Chivenor Sprint – 18th September 2005

The last event of the year for me and it is nice to finish the season at a completely new venue for me. Everyone I had spoken to about Chivenor previously had said it was fantastic so I was looking forward to this. The weather gods had looked on me again and the sun was shining, we’ve been really lucky with the weather this year. I had an opportunity to watch an onboard video – thanks Allen – before the event so I had an idea where the track went. I arrive at about 7am and get everything setup. We have a convoy run around 8.45am so I get my first proper look at the course. It is a very flowing course where getting one corner wrong can upset the rest very easily.

First practice, at Chivenor from the start line to the first bend is over ¼ of a mile so the club provides ¼ mile times which is a nice touch. The only thing is weather you have the balls to keep the throttle pinned over the timing lamps as you are soon into the braking zone for the first bend….good fun! So there I am at the lights waiting for green, I’ve got a good idea where the track goes so feeling pretty confident. I get a good start and start hamming down the straight…at this point I realise I don’t really know where the first corner is! I brake way to early and eventually find the apex cone for the left. Around the left and into a tight right, back on the power and through a very quick left-right-tight left complex. That part felt good and the car seemed to be working well. Next part is a slower complex, braking down from 100mph to about 40ish into a right-very small straight-then a quick right-left-right and out onto a long right that just goes on and on. At the end of the right the track has a small right kink then a slower left that tightens on the exit. Then its back on the power and over the line. For my first run I clock up a time of 86seconds. Not bad and some 8 seconds quicker than 2nd in class. So far so good. Second practice and this time I am concentrating on getting the first corner sussed, again I brake a bit to early but I don’t think I loose to much time. The rest of the lap goes really well until I come the left at the end of the long right, I hit the brakes and the rears lock solid, the car swaps ends very quickly and I am reversing around the bend at 60mph…nice party trick but not conducive to a quick lap time. To add insult to injury I also clipped the apex cone so the front of the car is sporting a very fetching yellow strip now. With a all wheels off I don’t score a time but I am confident that it was quicker.

So to the first timed run, I am still concentrating on getting that first corner right and braking later and later each time. This time I feel I am getting closer but I am still braking a bit to early. The rest of the lap goes to plan and I get the last left sorted this time. I finish with a time of 84.01seconds, things are improving. I am now leading the class by about 3 seconds. Second timed, this time I am determined to brake late for the first bend…what do I do…brake early…argh!!! The rest of the lap was pretty good and I felt it was quick, and it was. 82.70seconds I am now 5 seconds clear of second place and I’ve broken the class record. The previous record holder, Julian West, was at the event and was very complimentary of my time….us competitors are so gentlemanly! Just when I think its all over we get told they are going to run a 3rd timed run and it would count to the overall results. Damm, means I’ve got to do it again. This time I make sure I get this first bend correct. From the lights I get a blinding start and this time I get the braking perfect…woohoo! The feeling from getting that bend right finally went with me for the whole lap, it felt very quick and I crossed the line with a very confident feeling. Then I hear the dreaded words “no time!” the timing equipment had gone wrong and my time wasn’t recorded….I don’t believe it! I get a re-run and again I nail the lap perfectly upto the point I come around the long right to find a Porsche returning to the track so my run was aborted. I don’t believe it!! So line up again for another re-run and again get a blinding start and nail the first bend again, going through the very quick left-right-left I brake for the right and the rears lock again….starting to suspect that I have a brake bias problem here. The car swaps ends again very quickly, this time I abort the run and trundle back to the pits very annoyed. But that’s motor-racing, I know that my 3rd run (which the timing failed) was a cracker and probably a sub 82 but I’ll never know. But I really shouldn’t be complaining, I’ve finished the season and my sprinting career with a first in class, class record and best 1/4mile time in class so its not all bad!

It has been an amazing year for me, I’ve entered 12 events over the year and won 9 of them and came 2nd in the others. I’ve also set 8 new class records which I hope will be around for a little while now. And of course I’ve won the Bristol Speed Championship, I’m still waiting for the ASWMC results but hope to have a top 10 finish. I’ve got to say thanks to my sponsors for their support this year and Bristol Motor Club for introducing me to speed eventing and particularly Allen Harris of BMC for answering all my silly questions when I first joined the club and generally making me feel very welcome. Here’s to 2006 season!!

Dunkeswell Sprint – 11th September 2005

I am back at Dunkeswell for my second to last sprint of 2005, after my success of June here I was confident of a good result. In June I had taken the class record from Jason Moyle in his very quick Golf Gti. Unlike the June event the sun wasn’t shining at all and the closer I got to Dunkeswell the wetter it got, being a tight track I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of a wet track. I finally arrive at the track and the rain had stopped but it was still very overcast and cold. I take a walk of the track and my sprite is lifted by the sight of dry spots on the tarmac. The wind was doing a fine job of drying the tarmac and I felt sure by the time I am on track it should be completely dry, excellent. The first practice was a bit of a shock, even though the track was dry there was no grip anywhere, the car was over and under steering everywhere. I wobble around in 66seconds, some 5 seconds slower than I had gone back in June. Watching the other competitors they were having the same problems with a number of cars spinning off into the grass. Second practice and the grip had improved but still wasn’t brilliant. I was quite enjoying the sideways action but it was good for a quick time. I do improve over my last time with a 63.6. First timed run and again the grip still isn’t there although I am able to get the power down better but I was fighting with the car all the way around, given the zero run off I was very aware that to much oversteer could result in some expensive damage. I completed the first timed run with a 62.6 so an improvement again but still slower than June. Jason was going great guns and smashed the class record with a brilliant 61.56s. I knew that I had to try and get down to this time. I took a risk and changed the tyre pressures in an attempt to get some grip. I get a great start but have a big lockup into the first chicane, after that I was just chasing the time that I had lost, I finally cross the line with a 62.08. This is good enough for second in class but I am a little disappointed not to improve on my 61.9 from June. Next and final sprint is at Chivenor next weekend, I’ve never been there before but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it so looking forward to it.

