OULTON PARK, 27 AUGUST 2005

NOT A BARREL OF LAUGHS

After the two big historic meetings co-ordinated by the HSCC at Brands Hatch and Silverstone this three day event at the famous Cheshire circuit saw the historic racers return to the North. Ecurie Scalpel had three entries for the weekend – the Lotus 20B in the Junior race, the Surtees F5000 (returning for the first time after Australia) and the Elva Mk7S. The Elva was entered in the one hour race as part of the Gentleman’s Driver series and I was down to share the car with Martin Walford.

Martin was in Australia with us earlier in the year and is best know for driving a range of wonderful cars from the Dean Butler stable and also for racing the Elva 200 F Junior belonging to Stuart Rolt. Small he may be but he is certainly a rapid driver with a lot of experience so we were hopeful of making a good showing in this super-competitive series.

Martin is indeed on the compact size and a fair amount of Saturday was spent making adjustments to the car so that he could fit in properly and reach the pedals. Eventually he was fairly happy and we headed toward practice.

Basically the Elva practice went well. I did the first 20 minutes and then Martin took over – waiting until his last lap before posting a time faster than me and placing us 7th overall and third in class. The front row was a Simon Hadfield benefit with him sharing the first two cars – but the race would be less kind to him.

Next up was the Lotus in a very strong Junior field. The track was changing all afternoon with seemingly slippy periods followed by the return of grip. Lots of cars headed off into various parts of the scenery but no serious damage was done and we ended up 11th and quite happy overall – next on the grid to Martin Walford by coincidence.

Then came the Surtees complete with its new rear uprights and replacement screen. The Derek Bell race was another highly competitive field with F1 cars alongside the F5000’s and a big range of F2 and Atlantics. The car ran well but I soon ran into some unexpected problems. Probably because of the new (apparently identical) screen I found my head being pushed backwards down the straights. Suddenly I had to concentrate on holding my head up rather than driving - not such a good idea with such a fast car on a challenging circuit. The end result was 10th and 4th F5000 car with more to come.

Come the races and we were quite optimistic of some good results and first up was the one hour event. I started and made a good start and got ahead of the GT40 of Shaun Lynn and the McLaren M1 of Chris Wilson. However having more than double my power soon told and they went past. Although they both had a brief spin they regained things leaving me in a steady seventh. There was no real pressure from behind and at handover to Martin we held onto the place. Then the two front runners fell out leaving Simon Hadfield empty handed and us in a solid fifth overall and second in class.

The Junior race followed immediately and this time the start did not go well. Well my bit did but there was considerable “excitement” just in front of me on my side of the grid. The end result was that I got very badly baulked and lost several places. It was going to take some time to make up these places and a small group of five or six cars soon started to circulate locked in a fierce battle. Martin Walford led the group which included Ned Spieker, myself, a Japanese visitor and a front engined Alexis. It seemed to me that this group was an accident waiting to happen and when Martin retired with engine woes I decided to go ahead and try and stay out of trouble. So there I was in a comfortable lead of this group heading into the last lap. Coming up to Druids however, all that was to change. Now Druids is a fast right hander with a double apex and not a place for overtaking so entering the corner I had no concerns. Suddenly I was hit from behind and spun round before being hit again by the same (Japanese) driver. Launching himself over my front suspension and wheel he flew skywards and completed a full 360 barrel roll over my head before landing on his (now rather bent wheels).

Narrowly missed by the wide eyed Ned Spieker I managed to re-start and finish the race having lost all the hard earned places. Post race inspections revealed a broken rear wheel, damaged front nose along with a bent steering arm and possible damaged front upright. A sad end to a needless accident that should not have happened if a more sensible approach was used. Last ditch efforts such as this are best reserved for the cars disputing the lead – not for the minor places.

After that excitement I was hoping for better things in the Surtees. As it turned out the race was the shortest of all – at least for me. Rolling start was a new experience for me and I must admit to playing it very cautiously while re-acquainting myself with the car. I had started the race with no base to the seat to try and sit lower but it made no difference – my head was still forced backwards making fast driving very difficult.

However that was not the real problem. Coming out of the hairpin I suddenly lost drive and coasting to a halt at the first chicane I realised that something serious had happened. After the towing back we soon discovered that the spline on the driveshaft inside the hub had sheared.

So the total for the weekend was two finishes and two significantly damaged cars but all limbs intact. With just over two weeks to go before Goodwood the race is on to get the Lotus ready in time – I am sure Don will work more miracles again.

 

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