DONINGTON PARK, 26 MARCH 2005

SHIVERS, SPINS AND SCARES – EASTER AT DONINGTON PARK

Easter Sunday at Donington Park sounds a fine way to start the 2005 racing season with the HSCC – a good circuit and a full programme of races to tempt any enthusiast. However the weather decided otherwise with cold and misty rain being the order of the day. Although the steady rain of the morning eased as the day went on it never really dried out properly and the track remained greasy and treacherous all day. Along with a cold and brisk wind the day required silly hats and mugs of hot tea rather than the usual peaked caps, sunglasses and cold drinks.

As the Elva and Surtees are still somewhere on the high seas this event provided an ideal opportunity to debut the ex-Ken Fildes Crossle 19F – or at least it would have been were it not for the rain. When the field for the Derek Bell race set off it was “wets” all round. A cautious outlap for me involved a full 360O spin on the straight up to Coppice – unexpected to say the least and a real warning regarding the conditions. The car ran well though for the next 7 laps and came back safely – and pretty slowly (3rd from the back).

As the day progressed it became a matter of guesswork regarding the tyres. Eventually with half an hour to go we put the slicks back on and re-connected the anti-roll bars for a track that seemed to have a dry line. The only problem being that the slicks were brand new and there was not going to be any chance to scrub them before the race began.

Parade lap – all well except that suddenly I could not engage 1st gear. Never mind, maybe a second gear start would be better in these conditions and indeed it wasn’t too bad but coming out of Redgate the car in front slowed with engine dramas and I got well and truly baulked – almost last position now! Redgate second time around and there were cars everywhere but I managed to sneak through unscathed although I was pretty sure the red flags would appear – and they did. Steve Worrad jumped the second start and then spun at Redgate before getting a 10 second penalty. Simon Hadfield disappeared in to a lead he never lost and Frank Lyons in the beautifully presented ex-Rupert Keegan Hesketh 308E had brake problems resulting in a big spin at Redgate and an unscheduled trip up the Melbourne Loop.

My race was deliberately pretty quiet apart from a pretty big moment going down the Craner Curves. Fourth in class and getting faster all the time, we emerged unscathed – unlike several others – and lived to fight another day. The car does need new dampers, attention to the gearbox, a slight change to the rev limiter (8500 to 9000rpm) and of course a faster driver. The good news is that after the full race the new slicks are just about scrubbed in properly!!

 

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