BRANDS HATCH, 29 JUNE 2008

AUTOGLYM FESTIVAL

A Frustrating Festival for Some

 

Autoglym HSCC Historic Festival

Brands Hatch, June 28-29, 2008.

 

Any opportunity to drive the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit should always be grabbed with both hands.  The only problem for me is that distance and holidays dates always precluded such fantasies and my entry into the 2008 version of what was always called the “SuperPrix” was only my second ever visit to the Kent venue.  Brands includes the wonderful and threatening Paddock Hill bend to go with a series of impressive swoops up and down hill in a really tricky combination.

 

Friday was testing but traffic meant I was late.  The afternoon sessions beckoned for me.  Before that Frank Lyons planned to shake down the Toj SS02, armed with new wiring loom and dashboard.  Off he went and seemed to be going well.  Suddenly though he arrived back with the car sounding really expensive.  Ace engine man Terry Hegarty was on hand to confirm that a valve had dropped and the weekend was over for the golden beauty.  The engine will have to go to Lester Owen before the really bad news is clear.

 

The afternoon was pretty much ruined by rain but I did have a chance to try out the Lola 332, which had undergone engine attention since Snetterton.  The misfire was thought to have gone.  Sadly it was not true and around Brands it was just as disastrous as at Snetterton.  Not a good start to the weekend then!

 

The weather for Saturday and Sunday was perfect – indeed too hot at times.  Saturday was a Formula Junior extravaganza with 100 cars present to celebrate 50 years of the category.  For Ecurie Scaplel, Simon Diffey was out in the Huffaker and his report can be read elsewhere. 

 

For the rest of us it was qualifying for the Lola in the Derek Bell Trophy and the Lola Mk1 for the Guards Trophy.  The Crossle 19F was completely confined to the Sunday – practice and race on the same day.  More engine adjustments for the 332 – leaning off the mixture was the best guess to try and cure the misfire that was plaguing the car between 5600 and 6100rpm.

 

Off we went and 20 minutes later I had completed a dreadful session.  The misfire was much worse – now between 5100 and 6300rpm – and in the dry the handling was lethal.  All of this left me 25th on the grid some six seconds off the pace.  Major attention was required as soon as possible.

 

Engine wise we went the other way and increased the mixture.  For the handling we raised the ride height because we all felt the car was on the bump stops from being too low.  This might explain the snap oversteer in Clearways and Paddock – the worst possible places to have that experience.

 

What about the Lola Mk1 I was sharing with Rick Hall?  Practice was easy – poor Rick put the car into the Paddock gravel on the first lap!  The helpful marshals dragged the car backwards through the gravel and scooped up a fair sized quarry, which took some removing.  We were forced to start from the back of the grid for the 40 minute event but made it safely to the end having made up about 10 places overall.  The car still requires development and seems to have collapsed its front springs.  The gearbox is still horrible having a slow change that is very reluctant at times.  A front anti-roll bar is also on the cards.  With my move to the USA shortly Rick is becoming the custodian for the Lola and hopefully will get a chance to race and improve it with time.

 

The Derek Bell races were boosted by 5 F5000 cars visiting from New Zealand – quick they were for sure!  Off we went on the rolling start as usual.  Unfortunately the driver immediately in front of me didn’t realise the race had started when it did.  He continued to warm his tyres by weaving across the full width of the track for two full laps!!  I simply could not believe it and my race was ruined.  When I eventually got past I only managed to make it to 11th overall in the time remaining.  To be fair to him, I have to admit that the start was badly organised and a degree of confusion was likely for the inexperienced.

 

The handling of the car was better and the engine slightly improved so I had hopes of better things second time around.  I was just behind the rapid Stan Redmond from New Zealand and followed him through into Paddock, making up several places in the process.  Then it happened.  Just as I was getting on the power to overtake more cars I completely ran out of talent and spun down the hill.  Stupid eh?

 

Plumb last, I set off again only to get caught up behind the safety car which was out because the leaders had tangled at Druids leaving Mark Dwyer and his Lola 400 in the gravel.  Four laps later we went off again but once again time ran out and I finished even lower down than first time around.

 

The weekend finale was the Crossle, which had got me 5th place in qualifying.  A big group of us were within half a second so a frantic race was in store.  This time I made a great start and was up to 2nd by Druids.  Briefly, I made a big mistake at Surtees and lost one place, my mirror fell down on the left and I lost another place trying to fix it and finally I was completely blocked by a blind backmarker on the last lap losing another slot.  So, started 5th and finished 5th!

 

This was probably my last UK run for a while but the Lola Mk1 has appointments scheduled, as does the Huffaker.  For me I will have to see what Watkins Glen looks like!

 

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