The Maidstone Sprint, Lydden Hill

20th July 1996

The following is a report of my first competition in a sprint event, organised by the Maidstone & Mid Kent Motor Club to RAC MSA rules. I entered in my Hawk HF3000 Lancia Stratos Replica, as a member of both Hart MC and the Alfa Romeo Owners Club.

HF3000 at Lydden

Starting The Day

Never having been to this circuit before, even as a spectator, first priority was to seek advice on the best lines to take and what particular areas to be wary of. Since competitors in sprints are such an amenable bunch - honestly - helpful advice and warnings were freely given. Almost everyone who spoke to me gave grave warnings about the paddock bend, which is an uphill entry, has a crest just where you would expect to clip the apex and goes off camber afterwards. If you do not take a late, wide entry to this corner there is a very good chance that you will go extremely wide on the exit, putting you on the grass and either into the tyres or even the old control tower building! By all accounts there is nearly always a write-off at this circuit, most often at this bend. Needless to say, I took heed of these warnings.

On the top straight The format of the event involved signing on, scrutineering, a drivers briefing, followed by a convoy run around the track. If I had arrived early enough, I could also have walked around the circuit beforehand.

Timed Practice

The convoy run took the same form as the actual timed laps would do, which was to start from the pit entrance, drive one full lap, through paddock bend at speed into the second lap and ending on the uphill section three quarters of the way around that lap. This allowed cars to leave the track after the hairpin and take a back route to the pits. With the circuit length at one mile, the timed distance would then be about 1.75 miles from a standing start to a flying finish.

In my class (C8) there were only three cars for this event. One of these was a Westfield SE with a 210bhp Vauxhall engine, the other was a Sylva Leader (a seven-style roadster) with a two litre engine of some sort. Both of these other drivers had been to Lydden before and I have seen how effective 'Sevens' can be on track days at Goodwood. I was therefore not expecting to do too well in the results. Still, it was to be my first competitive sprint and I was there for the fun of it. It was at least a hot sunny day, so I did not have the worry of a wet track, just one that looked rather tricky.

Shortly after the convoy run, the marshals were in position and the practice runs started. The times from these were recorded using light beams in the same fashion as the later timed runs would be, but whatever time you set would not count in the results. They really are for you to practice your lines, not to set any blinding times. How you are meant to learn the bends with less than two laps out I have no idea! The paddock bend that I had been warned about is only approached at speed once in the practice session. I did at least get roughly the right lines and avoided trouble. Watching the cars before me was helpful here (glad I am not in Class A, which goes out first). My time for the practice run was 93.13 seconds, with the Sylva setting 97.49 and the Westfield at 88.47, a time which I was not to beat all day.

At Devil's Elbow

Timed Runs

The competitive timed runs followed, with one run in the morning, then two further runs in the afternoon. I did improve my times on each run, with errors in my driving each time out. Nothing serious, but on the first I managed to miss third gear changing up, so went for fifth and changed down to fourth and then third. This was on the fast downhill approach to paddock bend so I then had to brake hard to try and make this turn correctly, having been concentrating more on gear selection than track positioning. On the second run things started with far too much wheelspin off the line, looking spectacular no doubt with clouds of tyre smoke, but maybe costing the best part of one second from my time. At the entry to paddock I turned in rather late and fairly quickly. This led to the tail stepping out as I came over the crest although I managed to keep hold of the car and avoided a run on the grass, wary of the potential for damage.

Coming through Paddock Bend My third and final run was better, with a sensible start and no particularly bad lines through the bends. I again kicked the back of the car out when coming into paddock, but more gently this time and not too risky (although putting a Strat sideways is not the most footsure way to drive). This was my best time of the day, as can be seen from the results below.

Class C8 Results

Kit Cars and Replicas over 1700cc
DriverVehicleRun 1Run 2Run 3Pos
#50 Duncan DickensSylva Leader93.0192.2992.263rd
#51 John RutterHawk HF300092.3191.8691.502nd
#52 Graham RichardsonWestfield SE88.5687.4287.581st

To sum up, this was a pleasant day in competition with friendly drivers at a neat little circuit. I thoroughly recommend sprinting to anyone who wants to enjoy motor sport in the UK at a reasonable cost. Car modifications are not required, other than attaching a timing beam strut and applying competition numbers to the car on the day.

The driver must have an RAC MSA competition license, fireproof overalls, crash helmet and club membership valid for each event. After that, it is a matter of getting the reg's, sending off your entry fee and turning up at the event. There is no risk of other cars putting you off the track, you only have to drive up to your own limits as it is all against the clock. What else can I say?

Up to my HF3000 home page
On to my next report, the Regis Sprint 1996