Qualifying: What a weekend - between spills and thrills
during the race to ripping a tyre on the almost converted
truck-cum-motorhome on the way up to qualifying on Saturday
- very definitely one to remember.
As I have already hinted the day started on Saturday with
a bit of an interesting moment when we realised one of the
pair of rear offside tyres on the Iveco 60-20 had split. I
had to be at the circuit for 3.30 for a mandatory driver's
briefing and this was to be followed at 4.10 with a 15 minute
qualifying session. To miss the briefing would have been around
a £100 fine and possible exclusion from the race. Some quick
thinking was needed.
If we stopped to get assistance to change the tyre there
was no way I would make it on time - and so after some thought
we carried on. Handling around corners was much like a heavily
pregnant sow negotiating a tight hairpin but with care we
made it to the circuit for 3.15. Just enough time for me to
complete scrutineering and get to the driver's briefing before
changing and getting out on the circuit.
Qualifying for me was also the first time I had been around
Donington. I soon grew to love it. It is truly a driver's
circuit with the undulating hills and Craner curves followed
by long flowing straights into some challenging right and
left handers and of course the chicane just before the start-finish
By the end of the session I was really beginning to get to
know the circuit and feel comfortable with it. I qualified
28th on the grid out of 37. Only 32 were allowed to start
the main race.
My best lap time proved to be 5 seconds off the leader during
my best lap of the session which was timed at 1:37.133 (mm:ss).
I was quite happy with that for a first attempt.
I enjoyed the qualifying immensely; little did I know that
I was to enjoy the race even more. Race conditions were excellent
- dry not too warm and a slight breeze. Being at the back
made it difficult to see the start lights. Nevertheless I
managed to make another good start and made up 2 places.
The whole 32 bunch roared down to Redgate, the first corner
after the start/finish line making it through without incident
… well mostly. As I turned in the back end came round to meet
me and I spun like a top on the black stuff. As I finally
came to rest I could see the back of the pack bearing down
on me and turning in toward the right hander. I prayed none
of them lost it too and came over to join me. My prayers were
answered and I gunned it into the corner after them.
By this time I was pretty mad at having lost it so easily
and quickly, off the start line that the 'red mist' came down
and from then on my one mission in life was to get back my
rightful position much much nearer the front! The car was
handling superbly. I was able to carve my way through the
field until I was beyond the position I had started the race
in. I was going well when on the 6th lap I met up with two
cars trying hard to outdo one another. I joined in only to
be confronted with one of them losing control and skidding
off to the left across the grass. Great thinks I - now is
my time to push through and get in front. Seconds later, the
car that had gone off recovered sufficiently to come back
onto the circuit but totally out of control. He missed the
car slightly in front and to my left as he traversed behind
him and then proceeded to cross sideways right across in front
of me! The manoeuvre caused me to jink left unsettling my
car and sending me at full speed (around 90 mph) across the
grass which I proceeded to cut with ever increasing spins!
Grass was flying everywhere both outside and inside the car.
I managed to keep the engine running until I was able to control
her sufficiently to get her back onto the black stuff. Once
more I had lost positions. Now I was really mad!
I carried on once more to chase the two in front. I caught
up one of them at the top of the Craner curves and decided
it was now or never. I dived inside to take the corner first.
He obviously was not expecting that as we made body contact.
As we traded blue and white paint (both cars were the same
colour schemes - lucky that!!) I kept my ground and carried
on down the hill towards McLeans and on around for another
lap. I could see another two mini's not to far infront of
me. I was trying a bit too hard to catch them and lost the
line into a right hander where I drifted too wide onto the
kerb and straight into the gravel trap. Luckily I carried
sufficient speed to enable me to glide through the gravel
trap and back onto the black stuff.
I could see a marshall ahead of me holding out the red and
yellow flag meaning beware oil on the track, as I glided over
the gravel. I grinned, waved at him and thought thanks mate
I found it already!! I continued on down to McLeans for the
final time and as I exited caught up with yet another Mini.
Good fun this………. But he was not prepared to fight. He pulled
over and waved me past him. At full throttle down the final
straight into the chicane I could see ahead of me another
two. As I was catching them the yellow flag was waived meaning
no overtaking. Someone had stuffed himself into the tyre wall
just beyond the entry to the chicane. I knew this was the
final lap so there was no point in pushing it, as no way was
I going to gain another place before the chequered flag. And
so I took the chequered flag in 23rd position - not bad considering
all the excursions but next time I shall do better.
My fastest lap time during the race was 1:36.88 (mm:ss) a
full second faster than my best in qualifying.
My next race is at Croft Nr Teeside airport on August 15/16.
This time I have a test day booked for the Friday August 14th.