August 30th

It's the end of a long weekend mostly spent at Silverstone. What follows is, as best as I can remember, what went on. However, I must admit to being really disappointed with Silverstone. It's got banners everywhere proclaiming its status as "the home of British motorsport" and it has to have been the worst place we've visited recently for spectator access to the racing. There might well be loads of grandstands but if they're all closed and anyway there isn't much point really. As a spectator I really wouldn't go here at all. We visited Silverstone any times in the past but the difference between this and a small circuit like Lydden, and even Brands Hatch, is huge. Obviously, if you want to pay a large amount of money to watch fragments of a procession that calls itself the British Grand Prix then this is where you go. If you want to watch some motor racing, then find a nicer circuit.

Friday: testing

Got there in plenty of time for the 1100 start for the first closed wheel session. The weather had been pretty horrible on the way and it was really not looking at all good. Knowing what I do know now about the grip available from A048s in the wet this could be unpleasant again. To be honest, my memory isn't too clear as to what the session was like apart from:

  • it was wet, really really wet, and the car gripped like a piece of raspberry jelly placed gently against a vertical wall. I didn't fall off, apart from a couple of trips onto the green furry track at the side of Copse but it was more by luck than judgement.
  • they were using lights instead of flags. Well, there were some flags but they forgot to hand out the binoculars that we would have needed to see them. TBH, the lights rather surprised me at first. I went past a gantry with flashing lights along the club straight and thought that they looked rather pretty. It was only a while later, after I had passed someone, that it dawned on me (adrenaline must damage brain function, I think) that those flashing lights had meant "yellow flag". Dunno how you're supposed to distinguish waved and stationary lights though. A marshal moaned at me when we came round again, by now they'd red-lighted it, and I admitted to complete stupidity.
  • after feeling really bad about it (was doing times like 1:30ish) it was at least gratifying that a couple of other class C RGBers were also moaning about the spectacularly low levels of grip.

Subsequent sessions were dry and by the end of the day it was actually hot. I spent a happy time twiddling with the car a bit and twiddling with my lines, etc., a lot. Although there are only really four corners they're all pretty interesting. Copse was a bit alarming at first but there's a huge amount of run-off and it all comes down to braking surprisingly little, turning in and getting on the power surprisingly early.

Maggots/Becketts is tricky and there seem to be at least two likely lines into Becketts. I never felt I found the best one. What's more, the obvious wide line/late apex one is guaranteed to allow half the field to shove up the inside. There's also a fearsome curb, looking like the ski jump at the end of a Harrier carrier's deck, to launch yourself into.

Brooklands is a fairly conventional late turn in left turn. However, the proximity of the barriers caused my peril-sensitive right foot to come into action again. You do, though, have to avoid drifting out too wide on the apex as you then get to Luffield which seems to be one of those "just how much understeer would you like?" corners.

In the second session I was down to times of 1:10. Unfortunately I seemed to get the lap timer into some sort of non-functional mode for the last session so I've no idea what was happening there. However, I'm convinced I was quicker, mainly because I was getting loads quicker round Copse. So, perhaps a 1:09 or two.

Saturday: All comers race

I was greeted in the paddock by choruses of people calling Adrian a wimp for wussing out of the Silverstone race. I explained that in fact it was the Oulton one he was dropping but no, they insisted, he was down as dropping this one. I spent a long time trying to talk to people to check this but it seemed as though people in the 750MC office had just screwed this one up.

After that, I signed on for the two races, got the first driver's briefing (pretty perfunctory after learning the circuit so comprehensively the day before) and got the car scrutineered. Come the time for the practice for the all-comers I set off for the assembly area, which I had some trouble finding as it isn't signposted and it's hidden behind the medical centre. There was a motley collection of cars in for this one including a few RGBers, some kit cars, an ADR1000, a few Ginettas and a bloke in an Audi TT, of which more later.

