Photo by: Joshua Barrett Photography
Having gone out for 12 years, and having been engaged for almost 12 months at that stage, myself and Laura’s relationship reached an important juncture some 10 months ago, when the 2015 Monoposto calendar was released. Dad emailed it to me, asking to put it up on the Facebook page and there it was; 2 rounds on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, one week after our wedding in Ireland on August 7th. Bucket list sort of stuff. So I turn to Laura and say ‘Brands GP circuit the week after the wedding’ and she replied ‘Well, obviously I’m coming too.’ Phew. The wedding was still on.
We arrived back from Canada the week before the wedding, had ourselves a great day out and with an annoying metal band on my left hand, we left Dublin the following Thursday, visited some castles for the day and then travelled to Brands in our Fiat 500 hire car to get ready for Friday testing. Testing was only on the Indy circuit due to one of those weird English rules that seem to surround all circuits over there, but it would do to blow the cobwebs out.
Having last driven back in 2012, I knew I’d be rusty but I wasn’t prepared for how totally rubbish I was during the day. I couldn’t get any rhythm, missed apexes, locked wheels, wasn’t carrying enough speed through the quick stuff, and was running wide in the slower stuff, terrible altogether. To compound my frustration, I got black flagged for ‘exceeding track limits’ and subsequently sin binned for 10 minutes when I exceeded them again. Turns out Jonathan Palmer must enter the Astroturf sections of his track into the Chelsea Flower show, because he doesn’t take too kindly when lads overstep the limit and drop two wheels over the kerb. It being early in the weekend, the row with the official was on the tame side for us but when I travel 5000 miles, pay £275 for 4 30 min sessions, to lose time for bullshit like that is hard to take. That was countered with ‘Mr. Palmer has spent 100’s of thousands on these facilities’. Now I appreciate that and MSVR facilities are fantastic, but have entry fees dropped since these track limit rules have been enforced? No. I suppose, Mr. Palmer has to pay for his sons racing careers some way. Anyway, enough ranting.
The car ran well all day, but I was still annoyed how crap I was driving and it didn’t get any better on Saturday morning for qualifying. The GP circuit consists mostly of 4th and 5th gear corners, some of which were blind so I was even more rubbish than on Friday. Seemingly I had left my testicles back in Canada. Or maybe was this a result of my newly acquired marital status? We had 38 cars in the field and getting a clear lap was very difficult so I tried blame my poor performance on that. While I forgot my testicles, luckily I remembered my ‘Racing Driver Book of Excuses’. Anyway, we qualified 12th and the car was easily capable of the top 10, if not the top 6.
Saturday’s race was a non starter. Literally. The battery failed when we were lined up for the green flag. Thankfully it was a quick fix thanks to the Monoposto championship co-ordinator loaning us a battery and Morgan had a great race in the other 1000, battling 2 FF2000’s for most of the race, so the mood in the awning wasn’t as terrible as it could have been.
I had a stern talk with myself before qualifying on Sunday but 2 things went against me. Oil went down on lap 3 (pg 43 of Racing Driver Excuses) and I was still trying to find a clear lap (pg 6 of the Racing Driver Excuses). The top boys pulled in, but the GP loop was clear of oil so I used the rest of the session trying to man up around there. We qualified 13th, half a second slower than Saturday but I was happy because I finally started to see some improvement in my driving.
The initial race start wasn’t great but there was chaos at Paddock as one of the leaders got out of shape and the pack scattered in avoidance. In the panic, I jumped up to 7th, having encouraged an F3 type thing through Paddock and up the hill at the expense of a hole in my nose cone. Finally, I had some clear track to enjoy the track and man, was it fun. The car was really forgiving and I finally had some confidence to lean on it so I was pushing like hell to keep ahead of a bunch of Jedi’s that had dropped behind me. All regard for track limits went out the window, if there was Astroturf inside or outside a kerb and it made me quicker, it was being used. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t a wise approach but more about that later.
Unfortunately, we are giving away around 100kg to the Jedi’s, not to mention whatever tuning they have done to their GSXR’s (those excuses aren’t in the handbook, just in case you go looking for them). So no matter how hard I dared push or defend, they just had to wait for a relatively straight bit of road. And then hold me up through the next series of corners. It was disheartening, but either way, the 1000 was so much fun to drive around a proper race track I was enjoying every minute of it. Trying to hold on to the coat tails of the Jedi’s, I exceeded Mr. Palmers track limits (and then some) at Westfield so I then had to watch my mirrors to hold onto 9th place.
Everything was going to plan, I had a nice gap back to 10th when I turned in stupid early at Graham Hill and smacked the apex kerb hard. As soon as the car landed I knew I was in trouble as the front end sat on the deck and I skated wide on the exit, just to add insult to injury. One of the front suspension rockers broke so I had to scoot off at the back entrance to the pits, my tail firmly between my legs.
I didn’t get a result, but the track and car were so much fun to drive I didn’t mind too much. I was still driving pretty rubbish in the scheme of things so I felt bad not to show the car’s true pace but hopefully we’ll get a proper driver in it before the end of the year. Someone who can try give them pesky Jedi’s more of a headache than I managed!
So now I’m writing this on a plane back to Canada, retired once again. Thanks to Dad for organizing the whole thing and of course to Finol who continue to support us with the Total brand. Oh and thanks to my wife for coming on the trip! She tells me she really enjoyed the honeymoon! :)
Some onboard can be found below: