Thursday, 12 November 2009

Brands Hatch - October 24th 2009

  • Qualifying : 28th (last) - 1:19.426
  • Race 1 : DNF
  • Race 2 : DNF

  • After all the dramas at Mallory Park there was alot to fix in a short time if we were to be out for the final round of the season at the Brands Hatch Formula Vee Festival....

    Graham, Alix, John, Mo and all the other guys at X-Spec Motorsport in Hinkley worked their miracles to repair the body work and chassis damage, welding in a new chassis leg and putting a complete new front end on the car.

    Mikee as usual worked harder then anyone really should to source and fit a new radiator, drive shafts, belts, brakes and god alone knows what else... only to find after final assembly that the transmission problems were more serious then just the drive shaft, the gearbox had no 3rd gear...

    With just 4 days to go before Brands and no suitable replacement to be found anywhere, Mikee removed the gearbox again and headed back up to Hinkley were he worked with Graham and Alix to hastily rebuild the box from spare parts!

    No testing was possible beyond a quick drive around the industrial estate, because the box was only back in the car the night before leaving for the race! Maybe I should have called the team Last Minute Motorsport ;)

    With Jan from (the fantastic charity we have been supporting this year!) coming to watch me race for the first time the nerves were back.... especially given the crash last time out and this being Brands Hatch...

    For those who have read previous entries, you will know that one corner has had me anxious all season.... Paddock Hill.

    One of the most challening and thrilling corners in british motorsport, you reach Paddock Hill at the end of the straight just after the pit lane exit joins the circuit, making it feel somehow narrower then it really is.

    Walking the circuit the night before the race you realise just how much the track drops away as you turn into the sweeping right hander, at speed it is like driving off a cliff. In all the years I have been coming to Brands Hatch to watch races, I have never been to a meeting where somebody didn't end up in the gravel on the exit of Paddock Hill.... normally on their roof!

    So with the rain coming down hard, I certainly was not going to be suffering from over confidence in qualifying this time!

    If my preamble was a little verbose this time, don't worry, the report of what acctually happened in qualifying is anything but :(

    On the first timed lap the car suddenly started banging and popping and refusing to boost as I came through Druids and down to Graham Hill Bend. The car would not rev above 4500rpm and the engine light had come on, the ECU was in limp home mode...

    .. so I did. Mikee quickly looked over the car and declared it was nothing i could fix in the 10 minutes of qualifying remaining. We decided I should go back out to complete the manditory 3 laps needed to qualify.

    I went back out and did my best to stay out of the way off the racing line so as not to ruin anyone elses times. As I started the last of the 3 laps I was achieving a pityful 70mph on the straight! Downshifting to turn into Paddock Hill the gearbox, so recently and rapidly repaired, let go, jamming in neutral and leaving me no choice but to park on the hill up towards Druids.

    As always, the Marshalls were fanstastic. They make sure we're all safe, cheer you up with a joke when you crash or your car dies... no motorsport could happen without these fantastic guys and girls who give up their free time.... for free. If you see one in the bar, buy them a drink!

    In the paddock
    So that was it... end of season, with engine problems and gearbox problems it was beyond the spares we had available and we could not race. A disapointing way to finish the season, but what a season!

    3 Wins, 5 Seconds and 3 Thirds in our first season of competitive motorsport is an awesome result and once again I want to say a huge thankyou to all the people who have helped this year, but most of all to Mike and to my sponsors:


  • X-Spec Motorsport

  • Silverstone Competition Tyres

  • Lico

  • Japanese Performance Magazine
  • Monday, 19 October 2009

    Mallory Park - 27th September 2009

    Race Results
  • Qualifying : 24th / Not Classified (last in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 1 : 16th (3rd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 2 : DNF

  • Wow! For a change all the last minute repairs were to the van rather then the car, having broken down when we attended Rally Day and Castle Combe the week before. In the days immediatly preceeding the race a new gearbox, fuel pump, alternator belt and finally, having nearly given up the day before the race, fuel line! In the end of course Mikee tracked down the problem and we could go to the ball...

