Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The excitement continues!

The car came home pretty healthy after Hednesford, it had a few scars around the body work and was in desperate need of a new rear bumper but it was all superficial.    The mechanical bits were still spot on.   Ross and I were heading off to Cornwall on the Wednesday, and coming back on the Sunday, so that didn’t leave us many nights to get it ready.
First thing Monday morning I ordered the bumper and sorted out getting it painted with Terry.   We unloaded the car from the trailer, washed all the cement dust off, pushed it onto the ramp and locked the door until I got back.    Dad spends his whole life working or helping me and the racing definitely couldn’t happen without him.   Letting me loose on the car on my own would prove to be a complete disaster but I think he was quite looking forward to having a few nights off from it as well.
Despite exhausted legs (someone could have warned us Cornwall was that hilly!) it was straight back on with the car.   It was all the routine stuff; changing the diff, cleaning and fitting the tyres and running a spanner round everything to make sure it’s not worked loose.    All the jobs we do before every meeting are just a matter of course but it’s still surprising just how long they take.  I’ve now added ‘measuring the tyres’ to the list of jobs I hate - as well as repairing wheels - because no matter how many times you let them down, blow them up or rotate them around the car it seems impossible to get them just how you want them!
We have also been a lot more diligent with the set up recently, spending more time making sure everything is perfect.  In my opinion it’s paying off too because the car feels really good and I’m starting to get more confidence with it . . . at last.
While we were at work on Saturday morning the weather was lovely - the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.   This had changed by the time we got to Birmingham though with the sky turning grey and rain looking imminent any second.   We rushed to get the car unloaded and ready so I could have a practice in the dry to get a feel for everything.    Just as we were sitting in the centre waiting to go on track it started spitting but nothing to overly worry about.
The track was pretty damp for practice and it was enough to keep you on your toes - the car was great though and I went back to the pits to check it over for the first race.   I decided not to bother with the official before-meeting practice and dad and I headed up to watch it.   Just as we were walking down the hill the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down.   This was going to make it interesting for the night!
As a lot of you know, apart from problems ‘seeing’ (wearing specs doesn’t help my cause) I don’t mind racing in the rain.   But it needs to be properly wet; I can’t be doing with it when it keeps stopping and starting making tyre choice an absolute nightmare.   With the rain coming and going, it was always going to be one of those nights.    I wasn’t in the first race and hoped that by the time I went out the rain would have stopped and the track dried out.
Although the rain had pretty much stopped everything was still cold and damp and we decided that four  wets would be the way to go - a decision I instantly regretted as soon as I got out on track. Although it wasn’t bone dry, the track was a long way from being wet!   Considering the tyres were wrong it wasn’t a bad race but as the laps went by the car got worse and worse, understeering more with each bend, and I was glad to see the flag drop and take the points for seventh place. Looking at the tyres when I got back to the pits it was fair to say the two on the outside were certainly past their best!
The rain was still holding off for the next race and not going to be caught out twice we headed down on four slicks.  The car felt good in warm up and the race got under way.   After just a couple of laps all hell broke loose exiting the bend, and heading down the straight I felt the back of the car get touched and break away.   It was one of those moments when you find yourself looking up the straight at the oncoming traffic thinking this is going to hurt!   Luck must have been on my side though as the car glanced the fence and ran along the length of the straight without anyone else hitting me.  The race was stopped and the car seemed ok so I went round and re-gridded for another go.   The first bend showed everything wasn’t ok - with the car pretty much having a mind of its own!  Pretty soon the main pack had gone past and I was left at the back; determined to get home and try and salvage at least a couple of points from the race I kept going.   The last bend of the last lap saw things get even worse when the tyre came off the rim throwing the car into a pretty extreme slide! Somehow by sheer luck I managed to cling on to it over the line before coming to an abrupt stop on the rumble strips, complete with a point for 15th place!
Back in the pits an inspection revealed yet another smashed wheel, a very bent axle and some pretty unhealthy bodywork.   All the spoiler and back end had been pushed across leaving us with a pretty funny looking Tigra!   With the racing running such a tight schedule there was no time to repair it so back in the trailer it went.    The final turned out to be a cracking race too and watching it from the sidelines was a bit of a killer!
Even though it wasn’t the best of meetings, Birmingham is still my favourite track and I can’t wait to get back there again.    A meal at ‘Big Johns’ with Jason and his team made up for the bad night.    Anyone who has been to Birmingham and not stopped to eat at ‘Big Johns’, just doesn’t know what they’re missing!
With only a week to go until Skegness we’re going to have a busy couple of nights - but as ever we will be there.   With only two meetings left to go, and everything still so close, it’s guaranteed that the excitement is going to continue with the points race coming down to the last lap of the last race I’m sure.
Thanks as ever for reading.
Until next time.

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