SNETTERTON, 26 JUNE 2004

A FULL PODIUM IN ONE DAY!

The good folk at the HSCC ran a very successful weekend at Snetterton with packed racing on both days. The Doubles event is so called basically because it offers driver either two races in their class or one extended race, whichever is more appropriate. On this basis we were going to get two Formula Junior races and a single one hour race for the Classic Sports Cars. The even better news was that all three races were going to be on the one day (Saturday) meaning a packed day in Norfolk.

The Elva Mk7S was of course on duty and had just finished its chassis modifications following the last time out. At last I can sit inside the car rather than on it and even without driving the car it felt better and more “racy”. The event called for two drivers and so ace preparation man and racer Simon Hadfield agreed to share the duties for the day – slightly worrying as he is a demon behind the wheel in almost any form of car. For the Junior event the Lotus was making its competitive return to duty after the engine rebuild over the winter so hopes were high for an improvement in form.

The Juniors were out first and the Lotus soon got into its stride and ran well throughout. The engine revved happily to 85000rpm and we pulled this in top gear down the back straight. The car really handles beautifully and driven by a real expert would be right at the pointy end! Despite the drawback of having a surgeon driving we ended up third on the grid behind the usual suspect – young Edwin Jowsey in his very rapid Lotus 22.

For the sports cars I took the Elva out first to see what the car was like with the new position. It is much better, and certainly felt easier to drive. The car is so different to the Lotus in driving style and demands a very different approach. The Lotus is all about momentum and carrying speed through the corners - with a slight drift if necessary – because there raw power is not there for point and squirt driving. The Elva has much more power and a short wheelbase and demands more precision. It can be “pointed and squirted” although momentum is still important. Where the car really differs is in sliding – it really only likes to do this briefly and under acceleration.

Anyway it was soon over to Simon as I managed to get down to the high 1:20’s or low 1:21’s. On his first flying lap Simon was in the 1:18’s! This type of humiliation should not be allowed from a guest really. At least it meant that car was well and thankfully he planted the car firmly on pole position – right beside the similarly coloured Elva of Robert Hartley.

Now Snetterton is not known for its sunny weather and the forecast was not good as the Junior race approached. The plan was to get into second at the start – nipping between the two front men – but as the red lights went out I made what was comfortably the worst start of my entirely unimpressive racing career. So bad was the start that I thought I was in third rather than first gear. In fact I had just bogged the engine down never having started a race with it in this new tune (my excuse anyway) and found myself in sixth place by the first corner. I managed to climb to fourth a lap later being able to see the third placed man quite a way in the distance. I set out after him and closed right up before he thankfully out braked himself at the end of the back straight. At that stage I could see no cars either in front or behind – literally – and settled down to a lonely journey home. This was just as well as it started to rain!! Indeed I even managed a quick spin without seeing anyone else and got home for a distant third place.

For the Sports Cars I elected to start the race – this would at least allow Simon know how much damage I had done when he took over! A good start saw me lead away but going down the back straight Robert Hartley out braked me into the chicane – not good. I immediately returned the compliment the next time around and really pressed on, opening a small and quite comfortable gap. The only problems came when we started lapping the backmarkers – I have managed to get out-fumbled before in these circumstances – but luckily I came in for the hand over still in the lead having kept Robert at a distance.

Simon then took off and once he got into his rhythm simply disappeared. In fact he pulled steadily away from the other Elva and when the rain came again his real skill showed. Say it quickly and it sounds easy – he lapped the entire field! So a very pleasing win, two happy drivers and a safe car.

The second Junior event provided the chance for a better start – no such luck! Sitting in the assembly area the car would not start as the field set off for the formation lap. Long after they had gone we managed to coax it into life – flat battery – and I set of in a vain attempt to regain my position before the field arrived on the grid. Sadly the rain had started again and I was too late – I had to start from the very back. This time however the start went very well and I was in fourth place by the first corner – yes you can use that bit of the track if you really need to! Up to third the next time around it looked like a lonely repeat of the first event although this time I could actually see the yellow Lola Mk5A of the man in second.

The conditions were treacherous to say the least and several times the car seemed determined to have an incident. Slowly but surely I seemed to be creeping up closer and closer until I eventually decided to have a go. The question was – how many laps were there to go? I was quite close and planning to make a real challenge when suddenly the last lap board appeared as we flashed past the pits. The next two corners were out of the question as I was not close enough leaving a late braking effort at the end of the back straight. However the yellow car got a great run away and suddenly I was left with the realisation that the only option was a demon run into the final chicane – scene of many similar badly thought out ideas. Tiptoeing around a wet Coram bend – not easy in the dry – I gambled the budget and decided to risk all on the outside line and managed a very untidy looking lunge into second place which I held to the line. Great fun really and no harm done all round.

So there we have it – three races and a full podium of results. One of the better weekends when sometimes you realise the effort makes a difference. Thanks to Don and Michael for their hard work and preparation. Thanks also to Simon Hadfield for reminding me how it should be done.

 

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