Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thunder 500

The last two rounds offered nothing exciting to talk about but Northampton proved something of an eye opener for me as to just how hard it is starting from further back on the grid. The cars I’m usually trying to run away from are starting with me and as well as trying to keep them behind me, I have to focus on catching and overtaking the ones in front as well!  As much as it wasn’t a high points scoring day I did manage to keep the car in one piece and score enough points to guarantee a place in the World Final. This took a lot of pressure off for the last round at Aldershot.  All I wanted to focus on was scoring enough points to keep a group 3 starting place for the big race.  Typically, the weather wasn’t going to be kind to us and after rain for the entire journey it looked pretty set in for the day.

The first heat, as expected, was wet but I did what needed to be done, which was keeping the car in one piece and pointing in the right direction.  After the race had finished the rain stopped but in the short time between races I didn’t think the track would have had much chance to dry out so decided to leave the car on wets.  How wrong I was and as soon as I drove on to the track I knew I’d made a terrible mistake . . . the track was absolutely bone dry!  The car was brilliant for the first two laps but after that it went off very quickly, leaving me to have a drive round at the back on my own!  With no more rain it was slicks for the final and it turned out to be my best race of the day and I finished 12th after 35 laps.

This was enough for me to finish the points in 12th place and give me the group 3 start I’d been hoping for in the World Final.  Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest meeting for me but it was pretty exciting with the battle for the points championship coming right down to the last race.   Well done to Kym Weaver on becoming English Points Champion - you deserve it after all the hours you and your team put in.

With the points over for another year it was time to turn our attention to the Thunder 500 and the news that some of the Touring Car guys would be using our cars in a race being heavily publicised by Motorsport News.  I had the Audi driver Rob Austin driving my car and although he had never driven on an oval before he took to it straight away.  Once again though the weather wasn’t going to be kind, with a shower just before their qualifying laps leaving the track in a horrible greasy state that would have been better suited to wets.  With Rob out second and still on slicks it left him at a bit of a disadvantage to the others but he did a great job and with no more rain until the race he was able to get stuck in on a drier track.  The last question he asked before heading out was if you’re allowed to use the bumper - something he did a couple of times on Rob Collard!

After the race we decided to chuck Rob in at the deep end and offer him the car for the rest of the meeting.  He agreed and with a middle of the pack start for the heat he was really straight into the action.  Now Rob is obviously a professional and very talented driver but oval racing is completely different to anything you will ever do and it was just a pleasure to watch him get in and be on the pace straight away.  Within the first few laps he was mixing it with the best of them and managed to move up a few places before the chequered flag.  He was going even better in the second heat but a tangle on the back straight with Rob Collard, who was out in Billy Wood’s spare car, saw him take a little spin onto the shale. He recovered and got straight back in amongst the action again though.

After the horrible incident in the F1’s it looked like the Hot Rod final would be cancelled, but at the last minute they called the drivers up and it was a mad panic to get him in the car and down onto the grid.  The 40 lap race was cut by a few laps due to the noise curfew at the stadium, but Rob had really got to grips with the car by this point and was flying, having some really good races and gaining a few places by the end.  It was great to have someone else’s opinion on the car and much to the delight of both my dad and Lee, Rob was able to give them useful feedback on what the car was doing . . . unlike my usual answer which amounts to either ‘it’s fine’ or ‘it’s crap’!

With the racing over we all headed up into the Spedeworth box for a beer.  This is when you realise just what an impressive stadium Foxhall is.  With the blue lights on at night it’s a great sight and really could rival any of the stadiums over the water.  As usual with me it’s never just one beer and after an invite from Rob and Motorsport News deputy editor Matt James to join them in Ipswich, I found myself in a bar wearing Deane Wood’s Spedeworth shirt!  Unfortunately my dad, Lee and Crystal had to head home and couldn’t join us.  As you would expect it was a pretty wild night.  I’m not sure I ever want to drink a Long Island Iced Tea ever again though.  When the bar decided to stop serving us we finally called it a night.  The unplanned ones are always the best, especially when you have this party animal reputation to live up to!

Overall, I think the entire event was well organised and a great success, a credit to both Spedeworth and Motorsport News.  It was a pleasure to meet Rob and have him drive my car and the lift home the next day was greatly appreciated too.  Hopefully you will see him back behind the wheel of the 27 car soon.  He’s kindly offered me a shakedown run in his Audi later in the year but more on that when I know what’s going on.

I’ll be back shortly with all the news from the World Final.  Thanks as ever for reading.

Until next time


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