Practice itself was a disaster. There wasn't a single lap that wasn't marred by traffic or one of a profusion of yellow flags. (Luckily today they'd found a few more marshalls, allowed them to stand less than half a mile from the circuit and issued them with what looked like a brand new collection of spectacularly iridescent yellow flags.) I could have gone loads quicker with a clear track but as it was I ended up with a 1:10: 24th out of 36. Fastest was a Radical at 1:01, slowest a "Maitresse Special" which is one of those Austin 7 thingies at a leasurely 1:45.

Once the race came around we trundled round to the start and I was worrying about how to get a decent start; the last races at Lydden were characterised by two completely cr&p starts. As it was, I managed another cr@p start, bogging down and allowing a whole bunch of people to come past. Once we got round to the club straight I was tucked up behind a Striker of some form and a bunch of other people, peril-sensitive foot rammed to the floor when all of a sudden the car in front braked about twice the distance from the corner that I was aiming at. I got the fright of my life and just about avoided making another bonnet lunch. Obviously, the braking performance of an RGB is way better than the collection of cars in front of me. (The striker, a caterham or two and a Ginetta, I think.)

Once the race got going I was in a large bunch of people charging around (my memory's a bit hazy about this bit). What I do remember is that I started making a complete early morning canine repast of Luffield and ended up with a box full of neutrals on several laps (I was just getting worse and worse). As a consequence got passed by a couple of people, including the aforesaid Audi TT. I was just about to get past him again, honest, when the race got red-flagged and we moved slowly around towards the start expecting the marshalls to tell us what to do. Eventually we all came to rest in a huge gaggle just before the start line and stopped. I asked a marshall what we were going to do and he said he had no idea, in fact no-one ever told them anything. Eventually they decided to form a new grid in the order on some lap or other so I ended up in a different place after having to reverse back down the circuit between cars going in all sorts of directions, some doing three point turns, etc., etc.

So, off we went again and I promply ended up 2" behind the Audi again. In fact, there I stayed. At first I was happy as I plotted my move. I was waaaay quicker through the corners than him and could have braked miles after. My initial plan to just exit the corner quicker and out-drag him came to naught on the spike of his turbo which just pulled him way past me after I'd got level, over and over again. So I was going to have to outbrake. However, that needed bit of bravery which seemed to be in short supply, Just when I was going to make a fabulous move into Copse, well that's my story anyway, the batsrads used the chequered flag.

Oh well. At least I had been racing someone. I only got lapped, in a bit of a blur up the inside of me round Copse, by the A class RGB of Tim Harmer and a gaggle of 3 Radicals. There must have been at least 1 second covering the four of them. In fact, that's the order they finished in with exactly 1 second for all four. Anthea commented later that Tim Harmer's driving style could only have been called brutal. Apparently he got the jump on the radical posse at the restart and them just kept in the way all the time. I finished a second behind the Audi, just about to make my devastating move. (Yeah, right.....)

Seriously, the race was great in that I passed a load of people and kept in there. However, it's clear that race craft is going to take some time to learn.... Should be fun though.

Oh, and other big problem is starting. Both of the 2 starts in this race were awful: loads of revs, fail to break traction and the thing bogs down and half the grid whizzes past.

Sunday: RGB race

Another day with iffy looking weather. Ho hum. However the practice sessions before ours were OK so perhaps we were going to get away with it. Eventually we went off for practice and away we went. I tootled around for the first 3 laps, making sure I got a time in. Then, I was just starting to wind it up. I'd done a 1:15 so far which was OK as a backstop and now it was going to be really good, honest it was.

However, I thought too soon. Approaching Maggots flat in something or other it seemed as though someone had turned a tap on. I hit a wall of water and suddenly there were cars everywhere, there was a gaggle of about 6 cars at the entrance to Becketts facing in a large collection of unlikely looking directions. So, it was back to 1:30, 1:28, 1:25 and so on. The rain did stop (although after the session got red-flagged and restarted) and eventually the track was starting to get quicker. At some point in the rain I remembered what everyone said and started trying some different lines. The difference at Luffield, in particular, was incredible. Way off the line the track was covered in obvious marbles but there was huge amounts of grip (relatively) compared to the inside, apex-ish, bit of the track.

