SNETTERTON, 19 OCTOBER 2002

NO JOYS OF SPRING FOR US!

The final race of the season saw a re-enactment of the Cloth Cap Endurance Race for British Sports Cars of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The sharp witted among you will remember that your team raced to a glorious victory in the last one of these events in Donington Park only to be disqualified for running illegal tyres. At the time we believed that we would have won anyway regardless of the rubber and remained determined to prove the point.

So it was that we arrived at a very chilly Snetterton in Norfolk to face a full field of 30 runners including one Denis Welch and his very rapid Lotus 23B. My co-driver, Simon Ham, who is very quick indeed (definition – significantly quicker than me) had joined me once more and this time was also facing his father David running the family 23B co-driven by Alan Baillie. Overall therefore the competition was going to be very significant.

Qualifying started on a drying track that was very slippery indeed – especially if you wandered off the one dry line. Simon ventured out first in the 30 minute session and very soon started lowering his times as the track dried before the session was red flagged due to a stranded car. We then swapped and I managed to take some further time off and placed the car on the front row – second, behind Denis Welch by an ominous 1.5 seconds with the Ham/Baillie being a further 3.9seconds back in 8th place.

The race requires a driver change and for those driving alone (like Denis) a pit stop is required with the driver getting completely out of the car, standing upright and getting back in. We planned for Simon to start first in an attempt to get ahead of Denis leaving me with at least a chance of taking it home.

At the lights Simon made a superb start and led into the first corner. Coming out of the fast “Bomb Hole” corner Denis spun – a feat he managed to repeat at the final chicane so Simon led across the line chased by the TVR of Jamie Boot. Over the next few laps Simon drove superbly putting in a series of fastest laps and pulling out a 20 second gap before disaster struck – the safety car! All the good work was lost and he had to do it all again when the race restarted. Undaunted he took off again and once more pulled out a health lead before another safety car period meant that at the half way change over we had a lead of only 15 seconds over the TVR with a hard charging Welch some 20 seconds further back.

My stint started well enough but it soon became clear that I was being caught by the TVR as for some reason I could not match my qualifying pace. With about 5 laps to go I was passed by the TVR and only just managed to hang on to his coat tails for the next few circuits before disaster struck. At full speed in top gear I braked for the first corner and the throttle stuck on! The next few seconds were very exciting indeed as I manage to get the car to a halt on the grass while furiously searching for the kill switch before the engine detonated. The throttle return spring had snapped – with two laps to go!!

After all the good work by Simon all we were left with was 13th place and the consolation of fastest lap of the race. Jamie Boot took a well deserved race win with Welch some 44 seconds behind. The car is fine – a new spring being all that was required.

A disappointing end to the season but good fun despite all that – lets hope that next years is even better. We did manage our first win in 2002 and the new Lotus should be on the track soon. Many thanks go to all the sponsors for 2002 and we hope to see them all back for 2003.

 

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