Snetterton, 9 April 2006

A personal view by Simon Jackson

Snetterton paddock. Sunday, 8am and itís day one of the 2006 EuroSaloons Championship. Bright sunshine, clear skies and a freshly washed race car sat outside garage No19. Bad news is Iím the only guy entered in the Road Saloon class so far.

Car clean and polished, fresh coat of rain-x on the glass, clean bill of health from Mr Scrut and all ready to go qualifying. At this point the meeting started to go down hill. Call to the assembly area goes out, so try to start the car. Pongo is having some monumental sulk and WILL NOT BLOODY START. Grab a few passing members from other teams as Iím on my own for this race, attempt a couple of bump starts down the paddock. Pongo is still not having any of it. Eventually get it fired up by sticking the jump leads off Timís Bora road car directly across the starter motor. By the time I sort out my helmet, gloves, seat belts and make it into the assembly area the rest of our lot have done 2 laps of qualifying.

One lap in cautious mode to remember the track, then nail it. Being on my own, Iíve no pit board, plus I didnít start the timer because I was to busy with the jump leads, so I just went for it whilst I had a bit of clear track. All goes well for one lap, then the brakes start playing up. Pongo is still stopping, but veering around alarmingly whilst doing so. At this point Brother Morgan-Barret comes into view. Iíd promised to follow him round for the first couple of laps with the video camera running so he could see how the 2006 variant of the Golf was working. Given the dodgy brake situation, I wasnít going to go any faster, so I sat behind Tim filming for the last two laps.

Back in the garage, turns out Pongoís cracked a disc. That could have let go at any moment, so I reckon I was lucky there. Few frantic phone calls and Iíve found a set at Halfords in Norwich. Interesting road trip round a strange city with "Navi- Dorris" directing me down a couple of closed roads, then a dash back to the circuit. All ready to go again with about 40 mins to spare.

Then came the "BAD DECISION". Itís wet out on track, but itís not raining. Thereís quite a bit of wind. Letís use the dry tyres. My dry tyres are Yokohama A48Rs, so there is a fair bit of tread on them, got to count as "inters" at least. After a delay whilst weíre in the assembly area, thereís hail stones bouncing off the ground, and Minis on track pulling huge clouds of spray behind them. The "BAD DECISION" is now becoming apparent.

Too late to do anything about it now, but Iím not the only one. Stuartís Porsche is on the same tyres due to the same reasoning (we talked about it and convinced each other!) and Tony "Hero" Soper is on full slicks!

Quick chat with Matt Speakman whoís qualifying problems have put him behind me on the back of the grid. Thought Iíd better warn him I was going to be bedding a new set of pads and discs in as we did our two warm up laps. Last thing I needed to do now was put a Clio up Pongoís tailgate.

Off we go and Iím doing the pad bedding thing rather than experimenting with the grip levels. Once we get out of Coram Iím flat out trying to stay with the Proton in front of me. Then suddenly I can see the start lights and theyíre still RED!! Lift off and they go green. Yet another rolling start clagged up. Why canít we do standing starts once in a while. I can do those!

Brother Speakman warps out down the left, so I follow the cloud of spray into turn one looking for the debris. First surprise! There isnít any. Second surprise is that at the end of the lap Iím still hanging on to the back of the field. Into the first corner again and I have a go a Ray Tunneyís Fiesta. Masterful piece of out braking puts me along side him, at which point the "BAD DECISION" manifests itself. Outstanding overtake turns into graceless tank slapper in the blink of an eye. After what seems like five seconds but was probably one, I give up trying to recover the car, put the brakes on and wait for it to stop. Green and brown stuff flies past the windows not quite managing to obscure my view of laughing marshals. Rejoin and come onto Revvit straight to find it empty. ARSE!

Next lap however, as I come onto Revett straight again, thereís a distant Fiesta just leaving the other end of it. Therefore Iím closer. Right. I now have a mission. Catch the Fiesta before we run out of race. Over the next few laps I get the gap down to about a quarter of the back straight. Then the leaders catch up. Try to get out of the way after Coram, two of them go past on the inside and I lose track of the third guy. Have to turn in to the chicane, but thereís no bang, so heís not inside me. Mystery solved, heís rejoining from the grass!

Eventually get up to the Fiesta and promptly perform my tank slapping routine again at Sears. This time I catch it though! Off down Revett again and treated to the rare sight of Trevorís Kappa flying past without any smoke / flames / strange noises / missing panels. About time he had some mechanical luck! Few more Tourers to let by, then I get a real run on the Fiesta coming out of the chicane. Up to the first corner and heís gone defensive, so Iím right over against the pit wall trying to sneak past on the inside. I briefly think "Heís never going to expect me to try this again after the mess I made of it last time". Used a bit of the pit lane exit, but get along side and past into the first corner. Whatís more I manage to stay on the track this time. Tried to run away, but never got a comfortable gap. Nearly throw it away on the penultimate lap, performing a crowd pleasing over steer demo at the chicane, but manage to catch it and make it round to the flag still in front of the Fiesta.

Return to garage with huge grin! The Last Road Saloon has still got some fight left in it.

Visit the LMA site for details of the LMA Euro Saloons championship and standings so far.

Check out the current points standing.

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