Iíve spent a lot of time at race tracks over the last few years, but mainly running cars rather than racing them. So it was nice to actually be headed to Silverstone with my own car on Friday lunchtime ready for the first meeting of the 2013 Dunlop European TVR Challenge.
The weekend had an odd timetable with a Qualifying session late on Saturday and the first race not until Sunday lunchtime followed by the last race of the day finishing at 6pm so it was going to be a long day, Although it turned out the be a real blessing for us.
Iíd hoped to try and blag a single test session in the afternoon to make up for the 7 laps I managed testing at Oulton before the gearbox cried enough but a job at work meant we didnít actually get to Silverstone till 5pm. So we just unloaded and drove the car round to the Pit Garage that was to be home for the next few days.
Once Parked in the garage we noticed an ominous puddle of oil collecting below the car, so it was quickly in the air †to trace the problem, fingers crossed it was just a loose pipe. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that it was a serious leak from the oil pump. At 6.30 on a Friday night this was looking like it could be game over before it had started! I gambled on a phone call to John Eales in Leicester and talked him into looking at the pump on Saturday morning. With the oil pump removed we settled down for the night over a beer or two.
The following morning Dave Chant gave me a lift up to Leicester to get the pump sorted ( I cant imagine Hamilton helping Alonso in the same way!)† and for the princely sum of 30 quid and a new oil seal we were on our way back. It looks like the pump which had just come back from a very expensive rebuild at the manufactures had been fitted with the wrong seal!. Once back in the paddock by lunchtime the car was back together and tested, Phew..
The weather was typical British weather, sun, rain, hail, sun, rain, wind, sun making tyre choice a real quandary. Surprisingly I had some brand new slicks to play with. Well I say brand new Will-hire ltd had bought me a set, but I also had some new old stock for the rear I wanted to use first. These turned out to be 13 years old and hard as nails. Not really what I wanted as the qualifying session went from a damp but drying track to a downpour complete with hail as we started the session. I just about managed 3 laps and 2 spins before pitting to change to wets. A round of applause to Dad and Dominic Mooney for a quick tyre change.. 6 mins to change 4 wheels and tyres using nothing more than a trolly jack and one wheel gun is good going.† I headed out straight into traffic and every time† I slowed to make some space so did they. With time running out I managed to fall back enough to get one lap in. Dave Chant had sussed what I was doing and as I pressed on so did he only a slight error in to maggots saw him spin out and I came home with a surprising class B pole and 12th overall from the grid of 24. Not a bad days work considering Iíve hardly been in the car for the last 2 years.
Qualifying over the car was quickly back in the air for a spanner check with an eagle eye on the oil pump (thankfully no more leaks). We were then quickly in to the more serious business of beer, bbq, computer driving and taking the mikey out of fellow drivers and team members. a good night was had by all.
The Sunday was an odd day again with nothing to do until lunchtime, other than watch the skys and worry about the weather and tyre choice. Although after running those rear slicks on Sunday it was obvious that we would have to run wets if there was the slightest hint of a damp track and run the risk of burning them up if it dried up. As it happened it started to dry up and the sun came out as it approached the start of the race, so everyone bolted the slicks on and set off for the holding area.
It felt both very strange and nice to be heading out in the pack to the start of a race, although a bit further back than Iím used to with the faster A+ cars joining us. The middle of a fairly big grid can be quite daunting as well because thatís usually where things kick off! I tend not to bother weaving about as Iíve never noticed it heat the tyres up much and just makes me travel sick so I concentrate on warming the brakes and a couple of rolling burn outs to get the rears warm.
Tuscans can be a challenge to get off the line quickly, especially with the rover engines low down torque making it easy to light the rear tyres up and sit there as you set off. I managed a fairly good start taking a few places off the line, and held them through copse even being fairly cautious. Dave Chant though got an even better start and snuck past on the run to maggots.
My game plan was then to stick with Dave and look for an opportunity or mistake to get past, this was proving a little more difficult as the back of the car was very loose and I had some very sideways moments through Copse and Luffield trying to hang onto the back of Dave. This was made even harder by a couple of Class A cars joining in our little battle. Itís always a quandary hot to treat the A cars, fight to keep them behind and maintain track position† or let them through and hope they pass the class car your fighting with so they donít get in the way. One car passed me under a yellow and then managed to slow me up a little allowing Dave to get ahead. I also let †Jason Clegg in the Class A speed six Tuscan through thinking he was faster but we all ended running in a train of 4 for quite a few laps. Billy Then got past Dave, leaving just Jason between us, So I had to retake Jason to have a crack at Dave. Jason had a bit of a moment in Luffield so I had a run on him and took him on the inside into Copse and set off after Dave, I was gaining nicely but had left it too late and ran out of laps, with only .5 second between us on the line another couple of laps and it might have been different. Still a 2nd Place in class and just a few 1/10ís of a second off Daveís fastest lap was not a bad start after a long lay off.
Race two was again right at the end of the day, and I started again in 12th on the grid 2nd in class. This time however it was most definitely a wet race so no worries about tyre choice. Surprisingly Iíve not done more than 2 or 3 wet races in the 9 years Iíve had the car, and my used wet tyres are of similar vintage.. or in other words buggered..
As the lights went out I got a good start but was quickly hemmed in up against the pit wall, and everyone got back past. Through Copse we were 4 cars wide and on the exit the car to my left started coming across my nose, leaving me with the only option of turning into him so that he didnít spin my round when we touched. A light tap and we both kept going in a straight line, and I got passed him with 2 wheels on the grass!
There were spinners at maggots and I got passed a few more including Dave who wasnít happy in the conditions and also had electrical issues. Down the straight the rear tyres kept spinning up as you hit water, and the first time into Brooklands was scary. As you came under the bridge the spray was just hanging in the air and you couldnít see the corner. There were no references for braking and cars and brake lights just became visible as you hurtled in to the corner, with no idea what grip was going to be there.
On the second Lap Darren Smith in the Class B Tuscan was flying† and went past, his time and confidence in the car really showing, where as I was still finding my feet with the car especially in the wet conditions and taking things a little steady.
Billy Thompson found out just how bad the straight can be when the car span on him putting him into the wall and† out on the spot damaging 2 wheels and a wishbone. Heíd just his a puddle and the rear wheels had started spinning sending the car sideways at over 120mph. I happened twice to be during the race but I managed to catch the car both times and keep it pointing in the right direction.
I managed to Keep Darren in sight, but couldnít make any ground on him, without pushing it any harder than I was and I didnít really have the tyres under me to push any harder either.
With spinners at almost every corner I just settled for keeping it on the circuit. This proved to be a cunning plan as a mistake and a spin from Darren saw me nip past into the lead and take the Class B win and a top 10 position a few laps later. With my lap times improving all the time as I started to get used to the car, I also managed the fastest lap and the all-important extra point meaning we leave Silverstone 1st in class and joint 3rd overall in the Championship.
So in my case Silverstone was a story about oil pumps and tyres, but a good result for my first time in the car. I was pleased that in the dry my lap times were just about on the pace with plenty to come from the driver, and a fair bit more from the tyres if I can find the budget to put some decent rubber on!
The next race is the 29th June at Oulton Park so itís back to the garage to check things over and a couple of things I want to change including adding the rear spoiler and undertray† we didnít have time to fit to put back some rear downforce which will hopefully help with the wayward rear end a little.