Cadwell Park, 25 July 2004

Photo courtesy of Jon Hadfield - top of Park Straight with Alan Duly in close attendance

After Brands Hatch we got the kappa straight back to Auto Integrale to check whether there was a more sinister problem hiding behind the burst water hose. There was good news, and there was bad news. First we found that the radiator appeared to have developed a leak, but then it became evident that there was more than just a leak wrong with it - it all but fell apart when removed. This didn't bode well, the only logical explanation was that the cooling system had pressurised which meant the head gaskets may have been damaged. So off came the heads, this was the good news bit - the gaskets were intact, the heads still flat. Better still everything inside looked in good condition belying the 130,000 miles that this engine has done.

All bolted back together, the engine was still running warm. It was the water pump at fault, the outside pulley was going round but the plastic part inside had sheared and no water was being pumped round. One new water pump later, and for once the pattern part was superior to the original having all metal parts, and all was cool again and we were ready for the next round.

Cadwell Park - there has to be a good route there from somewhere, but I don't where. Every time I go, I try a different route, none of them work much better than the last. This time all was going swimmingly until a couple of miles from the circuit when I just saw the sign to Cadwell Park at the last minute (it was dark) and just made the turn - unfortunately. Ended up down some single track road in the middle of nowhere, eventually found a sign for Cadwell (village) so followed that which brought me out on the A153 just 1/2 mile from the circuit. Only I didn't know that - the choice was Horncastle or Louth. Louth was a few miles away so I figured Cadwell must be that way. When I crossed the A16 I got suspicious but there was nowhere to turn round with a trailer in tow so I went all the way into Louth, finally managed to turn round in Louth and follow my back. 45 minutes lost because of a lack of a signpost.

After the glorious weather of the latter part of the week, it was with disappointment that I awoke to find it had been raining all night. The poor excuse for a paddock at Cadwell, surely something Dr Jonathan needs to attend to urgently, was a quagmire with many other (inconsiderate) drivers blocking the tarmac driveways that traversed the paddock. It was bad enough to be blocked in by the Porsche 924 drivers, but that meant we also had to change to wet tyres on the mud/grass. Persistent rain meant I was soaked through by the time the tyres had been changed, after which I camped in my Jeep until it was time to report for qualifying.

But the call never came - we were due out at 10:40am, at 10:30 a few of us lined up on the only piece of tarmac not blocked in by the Porsche crowd wondering what was happening. Finally Carol came over and told us that qualifying had been delayed, the Porsche Cup guys hadn't been out yet and the officials were waiting to see if the track might clear. Already there had been a number of crashes in the earlier sessions including a Fiat Uno which had rolled in a big way. When we finally got down to the assembly area there was confusion. First we were told that we would follow the safety car round for a lap, then we were told we wouldn't. We were at least warned that the track was very wet with streams of water running across it in places.

My initial plan was to run the three laps necessary to qualify at a reduced speed in order to remember where the circuit went (I'm not overly familiar with Cadwell Park) and hope that conditions would improve later for the races. There was only 16 of us entered, although the session was bolstered by 2 other drivers running out of session. I had forgotten just how narrow this circuit was, of course with the kappa being so wide, the narrowness is exaggerated. The cars in front of me had gone out a few seconds before me so there was a clear track in front of me - but just how slippery the track was became evident as I exited the pit lane. One of the VW Golfs had spun in the Hall Curves, probably less than 100 yards after joining the circuit. Leaving the mountain section for the first time and coming down the start/finish straight, there were two rivers of water running across the track. Luckily we were travelling in a straight line at that point. I have not previously driven the kappa in the wet, in fact in five years of racing I have never raced in the wet, nor even driven on full wet tyres other than on a dry track as at Oulton Park earlier this season. So as well as relearning the circuit, I also needed to build up my confidence in the wet.

Pete Simpson was following me round, with Julian in close attention behind. I could leave Pete momentarily when exiting the corners, but after Tony Soper and Andy Thompson came through and past, Pete felt he had learned enough and it was time to get a move on. It was when Tony came past I realised just how wet it was, spray being thrown up everywhere. Just to compound my troubles, the single wiper was only working intermittently, and then it stopped completely. I remember passing Alan Duly's Fiesta up Park Straight seeing only an orange blur as I drove by - the windscreen was misting up too now. I did another lap like this in the hope that the wiper would start working again, but it didn't so I called it a day.

I knew I would be further down the grid than of late, I was quite comfortable that with vision I could go a fair bit quicker. But the qualifying results had some surprises in store. Up front, Any Thompson and Tony Soper were separated by 0.065 seconds, but after that were the 4 A class Road Saloons cars followed by a "gutted" Pete Simpson who thought his 4 wheel drive would confer an advantage. Chris Brogden had qualified well up in 10th, the kappa was 13th, and Julian had only completed 3 laps on his way to 15th before a turbo hose blew off and his power dropped dramatically.

