A story of curbing and Cortina’s.
Arriving on a clear, sunny, yet windy day at the Snetterton circuit, we were warmly welcomed by the team @retroengineeringltd with bacon rolls, tea and coffee.
At 8:15 drivers for the historic touring car race were summoned for the drivers briefing. A short talk, re-emphasising the rules of track limits and MSUK’s ‘Race with Respect’ campaign, made me reflect on the events of the previous HSCC race, which became a bit tasty with a driver determined to shut the door mid-corner. This did not curb my enthusiasm for the day, however.
Qualifying started at 9:20 and although slow away, being held up by a Mustang learning the track racing line, getting on the pace soon enough. I managed to set three consistently quick lap times before suffering with some engine mount troubles – possibly caused by my over enthusiasm for curbs – (learned that lesson quickly!). I decided to retire the car from qualifying early, to avoid creating any further issues. A lap time of 2:28.148 was good enough to place me 10th on the grid of 14 entrants. Although unfortunately this placed me next to the driver I had duelled with in the previous race.
After enjoying a delicious lunch prepared by Retro Engineering, it was time for the first race. I had imagined just getting away quietly and having a relaxed race where I would test the set up of the car, as it was apparent that we off the pace of the cars out in front. This plan was in my head when the lights went on but went completely out my head when the lights went out! The getaway was nullified by the slow reactions of my competitors putting me right into the mix of my arch rivals – the Cortina’s. I started battling with them, pressuring them into making mistakes and allowing me to analyse where I had a pace advantage. After one of the Cortina’s made a mistake going into Montreal, I was hot on the heals of the other and had a better run down to Agostini. Remembering my race training with Ollie Hancock, I chose the shorter, inside line going into the corner. Under braking I was fully alongside the Cortina of Nigel Cox. However, on turning into the corner, it seemed that my clear move did not deserve any space and the door was shut in my face, causing a collision and no fault of mine. Later on in the race, the other, lighter, faster Cortina of Mike Stephenson had made his way past me. I was in the hunt, with Nigel Cox right behind me. I could the pressure going into turn one. Only being a metre or so between nose and rear bumper. I chose the inside line into the turn to defend my position. However, even though the Cortina had plenty of room to my left to try and get a better run through Riches, it was stuck right behind me. I had my heart in my mouth, braking as late as I dared. Unfortunately, this apparently wasn’t sufficiently late for the Cortina as it rammed straight into the back of me and fired off into the gravel. Claims to the Stewards, after the race, fell on deaf ears and the driver was reprimanded.
After some pre-race nerves about the driver potentially trying another dangerous move in the second race, the team, and the Race Director himself consoled me and said that I needed to go out there and show him who was the boss. With those words of encouragement I went into the race with complete clear focus. When the lights went out, the sound of screaming tyres and bellowing engines erupted as we were all away well. With a better launch off the line than me, my foe threw his car toward the other Cortina and I remained close behind, watching them squabbling for position. Again I had a better run out of Palmer towards Agostini. I could see the two battling Cortina’s compromising each other going into the corner.
This allowed me to get alongside them both. Remembering the trouble it gave him before he thought twice about turning in, providing the inside line for the fast corner of Hamilton, and I left both Cortina’s in my tracks. This free air allowed me to build a gap, setting my fastest time around the track of a 2:25.080 and placing me 3rd in class and 7th overall.
The Club awarded me a trophy for the way I dealt with the situation and the remarkable times we achieved despite 250Kg extra weight.
Thank you Retro Engineering for their support throughout the weekend, both mechanically and morally. Without the Team I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did yesterday.
Thanks also to HSCC for handling the situation so professionally and setting up an enjoyable event and all the marshals who volunteered for the day, without whom none of us can race.