After nearly 3 months of hot sunny weather, the 29th July was torrential rain. The only saving grace was, that the rain was set in and we didn’t have to make a decision about which tyres to use in the race or qualifying. With the race on a Sunday and a bike meeting on the Saturday there was no opportunity to test beforehand. Fortunately, I was invited to drive the Feathers Motorsport 1973 2.7RS at the circuit a few weeks earlier, so although I’d not raced at Donington since 2015, I had the chance to refamilurise myself with the track.
So qualifying started wet and didn’t get any drier, we ventured out on wet weather tyres and qualified 4th once you exclude the invitation cars.
On the last lap the car got stuck in 2nd gear exiting redgate corner. Unable to get it out of gear I headed for the grass to find somewhere suitable to park up. Once on the grass the car bounced around and it worked its way free, so I headed back to the pits to end my session.
We went over the outside of the gearbox and nothing looked out of place, so with the gearbox working again we decided to try to race and hope the problem wouldn’t reoccur.
On the warm up lap the same issue happened again so, again, I steered onto the grass to look for somehwere to park. This bounced it free again, so I tried all the gears and decided to take the start. By this time the entire field had gone by and I would have to start last, this was ok as I was worried about the gearbox and didn’t want to cause an accident. So with the gearbox working I made progress on the first lap, overtaking several cars before the old hairpin and another just after. By the end of the 2nd lap I was back up to where I started. I had planned to just stay in position and try to nurse the gearbox to the end, as I was in front of all my championship rivals. But after the pitstops I found myself in a close battle with James Guess in the Porsche 968 and Tim Bates in his rapid Porsche 911. By this stage on a drying circuit we all seemed to have overheated wet tyres and we were all moving around far more than we’d wanted. So the racing was very close but fair, with only a small amount of paint traded.
In the end we came out on top, and finished the race 2nd, behind a very rapid Porsche 964 RSR of Mark Williams, who won by nearly a minute.
First race of the new season, grid numbers lower than we’re used to, but we go into the first race with stiff competition. Friday testing went well, achieving lap times slightly faster than our last time at Oulton in 2015. At at the end of the day we put in some new brake pads and tyres and did a couple laps just to make sure the car felt good, which it did. So onto Saturday morning feeling confident we have a good car.
Saturday morning we had had rain overnight and since we were out at 9:25 the track wasn’t completely dry, with particular concern at the first corner. Struggling to get the tyres where we needed them for a quick lap we languished 5th or 6th throughout the 30 minute session, but our fastest lap coming right at the end of the session put us up to P3.
P2 on the grid Jeremy Cooke and Mike Dowd had clutch issues and withdrew before the race, but for some reason they didn’t fill the empty slot on the grid, so we started P3 behind Ed Leigh on pole in his BMW M3. Ed had a clear run into turn 1 from the rolling start and lead the first lap. A late lunge on the brakes into turn 1 lap 2 gave us the lead we needed. Ed had qualified 1.2 seconds faster than us, so our only hope was to get in front and keep him behind.
We defended hard for about 7 laps, proving how hard it was to overtake around Oulton Park, the circuit is narrow with bumpy braking zones, which makes overtaking tricky. By the end of the 8th lap Ed hadn’t really had a proper attempt at getting past, likely waiting his time for some clear laps during the pitstop phase. Unfortunately for Ed his engine expired and he retired from the race. This left us with a couple seconds advantage over Gav Dunn and Tim Bates.
Our pitstop dropped us back behind Gav Dunn in his BMW M3 by around 3 seconds, with about 23 minutes of the race left. So knowing an error in the pits could let a race win slip away, we got to work on chasing down the M3. Several quick laps later we were under his rear wing, and just needed to find a way through. Several attempts made, but the door firmly closed multiple times, and it looked tough to make the pass cleanly. Sitting in P2 for such a long time at this close proximity was starting to crank the pressure up on Gav, as he starter to make more errors, some brake lock ups and running wide at a couple of turns, it was also clear his tyres were getting close to the end of their life. With 3 minutes left on the clock, Gav run slightly deep into Brittens chicane, leaving me with a chance up and over hilltop to get along side and past. Then it was a case of doing the same as the first half of the race with Ed Leigh, KEEP GAV BEHIND, I was desperately hoping the chequered flag would appear the end of the lap I had gotten past, but frustratingly I had another couple laps to do.
In the end taking victory by just over a second, in what was probably our hardest thought victory out of the 6 we now have. Next up is Brands Hatch, the weekend after Le Mans 24hr, where the BMWs will probably have a slight advantage due to our 964 gearing being too long for the short technical circuit.
Ruth and Annabelle were on holiday in Wales in Pennal for 2 weeks, I couldn’t take the time off work, so I was only able to join them for the middle weekend. So pushed for time, I wanted to make the weekend that extra bit special for me. I collected the V8 Pagoda from TCIF’s barn very early Friday morning and left my regular wheels behind.
The trip up the M1, M6, M54 was torrential rain, but the Merc’s heater kept me warm and visibility was actually very good.
Infact most of the journey to Wales was fairly uneventful with terrible weather and heavy traffic, but after 200 I arrived feeling fairly relaxed, the Mercs lovely big padded leather seats helping.
Now where this car came alive was The Sunday drive back to civilisation, the roads through the Welsh mountain roads were empty the sun was out and the V8 has a certain bark that only a Mercedes can have. With the V8 out front this Mercedes needs to be driven like an American muscle car, which is no bad thing, plan corners well ahead, brake early and get on the throttle at just the right time to propel yourself up the road towards the next bend. Once I was done with the Welsh back roads, I arrived on the A5, with dual carriageways and roundabouts, I loved seeing the modern cars line up an overtake coming into a roundabout only to be blown away on the acceleration. Even the final stint on the motorway back to TCIF was a joy, cruising at a comfortable 70, I noticed how many people pay this beautiful car attention, I’ve never had so many thumbs up driving any car. A real pleasure, thanks to the guys at TCIF.
Final race of the season at Silverstone, on the national circuit. I haven’t had time to write reports for the last 2 races since the birth of my first daughter Annabelle seems to have taken up most of my time. Anyway, since we won at Rockingham, we then went to Snetterton and won there too, and we were in with a good chance of a win at Brands Hatch when we retired the car as we had a misfire and wanted to save the engine. Turns out it was a faulty kill switch killing the power. So, with that replaced we went to Silverstone for the finale.
We tested Friday afternoon, and the car seemed to be working well, so we scrubbed in the race day tyres and went home feeling confident about race day.
Race day was cold, but fortunately dry. With 40 cars out in qualifying we set out to warm the tyres quickly and find some free air on the track. Within the first 4 laps I’d gone half a second quicker than Friday and what we thought was good for pole position. 10 minutes sat in the pits watching the times behind us fall, then we thought we’d lose pole so we went again for the last few minutes of the session. We improved the lap time, but a Professional driver in a similar Porsche managed to beat us to pol position. After 4 races this season, we’ve qualified 2nd for every one of them, one day we’ll get a pole!
The race had a rolling start, and with 2 races forming the total grid it got a bit stretched out at the start, it was probably fortunate for us as it gave a clear view of the first corner pile up ahead and we were able to avoid it by using all the tarmac run off Silverstone provides. The race was red flagged and the grid was reset without the 6 cars involved in the incident.
The second rolling start was somewhat more cautious from those ahead, and we all made it through the first lap unscathed. Ahead was James Neal in the pole sitting 964 and James Hilliard who made up places off the rolling start. Both James’ overtaken in the first couple of laps, and we managed to get one or two of the slower GT cars between us which helped fend off a determined James Hilliard. After several laps we had pulled a manageable lead of around 3 seconds when we came in for an early pitstop. After the pits we didn’t have any challenge from behind, we suspected James Neal would hand over to the very fast Ryan Hooker, so we pushed as hard as possible waiting for the pressure to come, but unfortunately, they had a gearbox issue and had to retire the car.
We continued to push hard, the messages from the pit board were mixed, showing variation between P2 and P1, so we just continued to push as hard as possible all the way to the end. At the end of the race we’d lapped the entire field of cars, but the Clerk of the Course had given us a 30 second penalty for pitting outside our pitstop window. As we’d pushed so hard all the way to the finish the penalty didn’t affect the result, and we won our 3rd race of the season. We entered 4 out of the 6 races, had one DNF and won the other three which gave us 8th in the championship and winner of Class E. Overall a good season, the car has been put away undamaged and we can start to think about next year now.
With various engine issues at the start of the year causing a loss of power we chose to miss the first 2 races of the season in order not to damage the car further, and also a chance to develop the car a little bit to make it more competitive.
Having not raced at Rockingham since 2008 we were unsure of what to expect, we knew the car was good enough to win, but was the driver?
Friday testing went very well, we familiarised ourselves with the circuit very quickly by following closely our nearest rivals, who we knew had recently tested at Rockingham before. During the day, we were running faster than the majority of the Intermarque grid and felt confident going into race day.
Into qualifying we knew the battle was on between us and the 29 Feathers Motorsport car of James Guess and James Hilliard. In the end though we were beaten to pole by 0.4 of a second.
Going into the race we were confident, we knew we had the power to frustrate the competition, but they probably had the corner speed to make up lap time. Starting 2nd I manged to make it into the lead on the 3rd corner and hold onto it for a few laps. Hilliard came back past and pulled a gap of around 2 seconds. The gap looked difficult to reduce, but over the course of the next few laps before the pitstop it was reduced as tyres started to go off and mistakes were being made under pressure. We retook the lead and pitted on the same lap. Hilliard took his chance over 1 lap to try to retake the lead in the pit stop but couldn’t, one lap later Guess emerged from the pits just behind. Then the chase was on.
As the race went on the tyres on our car went off, and clearly the tyres on car 29 were no better. As the tyres got worse and the race went on the lines and driving style got more and more outrageous. The pressure got to James Guess in 2nd place and he spun off at Gracelands, 3 laps from home. With the pressure off now and the lead over new 2nd place man Andy Peck over a lap we cruised for home and took a comfortable victory, at the end of a very hard race.
The final round of the 2016 AMOC intermarque championship was held at Silverstone, on the national circuit. Friday testing went very well, with a lap times set that would have put us at the front of the grid if the weather was to stay dry.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t stay dry into Saturday, with a down pour arriving as the cars assembled before the qualifying session. So on dry tyres and with a dry setup qualifying was very slippery and we ended up a disappointing 7th in the Intermarque race. We spent the next part of the day hoping the weather would clear up and give us a dry race, but we were not so lucky.
With a large down pour around 30 minutes before the scheduled race start an easy decision was made to switch to wet weather tyres.
The race started in the worst conditions of the day, with heavy rain and nearly every car on wet tyres there was so much spray visibility was almost at zero, not aided by the fact the windscreen had steamed up.
With hindsight the race should have started under safety car conditions, and Tom Black proved by spinning into the pit wall at the end of the first lap, the chasing pack doing a very good job avoiding him when unsighted.
This brought out the safety car and a chance to wipe the screen and open the door to get some air on it. After a few laps behind the safety car the screen cleared and we got underway again. The car clearly much better now on a wet setup and wet tyres we started to work our way forwards.
After the pit stop and the field started to spread out driving became easier as did visibility. Another off caused a safety car and gave us a chance to get closer to our rivals in the 968s ahead. Unfortunately, at the safety car restart we had some back marking traffic that took several laps to clear and by that time Steve Atkinson in 2nd place was around 6 seconds ahead. So with Steve in sight we set about catching him, and taking some time out of him over the next few laps we were gaining ground. As I pushed slightly too hard coming into Brooklands corner, in front of family in the grandstand I went wide onto the tarmac run off. We lost around 3 seconds to Steve, and I made my decision to back off and make sure the car finished with no unnecessary damage.
James Hilliard the championship leader and race leader received a drive through penalty for track limit infringements, and this brought him out of the pit lane just ahead of me. By now, a couple laps after I decided to back the pace off the tyres had dropped pressure and temperature. With James determined not to be caught and now on cold tyres we couldn’t fight for second. The race finished with Steve winning, James 2nd and we came 3rd.
Considering we weren’t confident with the car in wet weather we were very pleased with the result, especially on a day were conditions were so bad we would have just been happy to have the car undamaged, which it was.
We’re already looking forward to and planning for 2017 season.
The video bellow its hard to see much out the windscreen for the first couple of laps, then it clears up, but its exactly as much as I saw, so you know how hard it was.
We came into Brands Hatch weekend on the high of the first win at Snetterton, but our expectations were low. Brands Indy is a circuit more suited to the less powerful better handling cars. So we would have been happy with a podium.
After testing on Friday afternoon it was clear we were not on race winning pace, the 968s certainly had an edge and in qualifying the Ferrari 355s were also quicker than us. We qualified 5th overall the only rival that was behind us was Steve Atkinson. So the expectation was that we’d have an exciting race with Steve and if we’re lucky aim for a podium.
The start was excellent (see the video) we launched from 5th on the grid into a solid 2nd at Paddock Hill bend and edged back to 3rd at Druids. The race settled into a rhythm were we tried lots of different lines and gears in an attempt to keep up with the 2 drivers ahead (James Hilliard in the Feathers 968 and Nigel Jenkins in his 355). They were just about in sight while we were racing with the stragglers from the GT4 grid ahead.
Not long into the race we went past a crawling James Hilliard who retired with a broken hub. As we got close to the pit stops Steve Atkinson was closing in from behind and the fight was on. We held off Steve (shame the video wasn’t pointing rearwards!) until the pit stop phase of the race. Coming in to the stop with a very narrow 2nd place. Steve stayed out much longer whilst we went about putting in some fast laps to ensure Steve didn’t beat us out the pits. We suspect Steve made an error in his stop as we didn’t see him again.
A couple laps after stopping a we pass a slow moving Nigel Jenkins, with a failed wheel bearing. Now in the lead and the pit board showing 8 seconds to 2nd. With around 30 minutes to go there was still very much a race on. I felt very paranoid about lifting off in case I lost the lead so doing the only thing I could was to just push as hard as possible and try to make every lap faster than the last setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 39 and finishing 1st overall for the second time in a row with a lead of 12 second the strategy paid off.
It wasn’t all without drama though as the car suffered fuel starvation coming out of the final corner of the race but finding enough in the tank to get us across the line. Colin Chapman would have been pleased with the amount of fuel we put in, just enough!
Again it was pretty cool to win with so many people there to support us, and by the sounds of it they recruited a few extra Hollyman Racing fans from the paddock hill grandstand.
After last season’s disaster we were slow to start in 2016, due to not having the car right after the crash and some teething issues with noise and power. But with all that behind us, we started the season off at our local and favourite, Snetterton.
All the competition decided to test on the Friday before the race, but we played it cool and tried to save some money by arriving Friday night for the hog roast and then go straight in to Qualifying Saturday morning.
Having been out of racing for more than a year we had fairly low expectations, especially now the very professionally run 968s have become the dominant force. On the lap timer I saw the fastest ever lap I’ve done at Snetterton mid session, so I was very pleased with how it went. The brakes started to fade towards the end of the session so a decision was made to take it easy and save the car for the race.
My fastest ever time of Sntterton put us 2nd overall on the grid, alongside the Feathers Motor Sport 968 and ahead of Steve Atkinson’s 968.
Now we had a taste of success in qualifying expectations were raised for the race, although the pole car was over a second faster. We made an excellent start, moving ahead of some of the GT4 competition in the race at the front. Eventually they all got out the way and we emerged as leader in the early laps.
We maintained a solid lead into a very early pit stop phase of the race. I came in when I saw the second place cars pit board go out, in an attempt to make sure they couldn’t jump me with clean air running. But they stayed out for an extra lap and had a chance. Our out lap and 1st flyer after the stop was the fastest of the race, which made sure we maintained the lead. With a trim of tyre pressures in the stops the car felt at its best but this wouldn’t last long as on a such a hot day and being pushed so hard by James Guess in the Feathers Motor Sport 968 the tyres went off in spectacular style.
The car went from understeer to oversteer and back again as we struggled to manage tyre temperature. With about 15 minutes to go James Guess finally got past into the last corner. We were able to utilise the power advantage and pull back ahead on the next straight. This would happen again on the next few laps, with me emerging as the leader and surely a frustrated James in the faster over a lap car behind.
Eventually James got past on the first hairpin which gave him a chance to pull a way a little as this was followed by several corners. James held the lead for a couple more laps, until he saw the mechanical warning flag for a fellow competitor and thought it was the red flag. As James lifted off we slipped back into the lead with only a couple of laps left we maintained the lead to the end. Taking our first ever overall victory, and giving us a 100% win record in 2016. Probably the hardest race of my life, 50 minutes of very hot sun and a battle from start to finish.
Unfortunately the video camera failed so we have no video of the race, just a few photos provided by a stranger over Facebook.
The next race is Brands hatch this weekend, where the 968s will have the advantage due to there being less long straights for me to use my power.