my 6th signature marshalling at Combe so this should be an easy exercise
Polish the car: It’s had a load of scratches from the seasons racing so over the course of 4 work nights, I managed to put on 2 coats of Autoglym super resin polish and a coat of the gold labelled sealer stuff. It came up a treat. I also fitted stickers to the car to match the pit board and replaced some of the ‘tow’ and extinguisher stickers as these were peeling off.
So now the cars laid up for the winter in the garage:
Roll on next year!
This is the final race of the year for me, mainly due to lack of time, family commitments, holidays and a depleted bank balance. So off to Donnington Park I went with my friend Mark. This was a race meeting with the CSCC rather than the WSSCC. The format being 30 minutes practice/qualification and a 40 minute race with mandatory 60 second pit-stop. I was in the ‘Magnificent Sevens’ Group 1, which is for cars up to 185 bhp. Group 2 is for cars above 185 bhp.
I was really looking forward to this one having been at Donny for trackdays in the past. I even started weight training to build up my lower arm strength for this 40 minute race.
I knew from the Forum that another WSCC member was racing. Lee Morey or ‘Iowlee’, albeit he was in Group 2.
We stayed at a pub with rooms near to the track, which wins the award for the most sticky tables in the Midlands... At least the bathroom was clean. This turned out to be an important fact.
Marks snoring was quite frankly, unbelievably loud. I have always managed to avoid sharing a room with mark as I knew this and I forgot to pack my ear plugs. Damn. This meant at 2.30am and not having slept, I took matters into my own hands and moved the matress from my bed into the bathroom. This along with earplugs made of toilet tissue helped, but I didn’t really sleep until about 3.30am. Up at 6.45am, it was not the best preparation I was hoping for. Still nothing a gallon of strong tea, Lucozade and adrenaline could not sort out.
Scrutinering was a non-event and only took a matter of minutes.
Looking at the entries prior to the day, I was very concerned that I would be off the pace with a field almost exclusively of seasoned racers driving Caterhams. I knew I had lapped Donnington Park earlier in the year at a trackday in the low 1.22s and this didn’t bode well given the times of the entrants who were there the previous year. So out I went for the 30 minutes practice and quali, determined to not come last. We were qualifying with the Group 2 cars as well so it was busy. Some cars in Group 2 have 2.3 duratec’s and full pit crews, so it was an exercise of watching your mirrors whilst setting a time that I would be happy with. Lee followed me round for a few laps then overtook me, only to have a bit of a moment and end up running thought the gravel at McCleans – no damage done thankfully and he carried on (we both had a laugh about that one). I managed to set my best time on my penultimate lap, before I got the dreaded fuel surge again and had to come in 2 minutes before the end of the session. Lesson learnt. I posted a 1.21.5 which was good for 5th. I was more than happy with that. Lee managed a 1.19.9 which was a great time considering he had not even been to Donny before.
So now we had a near 6-hour wait until my race.
I managed to fill some of the time by helping Lee out with his race (Group 2). I offered to time his pit stop and give him some water. Mark was going to take his tyre pressures. The race turned out to be quite eventful. Lee pitted early as agreed but it was clear he had a problem. His front wheel arch had come loose and was rubbing against his tyre. We spend a very frantic 2 minutes trying to get a spanner and tighten up the nut. It was a blind panic as there was not a tool box/mechanic to be seen – blooming typical. We watched Lee go round for a few laps only for him to then start frantically pointing at his front arch again. Turns out it was his other arch rubbing this time. We prepare for another pit stop which the race commentator picked-up on but Lee decided to stay out. Having given me the thumbs up we monitored it from the pits for the rest of the race. Towards the end of the race Lee had another moment going straight on at the chicane, hitting the raised kerb and taking off skyward (the airport is next door Lee!). The floor was looking a little second hand but all was good. We also had more drama as one of the leading Caterhams managed to break his propshaft. The carbon firbre propshaft with CV joint still attached (well who doesn’t have a CF propshaft on their car?) came to a rest in the middle of the start/finish straight, being collected by one car which lost it’s rear arch as a result. Luckily no one was hurt. The safety car was called out and the Marshals grabbed it.
