It has been a 35 year ambition since the early 80’s. I went to Thruxton Circuit to watch the car racing, mostly riding my bike to a race day paying nothing to get in wondering what it was like to drive on a race track.
Fast forward to 2016, I had an opportunity to buy a race car, I did my best man maths and made it work out so it was inevitable that I was going to buy it, a VW Golf GTI fitted with a turbo charged engine, it has 318hp and weighs around 1000kg.
So after much fettling and with a lot of help from DPH Services I have a car prepared, I have a race licence, a full set of fire proof clothing, I was ready to race !!!
Snetterton Race Weekend
Racing ahead with AL-KO
I am very fortunate to have a business that builds car transporters and have built many car transporters using the AL-KO chassis conversion, I am sure that it was my pure driving talent that lead AL-KO to agree to be my main sponsor, the car was wrapped by BP Rolls in Andover and HTC Van Centre gave me support for a vehicle that allows me to do some vital testing to get ready to race, I have chosen to compete in the Classic Sports Car Club in their Meteor Suspension Series. It is an open class where you can run anything as long as it is not a single seater or use slick tyres.
So I register for the series choose my race number 666, I figured that it would get people talking about the car and I hoped it was a good omen for racing.
The race meeting was at Snetterton in Norfolk, the circuit is just under 3 miles long.
It was a rolling start, I didn’t know that was how we were going to start but I have been warned so much about the melee in the 1st corner, so I was a bit apprehensive but I got moved up to 14th due to someone in my class using proper wet tyres in the qualifying session.
Green lights GO GO GO !!
That is me with my lights on, I thought the track had dried out for the race but this clearly shows it hadn’t really dried that much, so 14th on the grid, in my 1st ever race going to the 1st bend, it couldn’t have gone any better, through the 1st corner intact and still in 14th place, phew, after the 1st 4 corners I had a gap to the cars behind so time to get my head down and concentrate.
The gap was useful as it gave me time to really get into the groove of the race without having to worry about the other cars, but those Caterham type cars are a bit low and fast, in fact going down the main straight doing around 120mph I glanced right about to move to the racing line through the 1st corner, in the wet still 4th gear 80mph there was a Caterham just there, he must have spun and was working his way through the slower cars.
The entrants for my 1st ever race were very diverse, from a Jaguar XJS to a Caterham CSR, reputed to be over 300hp and weighing probably around 600kg.
Every race requires you to complete a qualifying session, and you have to do 3 laps, if you have not like me raced before, to get on the race track you need to be able to stay off the grass! I learnt years ago race tracks are colour coded black is for, car green is for lawnmowers!
It looks easy to stay on the track but I am sure Norfolk had the full extent of the April showers in the morning so the session proved to be a very tricky 30 mins, the 1st aim do 3 laps, the rain was amazingly heavy and the track was very treacherous, but I tiptoed around telling myself to do 3 laps, once that was done then it was time to try a bit harder, feeling the way around on dry tyres was interesting, down the back straight changed from 3rd to 4th gear got massive wheel spin and each corner was a challenge, add in the screen misting up completely despite being heated.
I stayed on the black bit for the 30 mins and qualified 15 out of 25 cars and 4th in class out of 7 cars in my class, lap time 2.48.363, now that is done I attend my 1st ever drivers briefing to be told to watch out for the Caterham type cars as they tend be very fast and in the conditions we might not see them so clearly as normal.
Everyone has seen the 3 second pit stop in F1, this series there is a compulsory pit stop, not to refuel or change tyres but just get out of the car, close the door and get back in then set off, all sounds easy, I practised the weekend before, the car is fitted with a 6 point harness, so I practiced the sequence, got it all sorted, so after lap 4 I came into the pits for my stop.
There are some robust rules but the most important one is not to speed in the pit lane, my car has no functioning speedo so I have to guess 40mph otherwise they will penalise you, you are not allowed to loosen your belts before you stop.
On my way along the pit lane in my head I practised the sequence, then I stopped the car and forgot everything, got back in sat on my belts and then had to get out again get back in, you have to then fasten belts wearing a helmet and gloves, not easy let alone in the heat of a race.
Of course getting back out on the track means not speeding so once again I guess 40mph, I re-join the track having lost over 30 seconds, but that did put me out on a clear track again, I have a couple of dices with some slower cars, even doing some over taking, most of all keeping safe and out of trouble, the track was drier than in the morning but it was still catching out some people so every time I went past the start finish line I was looking at the time left to go, with 15 minutes left, a bright yellow BMW M3 came out of the pits and slotted in behind me.
I spent the next 4 laps keeping the M3 at bay, each corner he would close in all the braking areas, the longest straight I am doing 140mph and having to brake much earlier than the M3 so every straight I would out drag the M3 but lose at the end, after 4 laps I went a bit deep into the final corner, I got a bit off line!
Then with the next car in front I had nowhere to go, pushed the accelerator as hard as possible in 2nd gear, then shortshift into 3rd, massive wheelspin then the M3 got past, a good effort but the M3 was more powerful and the driver was an experienced competitor.
I did manage to get up to the next car which was a Porsche 911 SC, I managed to get past under the brakes into the hairpin on the inner part of the circuit, so with one lap to go I have just got to get to the finish, I did manage to do that, the feeling of relief to finish was massive, the race was won by the Caterham CSR lapping in 2.25 but I had achieved something that I had not thought possible and finish a car race, my laptimes are below, with my quickest on the last lap of 2.40.167, but more pleasing is the lap times being consistent, I am very grateful to all those who have helped me and of course this would not have been so possible without the support of my sponsors:
Lap times during the race
1 - 2:56.691 60.49 mph
2 - 2:49.622 63.01 mph
3 - 2:46.194 64.31 mph
4 - 2:45.156 64.71 mph
5 - 4:27.813 39.90 mph Pit stop lap
6 - 2:48.807 63.31 mph
7 - 2:42.344 65.83 mph
8 - 2:42.076 65.94 mph
9 - 2:43.150 65.51 mph
10 - 2:40.511 66.58 mph
11 - 2:40.908 66.42 mph
12 - 2:41.623 66.12 mph
13 - 2:40.167 66.73 mph