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Snetterton Report

posted 10 May 2011, 07:06 by Kieren McDonald
Following the successful testing last week at Snetterton, we really could not wait to get up there.  I hired a van for the trip, as the Golf is still not fixed (another story)!! Lorraine and I headed up in convoy, with Simon & Rowena in their own car, towing our sleeping arrangements for the weekend - a folding camper.  We arrived about 10 o'clock in the evening and proved to be a right pain trying to find somewhere that we were allowed to park up and set up camp - no lights, no signs, no help!  We eventually got sorted and setup besides Max and Adam/Leon.

The usual nut and bolt check was carried out, plus a check of fluids and wheels/tyres and we were ready for our 2nd attempt at qualifying! Following the disastrous start to the season at Silverstone, we were feeling pretty confident with the car, as it had been put through its paces on Rob Selby's dyno and a full day of testing last week since the new engine rebuild.

I headed out for qualifying and made sure I kept my eyes on the revs, oil & water pressures regularly - everything was looking pretty good, although oil pressure was at the bottom end but not too much to worry about whilst out on track.  My pace seemed to be pretty good, regularly dicing with Trench and a couple of others.  It really is great, playing with the back end of the car and amazing how much grip there is in the Dunlop dry race tyres!  I felt great and finished qualifying with a huge smile on my face - I qualified 15th for the 1st race and 13th for the 2nd race.  Not bad for my 1st proper time and out of a grid of 25 se7ens!!  Unfortunately we didn't have time to relocate the in-car camera so didn't capture any qualifying footage.  Qualifying times can be seen here, the grid for the 1st race here and the grid for the 2nd race here.

We didn't have too much to do after qualifying - Rob Selby checked out my wet tyres, as rain was expected for the 1st race of Sunday, nut & bolt check, fluid and wheels/tyres checked again, Rob adjusted my oil pressure, and Adam kindly applied my Classic & Custom Works logo to my boot.....nothing left to do....BBQ out, open a few beers and chill out with everyone-a great evening had by all! Will certainly stay at the track for all events - the best place to be :-)

Rain did indeed arrive over night, although kindly dried up in time for the 1st race of the morning.  A few quick checks and then off we went to the assembly area - quite a tense time, ahead of my 1st grid start!! Off to the grid to line up 15th out of 25 cars - didn't expect to be so close to all the others on the grid :-) The green flag was raised and off we went on our warm up lap to do a bit of weaving and stomping of brakes, trying to get that all important heat so they perform at there best straight off the line.  I lined up again on the grid, red lights on, then off and go, go, go!! I was a little slow to react to the lights going out but I was away down the grid straight - absolutely manic...25 cars ploughing into the 1st corner with barely inches to spare between! 3 cars collided right before my eyes following the 1st corner - everything seemed to go in slow motion, as I saw them bang into each, spin around facing me, taking up the whole width of the track only a couple of metres in front of me, as I'm still carrying quite a lot of speed - making sure I didn't make any quick moves to unsettle my car, I decided to leave the track on the left side to avoid joining the collision! Pretty bumpy as I headed over the stoney field and then eased it back onto the track - a couple of cars had made it in front but I was soon back into my stride.  A few laps in and everything was feeling great, getting a good feel for the car and having some close action with a few others...then disaster struck..again!! Just as I was exiting bombhole corner, I went to change into 4th gear, heard a bang and lost all drive...unbelievable! I looked out for the marshalls post and coasted it off the track to the tyre wall - I must admit, I felt like driving into the tyres!!  So there, I watched and waited for the race to finish and the tow truck to come and get me :-(  The race results for the 1st race can be seen here.  We forgot to switch the in-car camera on - a bit unfortunate, as it would have been good to see the collision that unfolded in front of me and the issue I had with the loss of drive.

Back in the paddock and there was a hive of activity - I explained what happened to Rob Selby and Simon...the guess was that it sounded like something in the gearbox - Rob thought possibly the pinion or something else with the diff.  The decision was made to quickly get the engine out to gain better access to the gearbox so Simon set about dismantling everything. Once the engine was out it was all hands at deck, as you can see from the picture - good job Max's car was Gregg & co kindly helped us with Rob :-)

After opening up the gearbox, Rob's suspicions were proved correct - the pinion was broken into pieces, as seen to the right!  Luckily Max had a spare diff that was kindly offered (thanks Max!!) to replace mine with.  What followed was a complete blur, as everyone showed fantastic teamwork to get it all back together and engine back in...all in the nick of time for me to race in round 3 - all of this happened in only 2-3 hours from memory - amazing effort guys...AMAZING!! :-)

I had to be pushed started, as the solenoid of the starter motor decided to fail so I just had to make sure I didn't stall on the pressure then!! :-) Admittedly my head was all over the place, such a rush to get the car sorted and I really thought it was game over for the day - these guys just continue to amaze me!

I started in 13th out of 25 this time, I had a better start, although mistakenly short shifted in 1st and 2nd gear!!! I did say my head was all over the place! :-) A couple of places were lost so I then defended my line into the hairpin and composed myself again.  I was proving to be quicker through most corners than a couple of guys in front of me and should have pressured a lot harder to pass them, although wanting to remain sensible and finish my 1st race, I held back going into corners.  That ended up costing me a place to Smith so then had to fight my way back to close the gap to Smith and Affleck.  I had a good run into Nelson and then Bombhole and managed to sneak onto the inside of Smith and almost Affleck too, although he closed the gap going into Coram.  All the way around Coram, side by side with Smith...thinking, any minute and we'll be colliding...Smith had the inside line into Murrays but I found a nice late entry and cut inside Smith on the exit. I also had the run on Affleck entering Senna Straight so tucked up behind, ready for the drag, got it and pulled out to overtake, only to cross the finish line and see the chequer flag!!! I didn't realise it was the last lap or that the flag was being waved, as I only saw the back of Affleck's car!! What an exciting end to a great race :-)  But it all wouldn't have been possible without the great efforts of Max's team, Rob and Simon so a massive thanks to everyone involved with getting me back out there!  The race results for the 2nd race can be found here.

Please check out the picture and videos from the in-car camera from the links on the 2011 Gallery page.  The in-car footage is really great...gets me excited every time I watch it!! :-)