This is my last race blog from the Swift Rallycross Championship for 2014. Simply due to time, I’m going to keep it as brief as possible (sighs of relief all around!) because the 2015 season is nearly upon us, and I can’t afford the time looking back. Onwards and upwards!
The car didn’t need much TLC after Croft, so we headed up to Blyton Park just south of Scunthorpe at the end of November. This was the track I’d driven a sprint race at in 2013 in order to get signatures so I could upgrade to a Speed National A and compete at Maasmechelen. This time, I’d be racing proper, and with some loose stuff thrown in!!
The course itself was tight on the muddy infield, with a good proportion of grippy tarmac straights and 90 degree corners. Plus, for the first time ever, I would experience jumping a car! Blyton’s hump was the highlight, and offered exhilaration, but risk as running wide on the jump would see you plummet into the adjoining field.
The day was bright and cold, but recent rain had made the infield a quagmire which took most of the heats to displace and find some grip.
Heat 1 saw me start on the front row alongside Rocketman Rodemark, and even though I kept him honest to the first corner, I was nervous about outbraking myself, and Darren slipped through behind Graham. The rest of the heat was spent yo-yo’ing in time behind Darren, eventually finishing just half a second back.
Because we had 15 entries for Blyton, the heats were again split, so although I finished 3rd in my heat on-track, I ended up with 6th best time – just 0.2 seconds behind young Nathan Heathcote. That would be an omen for later in the day…
Heat 2 I was behind Darren on the front row, with a space alongside him. I followed him nicely into the first corner, and then chased hard. On the final lap, it paid off, and on the tight hairpin onto the jump, Darren made a small mistake and I got a run on him.
Off the jump, I hit the tarmac straight with more momentum, and I kept my foot in as the gap between Darren and the cones on the left narrowed. Darren, to his credit, gave me just enough room to carry my speed past him into the left hander which was mine! The final right hander was a straightforward affair, and I crossed the line first.
This was my first on-track win where I’d not been outright favourite and it was sweet. It wasn’t enough to trouble the front 3, but I was only 0.7 seconds off a top 3 heat time. More progress made. Another solid, more confident, more competitive drive under my belt.
The final heat was tough. Starting on the back row, Nathan and Chris Mullen got to the first corner first, but to get into third place was a sound start. While they battled ahead, I gave chase, with Chris getting the better of Nathan into the first corner on the second lap following a mistake and running wide in the last corner.
I was right up behind Nathan for the remainder of the race, but couldn’t find a way through. This lad was proving he had the right stuff for rallycross, and although he made a few mistakes on the mud, I couldn’t capitalise, and he gathered it all up really well without losing much time.
As I crossed the line, I knew that Nathan would end up with two better heat times than me. Something I hadn’t warranted for given the limited six places on the A-final grid. Sure enough, a 6th, 5th and 6th put me on the front row of the B-final alongside Nathan. But he had the inside line for the run into the first corner.
Now, I’m really not one for excuses because I am my worst critic, but on the start I was holding the car on the handbrake waiting for the lights when I felt it creeping. Dreading a jump start, I momentarily dipped the clutch and, of course, the lights came on. Damn it.
That split second is all it takes in the Swifts to have a good or terrible start. Nathan got the jump on me, and took the lead into the first corner. The rest of the race was spent line-astern with me trying my best to force a mistake, doing the fastest lap, but ultimately dropping off his bumper towards the end of the race. I was beaten fair and square and Nathan headed into the final.
I watched from the sidelines as a first lap off by Darren, and a coming together between Jack and Graham later in the lap saw Nathan up to 4th! The next thing we knew, Graham had made a mistake and Nathan was up to 3rd. All I could think was “that could have been me” – but Nathan drove a stormer. I think because he couldn’t quite believe he was ahead of team head Graham, he made a mistake running wide into the first corner, and Graham takes no second asking. None the less, Nathan finished a fine 4th.
Chris Mullen ended his unlucky season, particularly the Lydden events, on a high with a win. This would be his Swift swansong and what a way to bow out. His win elevating him to 2nd in the championship. Behind him was Tristan who drove faultlessly, but Chris was not to be beaten today. After Graham’s first lap contact, I think he was happy to come away with 3rd place, but surely disappointed to slip to 3rd in the championship.
With my overall finishing position being 7th and Jack only finishing 6th, it transpired that with the lowest round score dropped I had achieved 4th place overall in the 2014 Swift Rallycross Championship! Objective: met.
We headed home, season weary, but our day was just beginning. Negotiating Lincoln’s ring road, a squeal from the trailer indicated a failed wheel bearing. An expensive AA upgrade later, we got back underway without the trailer after a meal. We left Maud, still on her trailer, being loaded onto the back of a recovery lorry.
Suffice to say, I’d had enough of spending weekends in the cold, washing or tinkering with cars for 2014. Once she got home, Maud was packed away into the garage for Christmas, with the three-wheeled trailer dumped in the front garden. The only attention she got was when I had a brief, beer induced reminisce of a great season one evening over the Christmas period, now a tradition.
Such a bizarre contrast; one day a flying orange beauty on track, the next day being somewhere to keep the Christmas veg on in the garage. But it’s quiet moments sat in her off season or between rounds which spark the urge in me to go out and do it again. And I will.
So at the beginning of January, it all started again. The 2015 assault starts here. Tomorrow is the Night of Champions, and I will have much more news to come.
But that is for a later blog…