Season opener drama

Last weekend saw the team at Brands Hatch to kick off their 2011 season at the opening round of the Quaife Intermarque championship. It certainly wasn’t going to be an easy start to the season however with the car only being finished on the Friday before the meeting and the transporter breaking down on the way to Brands on Saturday! There was still so much worse to come though as Ross’ 206 spectacularly failed scrutineering on Sunday morning with a list of faults as long as your arm. Gaps in the bulkhead, cut offs in the fuel line and most worryingly an illegal roll cage. (A lack of a diagonal brace in the roll hoop) It must be said this was all a little frustrating to take in as the car had passed scrutineering here last November with no problems and it now looked as though our first meeting of the year would be over before it had started.

Once back in the pits though cue manic work from the team and huge thanks to everybody else who jumped in to help. Luckily we’d borrowed a small MIG to bring with us to this meeting (was Brian having a premonition?!?) so in double quick time a piece of scaffold pole (high tech race team that we are) was liberated from the back of Keith Whites lorry (thanks!) and was hastily being added to the cage by Brian and Paul whilst many others crawled all over the car, covering small gaps around the bulkhead and boxing in the lower rear suspension arms which protrude into the cockpit on cars like ours.

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With not much more than an hour from initially failing scrutineering until the start of qualifying it was a huge rush but just as the other drivers were starting to line up in the assembly area Ross dashed up to get the car re-scrutineered. It must be said they looked a little surprised to see us back again but they duly gave the car a check over and passed it (YES!) With this taken care of we could head straight through the noise check and just join up with our competitors as they were about to take to the track for qualifying!

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It was pretty important for us to get out for qualifying because not only are you supposed to cover at least 3 laps to go through to the races but also because we had yet to put any miles on our new engine (well, partly new, partly bits that survived the blow-up at the last meeting last season!) So, once out on track 26 put in some steady laps as Ross set about learning the track a little better while giving the engine a bit of a smooth run-in and getting used to our new 5 speed gearbox. It was all going well except for a bit of trouble trying to change down into 4th for Paddock Hill Bend which resulted in a neutral and rather leary entry on one particular lap! Still, that aside the session passed without incident resulting in a rather pleased team and a best lap of 54.4 seconds to put us 12th on the grid and just ahead of fellow newbie Philip Young who is running the ex-Dave Longhurst Colt. (Nice chap he is too!)

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We were glad to have a few hours rest on what was turning into a hot day before lining up for race one. As ever the race would begin from a rolling start so as the lights went out we went racing for the first time this year. Ross made a steady start and completed the first few laps in 10th place before falling back behind Jez Hobbs Caterham on lap 4. The pair lapped closely for the next few laps until the safety car was brought out while Chris Aylings stranded Corrado was recovered from the final corner. With the race restarted 26 made it past the Caterham on the way into Paddock only to encounter Rod Birleys Escort and Richard Smiths Tigra this time across the track in the final corner. Thankfully everybody missed them and the red flags were soon out, unfortunately knocking the results back to the lap before Ross had passed the Caterham! Still, not to worry, a solid race finish after all our previous problems was gratefully received along with 6th place overall. (More due to retirements and dramas than anything else but we’ll take results as they come!)

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With the first race results being used to set the grid for race 2 Ross found himself 6th on the grid for race 2 ahead of some very fast guys who ‘damn near blew my doors off as they came past!’ 😉 Still, once the inevitable had happened and Birley, Brockhurst etc had come through 26 was showing better pace and managing to not fall too far back from the squabbling group in front over the opening few laps whilst running in 9th place and nudging into the 53 second laps. With just 2 laps to go Ross was beginning to struggle a little with the steering allowing Jezz Hobbs to close right in as the pair crossed the finish line in 9th and 10th having enjoyed another great race.

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Up front Keith White had done it again making it a perfect start to the season with pole and 2 wins whilst in our separate ‘hot rod class’ (As defined by engines regs) Daniel Smith also collected his 2nd win of the day and an impressive 4th overall, we’ll have to go some to catch him! We meanwhile had two 2nd places in the hotrod class from the 2 races, the only other runner in this class this weekend Philip having a DNF and 11th overall (3rd in class) in race 2. Right, is that confusing enough? Good!

A fun days racing then but we’ve got some major work to do before round 2 which is back at Brands Hatch on April 30th. Firstly we need to replace our wonderful scaffolding whilst the scrutineers also weren’t terribly happy with the design at the rear of our chassis. It’s not that there isn’t enough tube back there, it’s just not a great deal of it is in the right place so we’ll be making some modifications there and saving some weight in the process. Infact we’ll be saving weight everywhere we can as the car tipped the scales after race 1 at an eye watering 937kgs with the driver on-board, a massive amount overweight. There’s also serious work to finish on the bulkheads and new fuel tank / fuel lines.

…off to the garage we go then! See you next time!

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