Mallory Park 29/03/2015

So the eagerly awaited first race of the season and I was all raring to go. Over the winter I had been given some excellent tuition from Oliver Barnard at Preptech. He had coached me on some of the finer points of racing such as getting on the power earlier, getting the car setup but not upset on turn in and having the confidence to let the car run right out to the apron on certain corners. It is also an eye opener how using a gear higher can pay off if you can be both smooth enough and decisive enough to apply the throttle earlier enough. I definitely recommend tuition from Oliver, the 2011 MG Trophy champion.

I had also fitted a brand new cylinder head complete with cams and VVC mechanism as a compression test had revealed one cylinder down to 170 psi and the other pressures marginal. With the pressures restored and the engine sounding a lot sweeter I was hoping for a trouble-free run up to the event. But that wasn’t bargaining for the driveshaft bearing failure 2 weeks before when my son Charles and I went for a trackday at Oulton Park. Still £50 later for a second hand ‘box out of a Grandad’s ZR and I was on the road again! That is one of the reasons that I have always run near standard cars being a Lancastrian and all that.

The last time I competed at Mallory was the rally of the Midlands in 2009 driving a BMW 325 rally car. I remember we were having a pretty torid time. The tachymetric relay jumped out at Merevale Hall then we got lost in a sea of cones at MIRA proving ground. The only highlight was getting 1st and 2nd fastest times at Mallory Park. We used the infield where the paddock is and the bus stop before the Esses. An ex 205 Challenge champion commented that I was the only one that got the line right at Gerrard’s and that is what reawakened a long burning ambition that I would like to try this going round in circles! After a test in a Formula Vee and then musing about Mr2s, MX5s and Mighty Minis I ended up in a ZR.

The weather forecast of rain and wind was quite annoying in some respects but then I have always enjoyed slippery surfaces so I couldn’t really complain. I got there what I thought was nice and early to only just be able to bag a slot then went for a track walk, which was of debatable use as I was permanently cowed against the rain. It seemed that most of the speed was to be had coming out of Gerrards and the hairpin. Nick Ashman gave me some good tips and advised me to be wary of the painted exit curb coming out of Gerrards, which was to prove quite prophetic…

Qualifying was a bit turbulent and I didn’t actually get a clear lap but only pole sitter Paul Clackett passed me so perhaps I wasn’t doing too bad. It was a definite advantage having the Dunlop full wets that ZRs running to the Trophy regs. are allowed to use and I was chuffed to bits to qualify 3rd overall behind Ashley Woodward. I wasn’t really sure whether there was more to come or not as I didn’t feel to be exploring the limits but then that I would probably have got ragged and slowed down had I have pushed it harder.

There was a lot of indecision in the hour leading up to the 2:40pm race start as we all paced up and down the pits nervously prevaricating over wets or intermediates. Really all this F1 stuff was a bit of a joke as it would have taken me 10 minutes minimum to change all 4 wheels on my own so wets it was. This seemed to be the choice of everyone apart from Ashley Woodward who proved that this was not a good decision by spinning nearly immediately into Gerrards! Keith Egar had made a blistering start from 8th to 3rd but then ended up on the outside of Ashley so lost a lot of ground. I took to the grass trying to leave a big enough margin and just held off Philip Standish in the LE500. From there on I was pretty much on my own. At one moment I got all excited thinking that I was catching Paul but that was just the deception of braking into the hairpin. So I paced myself for easily my best race finish of 2nd overall and 1st in class.

There was still the backmarkers to pass however, most of whom were on far less favourable tyres and RWD so were slipping all over the place. I passed an MG Midget on the outside and was catching Colin Offley’s Sprite on the exit of Gerrards. I could see he was struggling for grip and obviously trying but had plenty of speed and so lined up to pass on the right when suddenly he did what Nick had advised not to do and dropped a wheel on the kerb and then right before my eyes there was a red projectile spearing across the track at 90 degrees. I steered right but found myself funnelled towards the scene of the accident. It was and unescapable collision all played out on this clip. Needless to say both cars are badly damaged but the drivers are OK although I have since heard that Colin has sustained a broken rib so best wishes to him.

Of course at that point I though why am I doing this and not running or biking or doing something much less expensive. On reflection though it was a very good weekend up to that point and hopefully I will be out at Donington Park in 2 month’s time.

Results and lap times.

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