Season finale at Brands


“Are we there yet?”
“No”

“How about now?”
“No”

“Now?”
“Well, we’re about 5 foot closer”

It’s fair to say we’ve had better journeys than out latest trip to Brands Hatch but we did eventually make it out of first gear on a few stretches of motorway and arrive at Brands Hatch on Friday evening. It hardly felt like the last meeting of the season (and the start of November) with warm, mostly dry weather forecast. Coupled with a strong entry of 22 cars it promised to be a great meeting as the Quaife Intermarque Championship goes from strength to strength.

Many hands make light work…

New on the car this weekend was a more conventional rear bumper and with it a new, slightly revised diffuser. With the dry weather and long straights of Brands Hatch we’d also removed some of the extra winglets we’d added for the previous meeting at the tight and twisty Lydden Hill. Needless to say the windscreen wiper had also been adjusted to avoid a repeat of it sticking again like last time out. One experience like that is enough for anyone!

Thanks to Keith Duke for this photo. I assure you he wasn’t stood in the middle of the track when he took it either! 😉

Conditions were slightly overcast first thing on Saturday morning and there were a few spots of rain in the air as the drivers took to the circuit for qualifying. The circuit was quite slippery and no sooner had Ross began his first flying lap, he was greeted by red flags. Chris Ayling had been caught out by the conditions and ended up beeched in the gravel at the final corner.

TV Cameras out in force, filming for Motors TV

As the drivers sat in pitlane waiting for Chris’ car to be recovered, there was no ignoring the large drops of rain which were now falling. With the session back underway there was a mad rush to try and set a decent laptime incase the conditions continued to worsen. This did of course result in a few ‘moments’ as the circuit was pretty slippery by this point but happily there were no more stoppages and the session continued uninterrupted until the end.

As the rain stopped and the circulating cars continued to dry the track, so the laptimes continued to come down until by the end of the session we were pretty much seeing dry laptimes. Ross was pleased with the front end performance of the car although this was perhaps being achieved by having a fairly lively rear end at speed. Still, he improved his time and grid position each lap through during the final minutes, finally getting down to a 50.7 (don’t we always do that laptime at Brands?) which was enough for a great 5th place on the grid, behind only Matt Simpson, Malcolm Blackman, Chris Brockhurst and Lewis Smith. Ironically the top 5 qualifying positions reflecting the top 5 championship positions as we headed into the final races of the season…..and it would suit us just fine if those championship positions were the same at the end of the day! Dave Brooks would line up alongside Ross in 6th, Keith White and Mike Thurley would fill the row behind while Simon Smith and Steve Burrows completed the top 10.

Oo-er! Thanks to Matt Bull for snapping this great action shot

A few hours later and with all concerns of rain now long forgotten it was time for race 1. Ross just nudged the limiter on the run upto Paddock on lap 1 but he was still in a good position behind the top four. Feeling particularly racy, Ross flew into Paddock on the coat-tails of Chris Brockhurst and just as he was sensing that this was perhaps a little bit too much of a brisk entry from such a tight inside line, so Chris’ car snapped sideways in front as he braked behind Blackman. Ross barely had time to think ‘Oh cock’ before his own Tigra snapped sideways in similar fashion. For one awful moment it looked like Ross was going to spin and be collected by the following 17 cars (just what you want at the last meeting of the season!) but copious amount of opposite lock (all of it in fact) and right foot somehow brought the Tigra back into line without a scratch. Even better than that was the fact that #26 had somehow emerged in 3rd place as the safety car was brought out to enable some of the less fortunate cars to be removed. Chris Brockhurst and a couple others had survived with a little gravel rash but Colin Gomm was out on his return. Also out in spectacular fashion were the unlucky Mick Robertson and Philip Blackford. Mick would be out for the day with terminal damage but Philip did appear for race 2 after much use of hammers and duct tape….bloody good effort.