    As I was starting a new job which required me to live away during the week on the Monday after the race, my cat Luna(tic) joined us on the drive up so that he could go stay with my parents in Crewe. Queue a manic day of driving, first to Hinkley to drop the car off with X-Spec motorsport for a new setup, then to Crewe to drop off the cat, then back to Hinkley to get the car, before finally on to Mallory Park...

    .... though we gave up and slept outside X-Spec and went to Mallory in the morning :)



    Damage - Mike Herbert

    To say qualifying didn't go well would be an under statement!

    Having made it round from the pits to the startline warming my tyres and brakes I turned into Gerrards for the first time and instantly realised that I had not adjusted enough for the more agressive setup on the car. I had turned in to hard, causing the back end to come out....

    .. initially I was able to catch the slide, holding it briefly in a drift, but then I (think I) hit a bump with the back wheels, causing the car to straighten. The slide suddenly straightened, got grip and fired inwards towards the armco at the inside of Gerrards.

    The resulting impact, at about 70mph, destroyed the front end of the car and left me heavily winded and requiring a trip to the medical centre for checks.

    'Fixed' - Lance Wittenberg

    Other then bruising from the harness and a sore neck I was fine and returned to the paddock to find Mike, Karen, Rich, Graham and most of the rest of the Subaru Cup grid setting about the car with hammers, hack saws and crowe bars! It sounds drastic, but somehow Mike directed all this chaos and got the car back together enough for scurtineering in just 1.5 hours while I went and begged the Clerk of the Course to let me race.

    Race 1

    Fortunatly the Clerk allowed me to race, but I would be starting stone dead last on the grid. As I lined up the nerves were porbably worse then for my first race back at Snetterton and my heart was pounding. From this far back, you cannot see the lights properly so you end up watching the cars towards the front for movement to time your start, but I got away from the line OK.

    Going through the first corner I was extremely cautious, not wanting to cause my second red flag of the day, and lost pretty much all of the places I had made up on the start as I was unwilling to defend into the braking zone.

    This same unwillingness to defend resulted in the thing I had feared when I span on lap 7, trying to get out of the way of Kris Dunlop and some other GT250 cars which were coming up to lap me at Gerrards Out. The spin lost me the over a second and most of the positions I had managed to make up, but as I set off back down the road after Peirs Hulford, my nearest Subaru Cup rival, I finally got the crash out of my head and started driving properly again.

    With peirs dropping off the pace in the latter part of the race due to overboost problems just as my pace began to improve I was quickly behind him and past the slower GT150 cars quickly and passed him into the Lake Essess on lap 9.

    With my confidence coming back my times improved and I started to enjoy driving this great circuit and was delighted to have made up 8 places and finished on the Subaru Cup podium (all be it with a reduced entry list for the class on this outing).

    Race 1 Finish - Lance Wittenberg

    Adrian Howells drove superbly to claim is second class win of the season, almost lapping me by the end of the race. Congratulations to Adrian and to Darren who claimed a worthy 2nd having struggled with disintigrating tyres for much of the race.

    Race 2

    Despite the late surge in Race 1 I was still left lining up in 16th, 7 places behind Darren and 8 behind Adrian in their identical Subaru Cup cars, so to improve on my 3rd from earlier in the day would be a tall order.

    Already on the outside of row 8 I darted even further to the outside on the start to take advantage of the Subaru's strong starting performance. Despite having to go round one slower starting car with two wheels on the grass, I had probably my best start of the season to move up to 7th place overall, a gain of 9 places!

    Nose to Tail Subarus - Lance Wittenberg

    Darren had also had a good start and we entered Gerrards side by side, but with the weaker outside position and well aware of how slippery the outside line of Gerrards Out was from my earlier experience, I slotted in behind him to take 2nd place in the Subaru Cup class.

    With Adrian never far behind me, the 3 leading Subaru Cup cars ran nose to tail round and side by side for 6 laps until I managed to slip up the inside of Darren on the way into the Essess, finally making the move I had been tryin for the previous 3 laps to stick and holding the place through the hairpin.

