Monday, September 3, 2012

A Hectic Start

The new season got itself off to a flying start!   After a somewhat disastrous National Weekend we came home determined to get the car ready and have a better start than we did last year.   Before any of this though, it was a trip to Taunton for the Saloon World Final, a race I felt sure would be full of action.   I must admit I was a bit disappointed with the big race - compared to their usual standards they were a bit tame.  They made up for it in the following races with all the usual chaos and carnage restored.   Having a lot to do the next day we decided to come home on Saturday night rather than stay for the racing on Sunday.

Then it was all systems go for the start of our season the following Saturday at
Northampton.    The weather forecast was good and with lots of new and returning drivers it looked set for a great evenings racing.  We got there early so that I could practice and after doing a couple of laps I was satisfied with the car’s performance.   We hadn’t changed or altered anything so why it was so good I don’t know.

The averages saw me starting mid pack and after a few silly little slips on my part I finished the first race in 12th..  The next race was to be a lot better with me picking up a 6th, and the final was probably up there in the most enjoyable races I’ve ever had.   After many laps racing closely with Danny Hunn I was caught and passed by a very fast moving Robert McDonald with only a couple of laps to go, leaving me with a 5th.

Now, if ever there was a meeting where we wanted to come home with a straight car that was it.   Having raced the Saturday night Ross and I were heading up to Scotland after work on Monday, then coming back down again early the following  Monday morning and meeting Dad and the car at Hednesford.   So whatever state the car was in when we rolled it into the workshop, we only had one day to sort it out!   Luckily it was hardly even scratched so Dad and I got stuck straight in and got it ready to go again.

The next week was spent up on the west coast of
Scotland with our boat - a complete contrast to the busy world of racing.   It’s a week I always look forward to every year. After a relaxing break on the island it was back to John’s house on Saturday morning to get his Hot Rod set up and loaded ready to race at Cowdenbeath.  Now I have passed my trailer test I found myself towing the car to the track in some of the worst rain I have ever seen, and it looked pretty set to be a nasty evening at the Racewall.

It was an emotional start to the night with all the cars out on the track for a minute’s silence for Scottish stock car hero George MacMillan - a man people spoke highly of and who will certainly be missed at tracks up and down the country.   I’m lucky enough to count ‘Young George’ among my friends and my thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time.

John obviously had plans to use the weather to his advantage going out and taking the win in the first heat.  With the rain stopping but the track still wet for heat two he promptly backed it up with another win.   Come the final it was that awful decision of which tyres should he run, with it not raining but the track still being pretty greasy.  We opted to run two slicks and two wets and hope for the best!     As he pulled on track though it was obvious we’d made the wrong choice as most of the other cars were running full slicks.   John still drove a blinder of a race and although there was no stopping Billy Bonnar and despite a serious attempt from
Graeme Callender, John managed to hold on to second.    This has put him into the lead of the Scottish points.  So it’s ‘finger out’ now John and hold onto it until July!

Obviously after the racing finished for the evening spirits were high so a good night out was to follow.  Sunday was spent sorting a few bits out and getting ready for the long drive home.   We met up with Robert McDonald and his posse at 5am and followed him to Hednesford.   It makes you realise just how little travelling us English drivers really do when you look at the miles these boys do week in week out to get to the meetings.

Hednesford has been a problem track for me in the past and Monday was to be no different.  It was another one of those indecisive weather days, raining one minute then stopping the next, making tyre choice and set-up a complete nightmare.  It looked set to be wet for the first heat and then it stopped, but we decided to change the tyres to slicks but leave the rest of the wet set up on.    Although the car was okay, it just wasn’t as good as normal.  No major dramas in the race though and I finished 11th.   The second race was definitely dry so it was back to the standard dry settings. It was a better race but I made a silly error trying to go around the outside and letting the train of cars come straight up the inside of me - never mind though, that’s racing and I finished the race in 8th place.

Just before the final it started to rain so after much debating and taking wheels on and off the car we decided like John at Cowdie to run two and two; again a decision I would regret pretty much instantly.   The car was terrible on the first few laps with absolutely no grip at all . . .  then it seemed better and I got in a few good laps. . .  and then the tyres went off completely and the car was worse than useless again. 

I don’t know why but I’m struggling with these wet and damp conditions at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s me or the car but hopefully I’ll be able to find an answer to it soon.

So all in all not the best day ever but it’s only the second meeting and there’s still plenty of time to go.  We had very little damage so that’s a bonus.  There’s an open meeting at
Northampton on Sunday so whilst everyone else is away in Ireland and there are no points at stake I’m going to go and try a few things on the car.

I think the next few months will see some really good racing from the Nationals. I’m really looking forward to it.

Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time.


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