Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rockingham - 2008 Round 2

So it's the second meeting of 2008, and this time it's Rockingham. Hardly my favourite circuit, impressive though the track and facilities are. But there was no way I was going to miss a round after Oulton, so I paid up some vast sum for a day of practice and a day of racing at the sadly-underused Midlands circuit.

Practice went pretty well. I was clearly slower than the top guys - especially Tim Go - but consistently maintained a slight edge over friend and rival Charles Elliot.

Come qualifying, I was a bit off my practice time until Ed Benson came past. I got a tow off him, and that knocked half a second off my time. I qualified 10th, which I was very happy with. Charles wasn't quite so happy with 14th.

So race time. The usual interminable delays, but eventually we're out on track, warmup laps completed. Something went wrong at the start - I think I was waiting for the red to go to green rather than just go off. Stupid, as that hasn't been the case for years. Either way, there was that crucial fraction of a second which ruined my usual good start. In the end it didn't seem to matter to much. I'd been worried about the first corner, but managed to get a clear line round the outside and ended up in ninth - with Charles in front, he having got a blinding start.

The racing was really close. The nine of us were all bunched up close and I'm sure it was the same behind. There were a few accidental nudges, but in general everyone seemed to be driving very fairly, with nobody trying to squeeze anyone and leaving space where necessary. I made contact with Gareth Thomas after I went round the inside at the hairpin, and was looking in my mirror for him and completely failed to realise he was right alongside as I tried to move across. Fortunately no damage to either party.

I followed Charles for much of the race. I screwed up badly on one lap in the crucial chicane before the long banked straight. Forced by traffic to drop to second, I bounced off the rev limiter and then stupidly tried to go straight into fourth. The engine bogged and I lost one place and a big gap appeared between me and Charles. I gradually caught back up, and was eventually able to get past with a lunge into the centre hairpin. Not sure I'd have tried it with many drivers, but I trusted Charles not to turn into me. You're just too nice for your own good, Charlie :) :)

By this time the group had spread out somewhat, and I had my work cut out to get any further.
On the final lap, I managed to get a get a great tow around the banking, and managed to get up behind Trev and another car at the entrance to the hairpin. I knew from watching Trev's qualifying race (it's a long story!) that he favoured the outside line at the hairpin, and figured he'd miscalculated and had that line blocked. I went for the inside, and made it through. The next corner was under yellows, and I then managed to hold Trev off to the end of the race.

I'd finished sixth! I was ecstatic about that, and particularly pleased to have beaten Trev.

Unfortunately, that elation was brought down with a thump when it turned out the hairpin had been under a yellow flag as well. I confess that with several cars around me and a tricky overtake to contemplate, I hadn't seen the flag at all.

Trev was not pleased, as I and someone else had gone past him, losing him two points, which as a championship contender he could ill-afford to lose. There was much to-ing and fro-ing with the Clerk of the Course. In the end, myself and the other driver received written repremands and two points on our licences - based on our own "confessions" rather than any actual evidence. The Clerk refused to alter the finishing positions, even though we did ask that Trev be given his places back.

But now the case for the defence.

The "Blue Book" says that you may not overtake between the post where the yellow flag is first displayed, and the following post where a green flag is displayed. Therefore, if you haven't yet come alongside the flag, it must still be legal to overtake. By the time we passed the post where the flag was displayed, my nosecone would have been in front of Trevs. Thererfore, one might argue I was leading at that point, and no illegal overtake took place.

It's not much of a defence - I hadn't even seen the flag, and Trev was clearly (in retrospect) waving his hand to warn us there was a yellow flag and we shouldn't overtake.

Meanwhile, the other driver now thinks that the flag wasn't actually being "shown" in any case - that it just being held ready to put out if necessary - but I'm not convinced.

Anyhow, I'd rather have taken seventh or eighth place completely fairly, but the results say I was sixth and that's what we have to go with. I just hope it doesn't make a difference to either my or Trev's championship positions at the end of the year.

It doesn't make any difference to the current championship rankings - and I'm rather surprised and very pleased to see that I'm in fifth place. Let's hope this short run of good luck turns into a long one.

Meanwhile the race was won by Tim GO, his first podium and his first win. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a few more of those this year. Jos Sibbert was second, and David Shaw third. The full results are here.

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