Brands’ New Novice
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.
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.
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.