Saturday 3rd July for a two-hour race around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit anybody? Yes please came the reply to the 2021 Britcar race calendar when it was first published earlier this year. Great fun indeed, but oh boy what a lot of work and tension came with it. Across the finish line, the lead car beat us by six tenths of a second, only for the result to be reversed in the stewards office after the race, giving us the win!
Friday testing went ahead under blue skies with us concentrating on our race set-up of the car. All was going to plan until Richard was clipped by a car in his second practice session, which made the car react as though the front-end geometry had been affected, although the contact had clearly been rear left wheel only. We brought him in, measured the four corners and made a change to rear to go out in the last session of the day. We were there or there abouts again but not in that sweet spot we were looking for. We had a strong sense of where we needed to make a further adjustment and set about an all corner re-alignment after the day had ended.
Saturday morning and the rain had appeared. 9am practice was nothing more than a shake-down of the car on old wet tyres, and we would have to wait until qualifying to prove whether our set-up changes had given us what we wanted. Slicks on for qualifying with Richard taking the first run. While Richard was unable to find a gap on-track to get a clean run, his feedback confirmed that the balance we had in the car was just right. I jumped in half way through the session and was able to grab third place on the grid for the race. Should have been second but for being baulked in the last sector, but a good starting position for the two-hour race to come.
It was always going to rain at some point in the race, the question was more one of when and how much. We decided to go with the dry set-up we used in qualifying with Richard taking the start. Richard held position over the opening laps with the three cars at the front pulling away from the rest of the field. 15 minutes in and the rain came down, lightly at first followed by a downpour two laps later. Looking at the radar and the sky behind the pits we chose to keep Richard out on track, on slick tyres, while half the field pitted for wet tyres. Richard led for three laps as others briefly spun around him, but had to concede the lead then second place as the track stayed away from our dry set-up for a little longer. We pitted to take on fuel and for me to jump in to drive the second stint. Two errors in the pit stop cost us almost 30 seconds more that we should have taken, leaving me with a lot of work to do. When all pit stop through the field were completed, we found ourselves in third place, 18 seconds behind the leader with fifty minutes of the race to go. A few laps later I had taken second place and the chase was on. With both myself and the lead Praga dealing with back markers as best we could, the gap ebbed and flowed. In the end I fell short of getting into the lead by 0.67 of a second at the line and was massively disappointed. We had fallen short by the narrowest of margins to recover the mistake we made in the pit stop that had delayed us so much. The otherwise winning Praga had had the opposite problem to us though and had exited their pit stop below the mandatory minimum pit stop time, and was given a 34 second post race penalty, giving Richard and myself the race win, while they were demoted to second place.
All in all, an eventful two days from which we take away the win on paper. On to Brands Hatch at the end of July which will be a challenge to say the least, with the diverse Britcar grid competing on the shortest circuit on the calendar, with little room on track to handle the volume of overtakes that all of the Praga’s are going to have to deal with. Fingers crossed – coming out of that one unscathed has to be the priority. Big thanks to the team for their effort over the weekend, and of course to my sponsors Webcetera, Hills Group and CORE for their support as without it none of this would be possible!