Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oops



I could see Taffy coming at me, but didn't move my hands off the wheel. Stupid. My hand hurt afterwards, but I figured it was just a bit sprained. I've broken my wrist before, so I know what that feels like. Definitely just a sprain...

Only it got worse rather than better. So today I figured I'd better get it looked at. One X-ray later and it seems I have a fracture of the first proximal phalanx. Or thumb, as it's sometimes known. It's only a tiny fracture, where the ligament joins the bone, but it definitely is fractured. They've given me a wrist/thumb brace, but don't seem inclined to do much more about it. "It'll hurt, take some pain killers if you need them and it'll heal up eventually". Umm, OK.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Spa Quick report

Great weekend at Spa. I qualified fifth in class, much better than expected after such a long time off. In race one I span at the final corner on the last lap, and collected Glyn Davies in a nasty frontal impact - captured on video here.

Race two I was rather further back due to a crap second qualifying time, but got a belter of a start. All was going well until Keith Pennington biffed me off the track at the first proper corner (Les Combes), leaving me to rejoin dead last. Had a fun race overtaking loads of people, and made it up to seventh place before red flags put an end to play. Unfortunately the countback to the previous lap deprived me of the last three overtakes, so I was only credited with tenth.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Aftermath ... and finances

When I was racing bikes, I had no children and the Internet Boom was happening. As my bike racing costs rose, so did the shares given to me by my employer. I was never really short of money, in spite of spending upwards of 30 grand on the sport in the year I won the Bemsee 250 Championship.

These days, with two kids and my partner no longer working - and no more share schemes as computer companies retrench and cut costs - things are a bit tighter. Unfortunately things came to a head, and I had to take out my first loan for nearly 20 years, shortly before I crashed at Cadwell.

There was no chance of paying McMillan to the work, as I had last year after my expensive Snett crash. But my friends were great, and Trev, Charles and Chris all rallied round to help out. I did most of the basic strip-down myself, until we got to the "engine-out" stage. Then the guys, and my brother, all came round for an "engine out and barbecue" party. A great time was had by all, and the engine was removed, together with everything else that still needed to come off.

The chassis went to Arch, who were (and I guess still are) struggling somewhat as Caterham had told them they wouldn't be making any more chassis after April, but they still were due to the apparent inability of Caged to start production of the new metric robot-welded chassis. Hence it took them a couple of weeks or so. Then we had the boys around again for a rebuild barbecue - and then I went off to the US with work, then on holiday, etc.

Knockhill or Thruxton might have been possibilities for my return to the track, but I really couldn't be arsed to drive all the way to Knockhill for one race in the pouring rain at nine o'clock in the morning (as it turned out). And I wasn't over keen on Thruxton with no test day to get back into things.

So my return will be for the final, glorious (we hope) meeting at Spa in October.

So what happened at Cadwell then?

For the simple answer, check this video.

Now for some reflections...

It's often said that "a race is not won or lost in the first corner". That's undoubtedly true. However, it's also true that when there's a line of people queuing-up for the first corner, should you take a creative line through, you can sometimes overtake four or five people. Overtaking that number of people later in the race is likely to take as many laps to achieve. It can be the difference between making it to the rear of the front pack in the first lap, and seeing the front pack disappear as you make your way through the midfield in the first few laps.

For people who qualify well, this probably doesn't matter. But I rarely do, so I'm always keen to take maximum advantage of opportunities early in the race.

Hence it was that when I saw a spinner at Coppice, my thoughts were along the lines of "great, that will have slowed down the people on his side of the track, we can get through on the left and get a clean getaway".

Sadly, it wasn't to be. The guy in front of me (and it was so long ago I've forgotten who he was) obviously had a better sense of self-preservation than me, and braked much harder than I expected as he approached the incident. Not being prepared for this, I had to swerve to avoid hitting him in the rear.

At this point I got screwed by my bike racing past. I could easily have swerved left onto the grass to miss him. But on a bike, you touch the grass and you're down - or worse you keep going totally out of control until you hit the tyre wall. So all my instincts told me the grass was out of bounds - and I swerved right - hitting Charlie and Jamie and eventually causing the carnage you can see on the video.

There were lots of recriminations and accusations of "Supers being crazy" after this. I kept my head down. Was it all my fault? No. Was I a factor in the crash? Certainly.