So after a nervous wait, it was finally time for my race (Group 1). We were caller earlier than scheduled so Lee kindly stayed on, delaying his long drive home to help with my pit stop.
I got a good start from the rolling grid. This was despite the 6th place Caterham being in front of me prior to the lights going out. At one point the grid was so messy I thought the start would be aborted. I held position in fifth despite grabbing some oversteer into Redgate and again at Craners (not something I want to repeat). Annoyingly I fluffed a gear change and didn't defend well going onto the back straight and lost two places as a result. It was that close running. My pain was made worse when I just could not find third coming out of the Foggy esses. This reined my speed along the start/finish straight. Fortunately, the two cars that overtook me continued to battle and I began to reduce the gap. One caterham span having lost the back end at McCleans and I managed to get clear of him for the rest of the race. Then at the next corner, the Westfiled of the Mowbray father/son team had a coming together with a Caterham and with bodywork all other the track, both retired from the race. This was a shame for the only other Westfield in the race. They were both quick too. Surprisingly, the safety car was not called out. I soon caught the car in front and we traded places for about 6 laps. This was sevens racing at its best with very equally matched machinery and plenty of drafting on the straights. The racing was hard fought, very close at times but clean and fair. I lost one of my front wings going down Craner Curves at some point was well. Shame really as it was CF.
At about 23 minutes I pitted. This went as well as could have been expected. We know from the race organisers that the minimum time you can do a pit stop is 76 seconds and I managed 79. That helped a lot - thanks Lee and Mark!. The lap after pitting was ‘exciting’ to say the least with tyres not quite up to temperature. Pitting late meant the pit lane was virtually clear and there was no traffic in the pit lane or on the track as I left. This allowed me to put in 8 consecutive laps (after the pit exit lap) in the 1.22’s with a 1.21 on my penultimate lap. That Lucozade during the pit stop really did the trick!
With about 6 laps to go Mark put out the pit board. This was really helpful. The pit board said ‘Mike 14’ (my race number) ‘30’ and ‘P3’. I though great I only have 10 minutes to go as I must admit I was very worried about my fuel level (I finished with virtually no fuel but with no fuel surge either).The following pit boards said the same but this time with ‘35’ and ‘37’ and I prayed that the safety car would not come out. I know this was the time remaining/counting down but refused to believe I was in third – ‘P3’. We had not agreed to put positions on the pit board. With two laps to go I saw a Caterham approaching fast and I could just not keep him behind me. Had I just lost out on my first podium?
Again, I could see cars in my mirrors on the straights and I really dug deep to keep my concentration until the chequered flag came out. I was so relieved. I went round on my cool down lap, thanking the Marshals on the way. When I came into the pits I was pointed towards the winners section, I still didn’t believe it until Mark confirmed it – I was third and took my first podium! I was over the moon. What a result, even if I was a little lucky. I was interviewed by the race commentator, but quite frankly I didn’t know what to say! Interview practice was not on my training schedule! What a race and one I won’t forget in a hurry that’s for sure.
Thankfully I remembered to collect my upgrade card and with my previous 4 races plus marshalling, I now have the 6 I need to upgrade to National A next year. I ceremoniously ripped my yellow cross off the back of the car.
What a great journey this season has been. It’s been such an experience and I have enjoyed every moment. I cannot wait until next year now.
Thanks for reading.
Mike - No. 14.
(My internet at home will finally be working next week so i'll try to sort some video)
The racing continues. This time at Pembrey on the 21st of August.
It didn't start well. We stayed at a hotel near to the track and there was an enormous and loud wedding. Not a problem until the bar closed. Not the best nights sleep I have ever had. To top it all off, both my phone and my wife's phone did not wake us and we overslept, albeit only by about 1/2 an hour.
