Updated: Dec 21, 2021
What a stunning weekend! As an event, the Race of Remembrance weekend is right up there with the very best experiences. Thousands of people attended, from Friday through to the end of the main race on the Sunday of remembrance weekend (The first weekend after the 11th November). All to show support for Mission Motorsport and, to remember the fallen of the Great War.
This year saw three races taking place, the main twelve-hour endurance race, a Clubsport 45min race. Lastly, something called the Biathlon of Foolishness which I'll describe in more detail later.
The Race of Remembrance (www.raceofremembrance.com) is a multi motorsport-orientated activity event. There is something for everyone to participate in, these include karting, sim racing as well as physical car races. The main weekend draws the very best of the motorsport community together, to support and raise money for Mission Motorsport by doing what we all love.... racing!
The event was established in 2014 and has run every year since baring the gap for the Covid pandemic when a simple remembrance service was held at Thruxton circuit instead of the main race. Originally designed to be a friendly way for teams to try something different and use up what was left of their tyres and brakes from a season's competition. The event has now grown and sees professional drivers from British touring cars and Porsche cup taking to the grid with complete novice racers. Nowhere else will you find such a mix of talent on a single grid.
The format is a 12-hour endurance race but broken down into segments. 4pm till 8pm break for the night to comply with noise requirement overnight, resume 7am till 11am and pause so all teams can attend a remembrance service then 12pm till 4pm race to the finish. Team tactics and trying to stay out of the pitlane for as long as possible are key to success.
This year we sampled the Race of Remembrance experience by taking part in the Clubsport race. This is a 45min support race with both qualifying and the race being held on Saturday before the main race starts. Although the weekend is a charity event the competition was intense.
Here I'm going to pause for a moment in my recital of the race review, as I feel it's fitting to give you some more information about who mission motorsport are and what they do. Mission Motorsport (www.missionmotorsport.org) is an armed forces charity, who help with the recovery and rehabilitation of service personnel who have suffered physical or mental injury while on active duty. They use motorsport as the focus of the rehabilitation pushing the service personnel to try new things and see past the limitations of their injuries.
Arriving at the Trac Mon circuit in Anglesey, in the early hours of Friday before the weekend of the racing was special. Although the weather was cold, wet and the wind was extremely gusty. The atmosphere was electric with a sense of straining anticipation. By 8am there were mechanics and drivers buzzing about the paddock getting their cars ready for the day's testing sessions.
As regular readers will know, I'm a bit old fashion as I drive the race car to events compete and hope nothing has gone wrong meaning I can drive the car home again. Having sprinted between the many inconvenient sets of road works on the M56 and A55 on route from Manchester to the circuit meant the car was nicely warmed up and ready to hit the track as soon as the tyres had been changed.
I pulled up into the paddock parking next to Joe Jacob's motor home. Joe is the teams' second driver for the weekend. Before I had had a chance to turn the engine off in the Mazda2, Joe had slid his campers side door open and was offering warm drinks and cold beer for later. A master class in hosting if ever I saw one.
Joe and I quickly emptied the car of tools and spare parts, changed the wheels to our track alloys wrapped MRF ZTR tyres and made some small adjustments to the rear brakes. We may have been a little ambitious with our tyre choice considering the weather. The only other job before heading out for testing was to add the last of the race decals to the car.
We sent Joe out first as this was the first time he had ever driven the circuit. A 45min stint gave him amply time to learn which way the track went and get a good first impression of the car and how to drive it. He was certainly having fun as it required three bodies on the pit wall waving to get his attention and indicate its time to come into the pits. We had a quick debrief in Joe's nice warm camper about track conditions and how the car was handling. Joe's van is a stunning bit of kit and I happily without any sort of reservation adopted it as the team bus for the weekend. Before making any set-up changes to the car, I opted to head out and feel first-hand the issues Joe had been describing.
