Seloc Sprint – North Weald – 17th October 2004

Last sprint of the season and this time its on the other side of the country, again I wake up to a wet morning and after Combe I really wanted a dry day. However I was on the road by 5.30am and on my way to North Weald. I finally arrive around 7.30am and ready for signing on. I have a walk around the track and realise that there isn’t a whole lot of grip here either…however the difference is that there is loads of run off so if I was to make a mistake the chances of doing any serious damage is remote. The day was run by B19 on behalf of Seloc and thus out of the 66 entries about 50 of them were Elises. The upto 1800cc class was split in two, Experts and Novices (people that had never done a sprint). The sprint would run 2 practice runs and then 4 timed runs which meant we all got a fair bit of track time. I finally got to put some names to faces and the atmosphere was really friendly.

First Practice – Being class 1 and me being number 4 meant that we were very much the first cars out. Little did I know was I was in for. The light goes green and I sit there spinning the wheels…..then they grip and I am moving forward-ish. Click into 2nd and the car steps sideways again….mmm…this is a bit slippery. On the brakes for the first chicane, I remember on of the other drivers (MarkA) saying that you could go flat through here…yet there was me braking hard (turns out the last time the sprint ran the chicane wasn’t as tight). Through the chicane and onto the next straight, the track is very bumpy here and the car is bouncing all over the place…revs are jumping up and down and I have a huge grin on my face. Click into 3rd and I am hairing down the straight…hit the brakes for the “roundabout” and nothing…not a ditty….the car just carries on like there are no brakes, ok, this is bloody slippery. Lots of pumping the brakes and I manage to scrub off enough speed to get around the roundabout…and just avoid having to do a 3 point turn to do this. Out of the roundabout in 2nd and the car is going sideways…click into 3rd and we are still going sideways…up the straight! Almost max rpm in 3rd and we are STILL going sideways….haven’t laughed this much in ages. Brake for the fast left, nice controlled four wheel drift upto the first left hairpin…select 3rd and carry a bit to much speed into it so have to work hard to pull the noise around. back down the 2nd for the right hairpin and then hard on the power upto 3rd again to the tight right, down to 2nd, through the bend and a nice sideways powerslide over the finish line… much fun was that!!! After Combe this was a complete blast! My time was 101.04 and put me in 3rd place.

Second Practice – Doesn’t seem like I’ve had time to get out of the car and they are calling our class again! Woohoo! Looking forward to this. Again lots of wheel spin from the line…but I am enjoying myself at the moment so who cares! Though the chicane again and off down the straight, again I have problems stopping for the roundabout, but I do and get around it, up to 3rd and the cars still spinning it’s wheels but we are spending less time going sideways now. Upto the hairpin and this time use 2nd…that’s better. Back on the power to the right hairpin, brake again and a nice slide out as I get back on the power….this is sooo much fun! Back to 2nd for the last right and sideways across the line again! 😀 That felt quicker and it was…92.85s

First Timed – Well I know where the track goes now and I am feeling very confident with everything. The track is starting to dry and I am getting more grip. I get a great start off the line and take the chicane as quick as I can. Braking for the roundabout in a vale of blue smoke…well at least they aren’t sliding J Get on the power better on the exit and carry a bit more speed through the fast left. The rest of the lap feels pretty good and it was…89.07 however I had been pushed down to 9th! What when wrong there!

Second Timed – I was determined to get back in the top 3 so I had to tell myself to stop playing and start driving. And it worked…got a great start and the whole lap just “came together” the car was flying the track was almost dry now and the grip was consistent! The run felt very quick this time and was confident that it would get back to the sharp end. And it did…83.89second……and I was holding first until LiamC went out and he put a blinding lap in…81.49 seconds…..although he’s been here before that was still a very impressive time….and again the goal posts move.

Third Timed – Ok….I am currently laying 2nd in class to Liam. Lights go green and I get another great start, hit the rev limiter in 2nd before dabbing the brakes for the chicane, back on the power hard, the car is in all sorts of shapes but it feels in control, click upto 3rd and heading towards the roundabout, leaving my braking as late as possible. I pull the car up in a vale of blue smoke again, in and out of the roundabout and off down the straight again, upto 3rd and I hit the brake before the fast left. Full drift all the way through the left, down to 2nd for the left hair pin and hard on the power, difficult because of the rough surface, hit the limiter in 2nd again and brake for the right hairpin. Hard on the power again with the car going sideways, upto 3rd then back to 2nd for the final right and over the line…..82.81seconds… not good enough but it was an improvement. But now MarkA has pushed me back to 3rd by 3/10ths of a second – ARGH! Liam didn’t improve.

