NSSCC Race Report Knockhill 14/15th August 2004
Car - 944 Turbo
Friday afternoon gave just one 25 minute session for NSSCC / SMRC competitors to perform testing. The remainder of the sessions were given over to the many Caterham and Legend cars. Testing went well in that it was clear that the boost pipe problems I had been suffering from were finally fixed. I tried a couple of different damper settings but continually suffered from poor braking and vibration, almost ending up in the gravel a couple of occasions. In the end I came to the conclusion that the poor braking was due to warped discs, so I compromised on the damper settings to minimise the effect. It seemed to work as I completed my first ever laps round Knockhill in sub 60 seconds.
Saturday morning was very strange, there was a very calm atmosphere around the paddock due to a relaxed timetable and late practice. With Andrew Morrison in front and ray Pollock behind I had to decide whether to chase or allow myself be caught in the early laps. I decided to let Ray catch me, not difficult as he was flying from the moment he was released onto the circuit.
After a few laps to let the tyres get some heat into them I started putting in some solid laps with regular times in the 59 second area. I was hoping to get into the 58's but as expected there were not too many clear laps and I had to settle for a 59.4, almost a second better than my best time before and I still felt there was more time to come. Meanwhile Ray Pollock put in an unbelievable 56.7 (I don't know where that time came from Ray) with Morrison, Caig and Ferguson all in the mid 58's. I would start 5th, could I hang onto them & gain time in the race ?
Although this meeting was a double header we were on a mixed grid with class A E and F cars. A number of drivers were concerned about this situation due to the mix of starting characteristics, tyres and experience from Cadwell Park last year. It was decided that AEF cars would go off at the lights, while BCD would be started on the drop of a flag. Not everyone was of the same view but from my perspective it was a very wise decision taken after consultation with the drivers in typical DDMC fashion. This being Knockhill the flag would of course be the Scottish Saltire.
In practice the system didn't work ideally as I couldn't see either the flag or the flagholder. I had no choice but to judge my start from the sound of the other cars and movement of the Ray Pollocks car two rows in front. In the end that worked out fine, I entered Duffus Dip still in 5th and the train took the helter skelter ride that is McIntyres, Butchers and Glenvarigill. The five of us had already made a break away from the rest, but I had already dropped back about 20 yards. This gave me a great view of what happened next.
Tony Caigs Fiesta has such good brakes that they have a tendency to "grab". Just like last time at Knockhill they locked up at Taylors on the first lap. All 4 tyres were lit up as his car took a gentle swing to the right before just clipping the back of Fergie and spinning off. This unsettled Fergie who controlled his spin by booting the throttle on the exit and promptly running wide into Andrew Morrison. Andrew continued but I passed both Caig and Fergie, who was now facing the wrong way, to take 3rd place in the BCD race.
For the next few laps I tried to stay with the battle between Ray and Andrew. They made a better job of getting through the traffic and disappeared from view, it looked like I would have to settle for a secure third place. Then I saw the driving standards flag being shown for car 54 - Andrew Morrison. It stayed out for about 5 laps and I saw Andrew pull into the pits. Later it turned out that he was taking too much kerb through Glenvarigill and was called to the pits for a stop-go penalty, which turned out to be a stop-stop penalty after Andrew was mistakenly directed to parc ferme.
I was now up to second in the BCD race and passing some of the slower AEF cars. With about 5 minutes to go I came up to a battle between Paul Moss, Terry Wright, Mick Starkey and Simon Baker. I knew that all four cars were very closely matched and didn't want to spoil their battle for class position, so was a little hesitant in passing. Moss was the first who I overtook under braking for Butchers. Taking the tighter line meant I was slower on the exit and the car stepped out to the left as I went round the clipping point. Surely this wasn't going to be another tortuous end to a race due to a puncture could it ?. For the next couple of corners I was very tentative, but the car seemed fine. I had dropped back from Mick and Terry who were really fighting hard for position. I lost five seconds on that lap and a few more before I was able to pass them and Simon Baker. In that lap and a half I came to the conclusion that my feared puncture was in fact a little kiss from Paul Moss as he tried to follow me through. It clearly didn't work for either of us.
