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Brands Hatch Report

posted 30 Aug 2011, 08:11 by Kieren McDonald
Well that is holiday been and gone and in true British style, the weather was as predictable as ever!!

The plan was to arrive at Brands Saturday evening, although was too late back from an amazing wedding at Le Manoir (save up and take the wife for anniversary!!).  We instead opted to leave mega early Sunday but could not resist the photo opportunity on the way when "fueling up" :-)

For once, there was not too much to do to the car before this event - primary gear change and an oil and filter change! The reliability has been getting better, allowing us to finish both races in the last double header at hope was to see much of the same at Brands Hatch!

We had to get a new pair of dry tyres for the 1st time this season, as we have just been running what came with the car and one of them had a large score in it - so I now have an account open with Dunlop (ouch!).  The new pair were placed on the rear for a dry qualifying session to avoid destroying them with too much heat.

1st time out at Brands left me feeling very frustrated - I just could not connect with quite a few of the corners.  I know I shouldn't expect to be at the front with it being my 1st time but I just felt I could have done better.  I felt I was just hanging on, as opposed to being in control of the car :-) For such a small track, wow! so many corners that really challenge the driver! Huge drop into Paddock Hill, tight right at druids, tricky hard breaking/gear changing into a tight left for Graham Hill and such a lot to do for Clearways! I managed to qualify 15th out of 22 for both races so not too shameful for my 1st issue-ridden season and 1st time on the circuit!

The weather was absolutely splendid Saturday morning - blue skies and not a cloud in that changed!! It turned torrential, then dried, then torrential, then dried....anyway, you get the picture :-) We ended up having to change to wet tyres last minute, as the track was still soaked but blue skies were emerging so the 1st race was on a drying track. 1st race was quite daunting, with no idea how slippy it would be going into the 1st corner at Paddock Hill - not really where you want to go off with a large inviting gravel pit, where many cars are turned onto their roofs!

Lining up on the grid, the car starts rolling forward so kept switching back and for to throttle/ revs up, everyone's off...I try...but no...STALL!!! Yes, I stalled!! :-D  Just about remembered to raise my hand to warn fellow racers lined up behind, glance in my side mirror to see everyone taking averting action - PHEW!! was waiting for someone to fly up behind - thanks to all that avoided me!!  So I got started and then started my mission to catch up again from the back! Got pretty lairy around the 1st corner at Paddock Hill but collected it back up, only to see Damon Astin's car on its roof in the gravel trap (hard to block it out of your head when you see it there every lap)! I managed to pass one car within a couple of corners and was onto the rest of the back bunch...after a few more dives down the inside and different lines, I passed a few more.  Each lap, I was getting quicker and quicker, pushing the brakes and tyres more and more...I finished up at 12th position - not bad, considering it was 1st race at Brands and I came from the back...I just love these delayed starts LOL  It turned out my best laptime was less than a second off Max who won the race so left me feeling on top of the world! I couldn't wait to get out there again for the 2nd race!

The 2nd race was a lot drier so no doubt about the tyre choice for Monday.  I actually managed to get it off the line and was probably my best start yet - no places lost and pretty much kept with the pack!  I managed to pass Proctor early on and was making good progress but I was over braking for a couple of corners and wasn't connecting anywhere near as well as I did in the 1st race. My slip-ups led to me being sandwiched at Paddock Hill bend by Proctor and Affleck - admittedly I did back out, not liking the look of the gravel :-)  A few laps in and it was immediately obvious there was oil down at Graham Hill and Surtees, causing a few lairy moments!! I found myself easing off more and more the worse it got on all corners, not knowing if I was to meet the same reaction! It was quite worrying to see Trench parked up on the exit of Graham Hill with it being slippy, I just hoped I wouldn't make contact!  I made it through but then massively lost the back end at Surtees, throwing me off onto the grass.  I managed to keep the revs up, brakes, selected my gears and got back onto the track once the speed was scrubbed off.  The oil was so bad - hardly any steering input was given, yet the car had a mind of it's own! As soon as I got back onto the track, I saw red flags waving, as a result of Trench's position so end of race and straight into the pits.  Another 12th place finish - was quite disappointed after showing great pace in the 1st race (despite stalling :-) ) but still plenty of positives to learn from!

So for a 2nd double header in a row, we have completed both races so fantastic progress!  Best of all, I have now completed my 6 novice races so will have to get my last 2 signatures off Steve Burns at the next event and rip off the novice cross - a momentous occasion and a position that looked impossible to reach earlier in the season with all the issues experienced!

Full timing results from qualifying and each of the races can be found here.

Fantastic support was shown yet again - much thanks to all that came to support and to the team for a great effort yet again! I was also very glad Rob from Classic and Custom Works (BigMacRacing sponsor) could make it on Monday to watch the racing for the 1st time - for any bodywork, give him a shout - top guy with loads of experience and fantastic reputation, seeing his in work in many top magazine features.

Great weekend with BBQ and friends - next stop Croft 24th & 25th September - see you there! :-)

Check out pictures from Brands Hatch
Check out in-car video footage from Brands Hatch
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