Forth Timed – It is just starting to rain again but I am not going to let that affect me. The light goes green and the start is near perfect, so much so I am into 3rd before the chicane, back down to second and hard on the gas on the exit, 3rd and 4th (for the first time today) and back down to 2nd for the Roundabout…no tyre smoke this time. In and out of the roundabout and accelerating hard in 2nd and 3rd….but then I bottle the fast left and brake to hard, back on the power trying to recover the lost momentum, back down to 2nd for the left hairpin, on the power hard again and upto 3rd before knocking it back down to 2nd for the left hairpin. Up the straight, no sliding this time and into 3rd, brake hard and down to 2nd around the right and over the line……was it good enough? What was the time? Well …. 82.58seconds! MarkA and Liam don’t improve and I miss out on second by 7/100th’s of a second!

What a fantastic day, this had to rate as one of the best I’ve done this year, I am still smiling as I write this report! Next year Seloc are doing a full championship…think I might just give that a go!!

Pegasus Sprint – Castle Combe 16th October 2004

Well it is the last weekend of competition for me in 2004 and I have two events on the same weekend. The first is back to my favourite circuit, Castle Combe. This track is awesome in the dry, however in the wet it can be a tad unpredictable. On the week running up to the weekend I kept a close eye on the weather forecast and for a while it looked like it was going to be dry right upto the 11th hour. However on waking up on Saturday morning welcomed by a very wet day. Its about 6.30am and I load the car up and set off to Combe, as I pull into the paddock I notice a lot of the familiar faces and feel like I’m home again. The rain has stopped but its very bleak. I get myself setup, signed on and the car scrutineered then I treat myself to a bacon butty and a mug of coffee. The Pegasus sprint is run slightly differently to usual as there is only one practice session however you get to do 2 laps of the circuit. Also unlike the July meeting in the timed runs you do one whole lap.

Practice – Well it’s still raining and people are going off in all directions on the track suggesting there isn’t a whole lot of grip out there. And to be honest I am not feeling to happy about it, however I am here so I’ll give it my best shot. Our class gets called up and after a few more delays caused by spinning cars I am out on the start line. The lights go green and I spin away from the line… I turn into Folly corner the car goes very light and I am aware that there really isn’t any grip on this track. I click upto 4th – around 100mph and tip-toe over Avon Rise into Quarry Corner….concentrating on keeping the car as smooth as I can. Quarry is very slippery but with some gentle throttle I get through cleanly. Holding 3rd upto the Esses, again keeping things smooth I power through here, feeling for grip all the way. Old Paddock was scary but I just let the car drift…didn’t fight it at all and that seemed to work well. Tower corner was bloody scary….it felt like someone had spilt diesel around it…the car was going around but I had zero feedback from the car. Bobbies was taken quite gingerly and I was on my way to Camp corner. Again this corner was very slippery! Everything on the car was sliding and I just kept all my inputs as light as possible so not to upset the car……and then I had to do it all again…..I can honestly say I wasn’t enjoying this at all. I finally complete my run and park up in the paddock and listen to almost everybody talking about slides, spins and near misses.

First Timed – Well the weather is starting to dry….that said the track is still very wet, it just didn’t seem to be drying at all. I line up at the lights and get a reasonable start….my wet starts still need a lot of improvement. The track was just as greasy as before and to add to my problems it wasn’t consistant at all…where I had grip in the practice I had none now…and the grip would change from meter by meter….very hard to predict what the car was going to do. Tower was still very slippery as was camp. I did manage to keep the car on the black stuff and recorded a time of 111seconds which was enough for 1st in class.

Second Timed – It is raining properly again now, and I decide to have a “bit of a play” this time. I know that I have a good time banked. I get off the line better this time and accellerate up towards Folly, short shift into 4th to maintain the balance of the car and keep a very light grip of the wheel. Up over Avon Rise and into Quarry…there seemed to be a bit more grip however it was nothing to get excited about! I brake into the Esses from a good exit at Quarry and the fronts lock up….lots of pumping the pedal and I just recover the car and make it around the Esses. Old Paddock has become greasy now…what was I saying about being unpredictable! And Tower was just as scary as usual! Bobbies was ok for grip and I was able to get on the power resonably early for that. Into Camp at a resonable but I am not willing to risk it and brake a bit eariler than I normally would, I trundle around Camp and record a time of 116seconds but my previous time was still good enough for the class win.

