Snetterton I, 29 August 2004
A five week gap since the race at Cadwell Park meant there was plenty of time to check the car over after the off road excursion. Besides lots of grass underneath the car, all seemed to be OK. While the car was at Auto Integrale the damage to the doors was pushed out as best as possible, doesn't look too bad now, though not as pristine as we started the season. The composite front wings and boot lid had arrived from Alpha Composites, and were sprayed and fitted, they look a treat, all but indistinguishable from the original steel panels. Even allowing for the fact that we were running just a boot out skin, I reckon we have saved a good 10 kilos here, and that with a boot lid strong enough to run the boot spoiler. Further composite panels will now have to wait until the close season, but we are moving in the right direction again.
Well, we would be! Next Saturday is the annual Lancia Motor Club track day at Castle Combe, so while the car was with Auto Integrale it seemed more convenient to fit the spare seat and harness, which together with the frame must weigh at least 10 kilos, so we can give a few passenger rides to our supporters.
And so to Snetterton - an early start, first race on Sunday means a 7:30am sign-on. Due to personal committments, Julie's birthday party being on the Saturday night, it was not possible to drive up the night before, so I left home at the unearthly hour of 4:50am - didn't know they had a 4:50 in the morning as well as the afternoon. The weather forecast was inconclusive, the forecasters hedging their bets again expecting it to be cloudy with occasional showers! It was quite dull up at Snetterton and was threatening to rain, as we lined up in the assembly area, it began to spit with rain a little.
The Bank Holiday weekend seemed to have taken its toll on the entry, especially in the Road Saloons series as only four of them made the trip. Of course, we also lost three cars to damage at Cadwell Park, Simon Jackson is expected to return but Chris and Alan will have their work cut out to rebuild the Uno, and Julian has started work on next season's car. I was a little worried as to how the Road Saloons might be difficult for me to pass with Snetterton having long straights, but on the out lap of practice, those worries evaporated as I drove past 2 or 3 of them down the back straight.
Usually At Snetterton I get Coram pretty well right, but make a mess of Sears and never really feel comfortable with Russell. Time spent during the week with a couple of BTCC DVDs solved those problems, I'm seemed to be quicker than most around me through Russell and was getting through Sears much better, using all the available road and staying off the bumpy concrete which you hit id you run too wide. Shame that Coram and Riches were proving more difficult, the gearing of the kappa not suiting them at all, flat in third wasn't really quick enough, but when taken in 4th, she bogged down coming out. As is usual at Snetterton, I couldn't really judge my lap times, its a wide, long track and at the best of times, the traffic gets spread out, with just 14 cars that was exaggerated. In fact, I didn't even see many of the competitors.
I'd been having a bit of a battle with Matt Hales in a V6 Vectra, he'd been following me round and I could just get away down the straights, but he would reel me in round the bends. After three or four laps, I let him go by to see how I might run against him, but any hopes of a race dice partner ended rapidly as he cleared off into the distance. Slowly the rain started to increase, Phil Libby slid off the track a couple of times, and Pete Simpson spun at Sears, and then it was my turn - coming into Riches at about 120mph, I braked, locked up and carried straight on across the grass. Another bumpy trip to get back on track and I called that session a day just in case there was any damage or a puncture. The qualifying times were a little disappointing, and I was concverned at only being 2/10ths clear of Steve McIntyre - wouldn't want to be worrying about him diving down the inside into a corner. The track has been a little slippery and I was hopeful that I could go quicker in the race, and also felt I could do Coram, especially, better.
With a race straight after lunch, their seemed barely time to check the car over - the tyre pressures were raised for the race - and fuel up ready to go. We had lost Chris Broad from qualifying, presumably the problems which prevented him racing at Cadwell were still present. At least I lined up on the grid one road ahead of Steve McIntyre, and alongside Mark Skeggs in his flame-spitting Ferrari 308GT4. At the end of the rolling lap the lights stayed red until the very last moment but I got a good start. I was on the outside of the track watching Pete Simpson weaving trying to find a way through. I closed fast on Nev Simpson's Alfetta GTV - good to see Nev back with us - and was tempted to go right round the outside, but Riches was approaching too quickly. In the evnt I ran wide round Riches side by side with Mark's Ferrari, and we ran side by side down the short straight to Sears where I outbraked him to take the position. All to little avail as he powered past me barely a quarter of the way down Revett Straight. I caught up with Mark again at the bomb hole although he pulled a small gap to Coram, but coming into Russell I nearly hit him. His brake lights weren't working which caught me by surprise, as did how much I gained on him, following him through Russell inches off his bumper. This set the pattern for the first six laps. Steve McIntyre tried gamely to stay with me, but after a couple of laps I was far enough ahead to know not to worry about hijm any more. Post-race I was pleased to see I did laps 2 to 6 with a 17/100ths spread.
The race was turning into one of attrition similar to the Belgian GP happening the same day. Richard Hill came to a halt outside Riches on the first lap, Nev Simpson parked up before Riches 4 laps later and Phil Libby had to retire with overheating problems after 6 laps.
On lap seven Peter Challis came through to lap me and Mark for the first time and after that Mark slowly but surely pulled away. In the latter stages of the race I felt I was going slower, hard to tell whether that was down to the lonely race - no-one forwards and no-one beghhind, or whether the engine was losing power - it was running quite warm. Later in the race Peter Challis and Derek Hale lapped me for a second time, with Tony Soper just lapping me coming into Russell for the last time. Pete Simpson was gaining fast but I managed to get to the end before he caught me - but he and Tony had both passed Richard Hawken in the third ex-BTCC car, a Cavalier. The results show I finished a lonely 8th, but did improve the lap times by almost 2 seconds. Still a good second adrift of my times here last year in the Alfa 164, some of that due to the weight of the kappa over the 164 (an extra 170kgs or so) and some perhaps down to the weather and track temperature. The close season, more power and less weight can't come soon enough.
Championship standings are pretty much unchanged, Tony leads from Pete and myself, but the Primera twins have moved back into contention and I expect them to get past me at the next race. Next week is the Lancia Motor Club track day at Castle Combe and then on to Mallory Park the following weekend, so a busy period for the kappa.
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