    Taking Race 2 Lead - Lance Wittenberg

    I started to pull away, creating a gap of over half a second by lap 7. I started to settle down my driving, knowing this would be a long race and confident that I could keep Darren, who was busy defending against a very rapid Adrian, behind me.

    On lap 8 the first signs of impending doom where showing, with drive out of Gerrards and the Essess both 'feeling strange'. As I exited the hairpin, having taken a defensive middle line with Darren and Adrian having gained through the lap, I lost all drive in 2nd gear and the Subarus shot past on either side. Finding drive in 3rd I followed Adrian into the Devils Elbow, nearly a second adrift by the time we crossed the line.

    By the time we reached the hairpin again on lap 9 I had got back on the tail of Darren and Adrian, who were now fighting tooth and nail for position, but as I powered out of the corner I again lost drive.

    This time I didn't have drive in any gear, with a terrible grinding sound and smoke pouring from the car I managed to park it on the Bus Stop chicane, which is used for motorcycle races at Mallory but is too narrow for cars. With marshalls running up with fire extinguishers it looked like Mallory Park luck had not changed for the better after all as I jumped over the fence to watch the rest of the race with the crowd.

    The battle scarred and race weary Subaru was taken back to X-Spec in Hinkley as specialist equipment would be required to carry out the repairs to the chassis and body work. Further investigation has shown that the transmission failure was down to a snapped drive shaft :(

    Mallory proved a real roller coaster ride. The damage to the car will cost a huge amount to put right, but, before the DNF in Race 2 I was probably driving better then I have all season.... I can't wait for Brands Hatch now!

    Next Race - Brands Hatch - October 24th

    Monday, 14 September 2009

    Snetterton - 22nd Aug 2009 (catching up!)

    Race Results
  • Qualifying : 13th (2nd in Subaru Cup) - 1:24.926
  • Race 1 : 10th (2nd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 2 : 9th (2nd in Subaru Cup)

  • Wow, I thought this post had gone up aaages ago... blogging fail :(

    The Subaru Cup's second visit to the Norfolk circuit was again greated by glorious sunshine, great for grip, but a worry to many in the Subaru Cup due to our experience with overboosting / overheating problems on our last visit.

    All the cars experienced this to some extent, but a combination of luck, driving round the problem and some ingenious adaptations, by mikee, to the windscreen washers to spray water onto the intercooler meant that we did not suffer excessivly.

    We, of course, had our usual mad rush to get ready for the race, with a new P1 rear diff being rebuilt by API Impreza being fitted to the car only a few days prior to the race along with a new paddle clutch from X-Spec motorsport to complete the repairs from Cadwell.

    My aim in returning to Snetterton was to shave at least 2 seconds off my best laptime from the eartlier visit, aware that to target a repeat double victory may be pushing our luck, but hoping to return to the winners step at least once.

    Despite a good qualifying run, managing not to get stuck behind slower cars as happened at Cadwell, I struggled to adapt to the changes in handling produced by the new diff and was unable to quite match my previous best lap of 1:24.916, recording a 1:24.926... 100th of a second slower!

    Race 1
    Starting second in the Subaru Cup class from the inside of Row 7, with Alix thompson ahead on the outside of Row 5 and Karen Phillips along side me I new it was going to be a real scramble down to the first corner for the class lead.

    Race 1 Podium - Richard Senter

    My nerves were back, knowing that my parents were watching me race for the very first time, but as the 5 second board came out any extranous thoughts disapeared as the revs raised and I waited for the red lights to go out.....

    I used the new paddle clutch (which allows quicker engagement and avoids slipping which had wasted time previously) to good effect off the start, making my way up the inside of my perpetual shadow Andre Severs and Vaughn Fletcher as we passed the pitlane exit. Unfortunatly I fluffed the gearchange from 2nd to 3rd, bouncing out of gear and effectivly going backwards.

    Managing to regain drive I slotted in behind Andre, who had to break early due to a minor incident ahead. Forced out onto the curbs I locked my wheels briefly and nearly hit Andre as we went into turn 1, a close call, we got away with just the slightest touch which did not upset either car.