Wiscombe – 5 Clubs Hill Climb – 3rd September 2005

Well I’m back at Wiscombe the place that whenever I think about scary motorsport its name always appears in my mind. Last year it was my first hill climb and it scared me half to death, however at the end of the day I was buzzing and just wanted to do it again. This year it is the final round of the Bristol Speed Championship so I have to do it…..sounds like a good excuse anyway. As usual I was watching the weather forecast as Wiscombe in the wet isn’t a very nice place. As luck would have it the forecast was looking good all week and Saturday was just perfect. Another early start to leaving home at 5am to get to Wiscombe for around 7-7.15am. After getting everything setup it was time to take a stroll up the hill to see what the conditions were like. Also a mate of mine was also running so it was a chance for me to show him which way it goes. The course was just as I remembered it, however under the trees the track was still damp, and the usual layer of moss lay over the tarmac. There were some dry spots but they were few and far between. I figured that once the practice runs were out of the way the track should be dry.

The first run is taken at a very sedate pace to see what the traction was like, and as suspected “teflon” was the word of the day! Under the trees there was very little grip and the car was moving all over the place on the power…and off it for that matter. Luckily the braking points for Martini and Saw Bench (both tight hairpins) were dry. I posted a time of 51.2 seconds which considering that I’m sure I was overtaken by a snail half way up was pretty good. For the second run I decided to soften up the suspension to see if that would help with the grip, as soon as the car had left the line I knew this was a mistake, the car felt very wooly and was difficult to get it to turn in. The track was still damp but the grip was getting better. I had improved to a 49.25 but my mate pipped me with a 49.18! cheeky sod!

The sun was well and truly out now so we all topped up our tans over lunch before the timed runs of the day, I was currently lying about 5th in class with the fastest cars doing high 47’s. The first timed run of the day and I got a blinding start, the starts are pretty tricky at Wiscombe as there is very little grip off the line, anything sub 3seconds 64ft was good, I was just getting down to 2.8’s. A lot of time can be made up at a corner called “Bunnies Leap” (a hump on a left that is taken in 3rd) my mate was taking this with the throttle planted, which is very brave. Until now I have been coming off the throttle before this bend so decided it was time I kept my foot in, although in reality I was still easing the throttle just before “take off” and back on the gas when I landed. I treated the rest of the course as though it was dry and push the car as hard as I could. The whole run was going really well until the last hairpin, Martini, where I got my gears completely wrong and lost quite a bit of time. I crossed the line in 47.49 seconds…much better and enough for class lead…..well it was for about 10 minutes before Lee Joint put in a high 46! So I was knocked down to 2nd.

So last run of the day, Lee had set the bench mark and I knew if I can get my gears right this time then I am in with a chance. I line up waiting for the green light, GREEN! I get a flying starting into the first right, hard on the power with the rears tyres scrabbling for grip and up towards Bunnies Leap, I am driving hard in 3rd now and just ease off the throttle as the car goes light over Bunnies and back on the power. Hard on the brakes and down to 2nd for the Gate (a tight right) I bit of understeer on the exit. I get on the power hard to push the car through the Esses, over the hump and the car snaps sideways. I balance the throttle to get it back in line then back hard on the throttle down upto Saw Bend, hard on the brakes and down to 1st, spinning the inside side rears out of Saw Bench. Up the main straight, 2nd, 3rd leaving my braking as late as possible for Martini. I get the gear change right this time and power around Martini, again the inside wheel scrabbles for grip and I shoot over the line. It felt good but I wonder how good, the time comes up at 46.95, I am very happy with this. Lee puts in a complete blinder and takes the 1st place spot with a 46.3. I get second in class and I’m within 1second of the class record in a car that isn’t setup for hill climbs, and I also beat my previous time by almost 2 seconds. I am sure with the addition of LSD (Limited Slip Differential) I could break the record. I might have to do Wiscombe again next year, just to see if I can improve on today.

Well that is the last round of the Bristol Speed Championship finished, I should know with-in a few days if I’ve got the title or not, I sense a few sleepless nights coming up.

2 Clubs Sprint – Colerne – 29th August 2005

The penultimate BMC Speed Championship round for me and the points gap at the top is getting tight. Both Bruce and Barrie have been driving superbly this year, which has made the fight for the top spot very interesting.

