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Rupert Howe is making his Motor Racing Debut this season in a newly acquired Royale RP26

By andrewsmith49, Aug 11 2014 07:51AM

It was very useful to begin this race weekend on Friday with a half day of practice before being catapulted into qualifying and two races, which always seem to come and go with terrifying speed despite the fact that they are usually separated by hours or even a day. The afternoon broke down into three 35 minutes sessions which were spent gradually lowering lap times as I got used to breaking points and lines through the corners.


Camping at the circuit over night was also a first and was good for quelling the uncertainties that usually spin around my head as I wonder whether the M25, M40 or M1 will ruin everything by holding me up on the way to a race meeting. The only solution to the knots in my stomach before heading out on track however seems to be to depress the throttle and head out on track as once you have begun moving quickly you are so fully occupied there is no time for nerves.


The value of testing was quickly proven on Saturday morning as a qualifying lap of 1 minute 44 put me 12th on the grid out of 16.


As the afternoon race approached I was aware of one thing I wanted to avoid and one thing I wanted to try and achieve. I wanted to avoid rushing backwards when the lights went out; solution, give it more revs as I hold the clutch in. I also wanted to see if I could hold onto my gird position for the duration of the race-Cadwell being a narrow track I felt this might be a realistic aim.


As the lights went out I was pleased to see I didn’t lose any significant ground off the line and held my position through the first corner, ‘Coppice’. I then adopted my usual wide line for the second part of ‘Charlies’ only to find Graham Terry’s Van Diemen RF80 sweep by me on the inside. Not being confident of overtaking on a narrow track I felt this was a place I would probably not regain. I was surprised therefore to find the green Van Diemen slowing at the top of ‘The Mountain’ and even more surprised to find myself put two wheels on the grass to slip by before ‘Halls Bends’.


The next few laps were spent dividing my time between scanning to see if Ian Jeary’s Dulon D9 was still hot on my tail and looking ahead to make sure I wasn’t going to miss a breaking point or wander carelessly off track (something I had managed before the 'Gooseneck' on Friday, thankfully it was only two wheels and was soon corrected). As the race developed I began finding a bit more time going through ‘Coppice’ and ‘Charlies’ and I also tried to get the throttle down earlier on the exit of ‘Mansfield’ and ‘Barn’. At the finish I was placed 9th overall and 6th in class; Stuart Kestenbaum having retired from the lead with a broken drive shaft and Kevin Howell having spun after ‘Park’ and lost a number of places in the process.


The success of race one meant that I was starting from 9th on the grid in race 2. Hopes of holding onto this position were quickly dispelled however as Kevin’s orange PRS drew alongside and passed me before ‘Charlies’. Stuart Kestenbaum’s Van Diemen RF79 then passed me on the straight before ‘Park’ and in my mirrors was Ian Jeary looking to do the same. I settled into reasonably well paced lap times however and was pleased to see that Kevin’s PRS was not really getting away from me. At certain parts of the track I was even gaining and heady thoughts of a possible overtake between ‘Charlies’ and ‘Park’ began to formulate. These were swiftly extinguished however as an over optimistically heavy use of the throttle coming out of ‘Barn’, a corner I had struggled with all weekend, sent me into a spin that saw me stall and then unable to restart. Watching the rest of the race from the top of the bank on the inside of the track at 'Barn' was interesting but not as enjoyable as being in the race. Mike Gardner took his second win of the weekend, Andrew Smith finished 2nd, Leandro Geudes of the 'Jesus Saves Racing' team took 3rd place and Stuart Kestenbaum a battling 4th from the back of the grid.


Overall I was really pleased with the weekend. I recorded my highest finish and had been in the thick of some racing close to the middle of the pack and I was still in one piece as was the car; though the RP26 will remain with MK8 Motorsport for some love, care and attention before the next meeting. Cadwell is a fantastic track and turning into ‘Coppice’ flat out at over 100mph feels amazing and is not something I will forget in a hurry and nor is gathering it all together and knocking it into 3rd for the double apex right hander 'Charlies'. Sadly I am going to miss the Oulton Park round but I am looking forward to returning to the Brands Hatch Indy track to see if I can improve on my performance there earlier in the year.


By andrewsmith49, Jul 24 2014 11:59AM

Sunday May 25


I was pleased to see that Sunday dawned bright and sunny. The Brands Historic Masters Festival was something I had quite often attended as a spectator and I couldn’t quite believe I was about to arrive at the circuit to race on it. Having watched at the track before I was relatively familiar with the GP circuit layout but I was also perfectly aware that it was a track that didn’t give you much room for making mistakes and running wide.