So, what can I say…it was an experience but not one I am keen to repeat. Times like these you are very aware that you are driving your road car and you can’t afford to ding it. This does knock off your confidence a fair bit. However we made it, and got the win…so I should really stop complaining :o)

Wiscombe Park Hill Climb – September 4th 2004

Well the time has come it’s time for my first ever hill climb…..and I picked a beauty to start with. I spent over 2 weeks researching this venue and got some very helpful pointers from fellow competitors and the forum members on To say I have been very apprehensive about this event would be a slight understatement. Up to now I’ve been doing sprints that consist of nice wide tracks, hill climbs on the other hand have thin strips of tarmac not much wider than the car and surrounded by trees and earth banks…..I am sure you can see why I was a tad concerned.

Wiscombe Park consists of 5 corners and a couple of “humps”, all have there own character and all want to throw you into the undergrowth if you get it wrong!

Wis Corner – from the start this is the first corner you get to, still in 1st gear normally. It is a 90° left-hander with a earth bank on one side and a drop off on the other.

Bunny’s Leap – this is a small rise in the road, which normally isn’t a problem however this rise also has a slight left kink in it so requires accuracy to stop you ending up at the bottom of the hill.

Gateway – and it is, a gateway. You can only see the entrance of this corner as you approach it, as you enter it goes right then left. On the exit you are climbing you go through a left-right then another left which goes over a rise in the road and the exit the road drops away to the right.

The Esses – a quick right-left-right complex, which of course is lined with earth banks and trees

Sawbench – a very sharp right hand hairpin bend

Martini’s – another very sharp hair pin that is also very steep up hill

One thing I forgot to mention is that the track has a liberal coating of moss that makes traction …er… interesting.

First Practice – After reading everything I could on Wiscombe and speaking to the other competitors in the paddock who’d been there before I decided to use the first run to see where the track goes. I had already taken the opportunity to walk up it earlier in the morning but these tracks look so different when you are sat in the car. I have a bit of a nightmare before the start as my seats runner jams, a bit of panic and some help from the other guys in the paddock and I get it “some-where-handy” and I am off to the start. This venue allows you to do a tyre warming wheel spin before the start, helps to get the sheep shite out of the tyres that litters the paddock, however I decide not to do this. Sat on the start line and the light go green, I get an average start and power up to Wis corner, going in was ok, a little bit of understeer but we got around. On the exit I applied the power and the car stepped sideways (should have done a tyre warm up) up to Bunny’s leap in 3rd, wasn’t risking anything this time and coasted over. The Gateway looks very small when coming upto it, but I knew where the road goes behind it so I lined myself up and when through (wow this track looks smaller when in the car). Around the left-right-left and up over the rise and the car goes a bit light on both the front and rear…interesting. The Esses are gone in a blur and I am upto the saw bench, not sure which is the best gear I stick in second. The engine boggs a little but we are soon off up the main “straight” I stayed in second all the way up and broke way to early for Martini’s knocked it down to first, a bit of wheel spin and I was up and over the finish line. I stop at the top and I’m thankful that I’ve made it… respect for Hill Climbers had just gone up 1000% … that was a bit scary and I would have quite happily gone home there and then. The times come in and I did a leisurely 56.9 seconds

Second Practice – Got the seat where I want it now so my confidence is up and I sort of know where the track goes. This time I have a quick burn out before the start. At the start the light goes green and I get a good one this time, upto the first corner..again a bit of understeer but the exit was spot on. Up towards Bunny’s, click in to second, third and back off on the entrance to Bunnys and back on the power when the car is settled again. The gate didn’t seem as scary this time around but the rise after the left-right is a different story with the NSR wheel spinning up. I keep in second and scream through the Esses and upto Sawbench, again take it in second and the car bogs down this time. Down the main straight just hitting the limiter in 2nd before braking for Martini’s. Down to 1st and lots of wheel spin over the line. Felt a lot better, the grip on the track was improving (the moss was being worn away) and so was my confidence. Posted a time of 53 seconds….3 second improvement so I was very happy with that.

First Timed – Feeling good about myself and the car, get another good start and I feel that I am going as quick as I can through Wis. Bunny’s leap is still worrying me a bit but this time I only lift a little before going over it and I’m straight back on the power as soon as the car lands. The Gateway is just another corner now and I have worked out a line across the rise (watched a few other cars come through there during practice). The Esses are still taken in 2nd but I am using all the rev range…a tad of oversteer coming through them but nothing to serious. I get to the Sawbench and this time knock it down to 1st, I get a great line (all those trips to the Alps have helped here I’m sure) this time up the straight I am getting 3rd gear for a good while before braking for Martini’s, this time taking it in 2nd. I cross the line this time with a smile and a time of 50.03seconds…….I set my sights on getting a 49second run before the end of the day.

