Brands Hatch, 13th May 2000

Qualifying

This was my first time at Brands, so I spent the first few laps getting to know my way round and slowly getting up to speed. Unfortunately in the middle of this a Rover SD1 dumped the entire contents of its sump around Paddock Hill bend, then caught fire spectacularly. The remaining laps were all much slowly because of the slippery conditions, so I made do with a 1 min 02.79, 21st out of 26 qualifiers.

The Race

The lights went green and I made a fairly good start, getting alongside Rick Kerry's XR3 before the first corner and then passing a Rover P6 on the way into Clearways. I was just catching two battling Capri's when they spun right in front of me, sending me across the grass and almost into the tyres. I managed to get round them without losing a place but another Capri had spun on the exit of Paddock Hill bend and the red flags came out - race stopped.

The restart took an age as the marshalls first placed us in grid order, then decided to put us in the order we were after two laps - better for me. So after a LONG time on the grid the lights go again and this time I dive past Jim Burrows in his Mini, who again gets bogged down at the start. Going into Druids hairpin its get very close and the P6 Rover pushes by me on the outside, I lose a couple of places recovering. No problem I think, I've passed him before, I'll do it again - simple. Err, no. 13 laps later I'm still behind him, and I've tried everything I can. I'm quicker in and out of the corners, but he just has too much grunt down the straights and I just can't get through.

Then I start getting fuel surge problems - because of the restart and the long waits on the grid, I'm getting too low on petrol and the car misfires out of every right hand bend. There's alot of those at Brands Hatch so I start to struggle to keep up with the Rover - until his starts blowing out water/steam and he's out. Phew. The rest of the race is a cruise to the flag with no hope of catching Burrows in the Mini and Andrew Guy in the Sunbeam, they're about 8 seconds ahead by now.

So I pass the chequered flag in a disappointing 13th place, but second in class C.

Then the fun and games start. All the cars are beckoned to post-race scrutineering to be weighed, and my little Golf comes out at 822kg, below the minimum weight for my class. Bugger. There are other cars also underweight and lots of people complaining - but I'm issued with a non-conformance notice and provisionally out of the race.

So I head back home in a downcast mood, its not been the best day. The Group One race was the only one held on Saturday so there was hardly anyone there (compared to the Sunday when Brands Hatch was absolutely packed). This was due to a scheduling cock up by BARC, the club that run the event.

Some of the Group One guys are entered in a one hour endurance race the next day (in front of the crowds!) so I went long to spectate. Asking around during the day it turns out that the provisional results (which didn't include the weight infringements because the Clerk of the course hadn't been told - he'd gone home) had been made final - so I was back in the points! I counted myself very lucky - the weighbridge was probably accurate, and alot of the drivers were mislead by readings at Mallory Park that probably show the cars as being heavier than they are by about 14kg. I know how much I weigh and I stood on the scales the next day - they were exactly right.

So I've learned my lesson, I'll be carrying ballast to all future races and making sure the car is heavy enough before starting the race. Of course the last thing I need with a power disadvantage already is ballast slowing me down even more - my class has a fairly high weight limit for the size of the car.

A 1600cc engine has been sourced, and plans are afoot to get it rebuilt to at least as much if not more power than the current 1800 unit. I then need a new set of tyres to put on 13" rims, all the ballast taking out (and more weight besides if I can find it) - and class D beckons.