The Start Of The Event
Those having read my reports elsewhere will know that I have been to
this circuit on many occasions over the past few years, but they have
all been of a 'track day' format, not in actual competition. This meant
that instead of having a steep learning curve, I actually had some amount
of what can be called 'local knowledge' for this event. From what I could
gather, almost all of the other competitors had been there before, so that
did not give me any advantage over them (better than the reverse though).
In Class 8, Kit Cars & Replicas over 1700cc, this event had six entries including myself in my Hawk HF3000 Stratos Replica and Graham Richardson in his Westfield SE (who beat me on my previous event at Lydden). Having more entries in the class meant that: (a) There were more cars that I may be able to beat; (b) There were more cars that may beat me; and (c) There would be more than one award in the class.
On arrival at the circuit, there were first the usual procedures of adjusting damper settings and tyre pressures (for track rather than road use), taping up headlamps, fitting the timing strut and applying competition numbers to the doors. Then it was a noise test, where I recorded 96dB(a) against a limit on the day of 108dB. I can tell you, it is a lot louder *in* my car than outside of it - a great noise too! Scrutineering followed this, where - as well as the usual safety checks on the car - tax, insurance and MOT documents were checked against my car. These are required for my car to comply with the class regulations that I was competing in. Another requirement is for the tyres to be on the RAC MSA 'approved' list, so no super-sticky specials are permitted. I am using Yokohama A509 tyres, which are fine for this form of competition. With all these points checked, it was a matter of completing the signing-in procedure and awaiting the event start.
First time onto the track that day was as part of a 'convoy run', which is intended as a familiarisation lap, taken at slow speed. What actually happens is that the cars in this convoy often drop back for a while, then accelerate on to close the gap they have created, in order to take one or two of the bends at some sort of speed. Then there is the small point of using the brakes correctly to avoid the car in front which is now going at a crawl, having done the same as you just a moment before.
Being a fairly large event, it was some time before my practice run came around. A single run at this event began on the start line, where four cars are lined up at the beam and started at reasonable intervals. The idea being that as you are not permitted to overtake at this circuit, faster cars are set off first. The run then consists of one full lap, for which a split time is often given, followed by the next 'flying' lap. This second lap ends when you cross the timing beams on the start-finish line, when you have to pull up rather quickly and turn back down the adjacent pit lane to clear the track. One unfortunate marshal had the job of standing in the centre of the track just past the pit lane entrance, holding a red flag to indicate that the drivers must stop and turn off at that point. How he felt as car after car was screaming at him over the line and then standing on the brakes whilst apparently aiming straight for him I do not know! I believe he survived the day in one piece.
On my practice run, which is timed but does not count towards results, I made
a few recognisable mistakes. From the start line to the first bend I did not
put the car up into fourth, which meant I hit the rev limit part way around
the double-apex Magwick. This cut my speed onto the next straight and hence
increased the time taken to reach St Marys.
I made a real mess of the chicane at the end of my first lap. I braked too early and took a wider line than I had in the past, so decided to use 'a bit of welly' in the very short distance before I had to swing left out of the chicane. Hitting the loud pedal had the effect of completely breaking traction at the rear, whereupon I then had to change behaviour almost instantly at hit the brakes to get my speed back down for the second half of the chicane. Using the brakes only appeared to make matters worse, although the car was pointing in roughly the right direction, and then I had to turn around the cone and avoid going up the kerb on the outside (I have been over this kerbing before and it is not a good idea!).
Completing this actual turn was a bit of a surprise as I still had not given the rear tyres much of a chance to regain grip since entering the first bend. I came out with plenty of wheelspin and not too much opposite lock. Still, no real harm done. At the other end of the circuit, I went into St Marys too quick and decided to stay on the brakes - and on the circuit - until my speed had come down to something acceptable before turning in. This gave me a bad line and a poor speed through this corner, although when I got round to the chicane for the second time I made an effort not to repeat the hash-up of my first time through.
My standing lap was recorded at 105.53 seconds, with the complete run taking 206.49 seconds. I felt confident that with the mistakes in that run that I knew of, I could take off perhaps two seconds from that time. Unfortunately for me, Graham had set a practice time of 197 seconds in his Westfield. I was however second quickest in my class so things were not looking too bad.
First Timed Run
The track was closed for the lunch period and I was in the first group of
cars to go out at 1:30 when the track reopened. On this occasion, I did
not attempt anything odd at the chicane, since there is precious little
time that can be gained from this corner but plenty that can be lost.
My driving on this run was somewhat smoother, or so I felt, and I did
not identify any obvious mistakes that I could try and correct later.
The resulting time of 204.37 was indeed two seconds better than my practice run. What surprised me was that my standing lap time was set at 105.15, so my mistakes at the chicane and St Mary's did not count for much and I made up more time on my flying lap. Confusing. I checked with Graham to find that he had only set 198 seconds on his first timed run, being the result of going wide and driving on the grass at the back of the circuit somewhere! I was still second in class and was hopeful of keeping this position come my final run.
Second Timed Run
Having pushed quite hard through the fast bends of this track, I felt
that my front tyres were sliding more than I would have liked, so I upped
the pressures a bit more before my second timed run, Sometimes this can
be a bad move, as the car will behave differently to the previous time
out and there is a risk of making things worse rather than better.
When I went out on my second - and final - run, it turned out that I had made the correct choice, with the car tracking more accurately when at speed through the corners. With a standing lap time of 104.07 I must have improved either my start (which I did not feel was any different) or my initial bravery through the turns. My final time was set at 203.10, so perhaps my bravery wore off on the second lap? Graham Richardson again set a 198 second run, through no obvious fault he knew of, so that was the time he recorded (even though his practice run was one second quicker, that does not count). With all other class times being recorded I was at second fastest in class.
After the statutory period of 30 minutes to allow for protests to be
recorded, the awards were given out. This began with a handout of goodies
from the marshals draw, they all deserve something for their efforts as
competitions could not be held without their help. Perhaps event organisers
could indicate on the regulations for events that drivers may wish to bring
along something to include in the marshals draw as a thank you?
Results & Prizegiving
For this event, there were four overall categories from Standard Production
Cars, Road-going Production Cars, Kit Cars & Replicas, Modifieds and
finally Clubmans, Single Seaters and specials. Within each category there
are capacity breaks to create individual classes. Hence I run in class C8,
for Kits over 1700cc. The awards were given out in reverse order and I
was somewhat confused when the second placed award for class 8 did not
have my name against it. I assumed someone had beaten my time and I had
not read the results list too closely. A moment later I was even more
confused as I was called up for First In Class Eight! It turned out that
Graham then went on to win First In Category C, so allowing me be awarded
first place within the class. So, I now have a glass tankard as an award.
Chuffed? I should say so!
A class win on only my second time out, in a car that I built myself. Plenty of reason to be proud.