Fuelled up with a cooked breakfast, we made our way to the track. The day was organised by the Vintage Sports Car Club and it was certainly different. The bloke next to us said there was a very expensive ("seven figures") Bugatti racing and I think that was one of many expensive cars. We were put in the main paddock with the vintage cars as there was no room left in the pits. Our fault for turning up late I suppose.
So after we rushed to set up, I prepared for quali. I have not been to Pembrey for over two years so I had to remember the lines. Whilst I had watched You Tube clips, it never really helps. I know from some Go Pro footage that I had lapped at roughly 1.11, two up in the car and before my current set up. We had 20 minutes to post a time and after 10 minutes, I began to build up some speed, only for a car to lunch it's engine and drop fluid all over about a third of the track. b*******. Many did one lap after the red flag and called it a day. I needed the practice and stayed out. I'm glad I did as I posted my best time on my last lap. A 1.09, with odd lines to avoid the fluid! I was happy with that and 14th out of 29 cars.
It was looking like it was going to rain but I held off changing set up and tyres until the last moment. The forecast was for it to brighten up before really starting to rain later in the day. That was wrong. I gambled with the Avon ZZR's (mediums) as they had lots of tread being almost brand new. But.....as we were waiting to go out, it started to rain harder. The organisers gave us opportunity to swap but I kept the ZZR's on and it's a decision I regretted. During the race I had a good start - I was amazed at the amount of spray - it's just ridiculous you cannot see a thing! but then struggled to hold off the chasing pack for about three or four laps and then just lost place by place, finishing 18th. The consolation for me was I couldn't have driven any faster given the tyres and had a great battle with an Elise. We swapped places three times, including me overtaking at Honda which I don't think was expected by the other driver at all. I took a late lunge into the fast right and it payed off. However, I was just pipped on the line and finished 2/10ths behind the Elise having failed a last ditch attempt to overtake on the last corner (Honda again). Close but no cigar. No video as my Wife pressed the wrong button on the Go Pro, we really should have practiced this first as it's a little tricky.
For the second race, I changed my wheels and put the wets on. These were much better (by about 1.5 seconds) but the conditions were even worse by now. I didn't have time to dry out my race suit, nor did I have a spare. I was sitting in the holding area and my teeth were chattering...in late August. I had a great start as it seams everyone else was napping again and I overtook several (3 I think) cars and managed to get to the inside for the first corner but again, despite driving to mine and the cars ability, I steadily lost places. Why are the westies not good in the rain?. I tried to be smooth but it was a fest of gradual understeer into snap oversteer. I held station in 18th but then touched the green exit curb at Brooklands, defencing from another car and then....double b*******, I span 180 degrees. Thankfully the chasing two cars missed me. I straightened the car and continued, finishing 20th. Not the result I wanted but I, other then my spin, I thought I drove to my ability, had a few good battles and that's all I need right now to be happy. I even got some good footage from the race...and the spin which I should really edit out! I finally enter the modern age on the 1st and get fibre. Once I am set up i'll post some video.
So that's 4 races down with Donny a week on Sunday with the CSCC. That's five signatures. I'll get my sixth marshalling at Combe on Monday - a new experience for me and I'm looking forward to it.
Well that really hit the spot - what a thrill that was. If I'm honest I have thought about nothing else for the last two years and to finally get to the grid was, it felt, like an achievement in itself. It easy to forget the amount of time I have spent in the garage / transporting the car to garages etc to get it all ready. Not to mention the expense.
So I managed to get a place in the general practice session on the Saturday night. It was all a bit rushed as it was my daughters birthday party that day and we had all her friends/parents round. I also found out last minute that I had to get the car scrutineered which didn't help. I had 35 minutes and I split it into two sessions, with my friend taking tyre pressures in between. The only problem being that I just started to get fuel starvation 5 minutes before the end and I didn't want to be a numpty and run out, so I came in. I posed a 1.20.2, which was better than my trackday (ahem) time of 1.21.8. The BMW compact and Fiesta race cars were also out and found the barriers more then once.
