Work pressures meant I could not attend this event which had received a 3 line whip from our leader Duncan Rabagliati. He insisted on a full grid of front engined juniors and so there was nothing for it but to bring in a ringer!!

Initially I had collared James Diffey who was very keen indeed. Very keen that was until he suddenly got the offer of an endurance drive at the Nurburgring in a Porsche 910. A tough choice I know but there we were without a pilot – until James was replaced by the equally keen Diffey brother Simon. They look so alike that I was tempted not to tell mechanic Stuart Riley about the change!

Fresh out from Don Haldenby giving the engine the once over – it was misfiring at peak revs last time out at Croft – the car made it as far as the first lap of practice before shearing a Hardy spicer on the drive shaft. Panic stations all round but the ever resourceful Stuart called in the mechanics mafia and replacement bits were found not far from Donington. Let Simon take up the story from here – he tells it better than me!

“….We had a hardy spicer joint break on the first lap of practice. I think this maybe because under hard cornering out of the chicane the drive shaft closes up and becomes solid, putting the joint in compression.

Luckily Stuart Rolt came to the rescue with a prop shaft joint off his Austin 7, it looked like he had found it on the bottom of the sea, I was most grateful, paid him for his trouble and Stuart Riley fitted it just in time for us to qualify out of session in the HGPCA practice. I overtook 2 Maserati 250 F's and kept up with a T43 Cooper!!!

So we qualified at the back of a grid of 30, but made about 8 cars on the start and nipped through on the inside at Redgate taking a few more getting up to about 10th at half way. I then came upon Robin Longdon who did his Red Mist trick of trying to get through a corner with some one already in the middle of it. They banged wheels and drifted off line allowing me a safe passage through to chase and pass Mark Woodhouse for 5th place. The front runners had gone so I eased off for the last few laps with Sarah and Stuart jumping up and down everytime I went past the pits…...”

Simon also made a few interesting observations about the driving techniques involved in what is now one of his new favourite cars!

“…….front engine cars are my thing, I started with an Austin 7 racer when I was 19. Last year Duncan (Rabagliati) gave me a wet race in his Alexis and I qualified 4th ahead of most of the rear engined cars.

Your car is much better, feels like a super fast Austin 7 and is geared just about right for Donington. The balance is good and rewards an early apex with a steady drift exit allowing you to carry speed, if you brake too hard and late, as you would with a rear engine car, when you turn in the car understeers across the road with a bit of oversteer on the exit…”

So now I am faced with a dilemma. Simon is like all drivers with talent and has suggested some changed to make the car go faster. Technical stuff such as new rear tyres he assures me will take at least a second off the lap time. Of course I cannot drive it again myself without looking too slow so maybe I will become an entrant without money to ensure the cars does itself justice. At the very least I will have to ensure Simon has another go – I am sure he agrees it was better than some old Porsche in the German rain!


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