Second Timed – I am determined to get my 49second run this time. I get a great start again and fly into Wis corner, the entry was a tad slow but the exit was spot on, 2nd, 3rd and I am heading towards Bunny’s at a fair speed…..just lift a tad before I launch the car…it lands perfectly and I am hard on the power again. I leave my braking a lot later this time for Gateway, down to 2nd, power all the way through Gateway. Up over the rise, this time holding the throttle steady, the NSR wheels spins up and the car slides a little but I am still heading in the right direction (which is nice) keep the throttle as planted as my brain will let me and I come flying into Sawbench. Again brake as late as I dare and down to 1st, huge amounts of wheel spin but the car is going forward, 2nd, 3rd leaving the braking to the last moment again. Knock it down to 1st this time and turn into Martini’s….on the power hard and again the NSR spins up….keep the throttle planted as I cross the line in a vale of blue tyre smoke and a huge grin on my face…..I think I’ve just become addicted to Hill climbs! The time……..48.8seconds…. excellent! What a fantastic day, thanks to all my fellow competitors for their support and advice. Look forward to competing with you guys again soon!!

I finished 6th in class (out of 13) behind the Elans which are well sorted cars and setup for hill climbs. Maybe next year with a bit more hill climb experience I will be able to get amongst them!

30th August 2004 – Two Clubs Sprint, Colerne.

The Return to Colerne

Well it is now the end of August and I am wondering where the hell 2004 has gone…..doesn’t seem like a few weeks ago I was a newbie sprinter competing at my very first sprint at Colerne back in May. The only difference today was it wasn’t raining as it had been back in May, everything else was the same apart from now I know a few more faces around the paddock and I am feeling a lot more like being part of the club. Looking at the entry list this time there are a couple of Elises and Mark Roberts in his CRX who piped me to the winners spot at Castle Combe back in July. On arriving at the venue sadly Julian West and his Elise weren’t there, he had suffered some mechanical gremlins on the way up to Colerne which was a pity. This was also a round of the British Sprint Championship so it was nice to see all proper racing cars on track, they sounded and looked amazing!

First Practice – There is a stiff breeze blowing today and we set off into the wind, luckily the main straight the wind is behind us so it should help with the acceleration. My newly perfected starting technique was working well, however I am still 1/10th of a second slower than Allen Harris and Graham Wild in their Elise (which they have only just bought) so I am sure I could improve on that. I got off the line and start heading toward the first right hander, to get this right you have to turn late and this was something I was concentrating on, as back in May I span here because I turned to early. The next right is followed by a fast chicane and I am off down the main straight, I brake and knock it down to 3rd for the right and back up to forth before entering the loooong left. I start braking into the small, tight chicane and turn in….however I am carrying just a little to much speed and the front pushes wide. I try to get it back by easing off the throttle but it’s to late and I am into a proper sideways moment, I stand on the anchors and bring the car to a near stop, only get 3 wheels off the course and get back on the gas. The rest of the lap was taken with a little bit of caution and I post a time of 93seconds.

Second Practice – I was determined not to get it wrong this time and also see how hard I could push the car on the rest of the track. I knew that I had speed to come in the first part of the track, only the long left hander was a worry and so was the last tight left before the finish line. Again I get a good start and go hammering off down the straight, determined to turn late for the first right I concentrate on one of the cones as my turning point……alas I forgot that I should in fact be slowing down as well as I was nearly flat in 3rd (approx. 100mph) I lot of heavy braking and I get the old girl around the right….phew!! I get back on the gas and feel for grip around the rest of the track, taking the bend at the end of the main straight in 4th this time and carrying the speed through. This meant I had to change my braking marker for the next left into the long left but that was ok. This time I nailed the chicane properly (had a little chuckle at the black lines I had left from the first practice) and carried onto the last couple of bends. As I entered the last left I eased off the gas (like I normally do) to invoke a little bit of oversteer to guide the car around……well that was the plan, I am not sure if I was entering the corner faster than I normally would or I just eased off to much but I was looking out to the fields rather than down the race track….fine if I was in a tractor, not when driving a car. A lot a steering input and I finally get the old girl pointing in the right direction again and over the finish line. 88.1seconds this time and second quickest in class, first being Mark in the CRX.