Like most of the sprints this year we have been blessed with excellent weather, sun glasses and hats are the order of the day. The course was a little dusty but other than that it was in good condition and after the convoy run I felt quite happy with the conditions. I was confident of a class win but I was keen to improve on my record breaking time (82.3seconds) from the May event. So that was my goal. With the usual slick organisation of the two Bristol clubs I was soon on the line ready for my first practice. I have really got the starts nailed these days which is a big confidence boost for getting a good time. My achilles heel of this course is the first corner as it’s very easy to loose time but not that easy to gain it. The first practice goes to plan, I concentrate on the first bend to try and find a good line that doesn’t compromise my speed to much. I’ve made a small modification to the air filter ducting to help breathing at high RPM and this works a treat as I am able to hit the limiter in 4th down the back straight before the very quick right. The car was moving about a fair bit in this corner which I put down to the dusty surface. The rest of the lap went pretty much to plan and I crossed the line expecting a time of around 85seconds. You can imagine my surprise when the time came up as 82.7seconds, already on my record breaking pace – excellent! The second practice run and again I am trying to concentrate on the first corner, I brake a bit to late this time and the engine bogs down slightly, I keep it pinned and get around the rest of the lap. I’ve got a bit of oversteer now going through the fast right at the end of the main straight but the grip of the track is improving no end. I am convinced that was a bit slower than the first run, wrong again….82.28seconds! quicker than my previous record. I have feeling this is going to be a good day!

First timed run, my confidence is riding high now and I decide to go out and put a “banker” time in so if the weather changes I’d still have a class beating time. I get a near perfect start again, I try another line into the first bend and this feels a lot better, again the car is moving around and this feels quick, the long right hander I am into 3 figures, the Toyo’s are holding on for dear life….and so am I! I stand on the brakes for the chicane and miss second and get 4th … quick twiddle of the gear stick and I’m in 2nd, don’t think that cost me to much time. I keep pushing and the car is really moving around now, I cross the line in 81.6seconds! brilliant!! I am really happy with that.

Second timed run is a bit later in the day as we have the British Sprint Championship attending this event so we go after their second run, the track is a lot hotter now but those nice big slicks of the BSC cars have put down lots of rubber. I come up to the lights, they go green and I get probably the best start I’ve done, hammering down to the first corner and the red flag comes out so I have to abort the run….can’t believe it. I trundle around the course and back to the start line for a re-run. I am a little more nervous now, but I think with my banked time I can take some risks this time, nothing to loose as I’ve got the class win and the record again. Lights go green and I get another stonking start, 2nd, 3rd to the limiter before braking for the first right, entry speed was a bit high and the car oversteers a little. I get back on the power but the engine has bogged down a little but soon comes back on song. Into the fast chicane using all the road I possibly can, I let the car run right out to the grass on the exit an onto the main straight. Upto 4th and just on the limiter (~128mph) before braking for the fast right, this time I leave my braking VERY late, off the brakes and hard on the power while turning in, the car squats and around I go. Now I’ve got to stop this bucket for the next left, the entry speed was so much higher than pervious runs so I throw the car sideways in an attempt to scrub some speed. The car reacts perfectly and I’m through the bend with very little time lost. Around the long left and the whole car is moving, I am balancing this oversteer as best I can, I pass the 100m board then stand on the brakes, again I get 4th instead of 2nd but again a quick fiddle and I am in 2nd. I throw the car around the chicane and stand on the loud pedal, upto 3rd and into the long tightening right, keeping it nailed and looking for the second apex. The car is now completely drifting, feels amazing but I need to get this car over the line, which I do. That felt very quick….but I wasn’t sure how quick as I had made a couple of mistakes in the run. The time comes in, 80.77seconds!!! Over 1.5seconds quicker than my class record from May and 3 seconds quicker than the 2004 record. What a day!!! Next one is Wiscombe this Saturday for my token Hill Climb event and the last BMC Championship round. I’ll be watching the weather forecast like a hawk this week.

Merryfield Sprint – Merryfield – 23rd July 2005

Merryfield is a completely new venue for all drivers and when it first appeared on the calendar everyone was struck by the description of 3.2miles long of super smooth tarmac. Sounded like heaven but because it was a new venue that was the only information we had, apart from a few aerial photographs found on the internet. When the final instructions arrived it included a map of layout, and what a layout!

From the start line you have a quick straight then into a right-left chicane then onto a straight. At the end of the straight you are into a left-right-right-left chicane then onto another long straight. The straight ends with a slow and tight right then you are back onto another long straight that goes over a brow. At the end of this straight you enter the “complex” which has a tight left-right entry followed by a long left into two very tight rights followed by another long left onto a short straight. Into a reasonably quick right-left chicane and onto another long straight only this goes into a very quick downhill right which is fine but at the exit of the right you come into another very tight right-left chicane. Another straight that ends with a left-right-left chicane and you exit onto the last straight of the course, which is over a1/2mile long with a right kink in it. From high speed you brake down into a very tight left-right and over the finish line, very impressive track.

The day had a full entry so the timetable was revised which meant sign-on started from 6.30am, this meant I was having to leave the house at 5am to get down there. Being the first Saturday of the school holidays there was loads of traffic on the M5, a number of times I checked to make sure it was Saturday morning and not a Friday evening. After a slight detour in the Somerset lanes I arrived at Merryfield just after 6.30am. I got myself setup, signed on and the car scrutineered. Convoy runs started around 9am, although I had revised the map at home the night before I was having trouble relating my memory to the actual layout.