Charlie's car was a real mess. He got hit front and rear, and it did a huge amount of damage. Jamie's wasn't that much better. In the circumstances, I got away quite lightly. My chassis was badly bent at the front, but it hadn't trashed too much else.

Lazy zod

I've rightly been getting some grief from the the Grads forum for not updating my blog ever since I crashed my car big time at Cadwell.

There's actually a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I wasn't feeling too good about my part in the incident, and wasn't sure I wanted to share those feelings. Secondly, I've ... umm ... been playing Battlefield 2 in all the spare time that I might have been writing blog entries. What a sad git.

So it's about time I created a few entries I reckon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Snetterton 28/29th April 2006

Testing

Just one week on from Silverstone and we're out again at Snetterton. I thought Silverstone was bleak and windswept, but when we got to Snett on the test day there was a howling gale. I'd missed the first half of the testday, due to a problem with a hospital appointment and someone from MSV who was confused about their refund policy ... but let's not go there. So only two 50 minute sessions - oh, wait a minute, they've reduced them to 45 without telling us. Allow for the inevitable stoppages, and the fact that my front right wing kept making a bid for freedom, and I doubt I got more than 40 laps in the whole day. Should be enough - after all I'm no stranger to the track - but I'm a slow learner and like to get a full day's practice in to get my confidence up to full boost.

Qualifying (full details from MST)

Snett's a long-ish circuit, but with 41 cars on track it wasn't exactly easy to get a clear track ahead. It was pot-luck, really. Some people got balked the whole time, others got enough space for maybe one or two good laps. My only decent one was the very last. And it wasn't that decent - 1:23.25 was only good enough for 13th place on the grid - 0.89 seconds off Andrew Ennis's pole.

Charles and Chris were well down the grid - Charles still getting his head together after his roll at Silverstone, and Chris with his engine rather poorly. Fellow 2004 Academy Bods and Northern Gits Jamie Bashall and James Sykes were in impressive 4th and 5th positions respectively.

Race One

Race Video (48MB Streaming Windows Video)

Bit of a race of attrition, this one. The video only shows about half the race, because the cameras came loose half way through and started bouncing around in the boot (oops). Memorable moments were Toby locking up his brakes on the first lap and nearly broadsiding me, and John Parker being so determined to outbrake me into Riches that he forgot to take the corner. Had some great scraps with JP earlier on, and James Sykes and pole-man Andrew Ennis later on. I made some decent progress through conventional overtakes, but to be honest most ground was made up by simply staying on the track while most of the people in front of me didn't.

I'd made it up to 6th place by the penultimate lap. Then David Shaw spun off, and I was able to get past James to make it to 4th place by the end. Yee-hah (as I understand they say in the colonies) what a result. My best result yet.

The race was won by Andrew Vickers, with Charlie Hunt and Andrew Fletcher close behind.

Race Two

In bike races, grid position for race two is generally taken from the finishing position in race one. Sadly that's not the case for us, and having only got one decent lap in qualifying, I was back down to 17th place on the grid for race two.

A good start was essential. Unfortunately I had Toby in front of me. Toby's a pretty quick driver, but seems incapable of getting a decent start. True to form, he stuttered away and I just avoided driving into the back of him. Somehow, though, he must have got past me, because I was treated to a grandstand view of him and John Parker tangling wheels and spinning off together at Corams. Finding a gap to dive through was tricky, but I managed not to get involved.

It was never going to be easy to make up the places needed to get a result like Saturdays, but I made sure it wasn't going to happen by spinning off at Riches. The race was fairly spread out by then so I only lost a couple of places, but I'd lost a lot of time and any hope of catching up the front runners. My excuse is that my tyres were going off, and had I fitted some new tyres I'm sure I could have won the race (yeah, right...)

Trevor Newman won the race, from Charlie Hunt and Andrew Ennis. But Trev had managed to avoid Russels chicane completely on one of the laps, gaining two seconds, a demotion of two positions, and three points on his licence. Probably not worth it, I guess! I came in 12th.

But here's the good bit - I'm in third place in the championship! OK, it's not really real - the only reason I'm up there is because I've scored points in all the rounds, and they're not yet counting "dropped rounds" in the table. But still, the fact that I've finished all four races is quite an improvement over my previous years' form.