First Timed – Well the time had come for me to match my practice times, I was hoping for a top 3 finish and was well on target for that. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, in true Colerne fashion the clouds came in over lunch and gave everyone a through soaking! Although the rain had stopped the track was still damp and that was at the back of my mind for this run. As usual my wet start was complete pants, the wheels just span and I sat there waiting for the car to move forward. When we did get moving I took the lap pretty easily, I have to drive this car home at the end of the event and I was gambling that the last session would be completely dry so I didn’t want to throw the car into the scenery on this run. Because of that the run was pretty uneventful….which made a change from the previous two and I posted a time of 90.25, good enough for 3rd place. And yes Mark was still up front in the CRX!

Second Timed – Ok, this was it….the wind was still blowing but the sun shine was out and my tan was being topped up nicely. However it was time to put on my crash helmet, turn on the video camera and set off to the start line. I am feeling very nervous but I know I should be able to get a top three if I keep it smooth and all four wheels pointing in the same direction. Green light and I am off down the straight, looking for that cone and this time remembering to brake properly, around the first corner, rear is a bit twitchy but that is just the cold Toyos, staying in 3rd through the next right and then hard on the loud pedal through the fast chicane onto the main straight, up to the 4th and the old girl is screaming to 7500rpm, small dab of the brakes and I throw it into the right at the end of the straight…woooooo…that felt very quick….so quick infact that my normal braking point for the next left is way to short….I stand on the brakes hard, a chirp from the Toyos as they complain and I throw it into the looooong left, keeping the throttle balanced through the first half then slowing accelerating for the latter, just keeping the back end under control, brake hard for the tight chicane…down to 3rd and through…non of the problems I had on the first session, I short shift to 4th (not sure if that was such a good idea) and keep on the gas around the next long left…..I am carrying a lot of speed now….remembering my “incident” in the second practice I decide to dab the brakes, another chirp from the Toyos…maybe I dabbed them pretty hard….around the left and over the line…….was thinking that maybe there was more time in that run…there were a few places I was untidy and could have made up time. I pull back into the paddock and have a wonder down to wait for the results….oh and have a cup of coffee….the results come in 85.85seconds…I can’t believe it….I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick and I’m actually shocked…..a shock that continues because I’ve beaten Mark in the CRX and taken the class win……if I had a bottle of Champaign there I would have cracked it open and drank it on the spot!! As it was I had another coffee to celebrate!!

So…my second 1st place…..if I could have predicted my results at the start of the year I would have never guessed that they would be this good.

The next event is on Saturday 4th September at Wiscombe Park, this will be my first ever hill climb and I am very nervous about it!

1st August  2004 – Borough19 Hethel Sprint

5.50am the alarm on the clock-radio blasts out and it’s time to get up, I drag myself out of bed and get in the car for the 15min trip to Hethel (was staying at a local B&B)…the birthplace of my car. I get to the factory gates around 6.30am and find my allotted space and set myself up. I meet up with a few of the fellow Seloc’ers that are also competing that day – Ian Wilson, Rob Hynson and the legend that is Simon Scuffham. We have a full class of 24 cars with a mixture of Westfields, Strikers, Elises and Exiges. We all take a stroll around the track and Simon shares some of his experience of the track by giving the rest of us tips of how to attach the track. Both Ian and myself hadn’t been to the track before and RobH had done the odd trackday here a few years ago. So between us any information was good information. 9am and the track is open, for the first practice we can go in any old order so when we are ready we line up for the start. In the briefing we were all warned that Hethel can bite, and to use the first session to see where the track goes, and not how bloody close the armco is to the track in some places. But of course there is steady and there’s Lotus driver steady!

The sprint track uses about half of the full Lotus test track, because it’s a test track it is designed to test the cars suspension/handling and braking. This all adds up to a very tricky track to learn…..and we have 4 laps over the whole day to do it. The sprint track starts from the slip road in front of the factory. From the startline you have a very tight left hair pin, then a sweeping left a short straight then a left-right-left-right complex. This is followed by a short straight into a tight chicane, out of the chicane you have a right kink then you are into the “roundabout” which you have to do a lap of before continuing onto the fastest part of the track which takes you through another left-right-left complex…but this time you are flat out. As you exit the last left you are lining yourself up for another tight chicane and the finish line is about 200 yards on from the exit of the chicane.

