Waking up early in the morning usually isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. However, this time it was a little bit more special… Yes, it was time for a weekend of racing.
The Donington park circuit played host to our next round of the Britcar Dunlop endurance championship. A fantastic array of slow technical corners, fast corners and even blind corners – a real driver’s circuit.
Having never visited the circuit before, both Angus and I knew that it would be an uphill battle all weekend. In Friday testing, we managed to nail the setup of the car and “Goose” and I were able to quickly establish our rhythm and consistency, leaving us with heaps of confidence going into the next day.
Saturday came about and the results of the first practice were very promising. The car was absolutely on rails, the setup was perfect and “Goose” and I were looking very strong for qualifying.
In Quali, I went out first to warm the car through and try to post a benchmark time for Angus to try and beat. However, after warming the car up, we ran into difficulties finding a clear lap due to the excessive traffic on circuit with the other classes, so I pulled in to waste no more time, letting “Goose” put in a blinder. But disaster struck! Two laps in we had a sudden and unexpected gearbox failure, forcing us to pit early and having to call it there. Our qualifying position certainly didn’t reflect our speed at the circuit, sitting 15th overall and 6th in class. But we didn’t let our heads drop and planned a hard charge in race one.
But then, to add insult to injury, we found out that we needed to replace the entire gearbox and the team had already used its spare box on another car the previous day, so we were unable to take the start of race one. This really did come as a low blow to both “Goose” and me, as it looked as if our championship hopes were slipping ever further away.
At the start of race two, we were told by the officials that we would be starting 26th out of 28 cars on the grid. To come through that number of cars and then fight for a podium seemed an impossible task, but again we were not deterred. Angus took the start and what a start he made! In the first lap making up a fistful of places, putting us at 12th overall and 6th in class.
The pace in us and the car was really showing now, as throughout his stint he fought his way through and kept climbing the order, even with the intervention of a safety car.
After this, “Goose” handed the car to me, tired and ragged as she was. I hopped in and re-joined the race in 9th overall and 4th in class thanks to the hard charge of Angus. But the battle had only just begun. Fuelled with rage from the events of the day so far, I released all hell on the competitors, climbing the order, overtaking left right and centre. With only 15 minutes in the race to go we were sitting 4th overall, but more importantly 1st in class with a 30 second lead on the cars behind us. However, at this point I was struck with yet more bad news: we were running out of fuel, and fast. This meant I could no longer push for lap times and had to reach for my inner “Lightfoot” in order to conserve fuel. Coasting and short shifting are some of the most frustrating things a driver must do, as in my head I knew my competition was gaining on me. But with the timer coming down, the clock hit zero! We had only gone and won it from the back of the grid.
We finished 4th overall – just behind the GT3 cars – but more importantly, 1st in our class. Which means we are still in contention for the championship. And to top it off, I was voted driver of the day by the officials of the championship.
It just goes to show that even in the face of adversity and disappointment, you must keep on pushing, as you never know what might happen.
A fantastic effort by both Angus Dudley and myself, and our brilliant team and dedicated, outright amazing mechanics, without whom we could not do what we do and perform like we do.