OULTON PARK, 26 AUGUST 2006

THE PERFECT RACING CAR – MAYBE!

I think it was Colin Chapman or Jim Clark who said that the perfect race car was one that broke down as it crossed the line. As you will see we proved that point during a weekend of bust racing at the annual HSCC Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park. Out running for the team was the Huffaker equipped with newly rebuilt engine, Crossle and Chevron B28 fresh from a new paint job and rebuilt corners after its Brand Hatch excitement in July.

The three day weekend was busy and started with two test sessions on the Saturday morning. First up was the Huffaker which was immediately in trouble – something that continued all weekend. The engine just would not run properly with low power and a misfire. The brakes were pulling to the left and the clutch was fierce to say the least. Apart from that it was fine!! However we ran ten laps to check everything out and the one thing that remains great fun is the handling – early apex, throw the car sideways on the throttle and slide the way through. We had all of Saturday to work on the car and the trusty Stuart Riley and Stuart Rolt worked hard to improve matters before qualifying and race on the Monday.

The Crossle had four new tyres to try and cure the jumping around and so the second test session included five laps to scrub the tyres before jumping into the Chevron for a proper run. The Crossle ran well, as did the Chevron but I only got two laps before the session was red flagged.

Saturday afternoon was qualifying for both the Chevron and the Crossle. The B28 certainly looks the park in its new VDS livery and the car ran well. I managed to get up to speed and was not too disappointed with eighth on the grid bearing in mind there was a very strong field of fast F2 cars and the engine is a little breathless. The Crossle was also running well and sixth was not too bad – just behind Ian Gray and his Brabham as usual.

The weather was a problem most of the weekend but was worse on Sunday with frequent short but heavy showers and one came down about 20 minutes before the Chevron was due out. Almost everyone went for wets on a slippy and drying track and I must admit that I was not interested in crashing the car especially after the back end tried to get away several times on the warming up lap. Soon after the start I dropped several places due to cowardice but by mid race the track was dry again. Without destroying the tyres I managed to get back up the field and finished a safe but boring 11th.

By now with a dry track I had to run immediately from the Chevron to the Crossle which was in the next race. As I arrived the cars were leaving on their green flag lap and so I charged after them to try and regain my grid position. Sadly I didn’t manage it and the marshals on the grid made me start half was down which was very annoying indeed. Consequently I arrived at the first corner in 20th and behind a gaggle of cars. Because of the earlier rain the roll bars had been disconnected which made the back of the car very soft indeed. However, with a bit of the red mist I pressed on and after a few hectic moments managed to make it back up to fifth – shattered but quite pleased overall.

Monday morning was wet. However just as we went out for qualifying in the Huffaker there was a torrential downpour and the conditions were simply the worst I have ever experience. Vision was simply non-existent and before long there was a small lake on the entrance to the first Old Hall Corner – flat in fourth in the Chevron – and several rivers running across the track in other places. Because the Huffaker was running so badly I had my own version of traction control and managed to place the car eighth out of 29 on the grid. However I knew that if the race was dry I was in big trouble – and so it proved.

Before that however came the second Chevron race with work to be done after round one. Once again the track was getting rained on but by the time we went out everyone was on slicks. After the start I got stuck behind an F2 car with wonderful brakes and despite several attempts it took me four laps to get by and chase after the pack. I managed to make up most of the gap and was up to eighth at the chequered flag (and second in class) – at which point the engine went pop and the car coasted across the line quite dead. It sounded electrical to me and the current word is that there is not spark – lets hope this is true!

Finally the Huffaker. By now the two Stuarts had sorted the brakes and the clutch. Sadly the engine was terrible – simply gutless under load. Despite some hair raising stuff through the corners where the car is faster than most front engined rivals we were just eaten alive on the straights which is hugely demoralising. It is also seriously bad news for Goodwood which is nothing but fast straights. We are not sure what can be done in the 36 hours available before the car leaves for Goodwood but we will do our best. Watch this space.

Finally congratulations to Frank Lyons who won both Derek Bell races in his Lola. F2 hot shoe Christian Fischer was really flying in his Chevron B25 but broke is gear lever in race one. Starting from the back of race two he charged through the grid but Frank managed to hold him off for a well deserved double.

 

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