“Whatever you do, don’t crash into the lake on live TV!!!”
Sound advice there as we headed to Mallory Park on bank holiday Monday for the third meeting of the season which was being broadcast live on Motors TV. With this being a new track to us (and keen not to look like complete numptees on TV) we made the journey to Mallory a day early, electing to take advantage of the Sunday afternoon practice session which had very handily been arranged for Mondays competitors.
Not a great deal of changes to report on the car since the last meeting with the exception of a new carbon (ooh!) bonnet we whipped up to save a bit of weight and a few more stickers for dads business on the car, freshly cut on our sign writing machine the day before testing! We’d also replaced the front brake discs which cracked at the last meeting. We’d had massive problems finding out where the discs came from, eventually finding out that AP had custom made discs for SHP when they were building cars like ours in the late 90’s. Thankfully we sourced some discs of a close size and Brian worked some magic with the lathe to perfect the fit.
Arriving at the circuit at around 12 on Sunday we were pleased to find a dry track and even more pleased to find out we had four twenty minute practice sessions instead of 2, bonus! Out on track for the first session then and after a couple laps Ross was deciding the car didn’t feel right and that he’d come into the pits to check things over. That was his plan anyway but the funny feeling was the front left tyre letting go which it finally did in a big way on the way into the fast right hander of Gerrards as the sidewall completely split from the main face of the tyre! An interesting corner entry followed before Ross scraped his way to a halt just off the inside of the back straight.
The ‘newness’ has definatly worn off that one
Once back in the pits we decided the failure has probably been caused by a combination of us running too much camber on a pretty old tyre (we’d chosen to use an old set of A10’s for the first few practice runs and then put our newer rubber on later on in the day) and Ross not realising that the tyre had gone down quickly enough. Still, with a new tyre on and a reduction of camber we were back out for second practice where Ross got down to learning the track and putting some serious laps in.
Dark clouds gathering but it stayed dry on Sunday
A few more tweaks to the car followed with #26 putting in a race distance run during the third practice session. We’ve finally got round to using our incar laptimer which was proving very useful as Ross could see he was running consistent low 51 second laps and very happy with the car. (Just need more power!!!) For the fourth and final session we fitted our newer tyres as a back to back comparison against the old A10’s we had been running and after just a few laps Ross was able to post a mid 50 second lap. Good progress then and we looked forward to the racing the following day with genuine optimism at being closer to the front running pace than we have been so far this year.
HOWEVER! The teams best laid plans were out the window the following day as we awoke to terrible weather conditions, and worse still we’d yet to put the gazebo up! By the time we’d safely gotten through a very busy scrutineering a few of the other formulas were already out on track for their qualifying sessions and the conditions looked absolutely terrible. So with wet tyres on the car and an increase of the rear wing it was time for our 15 minute session ….. which we would miss entirely as the clutch cable chose the worst possible moment and decided to jump out of the clutch fork just as Ross was trying to join the track, leaving him stuck in neutral in the middle of the assembly area with our pit and everyone else miles away. Typical!
With the session long over by the time we’d fixed the problem the organisers very kindly let us complete the required 3 practice laps during the start of the TinTops qualifying session. We weren’t alone as Daniel Smith and Philip Young also missed qualifying, Daniel had only just got his new engine fitted (after blowing one in Sunday practice) and Philip had hastily repacked his silencer after failing his first attempt at the noise test.
As we’d yet to run this car in the wet we were a little worried about how well our wipers and demisters would work but luckily they held up quite well although the visibility was still incredibly poor with so many cars out on track kicking up spray. Still, at least we were in the race!
Lined up in the assembly area for race 1 next to a very expensive SLK!
So with the TV cameras rolling the 27 car field made their way out onto track for race 1 with Ross dead last. The only way is up! Track conditions were still pretty bad and the spray from the other cars so far back the field made visibility worse but Ross and the other hotrod class runners out of position at the back of the field made a few places in the first couple laps until the safety car was brought out on lap 4 following Stratton Mackay’s crash in his Subaru at the end of the back straight. By the time the race was underway again there was only time for a 2 lap dash to the flag with Ross losing the place he’d gained on Daniel Smith earlier in the race but picking up a spot passing Philip Blackford at Gerrards to take 16th position at the finish. The 5 HR class runners in this race all finished within a few seconds of each other covering 13th to 17th positions with new runner Mark Fuller at the front of the train. We can’t help but think we might have nicked a class win in this one had we been able to set some laps in qualifying….of course the same can also be said for all the other class runners who all suffered qualifying problems too!
The drivers faced a very slippery track for race 2 of the day with heavier rain and a lethal end of the lap which was still covered in something from the previous race. A crash near the front of the field on lap 1 spread the cars out a little but Ross again raced with Daniel Smith and Philip Young in the opening few laps before steadily dropping back from them. The car seemed good round the faster section of track but lots of time was being lost to the others just trying to get the power down out of the hairpin. On the bright side we got a couple nice shots of the car on TV! (Especially when passing Mick Grant who had the Motors TV on-board camera!) 11th at the finish on the lead lap was on okay result especially bearing in mind some of the wrecked race cars others are taking home from this meeting but from looking at Sundays dry laptimes we think we’d have been closer to the front if the rain had stayed away. At least it was a new experience though!
Next time out we’ll be at Snetterton on July 23rd…and we have a secret weapon for that meeting….watch this space!