Disappointing Rockingham

Two sleeping bags, two pillows, one thick duvet, a sleeping matt and a big bit of thick foam. That’s what you need for one cosy night in a tent at Rockingham in October! Thankfully the rain which battered the circuit throughout Friday night cleared away by the early hours of Saturday morning (as forecast!) and we were left with beautiful blue skies for the seventh outing of the Quaife Intermarques 2012 season.

With regular drivers Keith White and Tommy Field missing we were pleased to still see a strong 23 car entry with yet more new drivers, fantastic news which bodes well for 2013. In other news the results of the tyre vote are in and after a dead split of votes between Hoosiers and Avons by the drivers we were very pleased when the decision went Avons way after they kindly improved their offer. As a result we get to run on our current choice of Avon A37’s next season at a reduced price….win win!

Let’s get this show on the road!

Back to this season though and at just after 9am the drivers began making their way to the assembly area for qualifying. It seems our Thruxton gearbox problems were coming back to haunt us however as Ross was having a bit of trouble just getting 1st and 2nd gears on the drive to the noise test, let alone actually out on track! Still, with no time to do anything about that now, Ross’ 206 passed through the noise test, through the assembley area, out of pitlane onto the circuit and …..oh! It’s wet! Despite the brilliant blue skies and virtually dry paddock area on the outside of the circuit, the circuit itself was absolutely treacherous, in fact the drivers could have been forgiven for thinking they’d wondered off onto Rockinghams wet weather skid pan area!

It’s wet!

With only a 15 minute session to qualify there was no time to get back and change to wets so everyone had to make the best of it. Needless to say there were more than a few spinners in this session but luckily Ross kept it pointing straight for the 15 minutes despite a few ‘moments’ The biggest problem inside the car was again the gearbox and after spending the first few laps trying (largely unsuccessfully) to find 2nd gear Ross gave up with it altogether and ended up using 3rd gear for the infeld and only 4th on the straights….who needs five gears anyway! With the track drying slightly as the session wore on Ross’ fastest (not that anyone could be called fast!) lap of 2:06 came on his penultimate lap and included one heart stopping moment as under braking for the hairpin the back end of the car stepped out and pointed the whole car straight at the outside wall (which is normally reserved for our friend Lee Rogers in his Pick-Up, sorry Lee) but luckily Ross had just enough room to get it all back straight before he made his own mark on that chunky looking piece of concrete!

Don’t get too at home Paulie!

Back in the pits the car was hastily jacked up to enable us to try and bed in the new steel synchros in the gearbox. With the car up in the air we could run the engine and repeatedly change through the gearbox, hopefully bedding in the new synchros and fixing the problem….maybe. Either way, Paulie (as the only person other than Ross who fits in the seat!) was kept busy for a while and had to resort to having his burger in the car as he made the gearbox work up a sweat.

Lined up on the grid ready for race 1

A couple hours later and with the track properly dry the Quaife Intermarques were lining up for their first race of the day. After the problems in qualifying Ross would line up 14th on the 23 car grid and hopeful of moving forward…if he had some gears. From the start Ross stuck with his game plan of a move around the outside of turn 1 and into the hairpin which helped him pick up 3 spots from a Caterham, Simon Smith and Colin Gomm. Into the next tight right hander it was all kicking off in front with Mark Fuller ending up out on the grass which gifted Ross another place who was now banging wheelarches with Armiger before getting past at the tight left hander at Pif-Paf. That second gear was still proving difficult to get though. Still, on the power out of the tight left hander and Hoggarth seemed to be struggling a little as he slid a touch wide on the entry to Gracelands, no second invitation needed as Ross’ 206 popped its inside wheels up on to the kerbs and made the pass for 8th place.

Sometimes you feel very small at Rockingham…

All in all a pretty good first lap but it wasn’t to last much longer as it was getting more and more difficult to find 2nd gear for the slow corners which was costing a lot of time (and confidence) A lap or so later and Mark Fuller was through at the hairpin and as Ross got caught offline Simon Smith and Colin Gomm got back past, Philip Young also taking advantage as Ross got run out onto the grass. We’re not quitters though and at the same spot on the next lap Ross made his way back past and began to catch the squabbling Gomm and Smith.

As Smith went off into the hairpin on the next lap however Ross’ race came to an end as the gearbox stuck itself in 4th. Cue a few expletives and a touch of arm waving in the car as Ross cruised back into the pits.

So we headed to the stands for the rest of the day!

That was it for our day then. It’s obviously pretty disappointing to have the same problem two meetings in a row, especially now the rest of the car appears to be fairly reliable but we’ll figure it out and there are reasons to be cheerful, Tigra shaped reasons to be cheerful as we hope to return with our new (old) car next season which should be a good step up in performance over the 206.

Until next season then!

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