It was great fun in qualifying just being on the track, bottoming out at Paddock Hill, regularly missing the apex at Druids and flying down the back straight towards Hawthorn Bend. Qualifying 34th out of 38 was also a new sensation as in my one previous race I had qualified last. There was a down side however as I had to stop qualifying early as the water temperature was too high. I then made a complete hash of being towed back to the pits, unable to keep the tow rope taut and getting it stuck under my nose cone and smashing it up a bit. Fortunately I did have a spare.


The race.


Pulling up near the back of the grid I was amazed at how many cars there were in front of me, I could barely see any tarmac. I set myself the target of not driving into the back of anyone in the first few corners. A poor start made this eminently possible and the early corners were negotiated without incident.


Lying second last for a while I decided that I felt quicker than the few cars I could see in front but was well aware that I had never overtaken anyone before. The last thing I wanted to do was find myself half way down the inside of another competitor as they turned in for the corner. I spent a few more laps considering which corners I felt quicker on and looking at gaps up the inside but not committing to an overtake. The safety car then came out and halted my ruminations.


During the safety car laps I determined to get on with overtaking, largely based on dropping back and taking the corners I felt confident on as quickly as I could and getting the run on the car in front in order to be well up their inside before the next corner. Once we were racing again I achieved this going through Hawthorn Bend and executed my first overtake on the way into Westfield Bend. Other overtakes then occurred on the inside at Druids and at Graham Hill Bend.


An amazing day which was made better by having a few friends there who enjoyed watching me race and was then topped off by winning ‘Novice driver of the day’.


Monday May 26


Monday dawned grey and overcast with the threat of rain. A cool qualifying session was good in that my water temperature did not run too hot and another grid spot a couple of rows from the back was positive.


Waiting for the race the skies darkened and the threat of rain became a reality. Pit crews and people bustled about the cars and changed them to wet settings. Meanwhile running my own car I sat strapped in by my seatbelts thinking, I have never driven in the wet and I am about to do so running on dry settings, this will be tricky. Then Chris, a fellow competitor/angel in disguise who had already progressed into the final with one of the 5 quickest qualifying times, appeared and offered to set my rear roll bars to a wet setting. Very thankful I said that would be great and soon headed off onto two green flag laps with some hope that I might soon conquer the conditions.


A few laps in with everyone else approaching the track with caution I felt it was time to push a little harder and see what happened when you came close to the edge in the rain. Answer-you spin, first at Graham Hill Bend and then with a great deal more speed and revolutions in between Surtees and Mclaren. I did nevertheless enjoy the experience and felt the car sliding about much more than in the dry, which required a bit of opposite lock here and there as well as careful throttle control. Sliding across the apex at Graham Hill with a handful of opposite lock and uncrossing it on the exit while remaining on track was a highlight of the day but did nothing to improve my finishing position of last; 2 laps down on the leaders.


Very kindly friends helped me put the car on the trailer in the pouring rain, while the lucky or unlucky finalists, depending on how you looked at it, headed out on track in miserably wet conditions. I headed home exhausted but looking forward to returning to Brands Hatch in September for another go at the Indy Circuit.



Thruxton


Even though I only live in Surrey a 7:30am scrutineering slot led to a 5:00am alarm call in order to get to the track on time. After the highs of Brands trepidation was what I was feeling today, the fastest circuit in Britain, probable over heating issues and a generally heavy tired feeling after a long week at work were the cause of my uncertainty.


After arriving, saying a few hellos to some increasingly familiar faces and quickly getting through scrutineering a nervous squirm settled into my stomach for qualifying. I managed to ask a few questions to some of the more experienced racers and was able to glean the useful advice that the circuit was ‘QUICK’.


Qualifying proved them spot on, the circuit grabs your attention and if you are not too awake then you soon will be. Sadly overheating curtailed the session early but with a grid slot third from the back I was happy enough.


My overheating had not been helped by staying too long in 3rd gear so James Buckton put in a higher fourth gear and I told myself to change up earlier in an attempt to keep the engine cooler.


Race 1. I made my usual stodgy start and shot to the back of the field. The next few laps were occupied by trying to pass Michael Saunders Hawke DL11. The circuit being largely without straights and me being largely without overtaking experience this took me a while but eventually I slipped by in the slipstream of two cars that were lapping us. Being lapped then occupied me for the rest of the race but I was having great fun taking a couple of seconds off my qualifying time. No overheating, 19th out of 23 and another race finish were very satisfying.


Race 2. Business as usual as the lights went out and I settled in 23rd out of 23. More revs off the line in future. I was keen to try and stay on another novice’s tail, Charlie Greenwood in a Dulon MP15, so set about trying to pass Michael. Getting the foot down earlier through the complex I had the job done in third before turning left into Noble on lap 2. Charlie was still in sight but pulling away little by little. A clear track ahead however left me bettering my lap times. Sadly this was not too last as a few glances at my water temperature dial told me I was running seriously hot and needed to pull into the pits.


