Thruxton, 28th March 2005
Qualifying - Classic Group One
After the reliability problems of late and the additional problems on the rolling road in January, the car hadn't been tested and I wasn't confident of it completing a lap, never mind two races. I thus approached the first qualifying session with extreme care, expecting a misfire or complete failure at any second. This is not the way to approach the flat out bends around the back of Thruxton...
My driving skills were also rather rusty so when I started catching the Renault 5 of Brian Goodwin up Woodham Hill, I wasn't sure whether to overtake down the inside or not. I braked then went for it, braked again then went for it. The Renault held his line so I tried to slot back in behind him, however we'd run wide and as he started to slide through the chicane, he suddenly catapulted into the air and landed on his roof. The session was immediately red flagged and I was somewhat shaken.
On the restart Andy Hayne's new Golf came past (the ex-McAteer car) so I tried to stick with him, he was definitely quicker through Goodwood just from pure grip, I ended up sideways trying to keep up. Soon the chequered flag was out and I was ecstatic just to have a car still running. Well at least I was until it stopped dead yet again approaching the final chicane.
So yet again I was pushed off the track by the marshalls. After some delay getting back to the paddock I starting investigating once more why the car dies once hot. Fortunately Andrew Guy's mate Ashley was there to help, a competent auto-electrician. He diagnosed a lack of amps to the fuel pump (despite plenty of volts) so we re-wired it, not in time to take part in Classic Thunder qualifying. So if the car did make it round the Group One race, I'd be on the back of the Classic Thunder grid. Miraculously I'd qualified 15th on the Group One grid out of 29 cars.
Race - Classic Group One
Just in case my nerves weren't shot already, the start of the Group One race was a bit of a debacle. Don Hughes broke down on the start line and there was a second green flag lap, the front of the field assumed this was race start and did 1 1/2 flying laps before the red flags were shown so we had to reform for a THIRD time. But there I was once again, waiting for the red lights to go out.....
Made a poor start when they did and had to follow the BMW 323i of Matthew Irons through Allard and the complex. Turns 1 and 2 are always a bit chaotic with a big Group One grid so I wasn't too concerned, I just kept my place and followed the pack through the first few corners. Approaching Noble a MkII Lotus Cortina dived down the inside then completely lost it, spinning in front of me and fortunately missing everyone so I headed onto the back straight a little behind the next class D car of David Scriven.
Pete Holton's P6 Rover (who I've had many battles with) starting losing fluids approaching the chicane and spun across the kerbs, sending several cars scattering over the track including class D leader Andy Hayne.
This gave me the chance to catch up some more and I was right back with the class D battle as we crossed the line to start lap 2. I was starting to catch the Scriven Escort and things were going well, then Richard Langeveld in his superbly presented yellow Capri came down the inside at Woodham Hill. Aaaargh, a place lost. Richard then had the lap from hell, going over the kerbs sideways at Campbell and Cobb and going sideways at Goodwood. He also slid very wide at the Club chicane (in front of a surprisingly large crowd), hit the kerbs there and slid back on track. By the time we reached the complex again the class D battle was a long way ahead and I need to get past the Capri. He braked very late and went wide at Campbell, I overtook him around the outside (!) at Cobb and went for broke around the rest of the circuit to try and create some space to get to the chicane ahead. He started to drop off and I ended up in a fairly lonely 14th place - until just ahead the RS1600i of old adversary Andrew Guy rejoined the circuit after an electrical blip and grassy moment. I managed to get on his tail through Noble and Goodwood, he braked for Church and I didn't and I was quicker climbing Woodham Hill. I tried to go around the outside of him and he pulled across firmly (I'm not sure he realised I was there), I was quicker through the chicane too but Andrew had a slight edge through the complex and Segrave. Again at Church he braked and I got another run at him, this time to the inside where he firmly closed the door. I tried once again but just didn't have quite enough pace and brakes left so took the chequered flag just behind the red Escort, delighted with my first race finish since mid-2003 - 4th in class and 14th overall out of 23 finishers.
Race - Classic Thunder
Unfortunately I was the only class F starter - Martin Howell's clutch was fried, High Poston and Gary Cole both had engine problems. I made a great start as the red lights went out and got into the middle of the pack around Allard. This didn't last long - the lightweight slick shod CT pack drove past me on the run to the chicane - oh well. I managed to keep Canning in the NSU behind me but he was all over my hatchback through Noble, Goodwood and Church and surprisingly didn't lose me up the hill either. Gulp. I defended to the inside and drove my guts out trying to keep him behind me, however lap 3 he got a better run through Allard and got the inside line into Campbell - he was through. I followed for a lap or so, he had vast amounts of grip but once the Golf was settled I was starting to see the power advantage show. I got a better run through Church and took the inside line at Club and was through again, unfortunately the little NSU then developed a misfire so he started to slow and lose me. I had a few laps to try and set a better time though by now the quicker class A and B cars were starting to lap me. On the very last lap I got a reasonable run and recorded a 1.38.486 - a new Classic Thunder lap record.
With two reliable race finishes, a podium commentator interview (1st in class CT) and a lap record, I was absolutely delighted with my day's racing. Roll on Brands Hatch.