Silverstone, 15th March 2003
We once nearly ran out of petrol in the middle of a rally. It was the Kerridge National, a mad dash of 100 stage miles through the Welsh forests. We were half way through the event in the middle of nowhere, we'd managed to lose our service crew in the maze of country mountain lanes and petrol stations seemed rarer than hens teeth. Eventually we came across another Skoda service crew (we were running in Shell Skoda Trophy) and they kindly lent us a 5 gallon jerry can - enough to get us through the next few stages to service.
We couldn't do much about that - our service crew were trying their best, we'd used more petrol than we thought we would through the first few stages and we weren't to know petrol stations didn't exist on the road sections around Dyfi Main.
There were no such excuses as Silverstone on Saturday. I had a 5 gallon jerry can filled with fresh Optimax in the boot, the petrol gauge in the car was working fine and we were sat around bored for hours waiting for qualifying to start. My mechanic helper for the day (cheers Steve) asked several times whether I had enough fuel in the car and I answered yes each time, convinced there must be enough since the tank had been brimmed just before a rolling road tune earlier in the week and the car hadn't moved since.
Anyway - I ventured out on to the track, did a warm up lap then got fuel starvation first time round Becketts.
So I tried the best I could, taking wide lines into all the corners to try and reduce the surge. I managed to put a lap or two under 1.20 (about 5 seconds off the usual pace!) and the car was cutting out so much I thought I was getting dangerous, so I pulled into the pits and back to the paddock - and filled the poxy thing with PETROL. Oh - and re-routed the catch tank breather pipe that was pissing oil all over the front offside tyre and brake disk.
I'd also forgotten to set the shock absorbers and none of the tyres had got hot enough so we made quite a few changes before the race. I removed the spacers from the front wheels to see if that would make a difference to the awesome understeer around Woodcote and then we waited for race time. And waited. And waited.
Just as the sun was setting, we left the holding area and formed up on the grid. Just 6 months previously I'd managed to start a race here in reverse gear so I made damn sure I was in first as I finished the green flag lap. We were racing with Toyo Tyres Modified Production Saloons and they were in a grid of their own ahead of us. The lights went green for them and a few seconds later a union flag waved for us. I was so far back down the grid I could only just see it - but it seems no-one else could either as no-one seemed to go!
The Mustang in front of me seemed about 8 ft wide and there was little point in trying to get round him since he had 4 times my BHP at least, so I just slotted behind him and Brian Stevens beautiful Jaguar into Copse and started settling into the race.
After a lap or two I lost the misfiring Capri behind me and started to realize that I could catch that Jaguar. I started to reel him in and got close enough on lap 4 to force him to the inside at Becketts. Unfortunately he had enough grunt to pull away down the main straight even with the enforced poor line - and he was always far enough ahead at Brooklands not to have to take the inside there too.
So I spent the next few laps trying my best to get closer elsewhere on the circuit. I was way quicker through Copse and got alongside a few times as we started on the main straight, but each time the Jaguar out-dragged my little Golf. Bizarrely he seemed quicker than me around Brooklands but on several occasions I got very close as I rounded Woodcote. But each time he pulled away, not helped by the quicker Toyo cars catching us and me giving them plenty of space - this was a non-championship race and I wasn't going to take any chances.
I managed to pass a couple of the Toyo cars and crossed the finish line just behind the Jaguar in 19th place. I don't think the F1 teams were queuing up for my signature after the performance but I thoroughly enjoyed myself, the car held together and I avoided contact. Thus I was most chuffed as I headed off the circuit in the sunset (yes, sunset) and loaded the car on the trailer. I've now equaled my number of race finishes all last season - and the Group One Championship hasn't even started yet. Roll on Rockingham.