Just keep your head down and keep pushing, not long to go now. Stop being lazy, get some speed up before you get to this hill, drop the gears and power over the top, that’s it. Phew, bit of a downhill section, woah, slide there as the slicks struggle for grip on the wet road. Come on now, concentrate, don’t throw it away this close to the finish. Just stick to this blokes back wheel, just a couple km to go now…
Not Brands Hatch at all but a few of the thoughts going through Ross’ mind on the Sunday before the opening round of this years Quaife Intermarque Championship as he found himself competing in the fearsome South Hams Hammer cycle event in Devon. 103Km of the toughest, roughest and steepest little lanes that the Devon coast has to offer, all served up on a cold, wet and windy day to over 300 serious cyclists from across the country….and Ross. It must be said that when Ross entered this event back in January he didn’t realise how difficult it was, how people from across the country choose this event over hundreds of others for it’s tough roads and endless climbs. Bugger. Not to worry i’m sure you cry, I bet he prepared for it. Nope. The previous month saw Ross hit the roads on his bike just the once. Double bugger. I’m sure he’s cycled that far before though? Nope, 40km is his best and normal route. How far’s this event again? 103km. Bugger again.
Brians shout of ‘only 50km to go!’ wasn’t entirely well received by a group of knackered cyclists!
Still, despite all this the ‘race season’ got off to a morale boosting start as Ross finished the event in 5 hours, 24 minutes, exactly 100th overall. Not quite a podium performance we grant you but still something to be proud of. If only he’d have resisted the need to race everyone (with hindsight passing everything and not being passed once in the first hour of an event you haven’t trained for isn’t the best of tactics!) he may have had a chance at beating the 5 hour mark…..still, there’s always next year!
And in case you’re wondering, yes you can fit a bike in the back of a Ford Puma just by removing the front wheel. The front wheel of the bike that is, removing the front wheel of the Puma won’t help at all.
So with that challenge over, attention turned back to the race car and with less than a week until Brands all those ‘last minute jobs’ still had to be done. You know, the ones you think will take an hour or two at most but end up taking all day! Still, everything was taken care of and loaded into the van ready to set off from our garage in glorious sunshine on Saturday afternoon.
Ooh it’s looking sexy this season!
We arrived at Brands just as the Saturday meeting was ending which meant we were able to nab a spot in the paddock as some of the Formula Ford guys were leaving. Bit of a result that as the paddock would be full to bursting this weekend as Brands played host to the massive British Truck Racing Championship as well as the Pickup Trucks, Historic Formula Ford and healthy grids of Legends, combined TinTops and QMN as well as our very own Intermarques.
The Intermarque grid is looking healthier than ever this season with 18 of our class HR cars as well as 4 cars spread across the other classes. Not bad when you consider regulars from last season like Tommy Field, Keith White, Mick Robertson and Lee Griffiths were conspicuous by their absence. Hopefully we’ll see them back soon!
Starting to look like a gazebo….now where did we pack the sides?
Back in the paddock we were having a little trouble setting up our new gazebo until a very helpful chap from one of the Formula Ford teams wondered over and pointed us in the right direction. 10 points to the random stranger! With the fault fixed the new gazebo was soon up in all it’s splendour. Being twice the size of the old one we actually had room to get the car under it and cook dinner, bonus!
After a terrible nights sleep (thanks to the chap with the Formula Ford pitted next to us who stayed up till 3am, sat outside his camper getting progressively more drunk whilst having increasingly loud conversations with most of the truck teams) we headed off to a very quick scrutineering which passed without problem although the car did need a change of plugs before she was feeling ready for the days activities!
So fast in quali we blew off our Quaife sunstrip! 😉 (Photo used with thanks to Keith Duke)
The drivers headed out for qualifying at 10:30. As we are limited on the number on tyres we can register at each event (5 at the first and then 1 at each subsequent meeting with the exception of Lydden and Castle Combe where 2 can be registered) we started the day on 4 new tyres. Starting the season on anything but would leave you in serious tyre shortage fairly soon after. With the new tyres on and having not driven the car since last October, Ross turned a gentle few laps at the start of the 15 minute session before building upto a fastest lap of 50.7 near the end. To be honest this is faster then even we hoped we might manage and 8th place on the grid was the reward. To put it into perspective our fastest lap at the opening meeting of last season at Brands (also on 4 new tyres) was a 52.6. That’s a 1.9 second improvement! Based on this we’re very much looking forward to our 2014 pole time of 48.8 😉
Ross and Brian in the glorious Brands sunshine
Once the 206 had passed through post qualifying checks (and was revealed to weigh 854kg, that’s heavier than last year! Bits will be getting sawn off before Cadwell at this rate!) the team dashed over to watch our fellow south west racer Lee Rogers in the first of the weekends Pickup Truck races before realising our first race was on shortly afterwards! One very quick refuel later and Ross was lined up in the assembly area for race 1 although it seems the quick turnaround had caught nearly everybody out and it was some time before all the cars arrived and were ready to go racing for the first time this season.
Paddock bend, race one (Photo used with thanks to Keith Duke)
From the outside of row 4 Ross got a good jump at the start of the 15 minute race and edged ahead of fellow 4th row starter Ray Harris in his much improved and incredibly bright Mercedes SLK. Into Paddock bend for the first time and a slide from Ian Conibears Caterham allowed Ross’ 206 up the inside on the exit. Such is the massive power of Ians little Caterham it was still alongside at Druids hairpin although with the inside line Ross had the place while Malcolm Blackman worked round the outside and edged ahead of Ross’ 206 on the run down to Graham Hill Bend.