Line astern into Paddock after the restart, Ross hiding quite well in this photo! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

From the restart Ross had a bit of a steady first lap as he wasn’t 100% sure everything was okay with the car but he was off after that and opened up a small gap to the cars behind. Simon Smith and Lewis Smith soon found their way into 4th and 5th though and began edging upto Ross as the racetimer counted down. Ross’ effort to escape down the road began to result in a spongy brake pedal and some overheating rear tyres which didn’t help and he lost out to Lewis and Simon over the next few laps. With a safe gap behind, a steady final few laps brought 5th place at the flag. A good result in a competitive field but still a little disappointing after running 3rd and Ross thought he could perhaps have done a little better. Although avoiding binning the whole thing at turn 1 was a result in itself! Click here to watch the whole race on Youtube.

Back in the pits we bled the brakes and checked things over before race 2. We also got down to the serious stuff and presented Mr.Cheese Philip Young with his birthday cake. Very nice it was too. So for race 2 the drivers were officially fuelled by cake. And a burger. Sports nutritionists eat your heart out! 😉

All ready to rock and roll for the final time this season (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

We had the top 9 finishers from race 1 reversed on the race 2 grid this week which left Richard Smith and Keith White on the front row. Chris Brockhurst and Steve Burrows filled row 2 with Ross and Simon Smith sharing row 3.
Not wanting a repeat of the race 1 dramas, Ross was a bit slower and more cautious into turn 1 this time and proceeded to get mugged all the way up the following hill towards Druids. He then got mugged going down the hill after the Druids hairpin, and then mugged some more for the remainder of the first lap and a good half of the second lap, leaving him somewhere outside the top 10 and wondering what the hell was going on.

Thanks to Keith Duke for this photo

After dodging a spinning Lewis Smith at the hairpin, Ross made another place back by ducking under Steve Burrows coming off of Graham Hill Bend. The next place was rather inherited as Mark Fuller went spearing off on the exit of Surtees with a car failure. After all that excitement Ross found himself back up into 6th place although he had dropped some distance to the BMW Z4’s of Keith White and Simon Smith ahead.

Back end getting lively into the hairpin! Thanks to Keith Duke for this photo.

Despite being absolutely flat out from lap 4 until the final lap 17, Ross couldn’t close the gap to the cars ahead. Perhaps if the race had been an hour long he might have got there as every now and then he’d gain a car length when Keith had to defend from Simon although in truth he was fairly happy just to keep a very determined Ray Harris at arms length after he’d been no more than a few cars lengths behind the whole race. This was getting more and more trying as the race went on with the rear end of the Tigra getting increasingly ‘frisky’ towards the latter stages. Still, despite this the laptimes remained very consistent with no more than 3 tenths separating Ross’s final 13 laps of the race with the best being a 50.692 on lap 6. Click here to watch race 2 on Youtube.

So that’s it for another season. Matt Simpson retains his championship with Malcolm Blackman improving to second position. Chris Brockhurst just edged out Lewis Smith for 3rd in the standings while we are fairly chuffed to hang onto our 5th place overall, a mere 3 points in front of Simon Smith who we’ve had some great races with and have very nearly got onto the same race pace with in the second half of the season. From starting the season at Brands Hatch in April with a car that was untested and not really ready, we’ve chipped away and improved as the year has gone on. The championship is now getting massively competitive so getting anywhere near the front is a great feeling, especially as we build the car, the engine, the panels and pretty much everything else on a shoestring of a budget in an old cow shed. It’s hard work but we love it. Even now there is a list of improvements being drawn up for next season and we’ll be trying to make as many of them happen as possible so we can be even better in 2015!

End of the season and Betsy is in one piece, lovely

One final piece of news is that (as some of you may know) Ross’ first book, ‘Part Time Racer, Full Time Broke’ is nearing completion and will hopefully be available to purchase shortly before Christmas. Available in e-Book format for the Kindle and good old fashioned printed paper for those of us who still like a real book!

Expect another update shortly before Christmas with the book release details (how exciting!) and some developments from the garage. Until then that’s it for this season, thanks to everyone who’s helped us on our way, everyone we’ve had great races with all year and everyone who’s made the championship happen. Looking forward to next season already. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on Motors TV, more specifically the ‘Last Lap’ program on Thursday evenings for highlights of this meeting coming soon.

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