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Snetterton Sprint Podium

posted 26 Oct 2016, 02:48 by Kieren McDonald
The mini se7en season had ended, but I was talked into entering a sprint event driving my Westfield SE narrow 1800 zetec. I had never raced in any other car or championship so whilst I was intrigued, I was also full of many questions and concerns. The sprint event was to be contested on the Snetterton 300 layout and organised by Javelin Trackdays Sprint Series. It was their season finale so I hope I didn't affect their championship standings!


There was the big question of travelling back and fore to Snetterton in the westie, with only the passenger side to carry anything. I was used to travelling to race circuits with a van full of tools and spare parts, not to forget, also warm and dry. I did however prove the MWB Sprinter could not quite house the westie, as it does the mini - not without a couple of modifications - so close though! I almost had to pull out when I realised the MOT had expired but thankfully Kevin at Hunters Garage came to the rescue.


After selectively packing and securing things into the westie it was onwards to start my adventure to Snetterton. The fact I had never driven the car in anger or even driven it at all on a race track was a little daunting. On top of that I am used to FWD on a race track, not RWD! How many times do you think I could spin??


We were able to get scrutineering out of the way Saturday evening. I was thankful Tim let me park the westie in the pit garage to keep dry overnight and David taxied me to the hotel and back - one less thing to worry about. The weather certainly did me no favours in easing my tension of this new experience in a lairy RWD monster - it was horrid - very wet and windy!


Once signed on Sunday morning, we had a drivers briefing - it was a very busy event and fully sold out - 70-odd cars! Following briefing we were straight out for 2 group sighting laps to see which way the circuit went. Luckily this was one thing I did know already, having had my maiden race win here just a couple of months prior in the mini se7en challenge supported by Mini Spares. It was extremely wet!


I was in class B3, which was quite a popular category aimed at kit cars of different makes, models and power output. Class B was first out in the super wet conditions for one untimed run. I was shocked at how little grip there was in the westie with R888 tyres (maybe a bit old!) even on a wet racing line. A sprint is only one lap, starting with cold tyres/brakes, with no opportunity to get heat into the tyres on the wet track. With no heat in the tyres, I had to be super careful to avoid the rear end overtaking me - in fact that did happen just the once in the untimed run at the hairpin (and thankfully the only time of the day!), where I automatically put more power down (default action for FWD!) when the rear came out, leading me into a spin. I made sure not to make the same mistake again! I found it incredible how careful I had to be - I could not put any power down at all until the wheel was completely straight and even then it would still light up, similarly when changing gears too!


There was time for two timed runs in the morning session, which were both extremely wet conditions. It was quite an experience of driving super careful in the wet with the aim of getting from start to finish in the quickest time possible without falling off the circuit. I did manage to take to the grass on the exit of the last corner in my first run due to locking up. The start point was on the exit of the pit lane by the marshal post and the finish point was just beyond the last corner near the pit lane entry. It was all very new to me and a big learning experience. I was glad to see the lunch break - not just because I missed breakfast but a good time to reflect ready for the afternoon timed runs.


Following the lunch break, the track had dried a lot, allowing for a different style to driving and confidence to be built up on a dry racing line. I was able to do two dry timed runs - each time the track had more grip. The 2nd dry run was my quickest and was set to be my best of the day at 2m15s32. I was really enjoying building up the pace and learning the car in the dry and was looking to pushing more later in the afternoon. However that was not possible - the heavens opened and we experienced a rather tropical stormy downpour! Any hope of improving times were now squashed.


I still headed out for two more timed runs in the wet and thoroughly enjoyed myself, setting quicker times than a lot of faster classes - in fact one of the quickest out of a field of 70-odd cars! My best wet lap time was 2m42s14. The time in the car when the track was dry really helped me increase confidence and was more prepared heading out for the wet runs afterwards. I have far more to learn with the westie to push it harder and that's without playing with tyres, setup and brakes!


At the end of the day, I had a surprise to be presented a trophy for P2 in class B3 - very chuffed and not expected at all considering so many new experiences in this adventure to Snetterton. It was a far more relaxed event to what I was used to, lots of variety, very open and friendly, but overall good fun. Who knows, I may try one again in the near future. If you fancy a go - get involved and go check out the Javelin Trackdays Sprint Series website for more info and have a go in 2017 when it starts back up!



Thank you for all for helping us get out there:

Simply Race
Mini Spares
Classic & Custom Works
Hunters Garage
Rainmac Crafts
Friends & Family (including those over social media)



Best laptime - 2:15:32 - dry conditions:


Slipping and sliding in the wet - 2:42:14:




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