    The loss of drive had lost me position in the Subaru Cup class, with Darren making his way past through the first couple of corners. A good run through Coram at the end of lap 1 gave me a chance under brakes into Russell Chicane and I darted up the inside of Darren as he ]]took a wider line into the chicane. Out on the dirty side of the circuit Darren attempted to out brake me, locking up and sliding into the front wing of my car with a hard impact.

    Besides a few dents and a loss of momentum, we both made it away from our clash with no ill effects and I was able to hang in on the outside round the Chicane to keep the place as we accelerated onto the straight.

    With the faster GT class cars of Andre Severs and Paul Garrod between us I was never able to close back up on Alix, finishing 2nd in the Subaru Cup. Towards the end of the race we started seeing some minor overboost and fueling issues which caused me to drop off in pace as a precaution, but no problems could be found after the race.

    A best lap of 1:23.770 shaved over a second off my previous best time, meeting at least one of my targets for the weekend.

    Reel Motion produced this highlights video of Snetterton. Hopefully we will see more from them at future rounds soon :)

    Race 2

    Starting directly behind Alix on the outside of Andre on Row 5 I was hopeful that another good start would bring me the class lead.

    I got an excellent start, passing Andre and Paul Garrod in their GT class Honda's off the grid and running side by side with Alixl, who had also had a great start, through turns 1 and 2.

    Alix got the best of me onto the Rivett straight for the first time and into the Essess secured his class lead, but I was able to continue to harrass him for the next 4 laps, at one point passing each other 3 times in a single corner!

    After just a couple of laps I started experiancing fuel starvation, particually in the high g-force corners like Sear. The fuel would all move to one side of the tank, then surge back causing first starvation and then overfueling, with a loud bang and shot of flame from the exhaust!

    This kind of thing is very bad for the engine, with Subarus having a reputation for detonating when subjected to fuel starvation (the fuel is needed to cool the cylinder). With this in mind I decided to back off in the hope of making the end of the race, looks like cutting anymore off my laptime would have to wait...

    First Andre, then Paul went past as my pace continued to slow. I have finally learned the lesson from Pembrey, not to fight with cars that are not in my class when I haven't got the pace. Letting the other cars past may have hurt my pride, but it let me keep going and, with Darren Hughes taking a spin on lap 6, secure a 2nd place finish.

    Simon Norris' extremely quick Evo hogged the overall wins for the weekend, the car astonishingly quick in a straight line, while Karen's run of bad luck continued on her welcome return to the Subaru Cup, with a shunt from an MR2 and a spin on oil from Andy McClennen's Swifts engine fire in Race 1 putting her near the back of the grid for the second race.

    Full results and times are available from TSL Timing here

    Saturday, 11 July 2009

    More pics.... from Pembrey!

    With the break in racing we have some time to restock on parts, repair the car and go through some of the photos we have been sent so far this season.

    These were taken by Hannah Hall at the Pembrey meeting in May.

    Video slideshow of the spin in Race 1... close!

    The assembly area for Race 1 - Hannah Hall

    See, we really were at Pembrey! - Hannah Hall

    Hopefully I can find some more photos of the recent Cadwell Park round soon, in the meantime lots of videos are available on the Nippon Challenge Video Channel on Vimeo... enjoy ;)


    Wednesday, 1 July 2009

    Cadwell Park - 28th June 2009

  • Qualifying : 12th (2nd in Subaru Cup) - 1:48.154
  • Race 1 : 10th (1st in Subaru Cup) - fastest lap - 1:47.945
  • Race 2 : DNF

  • When I first received the calendar for the 2009 Subaru Cup, there were two corners that I really feared for my Novice year.

    The first is the notoriously difficult Paddock Hill bend at Brands Hatch, where we will race in October.

    The second is The Mountain..... at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire.

    Practice & Qualifying

    Known as 'the mini nurburgring' by UK racing fans due to its combination of fast sweeping, off camber corners, hills, blind crests and tight chicanes, Cadwell Park's 2.75 mile circuit is one of the toughest technical challenges for both driver and car that the Subaru Cup visits all year.

