Brands Hatch, 18 May 2003
Having had the luxury of a track day at Brands Hatch on Tuesday, I was looking forward to the qualifying session. I got in the queue early to get first on track and this worked well - only 3 or 4 cars passed me during the 15 minute session. Times on the lap timer weren't so good though - best I could manage was a 1.00.7, not a great deal quicker than my 2000 time with a 4sp box, no Quaiffe diff and lower spec engine.
When the results were published I was most disappointed - I'd been beaten to class poll by Don Hughes in the other Golf and I was down in 19th overall - well down the grid. So although I'd generally driven quickly for the 15 mins, I hadn't gone out and set an 'ultimate' lap.
Group One Touring Cars probably had the best slot of the day - middle of the afternoon, just before the Euro BOSS ex-F1 cars. So the crowd was massive, this was going to be a test of nerves.
I made a great start on the green lights and catapulted past the red Capri ahead of me before heading for the inside at Paddock Hill - then I selected 5th gear instead of third. In the second or so it took me to get the right ratio several cars had shot past including the Dan Nash Sunbeam who'd qualified a lot further back - bugger.
On the run up to Druids I had to chose inside or outside and with last years massive accident at Mallory on my mind I thought inside would be the best option. Well it might have been safer but that was only because everyone virtually stopped - if I'd been there any longer it would have been announced on GLR's traffic update...
So as I queued to head round Druids several other cars just drove around me on the outside - aaargh. It wasn't until I exited Graham Hill bend that I realised the full extent of the damage - Chris Bray, Hugh Poston, Dan Nash, Ian Wallace AND the class C Golf of Andy Hayne had all got past.
The Hayne Golf proves difficult to get past - he's quick down the straights (and I'm rather disturbingly not) and not too bad in the bends either. I finally dive down the inside at Graham Hill and take the place, but he gets a better exit and is straight past again down the Cooper straight. Exiting Clearways he gets a run on the Nash Sunbeam but my luck is in - Dan hasn't seen him and he cuts to the right, blocking the Golf. I sense my chance and go around the outside, consolidating the place with a good run around Paddock Hill. The Hughes Golf and Bray Escort are still in sight but I now need to get past two Sunbeams and quickly.
Down the Cooper straight again and the Sunbeams are having an epic battle - they both have tank slappers and I go for the gap between them - but it disappears and I have to back off. By now Nash is ahead of the Wallace Sunbeam so I concentrate on passing him. He blocks at Druids then at Graham Hill, he has got more grunt down the straight and I'm struggling big time. I make a last minute lunge at Druids but he passes on the following straight, I finally make it stick the following lap also at Druids with a late dive. Now its the Nash Sunbeam and he's going well - and I have to watch my mirrors too.
Its like the good old days chasing the ex-Andrew Guy Talbot, the Golf is definitely quicker round Paddock and I dive for the inside at Druids a couple of times only to be blocked by Dan Nash. At the third attempt I make another lunge at Druids, this time Dan tries to drive around the outside and goes into a spin. I narrowly miss him on the run down to Graham Hill and the place is mine.
I spend the next lap trying to catch Hugh Poston's Fiesta for third in class but its too late - the chequered flag is out and my race is over.
Fantastic race then but the a poor result. Next up is Lydden Hill, another circuit I just can't seem to get right with the Golf. Ho hum. Another rolling road tune may be called for, the car is definitely not running right....
Race - Classic Thunder
Steve Barber had the privilege of racing the Golf in the Classic Thunder race at the same meeting, the results of that are on the MST Web site.