NSSCC Race Report Croft 24th October 2004

Car - 944 Turbo

Practice

For those of you who are following this weekends antics in chronological order you have just arrived here from Donington Park where a few hours ago I was racing the 924GT. I had originally planned to take a helicopter from Donington to Croft but after hearing that Andrew Morrison had damaged his suspension earlier in the week, presumably in testing at Knockhill, I decided to simply drive up to Croft and simply hope that I would arrive in time for the race.

I made it, with about 10 minutes to spare and even in sufficient time to get the video camera fitted. With practice taking place the previous day it was yet again my pleasure to start at the back of the grid, but the most important thing was that I had made it.

So, before the race report it's time to give thanks to

Strasse - for getting the car to the circuit for me & recovering the GT from Donington
Phil Lee - for easing the signing on process & being series coordinator
Terry Wright - for taking the car through scrutineering for me
Andrew Robinson - for final checks before the race
BARC - for making it possible to take part
........and anybody else who helped who I haven't mentioned.

Race

With the absence of Andrew Morrison and Steven Ferguson from the final round I knew that I had secured second in class B of the championship, with Ray Pollock too far ahead for me to catch. Having made all the plans for the weekend I wanted to round the season off with a good finish, but knew that there was no point trying to win the race before Clervaux.

Unusually, we were taken around the full lap to form on the grid, rather than by the short cut to the pit straight just before the Jim Clark Esses. This caused some doubt in my mind as to what the start procedure would be. Was it straight onto the grid & go, or would we get a proper green flag lap. No panic I thought, wait for the countdown boards & be ready to go if the lights go on, or alternatively watch for a green flag being prepared to be dropped. Good news, there was to be a green flag lap & another opportunity to adapt to the 944 after driving the 924GT all weekend.

One thing you notice when at the rear of the grid is that there is very little delay between taking your grid place & the lights coming on. When they changed I set off quite cautiously, not wanting to pile into the back of any of the slower cars in front. By the time I got level with the end of the pit lane the grid had sorted itself out and I started to use the power of the car. Last time at Croft, when I was in the 2.7RS, Chris Springall in his Morgan simply pulled away from me in a straight line. The tables were turned now and I nipped down the inside as we approached Clervaux and comfortably outbraked him. It is indeed a rare race at Croft which has no first lap incident at Clervaux or Hawthorn. This time it was to be at the chicane at the entrance to Hawthorn as David Cox was nerfed to the outside and Gavin Lee picked up a bollard which was to stay with him for the rest of the race.

Safely through the second chicane I got the hammer down & passed Jason South who was chasing Gavin Lee with ease but was baulked by Gavin who was towards the right hand side of the track but had the benefit of extra width given by the bollard. I held back until after the kink when Gavin moved back onto the racing line & I was free to slide down the inside under braking and exit Tower behind Les Cowburn.

I closed on Les through Sunny, and almost ran into the back of him on the exit, which gave me plenty of opportunity to pass him on the run down to The Complex. Paul Moss was next in line and I passed him down the main straight having moved from 20th to 9th in one lap. The track ahead was already quite clear with about 100 yards to the next car. It took me over a lap to close in on Simon Baker who was trying to retake the position he had just ceded to Nigel Vaulkhard. I caught them at Sunny and after getting the windscreen splattered with water that was still on the apex from rain the previous day I managed to find my way past Simon before the complex and passed Nigel on the straight. Terry Wright was the next car for me to catch and in what was to set the pattern for the remainder of the race I caught him on the approach to Tower and passed him under braking.

Half a lap later I was up to Darren Flounders and repeated the move at Tower. Pulling away from him through the Esses the next car should have been Harry Vaulkhard in his white, often sideways mk2 Escort. To say I was surprised to see that the car in front of me was none other than Ray Pollock. He was obviously suffering from a power problem, later diagnosed as an ECU problem, and kindly took a wide line through Sunny to let me through. Good driving Ray !

Harry has certainly gained speed as the season has progressed, and by the time we were round at Hawthorn both he and John Parton were within my sights. Repeating the move of the last two laps, and to the accompaniment of a vigorously waved blue flag I repeated the passing manoeuvre at Tower. John too was driving well and was clearly quicker through the Esses than I was, but over the rest of the lap I gained ground. His Honda certainly has a decent turn of speed down the straights too, but after two laps I was on him at Tower. Not close enough though and I settled down to simply follow him over the rest of the lap but got the power down early on the exit of Sunny and passed him. The question was who was next ?

As I accelerated down the pit straight I looked over onto the exit of the chicane and saw Tony Caig's Fiesta, with nothing between him & me. A quick mental check of the runners & riders told me that I was up to second overall and leading my class. With only three laps remaining, I knew I had no chance of catching Tony and eased off a little. Maybe a bit too much as John Parton was obviously still spoiling for a battle and stayed close to my tail for the balance of the race. I think I was teasing him.............

So that's how the final race of 2004 ended. A terrific weekend in a weekend when I was genuinely pleased with the driving I had done, topped off with a class win and second in class in the Championship. I got out of the car to numerous plaudits from other drivers, team members & the commentator for a post race interview.

Anyone know when the 2005 season starts ?

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