    With this in mind we booked a test session at the circuit on Saturday afternoon, to at least learn where the circuit goes and help combat my fear of The Mountain section, a sharp left right chicane that exits into a steep climb and blind crest on a slight right hand bend in front of the main grandstand and clubhouse.

    Arriving on Friday night to find the circuit and surrounding area blanketed in a heavy fog we got setup in the outer paddock and were, for a change, early enough to spend some time chilling out from the 6.5 hour drive (which Mikee did in almost one stint!) before getting an earlyish night.

    By Saturday afternoon the fog had lifted and the car was ready but I was not, having been feeling pretty ill with a chest infection for over a week.....

    Waiting in the assembly area
    Richard Senter, 2009

    I managed to go out for about 30 mins and start to learn where I was supposed to be going, but with my lap times still somewhere in 1:50's I had to bring the car in for the day due to a combination of having nearly been sick in the car and the clutch starting to show worrying signs of wear.

    As it was I practically had to be helped from the car and spent the rest of the day rehydrating (the extreme heat in the car had probably not helped) and trying to get some rest. In the evening I was feeling well enough to walk round the circuit with Mikee and Alex, which helped a great deal with understanding the gradiant and camber changes that charachterise the circuit.

    Qualifying well is essential at Cadwell as the extremely narrow, twisty track (which is considered too tight for high level car racing but is amazing for bikes!) does not offer many overtaking opportunities.

    Unfortunatly I was not able to get a clear run for the first 5 laps, being stuck behind Darren who was learning the track, and could not get a time better then 1:53s which was never going to be enough to secure a decent grid position.

    Darren put the car on the grass as I passed him on lap 5, but a clear run was still difficult as I had to make room to let other, higher class, cars through before I could begin my own flying lap! Finally on the final two laps I was able to get a traffic free run recording much faster times to secure 12 place on the grid and 2nd in the Subaru Cup class.

    Race 1

    Subaru Cup winners
    (LtoR - Darren Hughes, Martin White & Adrian Howells)
    Richard Senter, 2009

    As seems to be the norm I lined up on the grid directly along side Andre in his GT250 Accord who had qualified in 11th. This placed me on the inside of the track, right next to the pit wall giving fairly limited options on the start. Alix Thompson, who qualified 1st in the Subaru Cup class, was in 9th place on the grid, directly in front of Andre.

    If I was going to have any change of catching Alix, I would have to have a blistering start, follow the outside line through Coppice and aim to pass him into Charlies....

    .... which of course is not what happened!!!

    As the red lights went out I had no where to go, with the cars in front of me bogged down, leaving me holding my revs far longer then normal. When I finally could move, I found that my clutch, which had started causing problems the previous day, would not release and instead was slipping so badly that a great column of white smoke was pouring out of the bonnet vents as the engine and gearbox screamed in protest.

    With the rest of the pack bearing down on me I could not simply back off for fear of causing a pile up on the grid, so I instinctively backed slightly off the revs but kept the car on boost as I violently reapplied and released the clutch a couple of times before it finally dug in and jolted the car forward.

    This can only have been a few seconds, but seemed like several minutes had past as I rushed towards the first corner to try and salvage something from the race.

    The MR2s of Elliot Dunmore and Dallas Jackson both screamed past me before I could really get any momentum to stop them, but fortunately I reached the corner inches before Darren Hughes in the next SC car and was able to fend him off without loosing too much speed up the hill to Charlies where I was able to recover one of the lost places from Dallas, who unfortunatly would retire from the race a few corners later with a blown engine.

    Elliot drove amazingly in his Mk3 MR2, sucuming on the way into Park on next lap but filling my mirrors and looking to pounce on any mistake for the rest of the race. A chance he very nearly got on lap 3 when I lost control of the car on the approach to the Gooseneck, sliding sideways on oil dropped by Dallas' engine failure all the way to the appex curve on the left (2nd) hand turn before finally managing to collect the slide and drift the car back the right way.