Until this point I was fairly relaxed in a safe second with no one behind. After doing a Coulthard through the back markers rather than a Schumacher I suddenly had Tony Caig right on my tail. I knew he had been quicker than me in practice, so I would have to go defensive to retain second. At first he tried to pass on the exit of Glenvarigill, but I had sufficient momentum and acceleration to keep him behind. The run down to Taylors was close, so I took the slower inside line. We came out side by side and initially ran side by side. As we approached the finish line I pulled out enough to again take the racing line and keep him behind me through the twisty section where he would have the advantage. He was not as close as we rounded Clarke, but now I had to be very much aware that the two class A cars of Jonathon Young and Robert Pritchard were closely battling for overall honours. Pritchard came past first, with Young just a few yards behind who passed me in the braking area. Tony was not close enough to try to outbrake me so I simply followed Young to the line. As we approached the line the last lap board was showing as was the chequered flag.
Initially I thought I would have to defend for another lap, but then realised that by getting lapped I had saved myself the trouble and took the flag for an overall seventh in the race and second in class.At last a finish and a result.
Yesterdays result meant that I would be on the front row for today's race, once the AEF cars had gone for the first race start. The challenge would be getting off the line in a sprint down to Duffus Dip. The challenge was not made simpler by the rain shower that visited Knockhill while the previous race was being run. With a damp track and slick tyres it was decided not to declare this to be a wet race. Everyone started on dry tyres.
The start was not as simple as it could have been. When the lights went out yellow flags were waved as Jonathon Young stalled on the grid. With the yellow flags still being waved the Saltire was raised. I didn't care if the yellows ere there I decided to go on the drop of the flag. Young got going just as the flag dropped and I dropped the clutch. The car lurched forward with wheelspin and some axle tramp. I grabbed second and was still level with Pollock as we shot forward but I suffered from more axle tramp and worryingly the car started to twitch left and right. After Oulton park I didn't want a visit to the pit wall so I had to short shift into third. This gave Ray the advantage he needed and he took the lead. This was still a good start as I had retained my position and Morrison and Fergie were still some way back.
Ray really got the hammer down early while Tony Caig was again snapping at my heels. I knew I needed to make a break too but was conscious of the moisture on the track and lower air temperatures. At the end of the first lap I was still in second and had created a little breathing space. Tony took the breathing space from me through the first half of the lap and tried to pass me on the run to Clarke. It was an easily defendable position and at the end of lap 2 I had a little more space. I decided that I would be more ambitious through Glenvarigill in an attempt to create a real gap. On the exit I checked my mirrors and saw Tony on the grass. That was him dispensed with I thought. All I needed to do was take a clean line round Clarke and start chasing Ray.
The approach was well controlled and I went through taking to the kerbs and rumble strips, much as I had all weekend, and influenced by the suspension compromise I had introduced to compensate for the braking problems. With the rain shower I knew I had to be cautious and keep the throttle steady until I was back on dry track. As the car returned to the circuit the near side front seemed to drop down the kerb and the back end swung to the right. I wound opposite lock on expecting to catch the spin but it all happened too quickly. I applied the brakes to no effect as I crossed the track backwards, continued onto the grass before going rear end first into the tyrewall.
The car died, I heard the sound of breaking glass as the tailgate shattered and tried to restart the engine. It wouldn't start, there was no power as the battery cut off switch had moved to the off position following the impact. I swore......twice.
The remainder of the race made me nervous as I was very concerned that my car was vulnerable if someone else went off. Tony Caig had gone off due to a broken wheel, Stephen Ferguson retired with a poorly engine and Andrew Morrison retired with a broken throttle cable. I probably swore a few more times, all I had needed to do to get another second was stay on the circuit but I had thrown away the chance. At the risk of sounding like a professional footballer, "I was gutted". The marshalls commentated I had done the same thing as James Thompson a week earlier in testing. I'm not sure if that is a comfort or not. I think I studied the BTCC lines too closely on TV last weekend.
A few hours later the car was back in Leeds at Strasse, so they have the best opportunity to get the car ready for Brands Hatch in two weeks time.
Not the sort of "Experience" me or Strasse wished to experience
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