Honing my Craft at Croft

Quite a while has passed since my last update. It’s been very quiet on the Maynard Racing front since late October. The truth be told, since coming back from Croft last month, I’ve really needed time to simply come down from the season. What a season and what an addictive drug racing is!

The first few days after Croft, I was psychologically and emotionally low. The fact that my first season had run it’s course, and I was now facing the long winter break with no racing really hit me really hard, and that surprised me.

It’s taken a while to find the time between postponed DIY jobs around the house to sit down and type this post. Now, Croft six weeks ago seems a distant memory, and thoughts naturally turn to preparing for 2014. But more of that in a later post. Let’s recap Croft…

With my wife and son, we headed up to Darlington on the Friday afternoon. Arriving in the dark, we dropped the car off and headed off to the hotel. Graham Strugnell had hitched a lift with Kris, and we would run him home on the Saturday evening. Croft was a two day event culminating in the rallycross Grand Prix. However, I simply couldn’t risk the potential to damage the car further, so I opted only for the championship round on the Saturday.

Fairly early to bed after a carvery dinner, we were up early and back at the track by just after 7am. After unloading some of my kit, we opted for a stroll of the track before signing on. Graham, my son Isaac and I headed off. Grey and miserable was most certainly weather order of the day, and no sooner had we got to the far side of the track than the heavens opened.

With no coat or umbrella, we all got royally drenched as we trudged the gravel back section. Fortunately, my overalls didn’t get wet under my jumper and I wasn’t wearing my race boots so all was well.

It was great to have Darren Scott back in the Swift field. This would be the first time I’d raced with him – yet another unexpected diamond bloke I’ve met in the rallycross world. Also back for the first time since Mallory Park was Aidan Hills – keen to impress and go into the winter equalling or bettering his podium finish there. We also had Paige Bellerby who’s been dabbling in other things this year but clearly wanting to have some Swift success under her belt at her home race.

This meant there was a problem. I had my eyes on the podium, and so certainly did Kris. With Graham Rodemark and Tristan Ovenden likely to be leading the way again, third was the only realistic placing for the rest of us. Beating the rest of the pack was going to be a tall order, but I wasn’t fazed by anyone.

We also had mountain biking Monster rider, Sam Reynolds. As ever, we were keen to show the Monsters the way. Being beaten by a novice is something I’m not too keen on, although I understand all the Monster drivers have had some additional tuition before jumping in the Swifts this year. That made me feel a bit better about the learning curve I’ve been on.

Race one saw me start near the front of the grid, and into the first corner I was fourth. Aidan carried loads of speed taking a wide line around the outside, but getting a load of oversteer mid-corner sending him tank-slapping across in front of me. Fortunately, I opted for the brakes and the right way to take avoiding action and missed his cross-track excursion with inches to spare.

MSA British Rallycross Round 8 Croft, England 19th October 2013

Photo by Rubber Duck

The rest of heat one I wasn’t particularly challenged, although knew Aidan would be charging hard and sure enough he finished only a second behind me. However, fourth was a great result with Graham, Tristan and “rusty” Darren Scott ahead of me. It’s clear Darren can simply jump in and be on the pace – even in a left hooker.

Heats two and three were disappointing. Lower grid positions and poor starts meant I didn’t have the track position I so needed. Heat two saw Graham make a mistake at the hairpin, and on his return to the racing line, I was pushed off. This let the rest of the cars through and I finished last. Gutted!

MSA British Rallycross Round 8 Croft, England 19th October 2013

Photo by Rubber Duck

Similarly in heat three, I was last into the first corner, and simply didn’t have the pace to gain or challenge those ahead of me. Unfortunately Paige was suffering car problems (I think clutch), so I managed 7th. Of course the grid for the final is based on heat results, and I lined up first of the back row competitors for the final.

Having had generally good starts all season, the final at Croft was a real disappointment. Loads of clutch slip, and then a whole heap of redline action before I took second gear. I don’t know what was going on, but I knew heading to the first corner I’d ruined my own race, and went through turn one in last place. Grrr….

I kept my cool and got my head down, trying hard to pressure Paige ahead of me. Onto the back section on lap three, she ran wide and I was able to carry my momentum and make it past her down the back gravel section. Next target, Reynolds and Fruru.

With hopes of a podium gone, I simply set to work catching those two – and I did. In the last couple of laps, I closed right up to Reynolds, but had no chance of finding a way past. My only consolation being fifth fastest time – only half a second shy of podium finisher, Darren Scott.

MSA British Rallycross Round 8 Croft, England 19th October 2013

Photo by Rubber Duck

Mission accomplished, we headed back to the paddock. Yet again the euphoria of finishing such an exciting and adrenalin filled race overcame me, and not for the first time in 2013 I shouted to myself in the car.

“Yes!!! Come on!!! Get in!!!” and every other outburst of satisfaction it is possible to have.

I now understand why I came down so hard mentally after Croft. There is nothing like racing. The thought of four months without that rush of colour and frantic activity left me empty. This would be the last time for a while I’d see those familiar faces, enjoy the company of passionate people, feel that massive sense of apprehension and some time later the sheer joy driving on the limit brings you.

My “bucket list” contains just one item. Competing in the Swift Rallycross Championship 2014.

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Cheers! 😀

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