Round One - Silverstone, 17th March 2001

Qualifying

It had been a stressful two weeks in the lead up to Silverstone. For various reasons we were running very late with the preparation work, and we hit a major problem at the last moment when we discovered the engine builder had forgotten to fit the release plate behind the clutch. The result was that the gearbox had to come out again and we only just made it to Emerald Cams rolling road on Thursday evening to set the car up. Dave Walker performed his magic though, and managed to squeeze 146BHP out of the little 1600 engine - hopefully enough for a competitive Group One car this season.

As we approached Silverstone, the stress levels were raised again - there was 2 inches of snow and ice covering the ground, and racing looked unlikely. The circuit staff worked wonders however, and the race meeting went ahead after a vote was held amongst the competitors.

Due to the delays in clearing the track, qualifying consisted of only three laps out on the circuit, with the last lap being the in lap - so only two chances to set a time. This was not good news for me, I had not driven the car since the suspension, engine, gearbox and diff changes so I had a lot to learn. I managed to queue up at the head of the pack as we joined the track, and then managed two terrible slow laps as I tried to re-learn the cicruit and get used to the car. Andrew Guy in the Sunbeam was right behind me the whole time, we unfortunately managed to hold each other up quite badly. Luckily everyone else got held up too so we managed to qualify in 7th and 6th places, me just behind Andrew on the grid (on the third row).

The Race

I made a terrible start (and made a mental note to practice some standing starts before the next race) - as I lifted the clutch (which is now a competition unit with a much sharper bite point) the revs died and I had to drop the clutch again and blip the throttle. When I finally managed to get moving Andrew Guy was alongside on the inside but I had managed to get between Rick Kerry (Escort) and Sean Cockerill (Sunbeam) ahead. The first lap was messy as everyone tried to find the levels of grip, I managed to get clear of Andrew and swapped places with Sean a couple of times. He passed me entering Brooklands but I managed to sneak by on the inside into Luffield to stay in what was now 6th place. Once settled down the car really started to work well, and I started to pull clear of the two Sunbeams. I was now right up behind Rick's Escort, as we exited Luffield on lap 3 Stacy Vickers (RX7) was spinning ahead and Young in the Mini was taking evasive action. Rick and I both managed to miss the carnage, Cockerill's Sunbeam also benefited and again attacked up the outside towards Copse.

But I held the line and again started attacking Rick - and I was now in third place overall, unknown territory for me (my highest finish last year was 10th). I have a tremendous scrap with Rick for second position, I get the inside line at Brooklands twice but he closes the door both times, then I get alongside coming out of Luffield but he swerves violently in front of me as his diff finds grip and I have to lift off again.

In the meantime the Mini finds its way past at Becketts, and the V12 Jaguar of Stevens powers by on the straight. I also can't hold off the quick RS2000 of Edward Bourne, so slip back down to 6th place where I take the chequered flag. Its been a fabulous race, the wet conditions have suited my little Golf very well and the winter changes seem to have worked very well. I still need to try the car on dry tarmac, and learn to drive properly in the wet (this was my first wet track time other than a few laps at the end of the Birkett relay last year) but things are looking bright for the rest of the season.

Next race - Thruxton, Easter Monday.