The first practice was untimed and the gap between cars wasn’t really big enough as I had caught up the two cars in front by ¾ of a lap which made learning the track at speed a little tricky. However the layout was making more sense at “race” pace and my homework was starting to pay off. Second practice run was timed and the gap between cars was better. The run went reasonably well, I pushed as hard as I could just to try and find the limits of the track…and I found them by taking to the grass on possibly the slowest corner on the track. Well if you are going to go off the slower the better I say! I still recorded a time of 170seconds and was quickest in class.

The first timed run went well enough, I got my slow corner right this time and kept all four wheels on the black stuff. The fast down hill right was a really scary corner, the entry speed was around 115mph and braking with the car as straight as possible down to 30mph was a challenge to say the least. Down the back straight I even managed to click 5th gear, a first on track so this proves the speed. I was a bit tentative braking into the last chicane because you are travelling well over 125mph and the chicane is about 20-25mph. The organisers had helped a lot by having corner markers showing 300,200,100 yards but these did come up rather quickly at that speed. I finished the run happy and posted a time of 168seconds so an improvement which is the right direction. I was still leading the class by about 5 seconds.

Final run of the day, the clouds were starting to build up but it was still dry. The wait for the green light feels like hours but finally it goes green, I get a flying start and into the first chicane, I am hard on the power from the apex and just letting the car drift. 3rd, 4th and then hard on the brakes and down to second, through the chicane and hard on the power again, 3rd, 4th and again hard on the brakes down to 30mph for the tight right. Again back on the gas up and over the brow, upto 4th again then hard on the brakes into 2nd and into the complex. Making sure again I keep it on the black stuff and on the gas as early as I can on the exit, 3rd, 4th and into the downhill right, I feather the throttle and the car is doing around 115mph and I’m holding on for dear life! Just as I exit the corner and got the car somewhere straight I’m hard on the anchors into the right-left chicane. Back on the gas again and 3rd, just on the limiter before braking again and down to 2nd for the next left-right-left chicane. Onto the home straight, 3rd, 4th and finally 5th, I am watching for the corner markers and I brake just before the 300yard marker (a bit early) I pull the car up from 125mph is to 30 and through the slow right-left chicane and over the line. I finish with a time of 166.09seconds and a class win! It was an excellent day, the new venue produced some good results through all the classes and everyone seemed to enjoy the layout. Hope its on the calendar again next year!

Seloc Sprint Championship – North Weald – 10th July 2005

Last time I was at North Weald the temperatures were barely above freezing and a cold wind made sure that it wouldn’t get any better.  This time however we have blue skies and the temperatures are in the mid-twenties.  For the first time ever the first practice run would be on dry tarmac.  I have a walk around the course and discover that a couple of the corners have been tighten up from last time.   This would mean trying to beat my PB time (78.5seconds)  would be a challenge because the course was so much slower.  The first practice run starts and I decide that I might as well grab the bull by the horns so to speak and just go for it.  The course is much tighter than last time and the new engines lack of bottom end grunt was causing me some problems on one of the corners.  Still I posted a time of 79.3seconds so for a first run I was very happy with this.  Second run and I get a lousy start but pull the lap together, I try a gear lower at the tricky corner but that is just to low and it feels slower, however I still post a time of 79.6 so I was constant if nothing else.  The first timed run and the lap goes pretty well, again I post a time of 78.8seconds, I am getting frustrated now because I know there is another second, if not two there but that corner is costing me loads of time.  Second practice run goes to plan, carrying a bit more speed through the fast left gives me a time of 78.21seconds, again an improvement but I knew there was more time there.  Third timed run and again a 78 second lap…..I have to get that awkward corner sorted out and with a 0.5second lead over second I take a risk and decide to push as hard as I can.  Lights go green and I get a average start but I am soon heading for the chicaine, upto the limiter in 3rd and a dab of the brakes and through, that was quicker and I am off down the straight heading towards the hairpin, brake at the 80m marker with the engine bouncing off the limiter.   Around the hairpin in second trying really hard to keep the revs up so the engine doesn’t bog down.  Out of the hairpin and up the straight again to the fast left, just hitting the limiter in 3rd a small dab of the brakes and turn in and keep the accelerator planted.  This is feeling quick now!  upto the next left, down to 2nd and out with some oversteer and on to the awkward corner a tight right, this time I take a wide entry into it trying to keep the revs high but then it all came unstuck, the back lets go and around I go… this point I know the time has gone so I do a donut around the corner marker and nail it off down the straight in a cloud of smoke.  Into the last right and the very hot rears let go again…I get it under control but it doesn’t really matter now.  So my best time was 78.21 which beats my PB and considering the course was tighter I was reasonably happy with that.  I know there is a lot more time there but today wasn’t the day to find it.  This will probably be my last visit to North Weald for the foreseeable future so it was good to leave on a class win.

