Ross returns for Speedfest


Saturday June 11th and qualifying for round 4 of the Avon Intermarque championship is underway at Brands Hatch.  The Loram Tigra slithers past on the damp track as Chris from Simon Smith’s team wanders over…

“Do you think Brian is happy with the car?”

“You can ask him if you like, he’s stood over there.”

“….what?”

“That’s Ross in the car this week”

“Bloody hell! Why didn’t I know that? Nobody tells me anything!”

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Hard on the power coming out of the hairpin. (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

So, qualifying continued on with hopefully everyone now aware that Ross had been persuaded to make his first appearance of the season at the annual American Speedfest meeting.  Having not driven the car for a year, we were hoping for a nice, dry weekend.  We didn’t get it.  The journey to Brands on Saturday morning saw the team encounter all sorts of weather conditions before we finally had warm dry weather upon arrival at the circuit.  We still had a few hours to wait until our 5pm qualifying session however and sure enough we had an absolute downpour in the early afternoon.  This certainly gave the team something to think about, but the warm temperatures had almost dried the circuit by the time qualifying began so slick tires were the only logical choice.

Ross’ hopes of gently building himself back up to speed on a nice stable dry surface were clearly now long gone as the drivers slithered around on the damp surface on their slick tyres.  After a few careful laps, Ross was beginning to get himself more up to speed as the circuit dried and near dry times starting showing up on the timing screens.  Unfortunately the session was cut short when Ian Hales ended up beeched on the edge of the circuit on the outside of the tricky final corner.  With the car in a dodgy place and clearly going nowhere, the red flags were brought out to end the session early, the absolute last thing we needed today of all days.  Ross’ best lap had only been a 52 second effort which would line him up 11th on the 18 car grid.  Still, plenty of time to sort that out in the races on Sunday!

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Strange to see that number back on it. (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Back in the pits we set to work on the car, firstly adjusting the ride height which was a bit of an issue on the front end with regards to the minimum height allowed, and secondly on trying to figure out why the car was diving to the right whenever you braked.  Both problems fixed, (loose front suspension adjustment!) and we had time to get the TV out for England’s Euro 2016 game against Russia!  Two hours later, and feeling incredibly hard done by and completely mugged by the Russians, we pitched the tents and got some sleep.

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Uh-oh, who gave Ross the BBQ tongs! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Sunday morning dawned dry but cold as jumpers and coats were dragged out of the camper.  Then Ross remembered he was racing and could put some nice warm fireproof overalls on, lovely!  With our first race due on at 10am and the skies darkening, we were desperately hoping for a dry race and there was much checking of weather forecasts and glancing at the skies.  Light rain began falling by 9am and by the time the drivers were getting in their cars, the rain was getting worse and worse.  Ross had all but decided to go with slicks, but just as he was putting his belts on, several bigger drops of rain began falling onto the windscreen, so with a swift change of plan Brian and Paul threw the wets on and we lined up for race one.  Four drivers made it as far as the assembly area on slick tyres, but three of them (Keith White, Chris Ayling and Philip Blackford) thought better of it and darted back to the pits for wets.  In the end the only driver to go with slicks was Mark Fuller, who unbelievably only finished the race one lap down in terrible conditions on his slick tyres…quite impressed with that.

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It’s all going to go wrong in a minute! (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Ross lost a couple places on the first lap but soon found himself on the back of a queue of cars including the dicing Reuben Taylor and Simon Smith, with Ross looking for a way past Chris Ayling.  The last time Ross drove the Tigra in the wet was at Lydden Hill in 2014 where the car performed very well (despite its lack of a wiper) but it wasn’t working anything like that well at Brands with the rear end requiring constant catching as it tried to do anything but follow the front of the car.  Eventually Ross span himself out at Paddock as he tried to go in wide and cut back across to the inside of Chris on the exit, only succeeding in spinning himself out.  A very brisk spin and change down saw only one place and four or five seconds lost, but with the pace not particularly good there was no coming back so it was 12th place at the finish.

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(Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Back in the pits we changed quite a lot on the car.  Well, we certainly had time as after the first race at 10am, the second wasn’t due on until 5pm!  The weather continued to be a lottery all day as baking hot sunshine followed showers as we were entertained by a variety of big loud cars throughout the day.  European NASCAR, huge great old Formula 5000’s (scary things they are) and an assortment of big rumbling v8’s are certainly the soundtrack to the American Speedfest meeting.  Back in the pits we were happy to be joined by some of the family who had even come armed with a giant chocolate cake, happy days!

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Lap one of race two. (Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

After what seemed like a very long day it was time for our second race, which after adjusting the car and softening the rear end, was of course, dry.  From 12th on the grid Ross got absolutely mugged by a whole host of drivers across the opening few laps as he struggled to get up to speed again on a dry track.  A couple laps in though and starting to feel slightly more comfortable (and not wanting to lose more places to the closing Philip Young and Ian Hales etc) Ross was off and running.  Down the inside of Philip Blackford at Druids hairpin gave one place before crossing over and squeezing past Reuben Taylor a corner later for another spot.

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(Photo used courtesy of www.barcsoutheast.co.uk and Rafal Biniszewski, thanks!)

Unfortunately the cars further up had escaped a bit by this point, but the car was feeling much better than it had in the morning and even if Ross still wasn’t back to his old laptimes, he was getting closer.  He was also getting closer to Chris Ayling, albeit only by a few tenths a lap.  Ross was helped out though as Chris picked up a bit of a puncture which definitely made his job of moving up to 7th much easier!

That was it for the final few laps with no more changes seeing Ross come home in 7th.  Maybe not the dream result he’d have liked to come back to, but it was nice to finish both races and we’d definitely have fared better given a nice dry weekend….but you can never rely on a dry weekend in June!

Congrats to Lewis Smith and Malcolm Blackman on both taking wins during the day, commiserations to Simon Smith who looked all set for another second place to go with his second place at Mallory last time out, until his car developed a late misfire and just relegated him to fourth at the flag.

That’s all for this time then, who else fancies a go next time? 😉

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