    Alix meanwhile had also been in the wars, having collected Mike Clarks spinning Honda on his way through the Hall Bends on Lap 2, he suffered light front end damage and dropped from 9th (1st in Subaru Cup) to 19th (last in Subaru Cup), but did at least manage to contiue the race.

    With my clutch still not behaving and this kind of abuse not calculated to help matters, it was a massive relief to see the Safety Car come out on Lap 4 to allow the Marshalls (who are universly awesome and almost entirely volunteers) to safely clean up the oil at the Gooseneck and pieces of car at Hall.

    Following the Safety Car around for the next few laps allowed me to take it very easy on the car and get out of Andre's slip stream to get lots of cool air into the engine bay. To be honest, without this break I am not sure the car would have survived to the end of the race.

    As we continued to circulate around at this slower pace my nerves began to grow. I had never been on track behind a Safety Car before, but knew from years of watching racing that the restart when it finally pulled in was vital and could tottally change the result of a race.

    Exiting Barn on Lap 5 I could see the green flags waving so accelerated hard to keep up with Andre, still making sure I did not pass until well after the line which is when you are allowed to begin racing again. As it turns out, I needn't have worried and backed off as we approached Coppice, again trying to save the car.

    Starting the final lap Elliot, Darren and Adrian all loomed somewhat closer forcing me to produce my fastest lap of the weekend to fend them off, but as we crossed the line for the final time I had done so, retaining 10th position and 1st place in the Subaru Cup.

    Race 2
    Despite the car problems of race 1 and continuing to feel rather unwell (especially as someone had stolen my wallet from the van during the first race!) I was fairly hopeful of another good result from the days second race.

    I would be starting first of the Subaru Cup cars, with Elliot's MR2 providing a useful buffer for the start and Alix's car (the only SC car faster then me all weekend) starting in 15th, which should allow me to make it to Coppice first and drive a defensive race on a track where passing is extremely difficult.

    Again, this notional plan is not at all what happened. Instead, as I exited Mansfield on the green flag / warm up lap, the rear diff failed causing my right rear wheel to lock and bounce along, accomanied by ominous grinding and banging noises that made it very clear that I would not even make the start line. As it was the car barely made it up the steep exit road to the paddock, almost breaking down directly in front of the grandstand!

    Obviously this was a huge disapointment being my first ever DNF, however a single win was far more then we expected based on Saturday's testing so overall I am still very satisfied with the result.

    It also gave me the opportunity to finally watch a Nippon Challenge / Subaru Cup race and, while the circumstances are not something I would gladly repeat, it was a very enjoyable race with Tim Clarke and Maxim Taylor battling away in the GT500 class monsters while Kris Dunlop did an awesome job keeping up with them in his GT250 class Civic, with half the engine power available!

    Adrian Howells got a well deserved win in the Subaru Cup class with Darren Hughes 2nd. Alix joined me as a DNF with a failed fuel pump on lap 1, while Sam Mahr Loughan was unable to start (as in the first race) with a failed air intake sensor.

    It was a truely epic weekends racing and despite the low points, I can't wait to come back next year.... or to get back out at Snetterton at the end of August, in the meantime the Subaru will be getting some TLC as well as a bunch of new parts ;)

    [Hopefully more photos and vids to follow]

    Full race results and timing from TSL Timing here

    Next Race - Snetterton - August 22nd


    Tuesday, 9 June 2009

    Silverstone - June 6th

  • Qualifying : 15th (4th in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 1 : 14th (3rd in Subaru Cup)
  • Race 2 : 9th (3rd in Subaru Cup)

  • The Nippon Challenge and Subaru Cup rolled into a wet Silverstone on Friday night ready for a good weekends racing supporting Formula Palmer Audi and German Formula Vee.... unfortunatly we were not there!

    Mikee, the Subaru and myself were, along with Graham, Alix, Dave and Tony from X-Spec Motorsport, in Hinkley at X-Specs workshop finishing repairs to my car and putting the finishing touches to Alix and Grahams subarus.

    Damage to the new gearbox and a missing part gave Mikee and the X-Spec team several hours work. Meanwhile Alix was busy fabricating and welding in new, additional door bars for the rollcages on both mine and Grahams cars to ensure that the confusion at Pembrey over the eligability of the Cusco rollcages installed did not occur again.