1st Practice – I line up on the start line and feeling a bit apprehensive of the day. I don’t know if its because it’s a new track or the fact Simon came up to me a couple minutes before and said “no grip at all” … better to know than not but I am sure that added to my nerves. The light goes to green and I get a flyer (I’ve taught myself a new technique that seems to be working very well) the first bend is a very tight hairpin, it is just 2nd gear on my car but the engine tended to bog down. Out of the hairpin and short shift to 3rd and keep it planted……into the complex….late and blind turn in, you have to get this bend right to make sure the next 3 bends flow. I turn in at a reasonable pace and concentrate on getting the line right on the first left and then forget about the 2nd left…was an “interesting” moment as I tried to gather the car back up. One good point was the “no grip” that Simon had experienced wasn’t causing me a problem and my trusty Toyo’s were griping ok. From flat in 3rd gear to a 2nd gear chicane which was pretty tight, out of the chicane and one the power around a left hander to the “roundabout”. This is the place you see Gavin Kershaw doing his sideways driving…thus there ain’t a lot of grip and we have to do a lap of it. Very easy to go to fast and loose time because of under/over steer. Out of the roundabout then it is a flat out blast through a left-right-left and then brake hard for another tight chicane, though this and then hard on the gas to the finish line. I manage a time of 86 seconds and I’m beaten by RobH, Simon and Ian.

2nd Practice – The sun is now out and things are heating up nicely. I am determined to put a decent time in this time around. I set my targets on a low 80’s lap. Again my new start technique gets me off the line very quick (0-64ft in around 2.5seconds) entering the complex I spend to much time trying to get the entry right and I mess up the rest of the bends. The chicane went ok and I had a few oversteer moments on the roundabout…but they were fun…fun but not quick. Flat out of the round about and I hit the limiter in 3rd which costs me more time. I get through the 2nd chicane and over the finish line. Not the best run but I do get the low 80’s this time, and there is a second between all of us.

1st Timed Run – the sun is really beating down now and it’s very hot in the suit and fireproofs. We are now running in number order and RobH is two cars in front of me. I line up for the start and suddenly there is a lot of shouting and the red flag goes out. Fearing the worse for

Rob I wait, finally I see him driving into the holding area at the back of the track – phew! The light goes green…another lightening start and I’m away. Throw it into the complex with a bit of “controlled” oversteer get it through, but still thinking that there is more to come there. In to the chicane a bit sideways in…and out….and then a nice drift as I exit….with the armco a about 10feet away it was a tad scary. I fly around the roundabout, enjoying a bit of oversteer – something about roundabouts that make you want to hang the back end out – I get a good exit from the roundabout and this time I get the gearchange to 4th sorted. I come flying into the last chicane, in and out quite cleanly and over the finish line. I pull up next to Rob and he is expecting his car….he had gone straight through one of the chicanes and caused a bit of damage to the clam….but nothing some t-cut and gaffa tape won’t sort! Get the times and I’ve got below 80’s and there is still about 1.5seconds between us.

Last Timed Run – Simon was still suffering from rear end grip so I gave him so suggest tyre pressures for the tyres he was running (he is used to 038’s etc and not standard road tyres) – in hind-sight I should have kept my mouth shut! So I am at the starting line again…and as before the red flag comes out again…..I don’t believe it….not RobH again! But this time it was another competitor who attacked the cones. The light goes green and another great start….feeling really good about my starts now….out of the first hairpin ok and into the left of the complex…..with very little warning I am in a full opposite lock situation…the cold Toyos had let go big style….with a crafty bit of steering, braking (thanks Don Palmer) I got it back under control and continued the lap…the red mist was down a little now as I need to make up the time…and more importantly beat Mr Scuffham! The last part of the lap I get perfect, going through the last chacine quicker than I had all day. Alas it was not to be….the “moment” had cost me a second on my last time and more than that in lost momentum.

At the end of the day Simon got a very good 5th (77.54), Ian 11th (79.00), me 13th (79.81) and RobH 19th (81.32). Hethel is one of those tracks where experience is a must for a quick time. I’ll be back next year to improve on that time, now I have a rough idea where the track goes now.

3rd July 2004 – Bristol MC Castle Combe Sprint

Well all week I had been watching the weather forecasts in the hope that I would finally have a dry sprint. After surfing around all the weather sites it looked like it was going to be 50/50 on the day. So Saturday morning arrives and I set off for the track around 6.30am, the sun was shining and it was a perfect summers morning! Alas this didn’t last, as I got closer to the track the clouds got heavier and the rain started…..oh no….but I was optimistic that it would dry up. After all the signing on, scrutineering and the briefing the sprint was started. We were told that all the classes would be run in number order starting with the highest number first…..which meant I was second out in my class. In the class this week we had 3 Elise type cars, mine, Mark Barrett’s 220bhp Exige (that looked and sound awesome) and Julian West’s 200ish bhp Elise (Julian is one of the regulars who gave me a lot of advice when I first started – top bloke). The other big challengers to the Elises were the Honda CRX’s, very quick and light cars….oh and the drivers are bloody quick as well.

