NSSCC Race Report Croft 7th September 2003

Practice

Nothing much to report here. This meeting was an NSSCC double header with practice & a race on Saturday and the second race on the Sunday. As I was down at Brands Hatch I only had the opportunity to start from the back of the grid. Still starting at the back can be fun and at least you can't go backwards can you ?

Race 1

As I was set off on the green flag lap I realised this was to be my first visit to a dry Croft for about 4 months and I had never driven the circuit on my new suspension. Judging that was one issue but it was clear from the lack of hissing sounds that the repair carried out on the way back from Brands Hatch was working well. I lined up on the grid & realised that the white Escort Cosworth of Ray Pollock has a high roofline, completely obscuring my view of the lights. Brilliant !

As the lights turned green everybody moved.... except me. I might as well have had a 10 second penalty. Anyway, the car came off the line and with everybody holding each other up I managed to catch the rest of the pack up and passed a couple on the run down to Clervaux. As I turned in there was mayhem as Guy Blumers Escort was spinning across the track. The only place to go was the wrong side of the tyres at Hawthorn. Fair enough, nice simple move, complicated by the fact that contact between Paul Livesey and John Martinson left the Clio across the track. More avoiding action, a quick change down to second and I was away again through the chicane. I was passing cars so quickly on the run up to Tower that it was just a blur. On the exit of Tower the next car in sight was Ryan Upson in his Rover 220 turbo. Ryan had started 16th, and with 4 cars in front of him on the grid now sidelined that put him up to about 12th place and me 13th, from 29th on the grid. I was really enjoying this. Then it happened. Red flags at Sunny. The carnage was obviously so great that the track could not be cleared and so the race was stopped. We went back to the grid and waited for the track to be prepared for a new, shortened race, from original grid positions. Oh blast ! (or choose your own expletive).

At the restart I positioned myself so I could see the lights and got a good getaway. It was just like an arcade game as I went for gap after gap, threading my way through the field and making up about 6 places before Clervaux. After a much more disciplined first corner we worked our way onto the old straight and the next cars in view were Terry Wright and Darren Flounders. I seemed to have about 30 metres of clear track behind me and closed up on Darren, almost being able to pass him at Clervaux at the start of the second lap. After negotiating the chicane, tentatively as I did not want to clip the tyres (again), I got a decent exit and passed him under braking at Tower. In my mirrors was David Hoyle, I offered no defence, even though this meant I missed an opportunity to pass Terry Wright. Never mind I would get him soon...or would I. By now the tyres were coming up to temperature but the car was feeling a little soft & understeery at the front, compromising my corner speeds. Brands Hatch settings obviously are no good for Croft. Simon Baker had also got caught up in our little tussle and after following David Hoyle for one lap Simon was right on my tail as I went through the Jim Clark Esses. He carried more speed through the bend and I saw his move to the inside to attempt a pass at Barcroft. Now Barcroft is the fastest part of the circuit and is in fact a kink. This kink is taken at about 110-120 mph and has a single possible line if you are to be successful in braking for Sunny. Simon thought that there was a quicker line on the grass, and I received a little kiss, or should I say a bloody great thump on my rear wing. This was sufficient to tip me into a high speed spin, so I swapped ends and by application of the brakes and opposite lock almost kept the car on the circuit. As soon as I went onto the grass I released the brakes, gave another flick of opposite lock and saw Simon pass me on the outside (yes really, the grass on the other side of the track) as I spun back round again and took Sunny almost as normal.

If you were one of the Marshalls at that post, please drop me a line & give me marks for technical skill and artistic merit please !

That was it race over, I had flat spotted the tyres, and one of them was punctured I thought. Everyone I had past came past me again, but I made it to the finish for my points. Subsequent inspections showed that I did not have a puncture but that all 4 tyres (two of them almost new) were flat spotted down to the canvas and one of the rear ones was flat for a distance of about 5 inches. Being a born optimist helps at these times... at least I had avoided hitting the hard armco barriers.

Here's a few photos for you

This is one of the flat spotted front tyresAnother flat spotted Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, down to the canvasPorsche 924 Carrera GT  on the trailer after the race. You can see the impact point was behind the  rear wheel

Race 2

This was a non-championship race in aid of the Katie Neal Trust. I only had two spare wheels with the right tyres on, and though I negotiated with George Tweddle to buy some slightly smaller Michelin tyres he had been carrying about in his van there was no-one at the circuit who could fit them to my rims (his don't fit my car) so unfortunately I had to withdraw.

Update 22nd February - "Bakers Dozen"

I have now obtained a video of the incident from another competitor, and the following sequence of 13 photographs could well be called a full Bakers Dozen. Although not noticeable at the time within the last two weeks the rear wheel shown above has been found to have stress fractures in the hub area. This is very unusual for a Fuchs wheel, and it is a testament to their strength that I did the final rounds of both championships on the same wheel.

Approaching Barcroft

Simon moves to the inside, off the racing line

I start to move over on the racing line, speed is over 110 mph here

Almost at the apex of the corner, Simon is Behind but brakes way too late

I become the final brake on Simons car as he is launched in the air with just one wheel on the ground

More aerobatics

I start to rotate, Simon is just coming back on circuit

I now have a yaw angle of 35 degrees and Simons rear wheels are still off the ground as he pushes me along

Simon goes off to the left, but I continue to spin

The wheels are locked up and smoke comes from the tyres

..... and some more smoke, I'm now at 90 degrees to the circuit

..... and some more smoke, I depart the circuit to the left, and somehow recover the car without hitting the barriers

....... and some more smoke, but the view around Sunny is now clear.

 

 

 

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