It didn’t seem that I was going too quickly, but in retrospect, I must have been trying to do something Maud wasn’t happy with. So she gave me a slap and taught me a lesson on that first corner.
There are simply no excuses. After braking for the turn in point in a straight line, I found myself running wide because I was clearly carrying too much speed. Trying to compensate without braking, I lifted off the throttle, and the back end started to go. Later I was told the Swifts do tend to exhibit lift-off oversteer, but I won’t blame anyone or anything other than me. Too fast, too soon.
I must admit, I panicked – suddenly it dawned on me that this was the first corner in a new car I’d never driven, on spanking new tyres, on a circuit I felt very familiar with but never experienced. I was out of control with a limited set of experience to save me.
Whether it was a combination of factors or I was simply too keen, I found myself trying to correct the oversteer, but pirouetting towards the inside of the corner.
Then I clocked the tyre barrier wrapped in conveyor belt that holds back the bank of earth on the lengthy apex of Chessons Drift, the second part of the long Pilgrims bend, and realised I was on a collision course. Frantically I did what came instinctively – not based on years of racing experience – and which must have involved hitting the brakes and praying, while the end of the tyre wall was coming at me side on.
“No, no, no, no, no…” was all I could yell as I knew I’d hit the tyres and I did. It wasn’t an instant stop, so the fact there wasn’t any metal work underneath the tyres probably reduced the repair bill significantly. It was still a significant impact.
But instead of coming to a standstill, it became immediately clear that the level of the tyres was just right to pitch me up over the top and into a roll.
By this time, I was simply mortified that I’d been such… (how can I record what I called myself…) a “very foolish man” and everything rushed through my brain, truly in slow motion.
All that wait to get in the car and drive was for nothing. I’d surely damage the car, ruin my day, and have to go back to the pits and report to the very people who’d got me there that I’d screwed up at the very first opportunity. I felt completely sick as the car went over. There were expensive sounding noises, dust and chaos everywhere inside the car.
Then I realised that there was a distinct possibility the car would go right over, causing yet more damage and leaving me literally dangling to add insult to (no) injury. I wasn’t afraid in the slightest – I knew the car was far better equipped for this than me. Hurting myself – or caring – was the last thing on my mind.
When the world stopped revolving, I realised I was still on my side and not gone right over, but the bounce in the top of the tyre wall was enough to repel the car back. And with a massive bang, the car landed back the right way up.
Facing the paddock for all to see, I shouted at myself multiple times and didn’t do anything for about 15 to 20 seconds to get it out of my system. Something I need to work on is keeping my emotions in check and logically assessing the situation.
I knew that I was beached on the tyre wall, but went for reverse gear in a vain attempt to dislodge myself. I should have got out of the car and checked everything was pointing the right way before potentially doing more damage, but I just wanted to get out of the way so the other cars could get on with their session without further interruption from the novice.
It was no use – the wheels spun in both directions, and I could see the ambulance and recovery truck on the way. So I just switched the engine off, and shouted at myself some more before there were other people in the vacinity that I had to consider.
When the guys got to me and opened the driver’s door, I was just shell-shocked. “I’m so sorry” was all I could say to them. “Don’t worry about that, are you OK?” was the response. There was no chastisement; no judgement. Just the want to get me sorted. Those cool, calm, concerned, caring, experienced rescue faces will stay with me forever.
I knew I wasn’t on my own in this damn situation, and the guys would get me home. Now my concerned turned to Maud, and whether she was done for the day – or worse.