1st Practice – So the rain is still coming down and I am sat one car off the start line. The car infront goes off with a lot of wheel spin so I know that the start is going to be tricky, even with my cars lack of bottom end torque launching in the wet is a art, one which I am still learning. I line up for the start and the light goes green, I stand on the loud pedal and the car just sits there spinning its rear wheels. With a lot of throttle control I finally start moving forward and eventually am on my way and up to 3rd gear heading towards Folly corner. Normally folly is taken flat as it is more of a kink then a bend….as I turn the car just under-steered really badly…total lack of traction…this was my first warning. I slip the car into 4th and fly up Avon Rise. Knowing the track well I am confident of what speed I can do over Avon rise in the dry, having never done Combe in the wet on 4 wheels this was going to be a challenge. I give the brake a resonably hard dab before the rise and trail the throttle over it, still in 4th,the car felt good. I am now starting to think that the moment in Folly was a one off….oh how wrong I was. I knock it down to 3rd and turn into Quarry….well that was the idea…..however the car felt like it had just hit a patch of black ice…..not the best feeling in the world! With a LOT of creative throttle and steering input I get the car around Quarry (very scary!!) This grip at the Esses was great and I powered my way out of it keeping the throttle as smooth as possible. Into Old Paddock still in 3rd but toward the top of the rev range now and the back snaps sideways, no warning at all (damm mid-engine cars :o)) mange to keep it under control, however control isn’t really a word I’d use! And at this point I take the decision to back off a little, after all I have to drive home in this car. Tower corner wasn’t to bad and there was enough grip to hold a reasonable corner speed and a couple of small lock ups going into Bobbies saw me finish my lap….and thank god that was over. After all that excitement I managed a time of 92 seconds, the Exige was 94seconds and Julian came in at 99seconds but that included a “moment” at Quarry.

2nd Practice – at last the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come out. Watching the cars leave the grid the grip was back and the track looked dry. I pull up to the start line and the lights go green. This time I get a rocket start and before I know it I am through Folly and heading up to Avon Rise, the car just hits the limiter in 4th before I dab the brakes and fly over the rise. Everything was feeling great, the next few bends were taken at full racing pace and everything was feeling good. As I came up to Tower the track still looked wet so I backed off a shade there but still maintained as much momentum as I could up to Bobbies and through to the finish line. Time 76seconds, now that’s better!

1st Timed run – now the sun was really out and I was topping up my tan quite nicely. Again I got a stonking start and the lap from there was almost perfect, almost because I had a bit of a sideways moment in quarry but nothing that would have cost me a great deal of time. As I pass the finish line I gave a little cheer – yeah I know! The times went up and I had posted a 75.2second which was quickest in class but a whole two tenths!

2nd Timed run – I was now leading the class but the Honda CRX’s were close behind, the chap that came second in the event last year. Add to that the other Elise and the Exige were only tenths behind me…infact less than one second covered the first five cars. Pressure was on….I sat on the start line with my heart rate doing 300bpm….the light goes green and I let the revs drop and it bogs down…nightmare!!! I finally get the old K spinning but I fear the damage has been done. I am determined to try and gain some time back, on the approach to Avon rise I normally give a dab of the brakes, this time I just eased the throttle and rocketed over the rise into the entry of Quarry….I’ve never been over that rise so quickly….thank god the cold Toyo’s stuck! The rest of the lap was going well and I thought that I might be able to make up for my crap start, I come out of Old paddock click in to 4th and keep the throttle planted. As I go around hammer down (which is the tiniest of kinks) I get a massive oversteer moment (100+mph) I have to ease off the throttle to get it back under control but I know that was my chances of a quick time gone. The rest of the lap was uneventful but I knew that it wasn’t good enough. The times come in and my gut feeling was right…76.1seconds….argh! At this point my only hope is that the other guys have had a similar eventful lap. Alas this wasn’t the case, the final results were –

1st Honda CRX (Mark Roberts) – 74.9seconds

2nd Exige (Mark Barrett) – 75.1seconds

3rd Elise S160 (me) – 75.2seconds

3 tenths of a second between us……..what an amazing day!

