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 :(
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.
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.
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)!
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!
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