Dick Mayo Sprint – Castle Combe – 2nd July 2005

I don’t know where this year is going, already we are half way through it and I find myself at the Dick Mayo Sprint at Castle Combe, last year I was 3rd in class here with a time of 75.2seconds missing out on the class win by some 3/10th’s of a second.  As usual this season to score good points for the ASWMC Championship I need to beat the class record that currently stands at 72.22seconds…some 3seconds quicker than I’ve gone around Combe before.  Much like last year I arrive at a very wet track, the day looks gloomy and the misty rain is getting everywhere.  There was a British F3/GT meet here the weekend before and they have left a lot of rubber on the track and the warning on the drivers briefing was not to drift off line as it was very greasy.  Being in the early classes I am about the 12th car out on track so I was going to be one of the first to experience the tracks condition.   Lining up on the start line the rain still falling, I tell myself that I am going to take it easy but still push a bit just to see what the limits of the grip are.  I get a lousy start with lots of wheel spin, I snick upto 2nd and the rear gives a slide, no problem as I was expecting it, into Folly corner and change up to 3rd and the back steps out again….blimey is there really so little grip out there! I short shift to 4th and into the entry to Avon Rise, I dab the brakes and everything locks! ok this isn’t so much fun now, I get over Avon Rise and into Quarry corner, bags of under and oversteer there just isn’t any grip at all, the car feels like its not really attached to anything.  I try and push as much as I dare for the rest of the lap but by Tower corner I’ve lost confidence and I safety valve kicks in and I ease off.  I finish the lap with more sideways antics and I’m quite happy to be back in the pitlane…safe.  I post a time of 89seconds leaving me about 3rd in the class.  Castle Combe in the wet just isn’t a nice place to be.  Because of the huge entry, ~160cars, I have time to watch some of the other competitors, all complaining that there is zero grip out on the track.  As we are watching the other cars I realise that the rain was easing up and the track was drying pretty quickly.  Another 30mins or so passes and the rain has completely stopped and the track was looking a lot drier…..maybe we could be in for a good day after all.

My second practice comes around and pulling onto the start line the track looks perfectly dry so now is the time to see how much dry grip is out there.  I get a great start, upto 2nd, 3rd, 4th….this time the car grips and powers forwards…Brilliant!!  Around Quarry and up Farm Straight into The Esses…..leaving the braking as late as possible I feel there is a bit of time to be made up there….back on the power and around Old Paddock down to Tower, braking a bit early and around upto the Bobbies…cleanly through the Bobbies and over the finish line….thats better!!  I post a time of 73.22seconds, some 16seconds quicker than my wet time!  Feeling a lot more confident now and leading the class by a clear 4 seconds.

First timed run comes and I am up for this now, the track is now completely dry and everyone’s times are coming down.   I get a fantastic start, 2.36seconds to 64ft which is a personal best for me, and the run just goes perfectly, I am convinced at the end of it that it’s quicker than my last one …. and it was…by a whole 9/100ths! yes I post a time of 73.13seconds!   Great because I am improving but I’m almost a second slower than the class record.

I spend the time upto the last run trying to work out where I could gain that second…..lots of theories but I felt that there was no time to be made up on my last run…..well there was one place but it was at the place that is considered the hardest corner on any British race track, Avon Rise!  Good news is the sun is trying to come out so the track conditions are perfect…no excuse really!  I pull up to the line driving around the lap in my mind….”is Avon Rise the only place? surely there must be somewhere easier”.  I sit at the lights and wait for them to go green!   GREEN, I pick up the revs and drop the clutch, small amount of wheel spin and we are heading towards Folly, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and I am heading towards Avon Rise at over 110mph……I go past my normal braking marker and think to myself, “can I keep the power on here??”  My common sense kicks in and I dab the brakes, this is more confidence thing than a real braking effort, I fly over Avon Rise and line the car up to brake into Quarry, hard press of the brakes and back into 3rd and I throw it into Quarry…hard on the power from the turning in point, the Toyos digging into the tarmac for all they are worth!  I keep the throttle pinned down Farm Straight, just hitting the limiter as I brake for The Esses.  A sharp dab of the brakes and I throw it into the right, then another dab on the brakes and I swing left and out of the corner.  I just keep the throttle completely planted to the floor upto and through Old Paddock using all the track and some of the kerbs, the whole car is moving just letting me know its on the limit.  Upto 4th and down Hammerdown, heading towards Tower bend a hell of a rate of knots!  This time I leave my braking as late as I dare, probably 20yards later than previous times.  I cog it down a gear and turn into Tower, from the apex I have the throttle nailed again…..the little K series in the back is screaming away!  Upto the Bobbies, hard dab on the brakes and knock it down to 2nd, I take no prisoners on this corner and throw the car right just missing the corner markers then hard on the gas for the left.  I push the throttle pedal so hard I am sure I put a dent in the bulkhead!  Snick up to 3rd and power over the line……well it felt fast…in fact I don’t think I’ve ever gone that quickly around Combe in a car.   But what about the time………the timing team were experiencing some technical problems which made the wait even longer….I stood next to the bulletin board waiting for the stewards to put up the time……..71.86seconds! … I’ve done it! taken the class win and more importantly taken the class record……fantastic! I am so happy at that result not only because it was at Combe, probably my favorite track (in the dry) but because it was my 5th class win and class record in a row.    Next one is at North Weald next Sunday with the Seloc mob, usually they have some “ringers” in the classes but I will give it my all as usual…..can’t wait!