Practice meant that I was in a much better frame of mind going into the race day. I got to the circuit to sign-on and because the car was inspected the day before, it was already scrutineered. I had a chat with the Clark of the Course, as required by the Blue Book at your first race. The paddock was absolutely packed and I felt a little out my depth with a borrowed gazebo and tool kit from my house....Motorhomes and Race trucks provided seating areas, garages etc for those with a 'proper' budget. Before I know it, it was time to qualify. I found out that you are released onto the circuit in the order that you turn up and so I got to the front of the queue. Other than one car spinning in front of me and one car nearly collecting me from the rear as he lost control under breaking, it went well! I posted a 1.19.424. I was happy with that, 16th out of 32. Exactly in the middle of the pack.
We then had to wait a long time before the race and I didn't want to relax too much to make sure I was in the right frame of mind for the race. My Wife told me I was not 'talkative', which was more nerves than anything else. I checked the car at least twice and then went for the pre-race 'weight reduction' only to epically fail. my race suit dropped on the floor and for the rest of the day I smelt like a lift in a car park.
So my first race. I was quite aggressive with the tyre warming and trailed the brakes with my left foot to get some heat in them. It worked as I didn't notice cold tyres/brakes on the first lap. I even managed to bag a place on the first corner. I was all a blur from then on until the checkered flag. I had a small battle with another Westfield running slicks and 240 bhp motor, but I could not keep up - he was just too quick. I also had a Fiesta chasing me for a bit before he had a problem. For a large part of the race I was on my own, but this gave me some clear air to post a 1.19.402. I enjoyed it immensely and it was every bit as good as I could expect. There really is no substitute for wheel to wheel racing. I finished 14th.
Race two was reduced in time as the BMW's and Fiesta carnage lead to a slipping programme. The rolling start was a farse, with the leader heading off at about the second corner full chat! I also got a little confused as there was a car, totalled at Quarry and no yellow flags? I thought the race would have been red flagged because of that to be honest. I had a good battle with a 106 and a Civic before both had problems and tailed off. After much attrition, I finished 10th overall, second in Class. I even got a small trophy for my efforts!
What a great day and one i'll never forget.
When I figure out how, i'll post the videos.
So I thought I would write a blog about my venture into circuit racing.
Last year I had my first competitive events, in the form of WSCC SS events at Castle Combe and at Blyton. I enjoyed them both immensely, but I have always wanted to race others on the track, not just against the clock.
So, I did a bit of work to the car over the winter……..including:
1. Fitting a second kill switch
2. Fitting a fire extinguisher
3. Fitting ARB's front and rear
4. Getting new springs and a full set up (thanks Adam;) at Clear)
5. Getting an engine tweak (Blink ported the polished the head, new cams and remap making 182 bhp)
6. New wet tyres (Toyo R1R's)
7. New dry tyres (Avon ZZR's in medium)
8. New wheels for above
9. New radiator
10. New front disks and pads
11. Removal of dynok sheet and spray paint the interior black
12. New HANS system
13. New helmet
14. Fitted transponder
Amongst many, many other little things.
I done a track day at Donny in May and Combe in June in preparation, the car is finally running well and I have the following races booked:
17th July at Combe (double header)
21st August at Pembery (double header)
4th September at Donny (40 minute race)
The first two meetings are with the Welsh Sports and Saloon Championship and the Donny round with the CSCC.
To say i'm nervous, penniless and feeling totally underprepared would be the understatement of the year. In all honest I have not been able to think about anything else for the past few months. I even found myself on the tube on Tuesday getting off at the wrong stop. I was visualising the perfect lap at Combe and jumped off in deep thought!
So I hope to keep this blog up to date. Please let me have your thoughts/advice and wish me luck….I'm well and truly going to need it.
Oh, and why the title? Well i always fill up the lawn mower can up at the same time as my track day cans. My Mountfield RS 100 only uses the best!