Pembrey, 14/15 May 2005

A personal view by Richard Hawken.

Our day started very early rising at 1am in Walton-on-Thames. Having only just dropped off to sleep about 2 hours earlier, my extraction from bed was at best reluctant.

AAfter a few shots of coffee I was awake enough for enthusiasm to kick in for the weekend ahead. 1 hour down the M3 we arrived at the location where the car etc is all stored.

3 hours later across a windy Severn Estuary bridge we arrived at Pembrey circuit and unloaded the car. Through scrutineering without any problems apart from manoeuvring the car around with its on/off switch clutch.

We lined up for the first qualifying session having missed the new to the circuit drivers briefing to which later I would be chastised by the Clerk of the Course for. The first 3-4 laps or so were spent learning the circuit paying particular attention to high/low kerbs, changes in surface, camber, where dirt is likely to be scuffed onto the track etc and indeed where the best line was through two very sharp 1st gear hairpins. Just as soon as I started to liven up the pace the session was red flagged due to a car being positioned in a dangerous position on the circuit pos a spin. We were all lined up in the pit lane and held for a few minutes until the mess was cleared. Finally the green light was given and we all accelerated away to continue the qualifying session.

I was noting some quite incredible bump steer from the car as we quickened the pace which led me to think this was either the bumpiest track I have ever driven or we have set the car up really badly. We persevered aiming for a front row position for the race in the absence of Alvin Powell's ex Menu Mondeo which can only be described as seriously fast. A few more laps getting consistently quicker according my Stack dash and the chequered flag to end the session.

Back in the paddock we commenced post race checks and found that the bar the keeps the 2 steering pins moving in tandem had snapped allowing the wheels to move independently, thus creating the excessive bump steer. With Jimmy having been up all night (probably out partying) he had a sleep in the support vehicle whilst Mark and I set about changing the steering arms and block for something a little stronger.

Results out - 6th on the grid. At first disappointed but then as we established the problems it became understandable.

6th on the grid we started the rolling lap weaving to get warmth into the tyres. Given the sun was out I was thinking the track temperature would already be quite warm so didn't want to cook the tyres too early. Green light and we are off. Alvin in the Mondeo had started from the back of the grid having not made the qualifying session so I kept an eye on my rear view mirrors. I managed to reach 2nd place behind the Harrier of Soper before the Mondeo was in the mirrors on about lap 5 or 6. An impressive charge and I was in no position to challenge him in the Cavalier which was built 6 years previous. Technology can move in 6 weeks, let alone 6 years.

On lap 16 we suffered a blow out on the N/S/F tyre which I decided would be better getting the car off the circuit and not leaving it in a stranded position at the edge of the circuit.

Race result: DNF 0 points

We loaded up and headed into Llanelli for some food, beer and sleep.

The next day we awoke to fantastic sunshine and renewed confidence for the days racing ahead of us. We arrived a the circuit around 8pm after the team had reloaded on chocolate and cigarettes from the garage.

We checked the car over and headed out for our qualifying session. After a couple of tyre warm up laps I started to increase the pace. I did about 5 laps at race speed before being called into the pit lane for a quick tyre pressure check. The team also made sure nothing was rubbing on the wheels, which we suspected may have caused the previous days blow out. All was fine, so they sent me back out. Jimmy had removed about 6 psi from the N/S/F tyre which looked to be high around 34psi. Quickly up to speed again on already sticky tyres we had the best drive of the weekend.

Results out 3rd on the grid.

By the time our race came around the sun had been blasting all day, not to mention a number of previous races so I was gambling on a warm track. I started to play out a strategy of going easy for the first 8-10 laps not burn the tyres out so into the first hairpin corner I let through about 3 cars that looked to be on an early charge. Latchford in the Vento charging a little too hard lost the rear end on cold tyres and took out one of the mighty minis. Nixon came up quickly behind me clearly wanting to pass and hit the back of my car as I decelerated into the Esses. This event pushed his front panel in damaging his fan which eventually left his engine overheating and retiring from the race. After maintaining a steady fifth position I broke hard into Hatchets and the 2 high tensile bolts which held the upright to the wishbone sheered off. This left the wheel resting in the rear part of the wheel arch and me going straight on into the run off area. I could see cars approaching very fast and decided to abandon the car at the first opportunity. The officials eventually decided the car was too close to the circuit and red flagged the race.

Result: DNF 0 points

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