NSSCC Race Report Croft 25/26th June 2005

Car - 944 Turbo

Practice

The 944 has not been handling as well as I would like, which was confirmed by the visit to Spa after Mallory Park.

I didn't have an opportunity to test so for qualifying we tried a radical setup without any assister springs on the rear, essentially converting qualifying into a test session. I came into the pits twice to change damper settings and only got two flying laps in. Gill is getting quite good at fiddling with the damper settings without my help, she'll be after a T-Shirt with Race Engineer written on it before long!

After the second change the car felt better, but was still nowhere near right. We discovered an improvement when we went stiffer on the front, so after qualifying I decided on a high risk strategy and changed the front springs, which took about 3 hours in total. That left me with a bit of a conundrum about what damper settings to use. I'm using 3 way adjustable dampers with 26 settings on each adjustment, so there's something like 18,000 combinations per damper, more than enough opportunity to get it wrong - and I couldn't find out until the race tomorrow.

Race

It must have been my lucky day, as I went out from the collecting area onto the circuit I tried to turn in at Hawthorn and could feel an immediate improvement with the new springs. I was now looking forward to the race. Having qualified 8th I needed a good start, but was hard against the pitwall, with no escape route if there was an incident. Most definitely not my favourite position. Tony Caig was slow away from the line and I got boxed in by John Parton. That allowed John Parton, David Cox, Darren Flounders, Andrew Varey and Terry Wright past me. My cunning plan to pass them all by the first corner was not going to work.

I took Clervaux on the outside, not my favourite line either as you run the risk of being put into the gravel by contact between other people. Andrew Varey must have had contact as his car jumped in the air at the apex. I had to be patient through Hawthorn and then took avoiding action on the run up to Tower as Tony Caigs car faltered in front of me and I had to brake to avoid hitting him. The rest of the first lap was simply following the train of cars as at that point I was still unsure of exactly how well the car was handling.

On lap 2 I started to make progress through the field and by lap 5 was up to 4th place, the only drama along the way was when I was close to John Parton at Clervaux. He was so busy watching his mirrors he missed his braking point and almost left the circuit. I'll tease him about that for the rest of the season. After that I seemed to be keeping pace with the leaders, but they were already 30 seconds ahead of me. I kept pushing, and my lap times were almost three full seconds faster than yesterday in qualifying, but I had to ease over the final couple of laps as the heat had got to my brakes and they had overheated so much the brake pedal had almost disappeared. I'm happy with the result for the weekend. Fourth was realistically as good as I could expect considering the circumstances, and more importantly I have some important suspension data to share with Strasse to improve the car further.

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