    Following a change of brake pads all round and a run on X-Specs dyno to shake down the new gearbox Graham finally finished resetting the tracking and camber on the last car at around 1am! We decided to sleep in the van outside the workshop and go to Silverstone with the others in the morning.... meaning getting up at 05:30 :(

    Silverstone Paddock
    Julian, Cymraeg Scooby Club, 2009

    Another case of racing on [what passes in racing circles for] a shoe string meaning that things can end up being rather more last minute then we would hope! An absolutly epic effort from everyone at X-Spec, Andy, Alsie and the guys at Cymraeg Scoobies, Pov, Joe and most especially Mikee got us there.... thankyou... I owe more then a few rounds at the next bar!


    .... was horrible! Due to the heavy rain and water locked track surface we opted to use a brand new set of tyres (Silverstone FTZ-RR, the control tyre for the Subaru Cup) as the pair scrubbed in at Pembrey, while fine for dry running, had very little tread left.

    Coupled with the new brakes which needed to be worn in and, of course, the terrible conditions, I found the car almost undrivable and had to come into the pits after just 3 laps to check the car was ok, having already spun 4 or 5 times despite tip toeing round the course with laptimes as high as 1:45's!

    After a quick check round the car I had the confidence to go back out and pushed a little harder now that the field had spread out. I risked just a single 'flying' lap, dropping my time to 1:24.153, a massive improvement which moved me from a distant 32nd on the grid up to 15th and vitally positioned me ahead of Darren and Karren's Subaru Cup Class cars.

    Race 1

    If anything the conditions for the first race were even worse then in qualifying, but in between the two we had spoken to Jerry and the guys at Silverstone Competition Tyres who did a great job cutting our tyres (along with most of the rest of the grid) with extra grooves to help shift the standing water and also advised us on better pressure settings for running in these conditions, so we were hopeful of getting better performance.

    My nerves were not helped as we sat in the assembly area by the race start being delayed as a badly damaged Formular Palmer Audi car had to be removed from the gravel trap at Luffield by a crane, right next to where we were waiting! At least with the constant rain we didn't need to worry too much about the car overheating and losing performance as has been the case in the past :)

    As we made our way round the circuit on the parade lap I did my best to warm both tyres and brakes, without comitting the henous crime of crashing before the start of the race!! At these speeds it was clear that the additional grooves in the tyres were helping, I just hoped this stayed true.

    For reason we came back to different grid spots to those we had just left, but there was no time to worry about that as the 30 sec board came out and I tried to hold the revs at 5k, aiming to be a little bit more gentle then normal with the new gearbox and poor conditions. The lights went out and I got a reasonable start, getting on the inside of several cars as we exited onto the straight, however a slight tap to my front left cause the car to skid toward the pit wall, forcing me to back out and dropping me to at least 18th position as we approached the first corner...

    ... well apparently we were approaching it, but in the middle of the pack it was impossible to see the corner or for that matter either side of the track! More worrying still was the fact that all that could be seen of the cars ahead was their rain lights and brake lights at turn 1 which we were still approaching at over 100mph for fear of being collected by cars behind.

    Turn 1 Chaos in Race 1
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    As I turned into Copse corner (turn 1) for the first time and emerged briefly from the blinding spray I was confronted by utter chaos with several cars spun, including Vaughan Fletchers Scooby Works Impreza which seemed to be coming towards us! Somehow we all seemed to dodge through without any major incidents and the race was well and truely on.

    Handling was still on the leary side with the back sliding at every corner and stepping out of line with the slightest of errors.... which I must admit to making one or two of!

    Still on the first lap I caught Karren on the exit of Becketts but she was back along side by the end of the National Straight and, being far braver under brakes, regained a slight edge as we entered Brooklands. We passed through side by side, giving me the inside line for Luffield...

