Lydden Finals at Mayhem

I have to finish my account of the August Bank Holiday Mayhem festival at Lydden Hill! The weekend was absolutely chocker with action split over two days, with the Monday Bank Holiday reserved for all the finals.

Having completed the first two heats on Sunday, we had a full schedule of events going on all day. It started with some more drift action to whet the appetite and get the valley resounding to the roar of horsepower and tyre smoke to up the adrenalin levels! The crowds soon started to arrive in droves and the weather looked kindly on us yet again.

IMG_1672Sunny Bank Holiday Monday at Lydden Hill

I forgot to mention that on the Sunday, I’d made the mistake of starting heat 2 in third gear. The car had bogged down when the lights came on, and it took me a moment to work out what was wrong. I lost around 3 seconds realising the engine was fine and that selecting first gear might help! Giving chase into Chesson’s. I made a strong recovery, gaining on the cars in front throughout the first set of corners but I lost track and overall race position because of this startline issue. Another lesson learned…

The results from day one put me in very positive mood and I was gagging to get back out and consolidate a strong set of heats. Going into heat three, I felt confident that I could battle with the Monsters and Kris once more, and potentially coming out on top. I started alongside championship leader Rodemark, and again intended to stick as close to him as possible, and not take the Joker early. One day, I would hope to lead him into the first corner, but he had the better start, less weight (I’m sure!!) and that extra first-corner confidence from more experience.

I held on well during the first lap, keeping Baggsy at bay and Graham honest. It’s clear that you can get pulled along by a quicker driver, and I was only a couple of seconds off the lead going into the second lap. Baggsy had hunted me down progressively over the first lap, and into Chesson’s he wasn’t far off my bumper. No contact, but the pressure told, and I drifted slightly wide onto the loose coming out of the corner. Baggsy carried his momentum through and eased past me down the back straight.

Baggsy and I went for the Joker on lap three, and we came out very close in front and behind Buttsy respectively. I had come out ahead of Kris and Richard Elliot on pure pace! The Monsters got very close to each other, and I decided to keep out of their potential trouble and ran to the line in fifth having also been jumped by Tristan during the Joker.

British Rallycross Championship 2012Photo by Rubber Duck

There was then opportunity to put the shorts and T-shirt back on to enjoy the drift and Terry Grant action, which thrilled the crowds over lunchtime and early afternoon. It was 4 o’clock when we again rocked up to the start line for the final.

As a result of the three heats, I lined up on the inside of the back row. Directly in front of me was Graham on pole, separated by the offset Buttsy on the second row. I figured I was on the wrong side of the track to get a good start and do the Joker, so my plan was to get a great start and slot in on the inside line for Chesson’s. The hope was I would follow through on the inside line, and that the starters towards the outside of the grid would be pushed wide onto the loose or forced into an early Joker.

I got a good start, and with Kris and Richard taking immediate Joker, I was last of those going into the first corner. Then the costly carnage began…

Graham and Tristan lead the way, but the jousting Monsters got too fiesty, with Buttsy nudging Baggsy into a spin. I had to come to a momentary complete halt mid-corner to wait for the mayhem to cease and for a way through to become clear. As I made my way past Baggsy, he had started moving forward to correct his spin and we collided. I couldn’t feel any steering damage as I gave chase, but there was damage. Baggsy’s race had clearly been compromised as he righted his spin behind me, and I knew the red mist would be thick in his helmet. He’d already made it clear his aim was to beat Buttsy.

Yet again, my race was compromised too. I didn’t have anywhere near enough gap and pace to be sufficiently ahead of Kris or Richard to stay ahead of them after my Joker. Graham and Tristan were battling up ahead, with Buttsy somewhere between them and me.

Buttsy took his Joker on lap two, coming out behind the flying Baggsy. That left me in third, and I just kept my head down trying to use the clear air to generate a gap from Kris and pray for a bit of luck and a clean chicane when I took mine which I did on the next lap. I came out ahead of Baggsy and Buttsy, right behind Kris and Richard. If only I hadn’t been held up on lap one, corner one, I would have been third on track, given that Buttsy was now behind me too. If, if, if…

Up the hill on the penultimate lap, I caught Richard hand over fist, but in my late decision to not have a go at him, I lost all my momentum. I lost ground on the two ahead of me, and suddenly Baggsy, with bonnet as scarlet as the mist behind his visor, was right on me.

He wasn’t messing about, and with the additional momentum carried through the hairpin, he made his intention to pass me at the bottom of the hill very evident on approach. However, my race brain kicked in, knowing he still had to take his Joker and that this wasn’t a fight for track position. I gave him room as he came through and sure enough he took to the Joker section going into the last lap. Back up to fifth, it was an uneventful final lap with the time lost to Richard – that was until the last corner where we found waved yellows and Tristan facing the wrong way. By this time, I’d gained on the two in front again and finished agonisingly close to Richard. Although I know that overtaking (or at least trying to overtake) under waved yellows would probably have seen me excluded.

Net result: 4th place! I was chuffed for Kris getting his first podium by finishing 2nd, and returning Richard Elliot 3rd. Of course, Graham had lead from start to finish, under significant pressure from Tristan, but ultimately victorious. A great result for him.

Maud had suffered a broken wing during that first corner collision with Baggsy in the final, and the drivers door is showing all the scars and holes of various Knockhill, Mallory and Lydden rubs. Pete thrust a new wing into my hands after the final, saying “You’re gonna need one of these”, and certainly it was beyond repair. The missing section (with mudflap attached) would now be smashed to smithereens and scattered through Chesson’s Drift.

Graham had to leave before the presentations, and the time of day meant that the tannoy could not be used for announcements. This meant that Richard didn’t make the podium either. That left Kris spraying the fizz on his own, but I shared it with him afterwards. Genuinely pleased for him and the clear progress he’s made during the season. How different it could have been without that first corner mishap. We both could have been up there…

But hey – that’s racing! Everyone has their own view on their own race weekend of highs and lows, ifs, buts and maybes. All told, I had ended on a massive high. Lydden Hill has immediately become my favourite local track again! And I now look to Pembury and Croft thinking seriously about what I can achieve there. Certainly a podium should be possible in the final two races? They are tracks that I’ve never walked or turned a wheel on, but I could have said the same about Mallory, Knockhill, Maasmechelen and Lydden coming into 2013.

British Rallycross Championship 2012Photo by Rubber Duck

From my perspective, the weekend exceeded my expectations. I have no doubt that my time with Graham Strugnell is starting to pay off. We’ve had our trek to Scotland and he’s attended every round to help me. We had valuable time in the car at Pete’s driving centre, and all in all Graham has been the level-headed, confidence boosting sidekick I couldn’t have done without this year. How bizarre that I didn’t even meet him until March.

At Lydden, yet again, it was him who walked the track with me, gave me the pep talks, was there at the dummy grid and was the last voice saying “get stuck in” before I got on track. I hope he’s starting to see some balls from me, and that there might be a glimmer of talent in the new boy. I can proudly say “I’ve been Strugnell’d” and I have the sticker to prove it…

Roll on Pembury on the 29th of September. Let’s see if we can’t get those overalls soaked in fizz!

IMG_1678 SML

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