This day was set firmly in our heads for a while. It was often forecast as one of the hottest days of the year. It was also in our calendar as one of the busiest. With all the sessions added up, it would be nearly three hours in the car. In preparation for this, the team had fitted a leaf blower fan and vents in the car to help keep me cool. I had packed two sets of everything plus four ice packs to keep me cool in the car.
We arrived at around 8 o’clock and it was already over 15 degrees. However, with Snetterton being an old airfield, a lovely breeze was present. Snetterton always brings back fond memories of my first race last year and enjoyable days in general. I was already very much acquainted with the 300 format, but had never had the chance to drive the 200. In my mind, the 200 put us on the back foot as it removed a complex of corners where I always seemed to do very well. Also they had directed the slowest corner on the circuit onto the longest straight. Meaning that acceleration and top speed were paramount, unfortunately one of our weaknesses.
This weekend we had two championships. Motor Racing Legends (MRL) and The HRDC. First was qualifying for MRL, 40 minutes, plenty of time to get some practice and some good laps in. The issue was, due to the limited 60s touring cars entering, we were paired with much faster and more powerful 80s touring cars. Right away I was setting mid 1:33’s. After 10 minutes or so the team called me in to cool me and the car down and to bleed the tyres back for another run. As soon as I got back out, I was creeping into the 1:32’s. I got down to a 1:32.7 before the team called me back in to keep me cool. We decided to end our qualifying there to preserve both me and the car, considering that the next car was 2 seconds in front. No matter my efforts, I was at the back of the grid.
Next was qualifying for HRDC. Right away I was back in the 1:33’s. When I came into the pits, the team bled back the tyres and told me that my friend Aimee in a Mini, was only a little in front. I needed to get back into the mid-32’s to get in front. I went back out, taking more entry speed into turn one and crucially a lot more apex speed around the back end of the circuit. I was sliding the car through Coram. The car emulating the classic ‘hop skip and jump’ of the triple jump we all did at school as the car was sliding. I remember what Rob Wilson told me, a flat car is a fast car. Going into Murrays, I made sure to brake in a straight line and keep the car flat for the turn in. As I crossed the line, the lap timer said 1:32.5. I felt that there was a couple of tenths left in the lap. However, nothing could properly align in order to get that, neither tyre temperature nor traffic. That put me 6th on the grid, 3 tenths behind my friend Aimee. Looking at the cars around us, she was my target. P5 would be the end goal going into the race.
After a very hot lunch break, race 1 was upon us. A 30 minute sprint to the finish. Rolling starts aren’t the best for me and the car. It was impossible to get a reaction time advantage and all the other cars were lighter and more powerful. Needless to say, I was left for dead going into turn 1. However, I gained an advantage going in, as the cars were fighting each other and not me. I took the Cortina of Henry Mann before turn 1 and than a Capri and a Mustang going into Montreal, closing the door on both of them in the left hander before the straight. However, the Mustang easily went past again down the straight. I managed a good gap between myself and Henry. However, a combination of yellow flags and faster cars lapping me in annoying places closed the gap between us. The Cortina’s top speed was too much to fight. He eventually got me. Because of a few mid-race retirements I moved up 2 places. However, I was still last. Not much could be done. I was catching the Cortina towards the end, but to no avail. My fastest lap was 1:32.7. During the race, I noted that there was a weird noise and vibration coming from somewhere in the transmission system. The team reckoned the Diff oil had become too thin in the heat and that was producing the noise, as it wasn’t lubricating properly. My initial suspicion was that the problem was the diff, so it all seemed logical to me.
I was looking forward to the second race. The field was definitely a lot more suited and closer together. Plus the added fact I would be directly racing one of my friends at long last. This time a standing start. I had a chance to get in front of the pack. A car pulled into the pits on the formation lap, only four cars in front of me now. The lights went out, I lifted off the clutch and the car rose to attack. Then all of a sudden it stopped, almost like it had stalled although the engine was still going. There was a massive vibration coming from the transmission now, the amount of shock I put through it at the launch must have made the previous issue worse. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be finishing this one. However, despite the poor get off, I was on the tail of the cars in front and way in front of my friend in the Mini. I was pushing along the cars in front. Gardner was a long way down the road instantly. The vibration was getting worse and worse. I felt the car having no drive out of corners and limited top speed. I was trying to communicate with my team on the pit wall as best as I could. I didn’t want to pull in as we were doing so well. Four laps in and it became apparent what the issue was when there was a massive bang on the straight. I lost all drive as I could feel the prop shaft smashing into the floor. I could feel that the front of the prop was off so I stopped the car as quickly as I could as to avoid it digging in. I saw all my fellow drivers roaring past. Big thanks to the marshals for getting me out of the way quickly and away from harm.
When collecting the car, my suspicions about the prop were confirmed. The joint connecting the gearbox and the prop had exploded. It was very annoying, as it seems we had the pace for a podium in the race. On the other hand, I didn’t have to spend 75 minutes straight in the car. Didn’t really fancy that in the 30 degree heat!
The weekend was still great fun. We had shown some good pace and we were talked about a lot from the commentary box. Thanks to the team for getting the car prepared well despite the mechanical issue we had. Things happen. Thanks also to the HRDC and MRL for a good weekend. A special thanks to the marshals for helping me out and allowing me to use their phone to contact my Dad to let him know that I was okay.