Our second outing for 2020 looked full of promise. We’d had a great test day at Donington in June and found a handful of seconds per lap. The chicken-wire rear wing had been disposed of (I think Rob Steele is using it as a skateboard ramp back at the garage), and the brakes were massively more useful than they had been before.
Still – as we were returning to Silverstone – the scene of last years disastrous outing we wanted to have a bit more confidence before race day so we signed up for Friday testing on the International circuit, just to confirm everything was ready to go. Since Donington there’d only been a couple of small changes….
Although a lot of the 1-series cars we see out there are running without a wing the car just didn’t look right. It just didn’t look purposeful enough. So, thanks to the @Blake Group and our Scottish pals up north a set of mounting brackets appeared at @GSR. As we were cautioned when we looked at the 1-series as our new car – there’s not a lot of existing 1-series motorsport upgrades available in the market – so finding these was a major plus for us.
The only question was what we would mount onto the brackets….where would we find a suitable wing…..then we remembered. GSR have a GT3 style rear wing…so that went on.
Geoff also felt that the engine wasn’t breathing properly and could do with some better induction. Cue some ‘Robbiefication’ and all of a sudden we’ve got a nostril in the front headlight which is ducting air directly into the air-filter and through into the inlet manifold. Very much in the style of the Dodge Hellcat which must make us a Storming HellCamel….
So with all of those modifications in place we were ready to take to the track. Until we saw the weather forecast. Friday was looking decidedly slippery with heavy rain forecast throughout the day. With 4 x 30 min slots throughout the day the plan was for Nik to take the first and last sessions and let Carlo focus on maximising our one-lap pace in preparation for Qualifying on Sunday.
All of the test sessions went well and 110 litres of fuel later we were happy we were still heading in the right direction. Carlo was consistently lapping in the low 1:20s and dipping into the 1:19s and Nik was mid 1:20s. Both drivers roughly 3-seconds a lap faster than last year.
With Carlo consistently faster the decision was made for Nik to start to ensure that Carlo could consistently use his faster pace to either catch up or defend positions in the second half of the race. Qualifying went well and compared with our 2019 qualifying (44th on the grid with a 1:XXXXX) we were very happy with our 31st place and a 1:18.85 lap time – less than a second difference between us and the Boxster which form our other rear wheel drive competition in Class B.
The race started well; from a rolling start Nik charged through a gap between a couple of Mazdas and set off in pursuit of our friendly new racing nemesis – @JCallRacing! Under full racing conditions the comparison between 2019 and 2020 became even clearer. With braking and cornering now pretty much nailed we were suddenly on a similar pace to the other Class B cars. We weren’t making much ground on them – but we weren’t losing much ground either. All of a sudden it was looking like reliability, an on-time pit stop and general consistency in our driving would deliver a decent result.
At the end of the first racing lap 2 fairly major incidents brought out the safety car. It appeared that Darren Ball’s M3 suffered a catastrophic engine failure under full load on the Hangar Straight and then caught light as it stopped on the exit of Stowe corner. Slightly further down the road on the start/finish straight one of the Porsche Caymans looked to have spun on the final corner from its own fluid leaks and slammed into the pit wall. Both drivers got out of the cars OK but with two major incidents to clear up the safety car was out for a while as the brilliant Orange Army of Marshalls got the cars cleared and treated the track where the oil and fluids had been dropped.
After racing for 8 years we think we’ve finally managed to nail our pit-to-car comms. It’s obviously an inside-team secret but the key components involve Bluetooth, WhatsApp and some iPhone trickery. As a result, when the safety car came in Nik was ready to go and immediately went on a charge to try and make up some places.
The rest of the stint was relatively uneventful and when he ran into the back of traffic it made sense to call for the pit-stop and get Carlo into the race.
With an extra 30 seconds added to the pitstop to cover a Corona Clean there was plenty of time to refuel and get the drivers switched. Carlo then left the pit lane in pursuit of the pack, consistently hitting 1:19 and 1:18 lap times. After about 10 minutes of racing the completely unexpected happened…..part of the dashboard fell off. The main dashboard was still attached but a few seconds later Carlo felt the engine power die and pulled over to the side of the road and then onto the grass having just passed the pit entry fearing that some electrical problem was about to result in a DNF. As he coasted to a halt safely tucked behind the marshal post he hit the engine start button and heard the engine turn over but without starting.
This particular noise was very familiar to us – it’s what happens every time we forget to power on the fuel pumps when we get into the car for the first time. Looking down Carlo immediately understood what had happened. As the centre console fell it managed to clip both the fuel pump switches killing the supply to the engine. With part of the dashboard still rolling around on the floor Carlo fired up the fuel pumps, hit the engine start button and was delighted to hear and feel the engine power up. Pulling back into the pit lane he drove the length of the pit lane at the maximum 60kph speed limit and rejoined the race!
Looking at the video it appears that the whole episode took just over a minute before Carlo was back up to race pace – a fantastic bit of real-time diagnostics from Carlo, but obviously it cost us nearly a lap in terms of lost time. Carlo was right back on the pace – his last stint a flurry of 1:19 and 1:18s. Due to a lap timing error which got resolved after the race it appeared that we were just in front of our friendly racing buddies in #986 and they were closing. Nik told Carlo to go full attack and make sure he defended the position and the gap went from 12s to 9s to 8s, to 12s and finished at about 15s with the two cars trading lap times throughout the final act of the race.
Ultimately it was confirmed after the race that Jamie/Jayson were a lap ahead of us on the road and due to a problem with a transponder reading it hadn’t been picked up correctly on the timing system. Given that we’d had an extra pit-stop / drive through during the fuel cut-off incident this wasn’t exactly surprising but it was great to see that when we do get ahead of them on the road – we can stay there!
We finished the race in a completely different mood than 2019. We’d been competitive within the class – we’d overtaken other Class B cars – including both Boxsters at one point or other during the race and finished the race 8th in our class and 20th overall up 11 places on the grid from the start. Most importantly the car was great to drive and both Nik and Carlo felt for the first time they could drive to their limits.
The next round is Oulton Park in only a few days and a very different circuit from Silverstone. Silverstone is very fast and a power circuit where Oulton is much more technical and less about straight line speed. Cornering is going to be critically important and what we felt the on the fast corners of Stowe and Farm Curve gives us a lot of confidence.
We’re back to full #bringiton mode. It’s good to be back.