    Already commited to the move in these conditions I attempted to pass, but as Karren moved toward the appex I was forced onto the curb, instantly sliding and tapping the right rear corner of her car with the front left of mine and spinning us both, with 14 or 15 cars close behind it was a miracle that we were not collected and were both able to continue. (Sorry Karren!!)

    Fortunatly the low speeds through the complex meant that no real damage was done to either car and as Karren shot off down the striaght I got back after her, crossing the line a good way behind but managing to gain a better line into Copse and take the position, cleanly this time!

    What an incident filled race?!? I feel like I just wrote a thousands words on this, and we are only at the end of Lap 1 (So I will keep the remainder brief)!

    Passing Darren in Race 1
    Lance Wittenberg, 2009

    With the cut tyres offering more consistent grip I was able to maintain much more consistancy, lapping in the high 1:23's or low 1:24's throughout the race, which I am very happy about as consitancy is something we have been trying to improve.

    On Lap 3 I managed to pass Darren in the same way as I had Karren the previous lap (not by spinning him out!, but by getting a better run through Copse) and set off in the hope of catching Adrian up for the final 'podium' spot in the Subaru Cup class.

    Although I was making good progress towards him, the difference in lap time was not huge and I doubt I would have caught Adrian by the end of the race, however Adrian was also caught out by the conditions and span into the gravel trap at Becketts on lap 10, forcing him to retire.

    A thoroughly terrifying, exhausting, exhilarating and satisfying race all wrapped up into one... a big thankyou has to go out to the guys from Cymraeg Scoobies who helped us get the wheels changed and tyres taken over to Silverstone, and to Karren & Rich .... for not slapping me for hitting her car!

    Race 2

    With conditions drying out slightly the grid was even more packed then in race 1, with several people who had sensibly chosen to sit out the first race taking part along with a number who had suffered technical problems after qualifying.

    Positioned on the outside of Woodcote this time as I lined up on a track which if anything seemed even more slippery then when it was soaking wet for my 7th competitive race (I cannot believe we are almost half way through this first season!).

    Pointing slightly toward the right I had a great start as everybody seemed to move to cover this line, leaving me free to move to the left of the track and make up 4 or 5 places before reaching Copse for the first time.

    As it turns out this really was lucky number seven, as turn 1 saw a big accident involving numerous cars including Andre Severs' Accord, Mike Clark's Civic, Andy McLennan's Swift, Jason Jesse's (I think) MR2 and Karren Phillips' Impreza (yet again!), with several of the cars forced to retire due to the damage.

    Had it not been for the excellent start I would have been right in the middle of this, having been along side Andre on the grid and very close to Mike.

    Fortunatly, despite the massive damage caused to many of the cars (I think just about the only panel not damaged on Karrens was the roof!) and the high speeds involved, nobody was hurt and the marshalls and competitors involved did an amazing job of clearing the track, meaning that as we came through on Lap 2 to waved yellows, very little evidence of the incident remained.

    In the meantime my lap had continued on form, with me overtaking 6 cars by the time we crossed the line to start lap 2!

    I dropped a place to Graham on lap 3 when I missed a gear as I setup to drift through Copse corner (which seemed the best way to get through in these conditions), leaving me no power to control the slide and loosing me around 10 secs.

    Other then this the race went very well. I was again able to lap consistently, this time between high 1:19's and low 1:21's which I was very happy with in these conditions and was able to hang on to Graham for the remainder of the race, catching up to within a few seconds of Alix in the closing stages, but far to late to mount a challange for his 2nd position in the Subaru Cup, which was again won by Sam Maher-Loughlan who put in a dominant drive also finishing 2nd overall in both races.

    Race results and timing available online from TSL Timing

    Next Race - Cadwell Park - June 28th


    Welcome LICO

    Its been a little while since my last post with various issues keeping me offline, not least of which was getting the damage from Pembrey fixed, find parts and getting the car out at Silverstone.

    I will post a race report on that shortly, but first I would like to welcome a new series sponsor for the Nippon Challenge and Subaru Cup, LICO.

    LICO is part of the Sparco group and produces race wear and equipment aimed at both competitive motorsport and trackday users with very competitive pricing and performance. Additional information about the company and their range of products can be found at