Due to running so late, there seemed barely enough time to attend the drivers' briefing - as would prove ironic, we were congratulated on a carnage free qualifying session, the first one that morning. Personally I think that when track conditions are that bad, maybe we shouldn't be racing. We are not gladiators, crashing for the entertainment of the crowd. It is easy to forget that the vast majority of club racers are running on tight budgets, usually hocked up to the eyeballs just to be out there, without having needlessly crashed cars to repair/replace.

A few moments to refuel and to look at the wiper problem. It was quickly evident that the arc of sweep was too great, the wiper had gone below windscreen level and caught on the scuttle. I moved it on its spline so that now it was sweeping outside the windscreen pillar, but at least in theory it should not get stuck. We were the first race after lunch and were out on track for 1pm.

On the rolling lap it became clear that conditions were much improved, although still very much wet. Parts of the track were beginning to dry out, almost dry enough for slicks, but the mountain section was still treacherous and the rivers of water across the start/finish straight and on the downhill run to Mansfield had subsided to little streams. Courtesy of my poor qualifying, I was a long way back on the grid, with Alan Duly alongside and only Julian behind. Julian had elected to play his joker (for double points) on the basis that Andy Thompson was racing in his class so double second place would be better than a double solitary (and thus halved) first elsewhere. As we came to the mountain section, I noticed Andy pull into the pits in the Minari, thus seemingly handing a class win to Julian. Unfortunately Julian did not see this - this was to prove very unfortunate. From the rolling start I pulled clear of Alan and took my place on the right of the track for the entry to Charlies but there was a gaggle of Golfs in front. Very quickly they sucked in Chris Brogden, while Julian was snapping at my heels. Grip levels were much improved on earlier, it was noticed that the Golfs were sliding a lot round Chris Curve and a whole train of us raced down to the mountain. At the bottom of the mountain Chris Brogden regained a place with a decisive move across the inside of the left hand bend, and we all chased up nose to tail into the mountain. Coming out of the mountain, the Golfs of Hill and McIntyre went past Chris across the finish line, I was just unable to get by as he closed the door going into Charlies, but I exited Charlies right behind him and outdragged the Uno going up Park Straight. This would help get Julian off my back as I was having to keep a watchful eye in the mirror to defend my position, and I could concentrate on closing down the Golfs which had already broken clear. I came round Chris Curve just in time to see Simon Jackson's Nova crashing into the tyre wall quite hard, later in the race I would be surprised to see he got back out again having been given the thumbs up by the marshall. This left just the three Golfs in front, everyone else had broken well clear already. By the top of the mountain at the hairpin, I closed up on the rear of the three, Paul McIntyre, just as I realised Julian had got past Chris and was again snapping at my heels.

But I could make no impression down the straight right until the end when the Golf braked for Coppice where I would not have done, it took until the end of Park Straight to again get back on the rear bumper of the Golf train. At the bottom of the mountain I dived down the inside but Paul firmly shut the door and once again I had to follow the Golfs through the mountain. Once again, down the other side, I could make little impression on them. At the front of the queue, John Shoesmith seemed to be holding us up and we were bunching ever closer. I got a better drive out of Mansfield and this time managed to get down the inside of Paul coming into the mountain and make the move stick. One down, two to go. behind me, Chris and Julian were having a great battle, Chris having repassed Julian to give me some breathing space again. Round we went again, on lap 4 John was clearly holding up Richard Hill, the Hill Golf was looking very wayward, sliding around everywhere. I nearly managed to get by down the straight, but thought better of going round the outside at Coppice. gain I chased the Golf up Park Straight threatening to go down the outside, but Richard moved over to narrow the gap. As we went into Park, he slid a little too far and ran wide allowing me through - that's two down and just John Shoesmith left to chase.

And it was about this point when the wiper cried enough and fell off! There was still a lot of spray being thrown up which made visibility a little interesting. I chased John through hall Curves right behind him, survived a lock up coming into the hairpin and then chased him back down the other side. Again I couldn't quite get through but got good drive out of Charlies and was lining up to move into 7th when the red flags came out and the race was over. Chris Brogden had hit the wall at the mountain hairpin, bounced back right in the path of Julian. Both cars were badly damaged, luckily both drivers were fine, but with the track blocked the officials had no choice but to stop the race. We had just run over half way so no restart. Unluckily for me, the results were declared at the end of the previous lap, so instead of almost being 7th, my pass of Richard Hill was discounted and I finished 9th. Up front Tony Soper was leading pretty much unchalleged, but Pete Simpson had worked hard to move from 7th up to 2nd, finding Messrs Taylor and Kirk a lot harder to pass here in their Honda Civics. So third in class, a few places gained in the race and some good dicing rather than just blasting by other drivers. But with Pete coming second he moved 2 points clear of me in the championship. Julian was gutted to find he only needed to finish with Andy having pulled out with a broken wishbone, if he had known that I'm sure he would have cruised around playing for the maximum points.