Anyway times started to pick up and I started going for it. I decided to have a real go on what was probably lap 10 or 11 and got Copse pretty well sorted and headed up to Maggots/Becketts only to see Alastair (I think) parked sideways across the exit of Becketts. Obviously he'd been going for it too....

Then they finished the session. :-((

So, I ended up posting that 1:15 that I'd done on a warm-up lap (lap 2 in fact). All the same, that was good for P23 (out of 30), so rather better than I'd managed so far. Looking down the timing sheet all the fastest laps were posted on laps 2, 3, 10 and 11. So some people had got in a decent lap and the end and some had not. Obviously, what I should have done was noted the potentially lousy conditions and gone for it right from the beginning. Mind you, one of the fastest times from Friday would have put me in P6 which would have been a bit scary...

Worst of all, Colin, who had beaten me by 0.3 second in qualifying at Lydden was 0.1 ahead of me this time, with a time set on lap 10.

The race came around amazingly quickly and off we went to the grid. This time, I was going to make a decent start. So, when the 5 second board went out 9000 rpm it was. The lights went out and I dropped the clutch only to realise that some complete muppet had omitted to put the car in gear. What a complete moron! But, I rammed it into first and got an amazing second start, probably a result of being really teed off and just bouncing the engine off the rev limiter. There was a bit of a wiggle but nothing too serious. Pretty soon I was stuck to the back of a group of cars. Not too sure who was in it apart from Colin, although Anthea tells me the usual bunch of class C bods was there; Oliver, Stephen, Nick and the two Richards. This time, I was going to pass some people and Colin was going to be the first one. However, he obviously saw what was happening and decided to retire due to a tranmission problem. I did, though carry on and even passed a few people, including one superb move that no-one but me saw up the inside of Copse...

After that I was in a bit of an empty space. I'm pretty sure that my times suffered at about this point; I seem to go much quicker when there's a target in front of me. I did get lapped by three class A cars at some point here. I also got better at Luffield. Gordon Milner had been talking about a trick involving a fire marshall's point. There's an "F" on a sign here and he reckoned that aiming for it at the appropriate point allowed you to kill the understeer and, stone me, he was right!

Even better then I lapped someone. Judi was going around at the tail of field. This was only her first complete race and she is getting quicker. However, I shot past with the benefit of a blue flag (there's a nice change) and carried on.

Best of all I then saw a red car in front of me with a cross on the back. Hah! It was Adrian :-) I caught up with him down the club straight, was stuffed right up near his drive chain all the way round Luffield and got on his inside as we went down towards Woodcote. Doug in the other Genesis had passed me earlier even though I'm sure that on a twistier circuit I would be miles quicker than him (well, this weekend at least). I reckon that the excess of power (180 against 135bhp) on a circuit like Silverstone just allowed anyone to get past. The same would surely apply to Adrian but I kept my foot in it and just as we got towards Woodcote he dropped back. He said later that the car was starting to slide and so he backed out of it.

Anthea said later that Adrian looked like I did in my first race. That is, he was driving round but wasn't really in the race. I've got to the point now where when the car does start to move around on the circuit it doesn't immediately scare the willies out of me. Adrian isn't quite there yet.

Then the finish came around. I was 21st out of 25 finishers. Not brilliant but I did beat three class C cars and one class A. My best lap was now 95% as quick as the best class C lap meaning that the sequence is now 88%, 90%, 93%, 95%. What is bad is that, again, my fastest lap was early in the race and after that I slowed down. Probably due to lack of concentration, my lines through Copse were getting noticeably worse, and lack of a target to aim at.

What's more, I managed to change gear properly again which was a relief.

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