Snetterton II, 23-24 October 2004
The end of term, six long weeks since the last outing back at Mallory Park. The break between races was so long that we were sorely tempted to bring the 2005 development work ahead and end the season with a bang. But in the end common sense reared its ugly head and we decided that winter breaks are a much better place for that kind of work.
Things looked like they were pretty settled in both series. Tony Soper came into the last meet with a 16 point lead in the Le Mans Euro Saloons championship and his joker still in hand, Peter Challis being another 14 points clear of me. Pete Simpson was lurking just 2 points behind me with Derek Hale, joker also in hand, another 2 points behind. Looked like Tony's title with Peter and Derek's Primeras taking second and third, with Pete and I bringing up 4th and 5th. Or would there be a sting in the tale?
Onto the weekend. An unearthly 6am start on Saturday morning was necessary to ensure I arrived at Snetterton in time for the 9am sign-on. Half way through the 125 mile journey I noticed the brakes on my G Wagen tow car seemed a little spongy, a couple more roundabouts suggested I had not imagined this. I took a lot of care not to overuse the brakes for the remainder of the journey, and made it to Snetterton fine. But as I exited the A11 at Snetterton the brake pedal sank to the floor, pumping the pedal ensured the G Wagen came to a graceful rather than abrupt halt. Luckily for me, I was being supported at this race by Keith and Simon from Auto Integrale, and Keith quickly diagnosed that a rear brake pipe had snapped. He clamped up the rear brake lines with 2 pairs of mole grips so at least I would have front brakes for the journey home, although clearly, towing in this fashion was not an option.
The weather forecast for the weekend had suggested serious rainfall, but for our late morning qualifying session the weather remained clam and dry, although the track had plainly been wet and still was off-line. To add to the fun, a previous session had left Russell covered with oil and cement desk. I followed Ben Johnson (VW Golf GTi) and Mallory Park foe Chris Broad (Vauxhall Astra GTE) from the pit lane, overtook Ben going along Revett straight first time round and caught and passed Chris by the start-finish line. So far, so good. I could see Ian Kirk up front in the Honda Civic so gave chase but found that early in the session I was a lot quicker, with Ian sliding all over the place round the corners. I tried to pass him down Revett straight but the Honda was too fast in a straight line. A couple of laps of this and I decided to hang back rather than risk being slowed. Somehow a foul up with the timekeeping meant that five of my laps were blended into one awfully long one, such that I only had one proper timed lap out of 10 done - but this was still half a second quicker than I had gone 2 months ago here despite being colder and less grippy. We had removed the castor angle put in place for the Brands Hatch race` - the hoped for increase in traction didn't happen, and although I couldn't put my finger on any problem, the kappa had felt better earlier in the season. And so it had proven here, with more stability through Riches and Coram than last time out.
One final piece of excitement came on the last lap of qualifying when I got slightly wide coming out of Russell and put the back wheels on the oil/cement dust causing the kappa to gracefully spin though 270 degrees onto the grass outside the circuit - right in front of everyone watching at Russell. I kept her running and drove straight back onto the circuit just as the chequered flag brought the session to a halt. Other people having more than their share of "excitement" were Tony Soper, whose championship hopes ended with the expiration of his Alfa GTV's engine, Simon Jackson whose Vauxhall Nova threw its fan belt but destroyed the bracket holding the crank sensor, and Derek Hale who's Primera suffered a gearbox failure after having set fastest time. Three people who would take no further part in the weekend's proceedings. To add to this Peter Challis's Primera had been suffering an ignition problem that left it running more on 3 cylinders than 4, but he still just claimed pole position from Richard Hawkens' Vauxhall cavalier with Derek Hales' absence. At the front of the Road Saloons series, Ian Kirk had been given a time which left him 5 seconds clear of second place Simon Taylor and less than a second off pole!Surprisingly I found myself ahead of Tony Soper (no oil pressure) and Phil Libby who put in one timed lap in between a multitude of pit stops to check all was OK, shame we don't get qualifying points this season as I would have done better than expected here.
Something was in the air at Snetterton today. At the weigh-in (for the Road Saloons series benefit) the kappa weighed in at 1114kgs, clearly not even close as the lightest it has ever weighed previously was 1204kgs. The composite boot lid and front wings cannot possibly account for 90kgs of saving, so the weighing was about as accurate as the timing!
This was a double header meeting, with race one due at 3:30pm on the Saturday, and race 2 at 11:15 on Sunday morning. Over lunch the weather took a turn for the worse, by 2pm it was clear there was no going back and Keith and Simon swapped the wheels over to the wets. We did 2 sighting laps rather than the usual one as conditions had changed so much since we had last been out on track, and it was clear that the track was very wet with no hope of a drying line appearing. As we came round the second time we were off in a ball of spray. Racing down the start-finish straight, just as we built up speed, the wiper decided to go AWOL. It seemed like everyone surged past me, although in reality I lost places to just Ben Johnson and Chris Broad, but as we raced down Revett straight, so more cars came passing by. Nothing I could do, I couldn't see a thing. And within a couple of laps, it got worse - the wiper was working intermittently and now the screen started to mist up. I couldn't reach the screen to wipe away the mist, and neither do the windows open. The main highlights for me during this race were having to brake hard when overtaken by Peter Challis as I couldn't even see him directly in front of me, looking out of the side window through Coram trying to guess when to turn and finding myself in Russell, and suddenly thinking to myself that the track had gone all bumpy so I must have gone off (at the Esses). At one point the wiper stopped working for three whole laps, even when it fleetingly came back it made little difference as the screen was so misted up. I had contemplated coming in, but elected to continue in pursuit of points.
Amazingly, no-one binned it in that race although I doubt many didn't go off somewhere. Pete spun at Riches early on but then got his confidence up and stormed back up to 5th, narrowly missing out on 4th. I saw Lee Scott twice in my mirror crossing the grass and imagine that many more had a trip someone unplanned. The race ended with me finished back in 12th with just Alan Duly a few seconds behind me. Not good from a grid position for race 2 point if view, but given my visibility problems, finishing was a result in itself.
Saturday ended with a long drive back home in the front-brakes-only G wagen, Sunday morning started early again as I stopped off at my parents' at 6:45am to swap the G Wagen for my father's Shogun. And then back to Snetterton to play the tyre guessing game. Much deliberation, much changing of minds, and still we got it wrong! Talking to a couple of the Fiesta drivers who were out the session before we were called, anyone on slicks would crash. So we stayed on wets, Pete Simpson deciding to go with whatever I did as we were level on points, that way I couldn't gain any weird advantage over him. Looking round the assembly area, Phil Libby was on intermediates, but Matt Hale had taken the chance with slicks. And just like back at Cadwell Park, Pete and I had got it wrong, that much was plain even on the sighting lap when I locked the brakes going into Riches. Even at low speed, my very second hand wets were worse than useless.
As we came across the start line, Chris Broad and Ben Johnson were in the row in front and they both occupied mid track positions so I could see no way through. late down the straight I though about diving down the inside into Riches but having locked up at low speed a lap earlier, thought better of it. I followed Chris and Ben as they traded paint and door mirrors through Riches and then drove past both of them. Snetterton usually strings out the traffic so I thought that would be them dealt with, but Chris had different ideas and gained back through Coram putting me under pressure. Braking for Russell I found how slippery it was there, or just how useless my wets were, locking the brakes again and cutting across the grass. Three times I did this in the early stages of the race, Chris did it once as I chased him into Russell. I can't remember how many times we passed each other but after a few laps I ran very wide at Sears when Chris got by. This time I decided that enough was enough and rather than trade places all race, I would follow him for a while and make my move later in the race. Good plan, except I had obviously been holding him up and slowly he started to pull away from me. I knuckled down for a couple of laps and started to pull back some ground, but when Matt Hale came round to lap me into Sears I ran absurdly wide to let him through and Chris had got away. With a couple of laps left Peter Challis came by but as I came out of Russell he slowed - turns out he had alternator problems and a mid race battery change got him back up to 6th. Pete was circulating some way ahead of me but slowed with few laps to go as smoke filled his Lancia integrale, allowing Simon Taylor and Lee Scott to pass him. With Peter Challis's late race problems, the race ended with Phil Libby coming through to win his first race of our season, but mention must be also be made of Matt Hale who finished just 6 seconds behind him.
And so another season ends, Nyssa Ltd would like to offer there congratulations to new 2004 Le Mans Euro Saloons champion Peter Challis, and commiserations to Tony Soper, the champion elect prior to the last round who was unable to race due to engine problems. We would also like to extend our congratulations to the 2004 Le Mans Road Saloons champion Simon Taylor.
Tony Soper and Pete Simpson finished level on points, but Tony takes second by virtue of two race wins up at Cadwell Park. And 4th in the series was me! The late spurt from Phil Libby launched him into 5th place just ahead of Derek Hale. Among the Road Saloons, Ian Kirk finished second in a clean sweep for the Honda Civics, Lee Scott taking advantage of Simon Jackson's breakdown to finish third.
Next season already beckons, plans to move up the field are afoot and involve a change in engine from Alfa V6 to Fiat Coupe 20vt. Auto Integrale have been tasked with the engine transplant over winter, along with putting the kappa on a diet in a bid to lose another 100kgs. As far as the series goes, there are moves to shrink the number of overall classes to a more manageable number. Nyssa Racing are also pleased to announce that as well as once again supporting the Le Mans Euro Saloons championship next year, we will also be involved in an administrative role. We look forward to seeing both old and new friends next year, if you've got a car come out and race with us, if you haven't, either go and get one or come along and support us.
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