Ross getting reeled in by a rapid Chris Brockhurst several laps in (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)
A good opening lap saw the field cross the line led by Moore, hotly pursued by the Simpsons, Simon and Richard Smith, Malcolm Blackman and then Ross in 7th with a bit of a gap developing to the field behind. Into lap 3 and Ross was upto 6th as Richard Smith spun at Paddock trying to repass Blackman. It looked for one heart stopping moment that Richards spinning Tigra was about to come across the track and collect Ross’ 206 in a very Newsham / Austin BTCC like crash from a few weeks previous but fortunately history didn’t repeat itself with Ross speeding through to inherit 6th The race settled down at this point with Ross not quite able to get on terms with Blackman but able to keep a safe distance to the Humphreys / Harris / Smith tussle behind. For a few laps just after mid race Ross’ 206 looked to be closing down the Tigra in front but there wasn’t quite enough pace or grip left in the tyres to manage it! More of an issue was the re-emergence of Richard Smith in the mirrors and as they crossed onto the last lap the pair were very much together. Around Paddock, defensive into the Druids hairpin, clean exit, down the hill, brake for Graham Hill bend……..lose the back end on a load of dropped oil, fumble with the wheel whilst taking to the grass / gravel and lose 2 places to Richard and Ray Harris when almost in sight of the flag! Bugger. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained and 9th overall, 8th in class with a best lap of 50.7 is still a decent result. Just not quite as decent as it could have been! You can watch race one on our Youtube Channel by clicking here. Enjoy!
Back in the pits and Brian obviously approved of the effort as he’d bought Ross a new tyre ‘for trying’ We’re a very trying bunch you know…so we’ve been told anyway.
Paul, Brian and Ross looking relaxed before race 2!
New for this season the second race of each race weekend will be a ‘reverse grid race’ In BTCC fashion a draw takes place after race 1 and anywhere between the top 6 – 10 finishers in race 1 get reversed for the race 2 grid with everyone else forming up behind as per their race 1 result. As winner of race 1 Matt Moore had the honour of the draw and he ended up reversing the entire top 10, putting Chris Ayling on pole with Ross alongside him for his very first front row start at a circuit meeting. Eek! That’s one milestone we can cross off the list though.
Formation lap for race 2. Look, we’re at the front! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)
After seeing our friend Lee get spun out from a front row start in the second of the Pickup Truck races we were left hoping our race would go better………it certainly did! From the rolling start #26 lost half a cars length to Aylings Corrado on the run upto Paddock but made the move around the outside stick despite a gentle touch on the right rear. Out of Druids for the first time and Ross had a clear view in front of him as he led a circuit race for the first time! That’s another milestone!
Leading on lap 1 (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)
At the end of the lap #26 was still in front and despite some less than perfect driving (occasion getting to him perhaps?) Ross came round at the head of the field at the end of lap 2. There were plenty of quick guys in attendance though and it was Richard Smith who made a massive late braking move around the outside to take the lead into Paddock at the start of lap 3. The move was a little too massive however as the back end of the Tigra stepped out and Richard was powerless to stop it ending up in the gravel. Lifting to avoid all this Ross briefly had the lead back but Chris Brockhurst took advantage and powered through on the run upto Druids. Well, it had been nice while it lasted! Over the next few laps Ross dropped to 4th as Jeff and Matt Simpson moved through, Ross wasn’t too worried by this however, as one, it seemed fairly inevitable, and two, there was a rather nice gap behind the Simpsons.
(Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)
Ross (grinning like a Cheshire car and vocally urging the little 206 on by this point) completed lap after lap in 4th place overall whilst cursing the countdown timer that the drivers can see as they scream past the finish line for not going fast enough. 9 minutes, 8, 7, 6…damn, here comes Simon Smith along with that crazy turbo charged Escort and one of those Caterhams that goes like a stabbed rat….5 minutes, 4……..
Ross in the process of being mugged in the last few minutes of the race! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)
It wasn’t to be 4th though as Simon (who it must be said always goes well at Brands in particular) moved past and the massive power of Moores Escort and Ians Caterham saw them breeze past on the straights to relegate Ross to 7th overall but still 5th in class. Ross had enough in the tank to keep a gap to Blackmans Tigra behind but couldn’t do anything about the trio who’d just mugged him so close to the line. Still, it must be said that if at the start of the day you’d offered us some 50.7 second laptimes in qualifying and race 1, a front row start for race 2, a couple of laps in the lead and 8th and 5th place finishes in class we’d have taken it. In fact we’d probably have taken 2 races finishes!
Our day was to get even better at the prize giving as we received a free tyre (Avon are giving away 4 tyres per meeting) for our race 2 performance. Infact the only person at Brands happier than us was Phillip Young….who also got a free tyre 😉 Thanks very much guys!
Ross and Phillip with their tyre vouchers
All in all a great meeting and a great start to the season then. The car only needs some minor tweeks before Cadwell to fix a vibration during braking and a few other bits we want to try. The championship also looks very strong with lots of drivers and plenty more due to join in throughout the season, we can’t wait for Cadwell!