Mallory Park, 7th April 2002
An eventful day at Mallory on Sunday.
Started qualifying with a very rattly engine (after the overheating problem at Thruxton) and saw blue smoke billowing out of the back of the car. Tried to complete three laps, got black flagged (oops) and came down the pit lane. We had forgotten to fit the breather pipe, did this and went back out, cruised around and did a 58.5 to get myself on the grid.
Made a mediocre start, still nervous of the noisy engine, but managed to stay with Will McAteer and Don Hughes ahead of me (in the other two Golf's) as we approached Gerards. I slotted in behind Don and got half way through the corner when whack!, another car thumps my rear bumper and throws me into a spin. I tried to catch it, full opposite lock and foot to the floor in fourth gear but at 90-100 mph through Gerards if someone taps you the rest is history.
Headed towards the tyre wall, for a split second thought 'thank God! as I missed it, then with my foot firmly on the brake pedal the car span back across the track in front of the rest of the (full) Group One grid.
First to collect me was Mike Moore's BMW with a heavy impact to the rear offside, that sent me into another spin and I was hit another 3-4 times by various Capri's before being left facing the right way on the track with a very second hand car.
The marshalls came running over but at first I was reluctant to undo my belts in case another car came round. Once I realised the marshall wouldn't be on the track if there were still cars coming (silly me) I started to try and get out, my chest was painful where the harness had been. The marshalls then tried to start pushing me off the track but it was obvious the wheels were all locked with bent bodywork. I was still bang in the middle of Gerards with a full pack approaching in about 30 seconds, I wasn't happy so just screamed out 'For f***s sake stop the race!' to the guy by my door, he hesitated for a second then signalled to the marshall post - red flags came out. Phew. Then I got out of the car and was taken top the side of the track to watch the grid go past.
I was taken to the medical centre in the Doctors car for a full check up, everything seemed OK (apart from heavy bruising) so I went back to the paddock and had a cup of tea (thanks Kelly).
The car is destroyed - shell is twisted, rear beam bent, all four corners wrecked and the force of the impact ripped the top off the gearbox where it bolts on to the engine mount. Gulp.
So I suppose its a racing incident, and you have to expect this sort of thing. It made me realise how important the safety gear is - the cage held, the expensive harnesses I bought proved their weight in gold, the cheap seat I use caused all the bruising and now I know why tubular steel framed seats are crap. The marshalls and medical centre were great and lots of people came over to commiserate with me afterwards. Special thanks also to James Hall, Carl (from Ken's team) and some of the Raven Motorsport guys for helping getting the car into a state where it could be dragged onto the trailer. In the end Carl had to chop the rear panel off so we could move the wheel.
The only bad feeling I have about the whole thing is that no-one came across to admit to shunting me off in the first place. I'm fairly sure I now know who it was, its frustrating because if I'd been allowed to go for another few seconds I'd have been gone 'cos I was lapping quicker than them anyway. Maybe in the heat of the moment the responsible guy didn't notice he'd made contact? Possibly, there was certainly no malice or intent, just bad luck. 28 cars through Gerards was always optimistic!
So now its a reshell over the summer, I doubt I'll be out again this season.
Congratulations to Will on winning class D, I've been looking forward to racing him all year and I havn't managed a single lap. Noticed his race time was 1/10 quicker than mine last year, we might have had a good battle for honours in 2002. Maybe next year.