Dunkeswell Sprint – 12th June 2005

For the first time this season I’m at a brand new venue for me, Dunkeswell.  In the run up to the event I was quizzing everyone I knew trying to get an idea on this track.  The track it’s self is a go-kart track but not your usual back street one but a proper national level venue so it is quite wide with proper kerbs etc.  However at speed in a car it is still very tight indeed you only need 3 gears to get around it.  After the results I’ve had so far this season I was a little apprehensive about this one, new venue and looking at the results from the last round here there was a very quick Golf GTi that held the class record, and this Golf had entered today.  The class record stands at 62.4seconds.  On arrival I take time to walk the course twice to get a feel for the corners, from the start there is a short straight then you are into a right-left-right-left-right-left-left-hairpin then you have a longish straight into a long right then back in to the complex again, so you basically do two laps.  First practice run and I suddenly realise how tight this course is, coupled with very little grip the lap was very messy with the car drifting and sliding everywhere and almost forgetting to cross the finish line (which is off the main track) I wasn’t overly confident of my time.  I got myself a drink and waited for the results, imagine my surprise when it came in at 63.3seconds! wow! my confidence just trebled and I was leading my class.  Second timed run and I make a right meal of the start, although the track grip was better this time around the car was still moving a lot, I was a bit neater than the  pervious time, my time came in at 63.8s.  I had dropped 0.5seconds, part of that was the start though.  First timed run and I decided that I’d attack the course a bit harder now, because it is so tight I didn’t feel there was a correct line for each corner, more how hard you get in and out of the corner.  I have a good lap the rears are spinning up all over the place and I’m using the oversteer to get me around…lots of fun but is it quick? … well 63.2s so the answer seems to be yes.   I was leading the class by just under a second now from the Golf, know that he could go quickly I knew I still had to try a bit harder and get into the 62’s to win this.   Final run, the light goes green and I get an average start, quick action on the clutch just stops the engine bogging down.  This time I run 1st to the limiter and into second, dab of the brakes and into the complex, lots of oversteer and a lovely 4 wheel drift into the braking area for the hairpin, down to 1st and then back on the gas..wheels spinning all the way out and onto the main straight, 2nd, 3rd and then hard on the brakes for the long right, this bend is hard to judge because you can’t see it because of the barriers.  I have a huge lock up, I knock it down to second while the fronts are still locked, come off the brakes and throw the car in, the tyres dig in and I am hard on the gas around the right, into the complex again….even more oversteer (ok I am enjoying myself here) and into the hairpin, again sideways out of the hair pin, 2nd 3rd and over the line……well it was a lot of fun but I wasn’t sure if it was quick……the result….61.9seconds!  yes it was quick, very quick! 0.6seconds quicker than the class record.  Brilliant, considering my first time at the venue this is probably one of my best wins so far.  This is the 4th time in a row now I’ve got the class win and the class record, I fear that this is going to come to an end sooner or later, I just hope it’s the latter!

Bristol Motor Club Llandow Sprint – 30th May 2005

It seem like I am living at Llandow at the moment, I was here a couple of weeks ago and on that occasion I took the class win and beat the class record by 1.1seconds.  This time the weather is much better with the sun beating down, there is a cold wind which is keeping the temp down a little but at times it’s quite welcome.  After my result a couple of weeks ago I was feeling confident about this meeting, however the competition was going to be stronger this time with a total of six Elises in my class.  My mate Dave Edwards was doing his first Llandow sprint in his Elise, I’ve been around the track as a passenger before so I knew that he could go quickly.  The practice runs start at 9.30 on the dot and being in class A2 I am soon at the start line.  Last time I was hear I was suffering from understeer so I’ve left the suspension setup the same as then, only this time I’ve increased the front anti-roll bar just to see if this helps or hinders.  The light goes green and I am happy to find the track is offering loads of grip, I try a few things this time like trying to hold 3rd down the back straight.  However I ran out of revs a long time before the braking point for the chicane so in future I’ll shift up to 4th.  After a uneventful lap I post a time of 86.1 seconds, not bad but not great.  Second practice and I try a bit harder this time, knowing that the times are there, this time I post  a better time of 85.82’s.  I am still annoyed that I am not getting into the 84’s like I was last time I was here.  First timed run and I am more determined this time to set a good lap, I get a good start and hammer around the lap, coming up to the bus-stop at around 100+mph I try and leave my braking a bit later….nope that didn’t work…a huge lockup and I just manage to get around the corner….I complete the lap and post a time of 86.36….still way off my 84’s.  Final timed run and I have to pull something out of the bag here. I am 5 seconds ahead of 2nd place man so I am certain of the class win but I need to break the class record to get good points in the championship.  So the lights go green and I stand on the loud pedal, 1st, 2nd and through the bus-stop, around the tight right and then hard on the power upto third and through the fast right onto the back straight.  I leave my braking as late as I dare for the chicane, down to 3rd and through and into the right…hard on the power again upto the right onto the start/finish straight.  This time braking where I normally do into the bus-stop.  Down to second and I get the perfect line all the way through it meaning I can just keep the throttle planted (god that felt good) into the tight right then hard on the power again upto 3rd and through the fast right on to the back straight…the car is moving a bit now but the feedback is brilliant….everything it hooking up perfectly.  Throughout the chicane very quickly and into the final right…keeping the throttle pinned the car is drifting towards the timing lights (don’t think I’ll be popular if I take them with me) however the car just digs in and I fly across the line.  Confident that this time had to be better than the rest of the ones I’ve posted all day…and I was right 85.15sec….still 0.5sec slower than my last visit which I can’t understand…maybe the timing light are in slightly different places or maybe my starts are lacking…..dunno….bit of a mystery that one.  I take the class win and beat the class record by 6/10th’s so that will help with the championship points.  Dave got a very respectable 4th and was only a few 10th’s off 2nd.

