Setting up and getting to bed…should be easier than this!

So we started the weekend in a bit of a rush having got stuck on the M1 on Friday night. How is there a traffic jam like this at 8pm? One secret shortcut later…we get in the garage and start setting up ready for race day…but not before having a snoop at the competition.

A few garages up, the FF Corse guys are busy building a huge red wall, behind which sat silently were not one, not two but three Ferrari 458s! Our neighbours (oddly also sponsored by a sausage company – what are the chances?! Debbie & Andrew’s for the win!) have just finished setting up their space frame Seat Supacopa and have left the radio on for us to dance around to. As the sun disappears, we have a nosey at some of the other teams’ machines, including a Ferrari 360 Challenge and a brand new BMW M3.

Anyway…tables out, car unloaded, wheels sorted and sausages at the ready! Just enough time for a swift drink at the pub and then off to sleep! 

Premier Inn is usually a fairly standard place to stay, however, tonight the people on reception, as nice as they were, took 30 minutes to sign us in. They were ridiculously confused that one person was paying for more than one room – aaarghh too tired for this…just give me a bed! Breakfast is too late so we will have to skip that…good job we have a lorry load of Debbie & Andrew’s sausages with us – they’ll make a perfect breakfast sarnie!

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

Bright eyed and bushy tailed…

We arrive at the pits nice and early what with scrutineering at the crazy time of 7:30am, sign on at 7:40am and oddly qualifying before the drivers’ briefing…!?

We wait eagerly…nervously…for the scrut to look round the car hoping he approves of one of our latest mods…a catch can in the gearbox…it’s normal to use a Monster Energy drink can, right? Ok, maybe not but it was a last minute fix, it works and it’s properly secured…he looks over to me with a raised eyebrow, I shrug back and he moves on. Phew…that’s it right? Almost…a bit of a flag about the rain light not working until we realise he’s pressing the wrong switch and Mark needs some new gloves as his has a small hole in…Alan to the rescue! Ok…he’s happy, quick, get the card signed! Hurrah! 

Time to see what we can do in practice & qually

In the practice session we are out with the whole grid, including some very, very quick cars. Abbey Motorsport have done a fantastic job of setting the suspension up and the car feels incredible in the corners…there’s just *so much* grip. The car feels a little nervous but balanced with it, difficult to explain but I had enough confidence to brake later than the 997 cup car and try and carry the speed rather than rely on the power out of it. When we’ve previously been here, the first corner (Abbey) used to be a brake, shift to 4th and power out type of corner. Now, it’s a dab on the brake in 5th, turn the car in with minimal steering angle until you can start to feel it find the limit of its load and let the diff and the throttle do the rest. Loving it!

Both Mark and I have a go in practice to warm us, get to grips with the changes we’ve made to the car and the opposition. The 458 and the R8 LMS car are utter beasts but we are holding our own in the corners against some of the other cars. The biggest issue is the straight line speed – we are actually gaining on some cars in the corners and then losing it all on the straights. Let’s see what qually brings!

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

In order to be able to race, both drivers must complete 3 laps in qually. Sounds easy right…well last time out I managed to put it in the kitty litter after my 3 laps and Mark had to do the drive of shame behind the pace car for his 3 laps in the lunch break! (Whoops!). Funnily enough, Mark opts to go out first. He manages a few laps in the 17s and couple in the 16s. Time for me to jump in and clear my three laps. I manage a 1:20 then two 1:18s but I have not had a clear lap and I’m getting quite frustrated. The track clears and I get a good run out of club, time to nail it…1:16.2! Awesome! That puts us ahead of both the GT4 Clubsport and the Seat Supacopa…both cars are in classes above us! Feeling good.

Let’s go racing!

Did I tell you that Britcar has rolling starts? And that I’ve only ever done a rolling start in the virtual racing world of iRacing? Well, as you can imagine, that was quite a different (and to be honest a little scary) experience. I’m used to a chaotic standing start – the Zed launches really well from stationary. Having to judge the gap to the car in front and trying to get a run as the lights changed is exhilarating and definitely needed a different thought process.

I manage to get up the inside of the Seat and push an M3 onto the wrong line into Village. Taking the bumps well, I’m onto the Hanger Straight – here comes that straight line speed issue again. I duck to the inside line but the other car just have too many horses. I slot in behind the Seat and try to manage the gap. The car isn’t feeling as solid now, I’ve got a vibration on the front right wheel and the tyres feel like they have gone off.

Time to swap drivers and Mark jumps in to what I can only describe as rubber melting heat…yes my race boots were starting to melt! We replaced the Perspex on the boot lid and hadn’t got around to cutting the holes in it…I have to admit I didn’t think it would make that big a difference but without any sort of air con or even a fan, it really did and the cabin reached over 54 degrees…the GoPro nicely shut itself down to save itself…no such option for the drivers!

So a driver change takes a couple of minutes but it goes by in a flash for the pit crew…a bit more like this:

Mark has much more experience in driving round issues than me and it showed as he started driving lap times down and down. The Seat starts to struggle to keep his gap from Mark and suddenly we are gaining on him! Our pit stop strategy helped us out too, making up 8 seconds on the Porsche. We’re in business!

The checkered flag comes out and…Mark pulls past the Seat! We finish just ahead and take out first class win on our debut outing.

Sausage time!

We’ve all been looking forward to scoffing some Debbie and Andrews’s sausage sarnies at lunch but it’s not as relaxed as we planned. We’re out straight after lunch, which should be 45 minutes…a bit short but easy enough. Great plans and all that…we’re told race control has decided to make some time up and cut lunch short just as the pit crew spot an oil leak coming from our brand new shiny sequential gearbox…oh.

Fast forward twenty minutes and Rosie and Kirsty have fed most of the paddock sausage sarnies…

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

…and the crew have worked solidly to fix thee gearbox. It was as if a swarm of ants were attacking the car – there were limbs everywhere! I’m still not really sure how they managed it but we were *just* ready to go for race two!

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016
Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

High on adrenaline and fumes…here we go!

It’s Mark’s turn to start the race and he is obviously keen to push on. He makes a great start – he’s pushing the Aston along with the GT4 Porsche and the Seat in close pursuit. The GT4 has much more power out of the corners and he knows it – he’s all over the back of the Zed but Mark covers him at every corner. They swap places – and then they swap back – rinse and repeat until the GT4 makes it stick.

The diff has taken a battering and it just gives up sending the car into a spin on the exit onto the Hanger Straight. Mark quickly responds with a nice reverse J turn – we’ve got some places to make up now!

Steve jumps in and is on a mission. The pit crew report that the Seat has retired with a bent drive shaft – that’s one out of the way but leaves me feeling a bit lonely out on the track on my own. I’m pushing as hard as I can but I just can’t get back to that 1:16. I can tell the diff isn’t coming back, it feels like it’s not doing anything anymore and there is something off with the rear suspension.

The pit crew are feeding me information to make sure I keep the gap clear from the guy behind. I’m focusing on pushing just enough but not pushing me or the car beyond the limit.

We cross the line in P9 place and have earned another class win!

What a day! The team have done an incredible job and I’m utterly exhausted..and it appears I’m not the only one.

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

I’m buzzing so much, I can’t really think straight – in fact all I’m really thinking about is getting back out at Oulton Park on 1 October…after a much needed rest.

Silverstone Race Day - Britcar - 13 August 2016

The weekend reminded me of how much fun a properly set up 350z can be – all thanks to Abbey Motorsport and their expertise.

Big thanks have to go to Debbie and Andrew’s as well. The sausages clearly made all the difference. 🙂

See you all at Oulton Park on 1 October.