The team headed over to Darley Moor, Derbyshire for their practice day on Saturday, followed by round 1 on the Sunday. With lessons learnt from their visit to Oulton Park the previous week, the lads approached practice with a different mindset. Races aren’t won in practice, so Ste & Dave set about picking small sections of the circuit to concentrate on. Dave wanted to boost his confidence on the platform when no being locked in, so concentrated on working the two chicanes at Darley, and making quicker transitions, along with picking corners to improve on.
With around 6 sessions throughout the day, the lads decided it best to save themselves for race day, making use of 3 sessions throughout the day.
Friday evening we were delighted to be visited by Chris Swinton, a blind photographer, who kindly brought along some refreshments. We briefly met Chris at Oulton Park, but with the brake issues didn’t get chance to have a proper chat. It was great to chat with Chris, and get to know more about him. What a personality to have around the paddock, we look forward to seeing what images he caught over the weekend.
The lads were the first outfit out for qualifying. The track was cold, the sun yet to burn through the thick morning haze, with a cold wind blowing through. Heading off down the start finish at a steady pace, once round Park Corner, it was game on, opening a gap and get a clear track for a couple of quick laps. They were going well, but unfortunately never managed to string together a perfect lap, with a few slides in the cold. Managing 3-4 laps before the quicker lads caught up, and congestion started to build, they pulled off reasonably happy with the session.
The Sunday morning was disrupted by the news that Aintree had cancelled the test day, and the first two rounds, with the final 3 being suspended. The teams plans for the season were thrown up in the air. More bad news was to come, as the qualifying times were released, our foes from last season Crowe/Williams were in front of us on the grid. With it now looking like Darley Moor will be our main championship, and with the lads feeling confident after the sessions Friday, the laps times knocked the wind out of their sails.
Ste and Dave pulled together, cleared their heads, and just had to concentrate on their own thing. Keep a cool head and it’ll come just like on the Saturday.
The lads formed up on the grid, spot 9, but were alone on the row, as the outfit who qualified next to them opted to start from the back of the grid. The outfits were under starters orders, the lights came on, and the outfit of George Holden, darted forward, Ste and a few others instinctively did the same, but the lights were still lit, creating an interesting start, as outfits were stopping and starting from the line.
Once the pack got going, Crowe/Williams got a clear start, and the lads were chasing them down, through Park corner, through 2nd chicane, into the hairpin Crowe/Williams slowed, the outfit behind them passed on the exit, and Ste & Dave followed suit charging past, and down the back straight, with their eyes now set on the outfit ahead. The boys were chipping away, coming round Park Corner, the Red/Blue outfit of the Scottish visiting team were ahead, with their wheel arch flapping about, and red flags being waved. It was only once round the hairpin it became apparent their had been an incident at Paddock Corner.
The race was abandoned, and early lunch was called, with a restart expected around 3pm.
Race 1 (Restart)
The lads again formed up on the grid, Crowe/Williams retired after the sighting lap, so the lads eyes were set on the outfit of Holden/Winkle, George making his debut race, and Winkle an experienced passenger, the lads were quietly optimistic they could keep in touch with them, and that was their aim.
The lights went out, and much better start was gained, assisted by the absence of Crowe/Williams, Holden/Winkle didn’t get the best start, and Ste & Dave lead the way from the start, it was short lived as by the start of the 2nd lap, Holden/Winkle were now in front, and Ste & Dave were on their tail, taking chase. So it went into the 4th lap, each time they came into Paddock Corner, Ste & Dave were close behind Holden/Winkle.
It was confidence inspiring to see Winkle repeatedly looking back, keeping a close eye on the gap between them. It was the 4th lap where things came undone.
The lads came out of Park Corner, chasing hard after Holden/Winkle, reaching top gear, hard on the power along the short straight into the 2nd chicane, Ste dabbed the brake to scrub some speed off, to be met by a soft pedal. Ste tried to negotiate the chicane the best he could, but the outfit had other ideas, and was now screaming towards the bollards on the grass. Dave left with the only choice but to get down as low as possible behind the fairing, both of them braced for a bumpy ride, they mounted the kerb, over the grass, ploughing through the bollards, before rejoining the track, still travelling at some speed, round the left to the hairpin.
Ste reached back checking Dave was OK, a quick shake of the hands, Dave giving Ste a reassuring pat on the back as they gingerly negotiated the hairpin. Out of the hairpin onto the straight Ste raised his hand to pull off, despite having the wind knocked out of him during their little excursion Dave promptly yanked Ste’s hand down… they were racing, and they weren’t giving up.
Whilst they’d lost time, lost touch with Holden/Winkle, they’d not lost their position, Crowe/Williams hadn’t started, and if this was now going to be their championship for the season, there was a finish to be had. Despite the little set back, the remaining laps were consistent, and the boys came home with a comfortable 8th, and both happy to have kept in touch with the pack for a number of laps.
The 2nd race was called, a number of teams had opted to pack up and head home, Crowe/Williams were again absent from the grid. The lads kept touch for a few laps, despite cleaning the brakes, and giving them a quick clean between races there was still concern and not wanting a repeat of previous race, held it back a little.
The 2nd Race was all about keeping the F1 outfit of Waddington/Storey behind them. Waddington/Storey were thwarted with technical issues throughout the weekend, spinning out in the first race, but had managed to get it all resolved for the second race.
Ste & Dave kept a healthy gap, from the start, a few laps in and Waddington/Storey had closed that down, and it was now a close run battle into park corner. The F1 would have the shear power up the straight to into the 2nd chicane, and pull away down the long back straight. Out of Park Corner, Ste & Dave lead, Waddington/Storey right on their tale, however, they missed a gear driving out, allowing Ste & Dave to pull away and open the gap once again.
The lads came back to the paddock with a 2nd 8th place.
Whilst the lap times didn’t seem to match how the lads felt it went, the lads had caught the attention of several other crews. Winkle was keeping a close eye on the lads in race 1, that boosted the lads confidence no end, with a wealth of experience & advice in the Holden camp, it was reassuring that they could keep with them. Waddington/Storey commented on how smooth the lads were riding. Allan Schofield was surprised by the outfits straight line speed.
It’s all coming together, we’ll regroup and review what our plans are now for the season ahead.
Photo Credit – Phillip Rainford