I had a fantastic weekend. The circuit was superfast and at those speeds I was beginning to feel the car moving about underneath me and having to respond with steering input. I was also becoming more confident in putting my foot down harder and earlier on the accelerator through the complex which leads to a faster lap time as you are not supposed to lift off until you reach the next chicane. There was still lifting off in places around the back, Village and Church in particular, but it was getting less with each lap. Great fun, only downside, the car is off to the garage to deal with its overheating issues. Next stop Cadwell Park in July.


By andrewsmith49, Apr 22 2014 07:56AM

Woah what a weekend! Almost everthing that could have happened did happen apart from a huge off and an enormously unlikely first win.


Scrutineering was the first hurdle to negotiate and this done, with a little help, I waited for qualifying.

"Whatever you do," I was told, "complete three full laps or you don't qualify."


Just as I was about to move onto the track near heart failure occurred when I was asked where my scrutineering slip was, thanks James for running back and getting it from my coat pocket. Without this crucial piece of paper, as all experienced racers know, you cannot race the car.


Qualifying then began but it quickly became apparent that the car wouldn't rev beyond 4,000rpm. A sedate number of laps then followed where every car on track flew past me until having lost count I turned into the pits certain that I had done at least 3 full laps. I had qualified last on 3 cylinders and was 20seconds slower than the next slowest car. In addition to this the less said about a brief spiral and contact at the chicane the better.


Spark plugs were then changed and what seemed a short wait for the first race began. Mechanical difficulties were again to raise their ugly head however as the Royale RP26 engine kept petering out when idling. This problem continued until disappointingly I heard the commentator saying we were one car short at the back of the grid. I had missed my first race.


The world and his dog then took to trying to fathom the mystery of my spluttering engine and thankfully came up with a solution. The coil was then changed (by hero of the hour once more James) and there was then a second race to look forward to or worry about and this one was televised.


I followed the advice I was given and essentially let everyone get away from me on the first corner and breaked very early. Pulling away was very enjoyable however as the back of the car gripped and squirmed away from its grid spot. Panic very quickly set in however as all of the cars seemed to begin to disappear almost entirely from view. At this point I made it my aim to keep up with the second to last car. This I appeared to be just about achieving though the gap between the two of us didn't diminish much, if at all.


A couple of fairly alarming things then appeared to happen. The leaders and the cars following them appeared as if out of nowhere and overtook me with no warning and every time they did it, despite looking in my mirrors and occasionally remembering to look for blue flags, they took me by surprise. Watching other competitors moving a great deal more quickly than I was I then decided to take Coppice faster as everyone else seemed to be able to. As I was spinning across the grass a few seconds later I was pleased not to have come near any other cars or barriers and even more happy to find that I could restart the engine and rejoin the race. Crossing the line a few laps later I have to say I was disappointed that the race had run its course but at the same time overjoyed to have recorded a finish rather than a DNF.


Looking back at the weekend I can't quite believe what I did. It could have gone a lot smoother and it could have gone a great deal worse. All being well Brands Hatch is my next race as work commitments mean that I will not be able to attend the Croft meeting. I have also done some very necessary testing at Mallory Park, which was fantastic fun and has given me a bit more confidence in the car.

By guest, Mar 4 2014 07:43PM

I have always had an interest in motorsport. This began watching F1 in the 80s and 90s and attending Historic Motoracing Meetings with my father. A thought I often toyed with, and then just as regularly put aside, was that maybe I could one day head out on track. This day however looks set to arrive soon.

After a few months looking at the price of cars and then with a little guidance and encourgement from Peter Hackett I have taken the plunge and am the rather nervous owner of a Royale RP26 formula ford.

My technical knowledge really amounts to nil but again with the assistance of Peter I have recently completed (in a manner of speaking) a test day at Silverstone and look set to race at Donnington this month. The caveat in the last sentence can be explained by pointing out that I never in fact went onto the circuit. Instead I blasted up and down one of the numerous open expanses of tarmac that the track boasts in order to build confidence. Confidence was duly built but not before the clutch went and made it a wiser choice not to head out with the risk of stalling and finding myself in the middle of a corner being narrowly missed by frustrated Formula 4 drivers. Helpful adivce again led me to leave the car in the capable of hands of Derek and James Buckton who have put the RP26 into good order for its first genuine outing.

The day was nevertheless very useful and left me more familiar with the car, the gears and generally loading it on and off the trailer (we pretty much lifted it on at one point, as I in my early morning stupor forgot to load the planks to roll the car on to the trailer). In addition to this the car's performance seriously raised my eyebrows and put a genuine smile on my face. Can I really be about to race other people in one of these rocket powered rollerskates?

What you have just read may not sound like an ideal start but this process has left me just a few weeks from the start of my first motorace and has proved to be easier than expected with the help that the Classic Formula Ford crowd have kindly offered. All that remains now is to count the days to the first practice and qualifying session with ever increasing nerverous excitement.

Rupert Howe

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