Round Seven - Lydden Hill, 5th August 2001

Qualifying - Group One

I'm always slow learning tracks, and although Lydden is quite short I struggled to find my way round as usual. There were only about 20 cars out, but it was also difficult to get a clear run. One thing that was concerning me was a smell of burning rubber, and poor handling at Paddock bend. Spectators afterwards informed me that my tyres were smoking and screeching like mad (all the cars weren't), I wasn't sure if this was down to me trying to hold too tight a line, or the camber adjustment on the front suspension playing up again. I suspected the latter and ended up with a time of 51.8, third in class and well off the pace.

Qualifying, Group One Touring Cars

Qualifying - Pre 90

Pre 90 was just a bit of a blast, but it also gave me 10 minutes more track time to learn Lydden and get my times down. The track was considerably quieter and I found some space, so pushed a little harder. The result was only  slight improvement over my Group One time (51.5) and the tyres were still screeching away.

The suspension was certainly tightened up enough (in fact the camber adjustment is actually welded to stop movement) so I suspect the shell was flexing with pressure of the camber and turn through paddock. The flexing was then causing the NSF wheel arch to move over the NSF wheel, forcing it into positive camber and putting all the work onto the outside edge of the tyre. I vowed to tighten everything up even more and fit an upper front strut brace for the next round.

Steven Young, me, Rick Kerry and Sean Cockrell


Race - Group One

Lydden Grid

The bright orange V8 Rover of Kingsley Marten loomed large in my mirrors as the lights went green, but I managed to get away well and kept him behind me. Unfortunately as usual Peter Holton made a storming start in his P6 Rover (also V8) and was alongside and passed through the first bend. I was then held up approaching Devils Elbow and had to slot in behind Steven Young's Mini - and immediately I realised that round Lydden he would be hard to get past.

Approaching Devils Elbow, lap 1

I followed the Mini for a few laps, I was quicker up the straights but he was getting out of the corners better and of course making it difficult for me. All the time I could see Rick Kerry's yellow Escort ahead - he was the guy I should be racing but I couldn't get within reach of him (class leader Sean Cockrell was well ahead and outclassed the rest of us at Lydden). Eventually with a rather bold move I went round the outside of the mini at the long hairpin at the top of the circuit, then nipped to the inside line for paddock and just got alongside him. I left braking as long as possible and just squeezed by, holding on for dear life at the exit. Phew.

Next was Peter Holton's Rover but I only really got close enough to attack on the last lap, I tried the same move but he held on down the straight to finish just ahead of me. Best time was still only a 51.5, and I was third in class D - I needed to be higher.

Race - Pre 90

Ready to go

As stated earlier this really was just a bit of fun, so I was fairly relaxed as we lined up on the grid. I'd noticed that Kingsley's Rover had different (better) tyres on for this race, which was a pity because I was looking forward to a bit of a dice with him (my 185/60's weren't going to keep with him on 225's in a better compound too). Still I made a great start and from languishing near the back of the grid I was up to something like fourth place through the first corners. A couple of the more powerful cars (including a BMW 635 CSI) stormed past up the hill, but I was left ahead of two BMW M3's and Rick Kerry's Escort, amongst others. Right I thought - I got here, lets try and stay here.

Getting rather close....

And so for the remaining nine laps I drove the best defensive race of my short racing career, using the entire Lydden track to keep the first M3 behind me. He was way quicker down the straights, and looked great through the corners on opposite lock (I WISH I had rear wheel drive) but I stuck to my task and kept closing the door. 

Last lap and the M3 tries to go round the outside at the hairpin, he gets alongside down the straight forcing me to take a very tight line through Paddock. As we exit the corner he starts to pull past, but the chequered flag is there and I beat him by 2/100's of a second (or about 12" of bonnet). Superb race. 

The M3 has a much better line through Paddock...

I've also finished ahead of Rick and set a quicker time (51.2) but the damage is already done in the Group One race and the championship now looks a forlorn hope.

Its hot work...

Next race - Pembrey, 1/2 September.

Photographs courtesy of Ben Pike - more at Pikeynet.