A long wait until race 2, the last race of the day. Watching the other races it was clear that the track had dried out since our race and slicks looked to be the order of the day. But every time we were about to change over tyres, the rain started again. Eventually Pete and I found ourselves still on wets as we were called to the assembly area, Tony and Andy in the repaired Minari were on slicks. Pete and I both decided to play our joker due to the depleted entries, a probable 2nd and 3rd were as good as we could hope for all season unless there were multiple breakdowns or accidents somewhere.

We were down to 12 cars for this race, the Minari starting at the back, but Andy was always a demon on the old Auto Italia reverse grid so I was sure he wouldn't let that hold him up. I was alongside one Golf, with 2 more and Simon's Nova behind me on the grid. Straight away I could see I was on the wrong tyres for this race, the track was all but dry on the line and looked fine off most of it too, although the mountain section was still slippery. We were held in much tighter formation this time and the starter only changed the lights to green as Tony and Pete up front were within yards of the line. As the lights went green I got away well and gained the position over the Golf alongside of John Shoesmith - finally I had managed to pass him! But already Andy came past in the Minari round the outside of me going into Charlies, he was to find the next gaggle of cars a little more of a problem. Behind me, I was under major pressure from 3 Golfs and a Nova. The kappa was sliding around a lot more than in the earlier race, forcing me to defend every corner and try to get some daylight down every straight. It took Andy until Mansfield to start moving through the Class A Road Saloons. I was still in front of the swarm chasing me, but only just. A lock up into the mountain meant Steve McIntyre tried to go round the outside at the left hand bend then we went round the right hander past the pits side by side before I outdragged him up the hill. I thought I had got away it but as I turned into the hairpin, he crashed into the side of me almost putting me in the wall. Given that we went through that bend in single file on the rolling lap, it was pretty clear to most that there was not enough space for two cars. Steve apologised after the race, but that doesn't excuse such crass driving. He was in no position to overtake as is clear by the damage being to the front door, some five feet plus from the front of the car, clearly I had the line, now I have a damaged car and no chance of getting replacement panels in this country. Such driving should not be tolerated, everyone I've battled with closely knows I play fair - if you want to play dodgems, clear off to the fairground!

Some pictures of the damage

As I was hit, I was pushed outwards, almost hit the wall with the front left corner, and this allowed Daniel Davies' Golf, and Simon in the Nova to get through leaving just John Shoesmith snapping at my heels. Somewhere Daniel must have gone off as suddenly he reappered in my mirror. I now had two Golfs climbing all over my rear bumper, and the kappa was getting progressively worse round the corners. I had to watch Simon pulling away gradually as I drove defensively, trying to protect my position, cornering slowly and then blasting down the straights to the next corner, just managing to pull out a length or two before being reeled in at the next corner. This pattern went on for some time. On lap 4 I missed a gear coming out of Barn and John Shoesmith pulled past but not quite clearing me as I fought back. He moved over squeezing the gap ever smaller between him and the grass, but I kept the throttle on and he slowed first for Charlies maintaining my position. This seemed to be the only place I was quicker, going into Charlies, but by Park they were right on my tail again lap after lap. We carried on this battle, all three of us barely three car lengths apart relentlessly until finally I made a mistake. At the start of lap 9 Tony Soper came through to lap us, thought it worked well for me as he took me going into Coppice and I lost barely no time at all, in my mirror I could see both Golfs visibly slow to let him through coming out of Barn. Finally some breathing space, but as I exitted Charlies I ran wide onto the kerb, slid outwards onto the grass and then bounced hard along the grass for about fifty metres before being able to rejoin the circuit - too late, the Golfs were long gone. I was wary that I may have damaged something so backed right off and drove round the remaining two laps to make certain of the double points, making it clear to the approaching front runners that I was letting them through. On the final lap, I suddenly realised that Alan Duly was still out there in the Fiesta and he was gaining fast - no F1 style pit to driver link to warn me. No way did I want to come last, so I blasted down the straights and crawled round the corners, somewhat getting in Alan's way where I was deliberately slow. Finally I reached the finish line, the double points intact.

Up front, the results showed Tony had somewhat romped away with the race, wining by over a minute, but back in second place Simon Taylor managed to hold off Pete Simpson in a close fought battle, Pete's decision to run wets probably costing him second place. Andy Thompson ran into fuel problems which almost certainly cost him second place, he limped over the line in 4th while fifth and sixth were Ian Kirk and Lee Scott who had passed me nose to tail, the same way they went across the line.

Big changes in the championship situation, Tony moves up into the lead, but judicious playing of jokers move Pete and I up into second and third respectively. Needless to say its unlikely I'll finish the season there, I just don't have the power and have decided to hold off any spend until the close season. The day was finished with the drivers' presentation where we were awarded a trophy, a pleasant end to a frustrating day.

Take a look at some video from the day.

Visit the Le Mans Autoparts site for details of the Le Mans Euro Saloons championship and standings so far.

Check out the current points standing.

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