So I’ve completed my first ever competitive motor race weekend! When I say “competitive” I mean as opposed to simply for fun. If there’s anything I wasn’t at Lydden, it was competitive.
However, I came away with four race starts and four finishes. My times improved in each race, and that’s really the most I wanted from the weekend. To get that race start and pressure under my belt, gain more experience and come home with Maud in one piece. I couldn’t afford any more repair bills this weekend.
Saturday started with 3 laps of practice for everyone, with me deciding to try out what lots of the RX150 buggies do by spinning on the turn into the last corner. I kept my wits about me, hoped some of Pete’s tuition would come back to me, and kept it out of the tyre barrier.
The conditions were atrocious. Everyone agreed that it was very tricky and that it was more a case of getting round than pushing hard.
Heats 1 and 2 on Saturday afternoon were treacherous. In the first heat, I gladly found myself at the back of a 4 car grid, and duly opted for an opening joker lap (an extended lap to spice things up and help overtaking) simply to get out of everyone’s spray and run my own race, which I duly did. No heroics, just finding my feet in very slippery conditions, and an entire track coated in a thin film of oil. I took it even easier because of that.
In the second heat I again opted for an early joker, played cautious on the gravel and was elated simply to get through the day without any major problems.
Sunday started much brighter and we knew the track conditions would be better. They were.
Heat 3 saw me in the middle of the front row with four cars literally surrounding me. Right behind was reigning champion Chris Mullen and experienced Swift winner, James Knight-Coney. I knew they wouldn’t want to be behind me into the first corner. But with James and another hotshot, Timmy Hansen, to my left, and Chris to my right, how was I going to get off to the joker section?
As it was I did alright, getting a good start. Once up and running, I feathered the throttle slightly to allow Chris and James past, losing a wingmirror cover to a glancing blow with Chris as he got squeezed by Phil Sherwood and me. I’ve had my first racing incident at least! No damage done and wingmirror cover was recovered later.
James and Timmy both went for the joker lap, and I followed. There was a bit of a battle going on between them, so I kept back to make sure I didn’t get caught up in any of their possible spinning antics.
Following them up the hill to the hairpin, it was clearly getting a bit out of hand, and they touched again into the hairpin. Words were had afterwards, and the stewards got involved to clear the air later. I think they put it behind them – a racing incident…!
Heat 3 felt good. The front-runners really didn’t seem as far ahead as on the Saturday, and felt I’d made progress with a tricky grid position. On the second to last lap, I got a bit wide into the last corner, slewed into the really mucky stuff and fought with the car over the grass strip between the gravel and the start/finish straight. I held it, but I was working hard at the wheel and trying to keep the power on as every ounce of my will wanted to lift.
From video taken outside the car, it looks fairly uneventful – but more experience gained.
So to the final. Because Johny Bean’s car had broken it’s engine again on Saturday morning, we were down to a field of 9 cars. They decided to run one final – so I was tucked onto the back row of the A-final!
Again, I ran my own race, enjoying watching the other eight cars jostle and decide whether to take the risk running two abreast into Chesson’s Drift, or opt for the joker lap. I think four went each way, and I followed the joker crowd to keep out of trouble.
The final was uneventful, really just enjoying being relaxed in the car, feeling much more on top of things, pushing on on the tarmac but still tentative on the gravel turns. Having an accident in the A-final would ruin my weekend.
Finishing 18 seconds behind new-to-rallycross drifter Baggsy (Stephan Biagioni), my times were nothing to write home about. But I’d finished my first weekend of rallycross with a whole new set of experience and no damage. I’ve even retained two new tyres for the next round. Maybe fitting them this weekend would have helped – but really I wasn’t there to challenge. Facing the slippery conditions with semi-worn tyres was probably a good idea.
The reason for the title of this post? I’ll follow up with a post on my chance encounter and invaluable advice from rallycross guru Graham Strugnell. His assessment of my final day?
“Your lines are good – you’re just lacking pace”.
I read between the lines. Good as they may be!