CADWELL PARK, 25 APRIL 2004

NURBURGRING OF THE NORTH

The annual HSCC visit to this wonderful track – “the Nurburgring of the North” – is always much anticipated by historic racers. The venue provides a unique racing challenge with its swooping curves and plunging track. Best known of course as a biker venue the full HSCC programme was on the card minus the Derek Bell Trophy race (the big engined monsters being considered too much of a handful for the narrow twisting circuit).

For us the event was the first of the year with the Huffaker having its race debut in our hands and the Elva emerging from its winter re-build. In fact the Elva was only finished at 4pm the day before so it was very much a venture into the unknown with a totally untested package, new tyres and unbedded brakes.

The weather was beautiful – very hot and humid – for the day and the track looked at its best as we started out for the Formula Junior qualifying. Lining up dead last in the paddock I set off and started to re-learn the circuit as well as try and work out the characteristics of the car. A front engined car is a very different animal to one with the motor in the back and clearly it handles very differently. For example it definitely requires careful avoidance of the curbs or the car gets spat out to the other side of the road very quickly. The next problem was the traffic which was considerable and it took me several laps to get a clear run. Having done that, I was quite content with a best time of 1:51.49. This was 10th position overall and second in class behind Derek Walker and his terrible Terrier. Derek is of course in a different league to everyone with a much more powerful Ford engine and sat 4th on the grid behind Edwin Jowsey who just “shaded” pole being 3.7 seconds faster than everyone else! The car finished the session without any obvious problems which was also good news.

Next up was qualifying for the Classic Sports Cars in a field that contained no less than 3 Elva Mk7S cars – our one, the ex-Irvine Laidlaw version just bought by Stuart Tizzard and the ex-Kelvin New car being campaigned this year by my old friend Mark Clubb. Qualifying went without major dramas although a few things were a bit worrying. The brakes took a few laps to bed in (as expected) and the grip was OK. However, the new body was fouling the rear wheel (offside) at two corners under heavy load. Also the rear body section began to lift off at high speed which was rather disconcerting. Finally the low rev running of the car was a bit rough. Despite these problems we managed third on the grid with a best time of 1:45.54 behind the very rapid Steve Worrad in his Lotus 23B.

Frankly the Junior race was a bit boring for me. I started well enough and as predicted the car was comfortably faster than those behind and not as fast as those in front. This was an overall 11th place finish with a best lap of 1:50.751 – better than qualifying. A second in Class award was quite pleasing for our first day out. There were some problems though. A worrying rattle from the rear became noticeable during the race. Further inspection revealed that both drive shafts had decided to loosen their attachments to the hubs and would have fallen off sooner rather than later. We also have a new and unpleasant looking oil leak from the rear which needs further investigating urgently before Monaco.

The race was of course won by Edwin Jowsey at a canter. The best dice of the race was between Bob Birrell in his beautiful Brabham BT6 and the aforementioned Derek Walker – a battle decided in Derek’s favour when Bob spun the car on the last lap. Bob suffered badly from heat exhaustion and dehydration after this struggle and requires a bit of attention later on with lots of fluids and cooling.

I started the Sports Car race like a demon – rocketing though into lead up the inside of Worrad. I knew he was quicker than me so it was no surprise when he out braked me into the first part of Chris Curve around the back of the circuit. This left me fending off the very rapid Marcos of Philip Nelson. I put my hands up and admit that I then made two silly mistakes. First a managed to put the car sideways into the same Chris Curve which allowed the Marcos get a run on me down into the Gooseneck. Over the next couple of laps I saw that I was not going to regain this place but had third easily covered – or so I thought! Starting the last lap I came on a gaggle of backmarkers which I managed to pass on the start/finish straight. However to my horror Mark Clubb suddenly appeared out of nowhere to snatch third spot which he held to the line - a stupid mistake to not spot him coming. So a frustrating end to a good day overall.

At the end of the last race I was really all in – the heat and exertion was quite noticeable and I could see that my driving became more ragged as I became hotter and wearier. Think what it must be like for the F1 boys over two hours.

The next race is the 90 minute sports car challenge in Donington on May 2nd. Sharing with Tony Dron, I am looking forward to some education!!

 

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