WCCC Spring – Llandow – 14th May 2005

Back at Llandow for the first time this year, after the success at Colerne I was on confidence high, also my times from the sprint here last year were very good.  For a change the rain stayed away but it was cold with the wind and thus the track temp was down.  When I first received the final instructions I was a bit disappointed to see that the entry for my class was only 5 cars, image my further disappointment when I arrived and one car had pulled out and the other (a double drive) snapped a half shaft…which left a whole two cars me being one of them.  The other car was a pretty standard Citroen Saxo and thus I knew there wasn’t going to be much competition for the top spot.  This was a very disappointing because I like the competition and having an almost certain win took the edge off it a little.  However I knew that I was going to have to focus on the class record to walk away with as many points as I can for the ASWMC championship (points are awarded based on times, max points for beating the current class record).  The class record is currently 85.74seconds.

With this in mind I lined up for the first practice run, into the first corner and I was greeted by bags of understeer….strange knowing how well the Toyos stuck at the last meeting, the rest of the run was just understeer everywhere….making life really hard and not inspiring any confidence, I roll over the line with a 88second lap.  I alter the tyre pressure back in the pits, lowering the fronts in an attempt to get some heat into them.  Other competitors were also mentioning the lack of grip, which must have been because the track was so cold.

So second practice I give it another go….same again…so much understeer I was unable to put any power down because it was just pushing the front, the timing showed there was an improvement of about two seconds though, 86seconds.  Again I release some more pressure out of the fronts and soften up the front suspension slightly.

First timed run and again loads of understeer, this time I tried to drive around it but getting the rear to step out and steering with that.  Although it felt good sliding the car around of course this isn’t the quickest way and this showed in a time of 87seconds.  Another thing I was struggling with was the grip of the tyres on the brakes….my old braking points were now completely out the window, it was like having to learn the track all over again.

We had a lunch break before the next timed run so I had a think about what was going on with the handling, everything that normally produces better front grip wasn’t working at all so it was time to have a experiment.  So I checked all pressures again and made sure they were at a known pressure then upped the stiffness on the front dampers.  Driving through the pits the front of the car felt light so I wasn’t confident at all.  I am still trying to perfect my launching technique as well because the new engine bogs down below 3000rpm I was realising the clutch at 4000rpm which was causing a lot of wheelspin.   As I lined up at the lights my brain was doing 10000rpm trying to visualise what I was going to do….starts, understeer, braking……I guess I was putting a far amount of pressure on myself but I had to do something to motivate me.  The lights went green and this time I used the clutch to keep the rpm around 3500rpm as it launched, I had a slight wheel spin and I was fired forward…at last….I think I’ve cracked that.   Through the first chicane in second and the front was understeering still (ok the tyres are still cold at this stage) into the tight right and back on the power as hard as I could….the feeling from the front was suddenly starting to improve.  Short sift to 3rd and onto the gas through the sweeping right onto the back straight….understeer??? what understeer….it had gone!  Upto 4th and accelerating hard.  I hit the brakes a bit early and again the car slows up to much…dam sticky tyres :o)  into third and through the fast right-left-right flick and hard on the power upto the last right, quick dab and back on the power as hard as I dare, the car is now in a full 4 wheel drift but everything is going in the right direction and my confidence has gone from -100% to +1000%.  Up the start/finish straight into 4th and accelerating as hard as I can.  I pass the 200m board, past the 100m board which is where I normally brake, still feeling confident I stand on the anchors about 20-30yards after the 100m board the Toyos just weld to the ground the car pulls up from about 110mph to 30-40ish in a very short space, I’m into second and sliding my way through the bus stop chicane.  Everything is now feeling really good….on the power through the tight right, upto 3rd for the sweeping right onto the back straight, upto 4th and I decided to leave the braking very late for the fast right-left-right flick, hard on the brakes the car moves around a bit as the suspension gets compressed, down to 3rd and through….wow…that felt quick, still on the power upto the last right, quick dab again and a lovely drift out and over the finish line. 84.67seconds!! yes I’ve broken the record by 1.1seconds.   Unusually we have a 3rd timed run, this run was spoilt by me trying a bit had and having a major slide out of the first tight right and this showed in the time of 84.9second but even that was on record breaking pace.  I took the first place in class award as well.  What a great day, I am back at Llandow in two weeks so this has been a valuable testing session for then….lets hope the weather is still dry then as well.

