SILVERSTONE, 21 OCTOBER 2006

SHOCK NEWS - NOTHING WENT WRONG!

The last event of the HSCC 2006 Calendar is the “Finals” meeting run over the supposedly boring National circuit at Silverstone. Yes there is no doubt that this is a pretty simple track – three straightish bits connected by tight corners – but it still contains some real challenges. Copse corner is still a thriller regardless of which configuration is used and the Luffield complex is still a pain and ruins any decent circuit. Nonetheless coming to the end of the season there were full grids all round – 31 cars in the Classic Racing Cars event and more than 40 in the Formula Junior race – and several championships still undecided so the event had all the atmosphere a good historic race meeting should have.

For us the last event saw three cars entered – the Surtees TS8 (subbing for the Chevron because of silencing issues), the Crossle and the Lotus 20B. Being a high quality professional outfit we took the Surtees testing on the Friday – helped by the hired gun Simon Diffey. However, being the bunch of amateurs we really are there was a “wet” missing from stock so we had to sit out the first session when it rained! Despite that we got quite a few laps in the bank and were happy with the car if not the driver.

Come Saturday the weather was actually dry despite what the forecast had suggested. First up was the Surtees in a field with Mike Wrigley and Frank Lyons likely to be at the front. Driving a F5000 car requires a mental attitude that does not worry about the closing speed at braking points like Copse. In my case that takes some sorting to avoid losing time and I think the gap to pole position was at least half down to me – the rest being the reality that theTS8 was the earliest ‘5000 in the field. The front row? Wrigley and Lyons as predicted in their 332 Lola machines.

With back to back races on my dance card I had to jump straight into the Crossle for the second session. For once the car seemed to behave itself and even though it remains a little twitchy down the straights I was happy with the speed. In fact the times were only two seconds down on the Surtees and I was fourth on the grid.

The biggest grid of the year for a single race saw the Lotus exposed for only having a 1000cc engine on the power straights of Silverstone. It remains the purest form of fun and a wonderful training ground for any aspiring historic racer. 10th place was not too bad I suppose and for once we had gone though a session untroubled.

The Derek Bell Trophy was first off on the usual rolling start and for once I managed a good one making up two spots by the end of the first lap. Just my luck the red flags flew when Tim Barry and his Trojan 102 speared off into the wall just before the finish line. Once the mess had been cleared up – just a broken car incidentally – off we went again. This time I managed to sneak past John Dunham’s March 712 and spent the next 14 laps holding him off. Much faster than me through the twiddly stuff he could not manage to stay with me down the straights. At least that’s what he told me because I could not see him at all in my mirrors simply because they are useless on the Surtees. That’s why I never realised that he spun off near the end leaving me to a lonely 5th place at the flag. For the record, Mike Wrigley pipped Frank Lyons to the flag by 0.3 secs followed by Mark Dwyer in his March-BMW F2 car.

Straight into the Crossle the starter motor failed as the cars left for the green flag lap!! Suddenly it managed to catch so I managed to take off just behind the safety car. Unlike Oulton Park where this also happened I had informed the Clerk of the Course of a possible problem so I charged up onto my second row slot just in time. Red lights and red mist at the same time and off we went. Before I knew much more I was leading into Copse! Much to my surprise I managed to lead gallantly over the line first time around before proper order was established and I was back in fourth place!! The race settled down for me with a constant fight with the ever smiling Mike Scott in his 702 March. Sadly he managed to take avail of a silly mistake by me into Becketts and once again I finished 5th. Matthew Watts won the race as usual but only 10 seconds ahead this time.

After a quick drink we were off in the Juniors and this time I managed a terrible start losing three places in the first lap. I found myself locked into a four way battle – John Truslove (Lola Mk2), Derek Walker (Terrier), John Chisholm (Gemini) and yours truly swapped places in a fairly furious and frantic dice that lasted all race long. More than one back marker had to take serious avoiding action and at least one had a wheel clipped for getting in the way (not by me I promise because I was behind him when it happened). Finally I managed to stick the car underneath Derek’s orange Terrier into Luffield two laps from the end. This time I managed to make it stick and after a couple more laps of fun finished 8th. Juniors really are incredible value for money. For the record the race was won by Mike Hibberd in his beautiful Lotus 27 followed by Mark Woodhouse and Barry Westmoreland in their Loti.

So what has the season brought us at this point? Well overall we have not had too much close racing because of various mechanical and other problems. However we have some new cars to play with over the winter and 2007 could be really special. I have to thank Don Haldenby for his mechanical expertise back at base, Stuart Riley for putting up with me at the track and Simon Diffey for reminding me how fast the cars can actually go.

Next year I want to beat Ian Gray at least once, drive an F1 car for the first time and drive the Chevron properly. Wishful thinking? Let’s hope not!

 

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