Thanks to all my mates that came to watch and support me, Greg from Hanger111 who made the trip down from Norfolk. All the well wishers that I met on the day and Bristol M/C for a great event.

Next one – Hethel 1st August, and Mark in his Exige will be there….I am looking forward to it already

31st May 2004 – Llandow Sprint

For days before the weather forecasters were threatening rain for bank holiday Monday and I was keeping my fingers-crossed that they were wrong. So Monday morning came and I was on the road by 5.30am on my way to Llandow which is just west of Cardiff. The sun was shining and I was starting to believe that we could be in for a dry day…hoorah! I arrive at Llandow around 7.00am and set myself up in the paddock. Say hello to a few familiar faces and some new….and the sun was still shining…great!

First practice, at 9.30am I am lined up on the lights ready to go, they are running 3 cars on track separated by about 20 seconds and I have to do 1 3/4laps of the Llandow circuit. The lights go green and I get a brilliant start and fly through the bus stop chicane, the Toyos are very cold but seem to be gripping ok considering the abuse they were getting. The lap is pretty uneventful and felt pretty quick…so much so that I was starting to catch the car in front of me. I pull into the pits, park up and wait for the times to be published. The times go up and I can’t believe it…83.60seconds….0.5seconds quicker than the class record 😮 but because it is done in pratice it doesn’t cound for the record.

Second practice, charged up from my first run I was keen to do well on this one, the lights go green and I get a flyer again….I had changed the tyre pressures slightly from the first run and I could feel the difference in the amount of grip I was getting. Coming around the last corner I spot a mini in front of me breaking….thinking that something was wrong I backed off……then I realised that he was going in the pits because he had finished his run…doh! I get back on the power but the damage had been done….cost me almost 5seconds and finished with a time of 88.4seconds however I was still leading the class.

Lunchtime and the skies are starting to get a lot cloudier and there is some rain in the air. I was in one of the first groups to get out so I got in the queue early hoping to get a dry run.  First timed – sat on the lights and it is starting to rain properly now, the wipers are going and the track is damp…not wet. Lights go green and I get another flyer…(getting good at these starts :D) the track is a bit greasy and had a couple of moments on the way around including getting my braking slightly wrong coming into the bus-stop 95mph to 30ish. Managed a time of 86.9 seconds…was happy considering the conditions and I was over 3seconds quicker than second place.

Second timed – it is now p1ssing down..the track is very wet and I was considering giving this run a miss as I didn’t want to put my car into the tyre wall when I have nothing to prove. However peer pressure got the better of me and I found myself lined up at the lights again. For the fourth time I get a good start and have a good run, was surprised about the amount of grip the track offered in the wet but I was taking it pretty easy which was reflected in my time. Just as well as one competitor did have a tyre wall moment….he was ok though which was the main thing.

So my first win….and I put in some great times which is promising, looking forward to Castle Combe now on the 3rd July.

3rd May 2004 – Wessex Sprint

How wet! loads of standing water on the first practice, managed a time of 108seconds…..not bad for a first attempt at the track. Some of the regulars were very complimentary of the time which was good ego boost. One chap commented that it was quicker than his first time at the track in the dry! so that surprised a few people.

Second practice run was wet but not as bad as the first, still learning the track and how much grip these Toyos give and managed a time of 98seconds….good for 3rd place (25 cars in my class). Lots of modified cars including MG Midgets with 1.8 K-Series engines producing 160+bhp and only weighing 650kg! 😮 and a 200bhp Elise, which I managed to beat….just!!

First timed run and it was very wet again, had a blood awful start, rear tyres spinning but the car wasn’t moving….then made a couple of very silly mistakes and only did a time of 100seconds….*rse! not happy.

The last run of the day…and it’s dry at last… a perfect start and fly off down the start straight, threw it into the first bend a lot quicker than I had done in the wet….everything went a bit sideways which finally turned into a spin…..b*ll*x!…..was in 1st before the car had stopped, stamped on the loud pedal and went for it….lots of 4 wheel drifts….amazing what a influence red-mist has. Finally posted a time of 94seconds….if it wasn’t for the spin I was on for a top 3 place (was only 2seconds off 3rd!! even with the spin!) bit naffed off about it but it was my first go and every session I improved so not to bad….finished in the top 10 (tbc, waiting for the final results). Plus I was the only person in the top 15 that was running List 1A tyres i.e. road tyres, everyone else was on 1B tyres i.e. 38’s, 48’s etc so I was happy.

Next one is 31st May at Llandow…..need to suss these Toyo’s out now and get the car setup properly…..looking forward to it already 😀