Mallory Park I, 12 April 2004
New season, new series, new car....same old story! Despite the most sterling efforts of all over at Auto Integrale, some unforeseen problems meant the kappa just wasn't finished in time. Somewhere along the way such problems as the car starting life as an automatic, the driveshafts not lining up when the manual box was fitted, 24v engines taking a different set of signals from differing sensors in different locations to the 12v ones and so on, were all solved with only minor hiccups and delays. But finally we were stumped by the standard fit immobiliser system. The ECU insisted on the ignition key being present, but all the wiring loom bar the basic engine harness has been removed. Studying the only available workshop manual (in German) it seemed that a multitude of sensors all over the car existed, and the only solution would be either to replace the entire loom or junk the ECU.
The second alternative was chosen, the Y10 kindly donated the Motec ECU (in addition to the seat, battery and tray it has already donated), but time was against us, the Motec engineer lined up to map the car was unable to do so in time for this race. So a no-show from Nyssa Racing. We do hope to be ready for the next round.
So, a spectator's eye view of today's proceedings. My first thoughts were "what a poor turnout". I hope this is not a portent of things to come, but eight cars turning out for qualifying is no way for this series to thrive. Even allowing for our absence, and the lateness of Julian Brown, some story about being stuck on the drive, we really need more entries, and the lack of entries from classes other than A (one in each of B, C & D, with class E not represented) is very worrying. I can see future meetings amalgamating us with the Road Saloons series, also sponsored by Le Mans Autoparts. My first thoughts were that this would be a bad thing, the Road Saloons run almost stock weight and road legal tyres, however having looked at their qualifying and race times for today, they are more than capable of holding their own in our series once the serious newcoming heavyweights have been discounted. So maybe that is the way forwards, maybe we need to start again to increase interest in our series - I have already seen one potential newcomer for next season planning a Fiat Coupe race car be put off by the low number of entries and apparent poor long term outlook for us.
And so to qualifying. The track seemed dry enough, but the times all looked a lot slower than expected (and would be proved so by the race times). Three heavyweight newcomers headed the charts, maybe not in the order expected by those of who don't know these cars as well as our own. Peter Thurston running in the ex-Rod Birley, Ford Cosworth powered Honda Prelude seemed to have an erratic practice, sometimes driving round slowly as if in trouble, before speeding up again, almost like he was waiting for the Nissan Primera (ex-BTCC car) to catch up so they could play. Phil Libby finished qualifying in second place in the massively powerful and tail-sliding Ford Sapphire Cosworth, Peter Challis being third in the Primera. Roger Donnan (2003 champion) made his debut appearance in Class C this season in the Transformer HF3000 - a Lancia Stratos replica powered by the 12v Alfa 3 litre engine, and opened his defence 4th overall. In 5th place, 2003 Class A champion Ted Reddick returned in his Ferrari 355C, ostensibly to give the car a shakedown ready for next week's Ferrari Challenge race. A good idea too, brake problems slowing him dramatically. In 6th place another newcomer, Peter Simpson in his Lancia Delta Integrale Evo - this car is still road legal and running standard suspension parts, so a very creditable practice time in his first race with it. More so given that he was black flagged for spilling out fluids while on track, so a little extra paddock work required. Bringing up the rear was Terry di Francesco (last seen in the Auto Italia series back in 2000 with a rear wheel drive Fiat 128 Coupe) in a Mk 1 Ford Escort, and another newcomer, Stephen Hollis running a Class D Peugeot 205GTi.
And so fast forward about 4 hours to the race itself. Having arrived too late for qualifying, we were treated to Julian Brown running a couple of solitary laps before joining the grid at the back. A good clean rolling start saw Peter Thurston get away first with Phil Libby, Peter Challis and Ted Reddick in close attendance. Roger Donnan seemed to get muscled out on the entry to Gerrards allowing both Ted and Peter Simpson to get past, Roger and Peter would have a good battle all race long. At the back, Stephen Hollis and Julian Brown seemed to get left behind on the formation lap and were already some way back even as they crossed the start-finish line.
It didn't take long for the Nissan Primera and the Honda Prelude to make a break, but all of a sudden the Primera was through, as if the Honda has missed a gear, once through it maintained a winning lead to the end of the race. Back battling for third, Ted was chasing Phil Libby a lot more closely than the qualifying times had suggested likely, clearly the braking woes had been resolved. But suddenly Phil was free, turns out that the back of the sapphire stepped out exiting Shaws leaving Ted no choice but to lift off the throttle sharpish sending the Ferrari into a half spin.
Terry and Julian seemed to be having a lonely race, and after lap 1 we lost Stephen Hollis' Peugeot 205GTi with smoke coming from the exhaust, leaving the only other battle on the track between the Lancia and the faux-Lancia. After being muscled out at the start, Roger started to gain on the Integrale bit by bit until managing to get past down the back straight. Peter's car seemed to have good pull out of Gerrards but further down the straight had to give best to the Transformer. Positions would probably have stayed this way but for a coming together at the Esses where Roger was overtaking Julian, and the Primera barged through sending Roger grass tracking. This allowed Peter Simpson to retake the Transformer, a position he retained thus ensuring first blood to the real Lancias!
And so the season has finally started, even if in some ways too soon for Nyssa Racing. From here we move on to Silverstone on May 3 where we have been invited to support the Uniroyal Tyres 4 hour endurance race. Hope to see more of you out there!
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