Monday, April 18, 2011

A Sunday down south

Aldershot is probably the closest track for us, and it was nice not to have to get up really early to make sure we got there on time.   It was a glorious day and already pretty hot by the time we left home.   We spent 8 years racing all over the south of England when we had the Minis and the Saxo, so it seems a little strange only heading that way once a year these days.   I even raced my Mini at the old Fleet Motor Club track a few times, that track having gone to be replaced by the Spedeworth track we race on now.    Having said all that we still managed to get lost and ended up heading down some Aldershot one way back streets with the truck and trailer.   Luckily we eventually ended up back on the main road and were able to figure out the way we needed to go.  Cheers sat-nav!
It was one of those meetings that just seemed to fly by really fast.   It felt like we’d barely unloaded the car before driver’s briefing was called and then we went almost straight out to practice.   We got everything sorted and lined up to go out on track.   As the green flag dropped for practice and I floored the car I just saw the edge of the bonnet lift.   The next second it had flown right up into the air like a kite, and despite the best efforts of the officials to stop the practice and save it the inevitable happened and it had been run over . . . several times.    I’m not moaning though and we should have checked it was on properly before I headed onto the track.    Dad and I can’t decide whose fault it was, so have agreed to share the blame equally!
To say it’s knackered would be a bit of an understatement  - it’s in four bits and one corner is missing completely.   Luckily we weren’t in the first race so it gave us a bit of time to try and work a miracle. After begging some aluminium from Wully Hardie we set at it with the drill, some rivets and the world’s bluntest pair of snips, doing what can only be described as a quality bodge.   It wasn’t pretty but it worked and Dad even made a ‘T’ out of some tape so as not to mess up the signwriting too much!   It was a different colour to the rest of the letters and was stuck onto some yellow tape but never mind. . . . . . . . .
With it all finished and ready to go again we went out for our first race.    I was on the outside on the 3rd row of the grid.   I lost a couple of places on the line with cars zipping back up the inside of me but I managed to get back across onto the all important inside line without being “hung out to dry” completely.    The race was going quite well for the first few laps until we came round into the pit bend where a car had spun and as I went through we just caught each other.  Unfortunately, it caught  my wheel giving me what I thought was just a puncture, but after I pulled off it revealed a puncture, a bent wheel and a very bent axle casing!
With such little time between races it was always going to be a struggle but with the help of my Dad, a mildly hung over Ross, Jason Kew and his mechanic David, we got it done.   It was a bit of a panic but we sorted it, thanks chaps for all your help!   The axle was really bent, and with a bent half shaft to go with it, it was turning into an expensive day!
I was on the inside for the second race and got off to a good start from lap one.   It was just one of those races where it all seemed to fall into place and I found myself moving up a few places into second.   I never had any chance to breathe though as Dave Brooks was right on me every lap and even the smallest slip up would have seen him past me.    I managed to just about hold into it and cross the line in second, definitely made the panic changing the axle worth it.
The final saw me back on the outside and once again I was lucky and able to get back into the inside line before the first bend.     Thankfully everything seemed to fall into place and flow nicely and I found myself in second place once again.   Somehow I managed to make a bit of breathing space around me and was able to just drive the car as hard as I could for the next few laps.   It’s amazing how much of a rhythm you get into and I didn’t look in the mirrors and kept looking forward.    When the yellow flags came out for an incident and I did look back I was amazed at just how much of a gap there was.   I hate restarts, mainly because I’m usually pretty bad at them but luck really was with me and I managed to keep hold of my second.   Everything was much closer now though and Mark Paffey was making progress pretty quickly and as the laps counted down he got closer and closer until he was in a position to get past me.   There were only a couple of laps left to run when ‘it all happened’ down in the bottom bend with Chris’s oil pipe coming off and cars spinning everywhere so they yellow flagged it again and then went red.   This gave Ralph his third win of the day, and second final on the trot - with me in second, and Paff with third.
It just goes to show how a day can go from ‘bad to good’ very quickly and I really am grateful to everyone who helped us get back out on track.   It’s great that even though the competition on the track is so fierce, people will still help you in the pits.   Another added bonus is that the prize money paid for the new bonnet!
With the Good Friday meeting at Northampton now only a week away and another good entry of cars I’ll look forward to seeing you all there.
Thanks as ever for reading                               

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