Wessex Sprint – Colerne – 2nd May 2005

Well what a difference a year makes, this was my first ever sprint last year and then the weather was wet and windy, this time the sun is shining and I’m topping up my tan nicely.  The car has under gone some changes over the last couple of months with an upgraded engine and new 1B tyres in the form of the R888’s.  I was confident that I could put a good result in but of course putting this into practice is always the difficult bit.  The first practice run was good and I posted a time of 84.5seconds which is almost a second quicker than my class winning time from the August meeting here last year.  I was very happy with this and knew there was a lot more time to be made up in the course.  The Toyo’s were stunning on the brakes which was causing me to brake to hard and slowing to much for the corners.  This was my main struggle throughout the day.  Second practice felt quicker than the first and I was looking forward to seeing my time, imagine my disappointment when the time went up at 89.3seconds?  confused where I could have lost 5+ seconds I had a look at the 64ft and split times and discovered that the timekeepers had made a slight error and I had a 64ft time of over 7 seconds, I presume the car wasn’t quite in the right place when I was lined up.  At least I know where the time was now and that I was still around the mid 80’s.  First timed run I tried to brake even later for the first corner and still the 888’s stopped me quicker so I lost a bit of time around here, then it was flat out for the next couple of corners onto the main straight, flat out in 4th then a dab of the brakes into a fast right, short straight into a long sweeping left that just keeps going until you come to a slow chicane.  The rest of the lap went well and I posted a time of 83.3seconds…..brilliant.  My closest rival was driving a highly modified MG Midget (engine was almost the same spec as mine) and he was under a second behind me.  Both of us had been sat in the 1st and 2nd slot all day and were very close.  The final run, and I knew I had to match the last time or beat it otherwise the MG was going to beat me.  The lights go green and I drop the clutch and rocket off down the start straight, flat out in 3rd then hit the brakes as late as my mind would let me, around the right on the power and accelerating to the next right, a slight lift of the throttle before turning in.  I get a small amount of understeer from the cold tyres but I am flat to the floor from the apex through the sweeping right/left chicane and down the main straight upto 4th and just hit the limiter before braking for the fast right.  The tyres are gripping hard now (just as well!!) short straight staying in 4th and a dab of the brakes and turn into the long left.  Going for broke I keep my foot on the gas, the tyres are glued to the tarmac and the engine is pulling hard…suddenly I’m on the chicane, which is around 30mph, hard on the brakes and I just manage to get the car slowed down enough and into 2nd for the chicane! *phew*  hard on the gas again upto third and into the next long sweeping right, keeping the throttle balanced and looking for the exit (which tightens) I see the cone marking the apex and I just plant the throttle and keep it pinned over the line.  I trundle back to the pit not sure if that was quick enough…the time goes up at 82.3seconds!!  The MG improves his time again and finishes with 83.16seconds.  Fantastic result and hard fought as well!  I took the class win and also knocked a massive 1.5seconds off the old class records.  Great weekend and hopefully a good omen for the rest of the season.  Next one in 2 weeks at Llandow!

Seloc Sprint Championship – North Weald – 13th February 2005

Can’t believe that I am getting up at 5.00am on a cold February morning to travel 130miles around the M4/M25 to North Weald Airfield.  I wasn’t planning to do this sprint but circumstances changed and I thought what the hell!  I arrive at North Weald around 7.30am and my god is it cold, typical airfield with the wind it wasn’t much above freezing.  I convince myself that coming was a good idea and with a coffee in hand I take a walk of the course.  The course is slightly different to the last one I did here as they have made the first chicane quicker but the entry to the fast left slightly tighter.  This should be interesting.  This year I am in class B of the Seloc Sprint Championship because I now run a programmable ECU, and hopefully the new Toyo R888’s when they become available, both items mean that I am no longer eligible for class A.  Class B is open to all K-Series based Elises and the new Toyota engined Elise/Exige, the day was sponsored by Castle Lotus and they had entered a Exige S2 (Toyota engine) into Class B with Michael Caine driving.  No, not the movie star but British GT driver, Mike will be competing a 911 in the British GT’s this year.  So I knew a win today was going to be tough, but I was up for a challenge.

The day started around 10am and the track was wet, North Weald isn’t known for its grip and this proved the case when I span exiting the fast left, ah well that’s what practice is for!  After the second practice I was starting to get to grips with the course and my times were starting to look respectable.  I was running 2nd in class behind Mike Caine (no surprise there!)  The timed runs started after the last practice and the track was now a lot drier, just with the odd wet patch.

By the 3rd timed run I was running on the 80’s bracket but I wasn’t getting any quicker.  I was convinced that I could take the chicane with a slight lift in 3rd.  The 4th timed run was here and I am now keen to improve on the last times.  I get a average start but manage to go through the chicane with a slight lift, god that felt very quick!  The run was going well until I turned into the fast left, just on the turn in I hit one of the infamous North Weald bumps that upset the car and I was going sideways.  I am mange to sort it all out and get around the rest of the course with out any more problems.  My time came in at 78.50, that’s better! however Mike Caine was still ahead.  That run proved to be my quickest of the day, the 5th run was 8/100th’s of a second slower and Mike Caine managed to pull another 3/10ths on me, the final gap was 1.8seconds.  I am still happy with second and I was 2 seconds clear of 3rd place so my time was competitive.  Also 2nd is a great start to the season, lets hope I can continue it through the year.  Next event isn’t until May now so I have a bit of a wait.  Video of the 4th run is available here