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Brandshatch, 25-26 April 2009

Qualifying

I had a tricky session with a few yellow flags preventing fast laps and got baulked by a newcomer who didn't see me coming and nearly had me off the track at Clearways. Not having seen the circuit since 2006, I couldn't quite get into the rhythm of the track within the qualifying period and I was slightly hampered by my gear indicator not working due to a loose connection, but this was easy to fix before the first race. I was slightly disappointed with qualifying 7th and 6th in class (17th and 15th overall) for the first and second races respectively, but considering the lack of track time at the circuit it was probably the best I could hope for.

Race 1

Bright and sunny weather. Made a good start, swerving around Paul Rickers' blue phoenix (who was directly in front) that was very slow away, but I was unable to capitalise on it due to an incident at the front bringing out the yellow flags before the first corner. We scrabbled around the first corner OK with just Derek Jones unable to resume his race due to bending his front suspension on the barrier.

Austen Greenway then spun just after the first corner, promoting me to 6th in class. I quickly caught James Walker in his more powerful Class A Westfield and got past at Surtees by getting a better exit out of Graham Hill bend and catching him on the straight. I then set about catching Pete Rope and Stephen Dean who were locked in battle, and when Stephen made a mistake at Graham Hill bend it gave me the opportunity to get alongside Pete Rope and so have the line into Surtees, taking the place to move up to 5th in class. Pete hung on and tried to re-pass for a couple of laps but finally dropped back after he ran wide onto gravel into Paddock Hill bend whilst trying to overtake. The car was getting lively under braking, but I pressed on and caught Stephen Dean in his Class B Menace. Although I was clearly faster round the corners and almost got completely past him twice, his more powerful R1 powered car just walked away under power and I was unable to defend my position on the straights. I had one last effort to pass Stephen out of the last corner and we finished side by side across the finish line with only 0.2 seconds between us! I ultimately finished 5th in class (12th overall) with a best time of 54.29, a full half second faster than Stephen Dean, so it was obvious that I needed to get past him in the second race to ensure I could realize the cars' full potential. We gave the car a good check over and started organizing the RGB BBQ.

BBQ

Every year I help organize BBQ's at race meetings for the RGB drivers and the marshals (with the drivers paying for the marshal's food) to thank the orange crusaders for their hard work supporting the racing. As usual it was well attended, with around 40 RGB drivers and their guests and about 15 marshals. A great time was had by all, with the organic burgers going down particularly well. We even had some change over, so we will donate the change to the Motorsport Safety Fund charity that helps support marshals.

 

Race 2

Another bright and sunny day saw race 2 starting a bit further up the grid alongside Pete Rope and directly behind Austen Greenway in his Fisher Fury. I made a good start, passing Austen straight away and then getting alongside Colin Chapman into the first few corners, but couldn't quite make a move stick so dropped in behind Colin.

For a few laps we were in a three car chain with Robert Grant in his class B Striker leading Colin Chapman in his Fury then myself, all keen to get past. Colin got past Robert at the exit of Graham Hill bend, and a couple of laps after I managed to get past Robert exiting Clearways onto the straight. The race was then red flagged due to John Cutmore spinning into the gravel at Paddock Hill bend, so we lined up on the grid in the order we were in on the last lap for a re-start. I was directly behind Colin Chapman and alongside Robert Grant, and whilst I was confident of getting another good start I wasn't sure if I could out-drag Robert's more powerful car to the first corner. My worries were unfounded as I made a good start, pulling away from Robert Grant but not quite able to make a move on Colin Chapman. The first lap from the restart saw the top ten cars stick firmly together with everyone keen to make the most of the last few minutes of the race. After a couple of laps the leaders broke away to leave Rich Wise in his Striker leading Colin Chapman and myself. I managed to get alongside Colin after a better exit from Graham Hill bend, but Colin defended well so there was no way through. On the next lap, Colin got past Richard after he made a mistake at Paddock Hill Bend and I had a look up the inside into Druids but was too far back to capitalise. On the next lap I got my chance, when Richard out braked himself on the entry of Druid's hairpin, so I nipped past on the inside and defended strongly to ensure that I kept the position. I started catching Colin Chapman with Richard still on my tail but on the penultimate lap I felt the effects of fuel surge from the previous corner whilst going down the main straight as I was only fuelled for the number of laps in the race plus a small margin - the red flag had extended the race significantly and so I was running out of fuel! I took a defensive line into Paddock Hill bend, hoping that the fuel would return so that I could finish the race, and thankfully when I pressed the throttle, the power returned and I was able to defend my position round the last lap to the finish line. I managed a best time of 53.25 seconds in the second race, over a second faster than my previous best of 54.57 seconds (in 2006), and not far off the leading class C cars.

   
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