Cadwell is next, 28th May. I've got new tyres fitted and raring to go, and this time I'm going to do a full day's practice. Cadwell is really tough for overtaking because it's so narrow. That means qualifying is critical, so I need to really get my proper "race head" on for qualifying - something I've been lacking a bit in the past. But I really can't wait to try!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Silverstone 22nd April 2006

Race Video (130MB Streaming Windows Video)

Dodge(m) City

Ah, Silverstone. Britain's premiere race track, home of the British Grand Prix. But when we go there, a desolate wind-swept wasteland: surrounded by massive grandstands, all of them closed.

I couldn't make the Friday test day, so had to go up for a three-hour open pitlane session on Thursday instead. Unfortunately it was wet (and VERY slippery) all afternoon. Most other people got to test Friday when the weather was great.

Qualifying

So no dry practice before qualifying, but never mind. Get out there and drive hard from the word go - hopefully by the end of the session you'll get some speed. Sadly not to be. When I first went out, the engine wouldn't rev past 5,000 rpm. It gradually improved, but it wasn't until the last two or three laps that it would pull cleanly all the way through the rev range. Afterwards Andy Mac diagnosed water down the spark-plug recesses - and sure enough he was right. Note to self - when leaving car parked in race paddock for two days in rain storms then check those resesses! My best lap left me in a lowly 21st position on the grid. To add insult to injury, my best mates Chris and Charles qualified in impressive third and sixth positions respectively. Ah well, get a good start and see how it goes...

Race

Well, that didn't work either. With the red lights on I found myself pulling forward, so I dipped the clutch to re-find the bite point - just as the lights went off. Damn! No chance of gaining a bunch of places from the start then.

I shan't go through a blow-by-blow account of the race, but it was really intense. 39 cars on the grid (even though we were told Silverstone could only take 38 - what are you up to, BARC?) - and they're mostly very closely matched, in terms of driver ability as well as car performance. We were three or four abreast much of the time, and overtaking was really tough. I was gratified to find myself catching up with third-place qualifier Chris Rome, but then less pleased when I realised he seemed to be having power problems.

At one point there was a big incident and I could see a car right up in the air. I concentrated on avoiding the wreckage and didn't think much more about it for the moment.

Wings were coming off everywhere. I had a big thump at one point which knocked the car sideways, but fortunately it didn't seem to do any damage.

Later in the race I managed to get past Trevor Newman. He's a novice from last year's Academy, but he qualified and finished second at Combe. I reckoned I was on to beat him until he made a brilliant lunge up the inside at the final corner when I was being held up by a sliding Mark Gregory.

Finished in 14th place. Not as good as I'd hoped, but a reasonable five places up from qualifying.

It wasn't until some time after the end that I realised Charles wasn't with us. The reasons for this will be clear from his blog.

Now only a week before the double-header at Snetterton. Amazingly, it looks like Charles's car will be ready in time for it. Chris, myself and Trev are heading for the dyno on Wednesday night to see whether their cars are really down on power as they claim, or whether they were just driving like wusses.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Castle Combe 25 March 2006

Rain fails to stop play

Well, what a start to the season. It bucketed down. The day had started with blue skies and sunshine, but gradually deteriorated. Being the last race of the day, we got the worst of it in the Supers. Could barely see a thing when anyone was close in front.

I got a fantastic start, sailing down the outside of the extra wide grid as everyone else scrabbled for grip. Headed up into Avon Rise to see a car sideways in front of me (I think it was pole position man Simon Powell). I slowed to try to decide where he was going and then managed to get across in front of him. As I passed there was a sickening crunch as Ben Rockey failed to avoid him. You can (almost) see it in my rear view video here.

I was up from 16th to 7th place by the time, and overtook Chris Rome (probably under red flags, as it happened, but I couldn't see them for Chris's spray) to get into 6th - only to see the red flags out at the next marshals' post.

At the restart I got another good start and then ran a steady race. A couple of pretty serious slides, but fortunately both ended with me pointing in pretty much the right direction. A few dropped out in front and I made it to seventh place, before Eddie Benson reeled me in and dropped me to 8th by the end.

I was really suffering with visibility - I had to run the whole race with my visor up - otherwise I couldn't see a thing. I'm going to spend some serious time with screen cleaner and Rain-X before the next round.

No humans were harmed during the course of our race, but some of the cars were looking pretty secondhand. I hope the drivers are able to sort them out in time for the next round at Silverstone on 22nd April.