On exiting the pitlane the first corner of the Trac Mon circuit you arrive at is the wonderfully banked, long right-hander of turn two which has a very late apex. Straight out the pits and assisted by the banking the MRF tyres felt great. I chucked the car at the apex feeling it stick and taking confidence in the fact I could get on the power and accelerate out onto the far side of the track towards turn three, which is also known as church owing to their being a tiny Chapple just outside the circuit boundaries on its own little island in the Irish sea. Turn three can normally be taken flat out on a good day on road tyres and having felt the grip through turn two I was confident this should be possible today. Rapidly approaching the turn in point I note that every car in front is having a slight dabbing of the brakes just before entering the corner. At the last moment, I decide against a first lap full send and opt for a lift of the throttle. This manoeuvre provided excellent grip at the front end with a wonderfully sweeping turn in. Unfortunately, and in quite spectacular fashion in my opinion, the rear of the car chose not to turn and instead wanted to carry on in the direction we had been traveling down the straight. This meant I was taking the fastest corner on the track sideways with full opposite lock applied to try and catch the slide. The two saving graces which aided my over ambition and lack of talent the where the fact the Mazda2 Is extremely forgiving. when the rear does lose adhetion with the tarmac, it always travels in a predictable arc. The second saving grace is the Mazda2 is front wheel drive so there is no balancing of throttle and shifting of weight required like in a rear wheel drive car. Catching a slide in the Mazda2 is a simple case of steer where you want to go and pin the accelerator pedal to the floor until your once again pointing in your intended direction of travel.
Turns four to eight passed without drama but turn nine. a tricky off camber left was an issue. try as I might the car would not drive through without a mix of what I can only describe as understreering oversteer. If that's a new phase I'm coining it to mean the car was sliding wide as the front while the rear was sliding faster before the front once again slipped wider. I'd love to claim this was a beautiful and intentional four wheel drift but it wasn't. It was more akin to wrestling a friendly bear. We could influence the direction the car was going but it chose how close to the apex it wanted to go and how soon we could step on the accelarator.
The last turn onto the pit straight was different again. This was a whole world of understeer but at least the characteristic was the same each time driving the corner unlike turn three and nine. I completed 20mins worth of laps before returning to the pits.
Another debrief in the newly accommodated team bus. Using the power of elimination Joe and I deduced the issue was were both struggling to get the rear MRF tyre up to temperature and as such were missing out on vital pressures.
We noted that a friend of the team Nick Dougil of MOTrackdays was in attendance. Nick has a wealth of knowledge and experience he can draw from and even retails tyres as his day job. The perfect person to help correct our tyre issues. I inform Nick of how the car feels and what we have done to try and correct it. Nicks response was to laugh out loud at our efforts to generate heat and pressure and gave very simple advice. Stop messing about and pump the tyres up more. We therefore pumped the tyres up to run 28psi cold on the front and 29psi cold on the rear. Back out on track and what a difference, the little mazda2 suddenly felt like a proper race car again.
Nick kindly tuck the time to explain that we had lost grip after gaining a little time was because we had been driving on the side wall of the tyre. the side wall then overheats goes soft and cant support the car anymore as there isn't enough air pressure inside the tyre. We were apparently lucky we hadn't permanently damaged the tyres.
Testing finished well with Both Joe and I enjoying our driving and feeling confident about qualifying. After a short brake it was time for the main Race of Rememberance competitors to take to the track for their night qualifying session. The weather had improved the sky was clearing and the sun was setting.
The location of the Trac Mon Angelsey circuit is stunning. It's easily the prettiest surroundings of any circuit in the UK. One side of the track is boarded by rolling farmland and the other is cliffs and amazing views of the sea and the Snowdonia national park. With the setting sun glistening off the Irish sea, the day closed with some spectacular views only to be replaced by fifty sets of headlights thrashing past round the track as the night set in.
Our team retired to a local hotel for an evening packed full of tactical discussion, a beverage or two before completely changing the plan of action for something that sounded much more daring only to revert back to the original plan the next morning. Steve the team owner joined us at the hotel and required a full debrief of testing with a close analysis of the lap times and how consistent we were. Steves a very serious chap.
Next morning found the team up at the crack of dawn. Back at the track Joe and I suited up and got ourselves in the zone, ready for our Clubsport qualifying. This involved drinking coffee and taking the mick out of steve who was trying to apply more stickers to the car and clean its windscreen. I had applied a heavy layer of Rainx to the screen Thursday night prior to driving to the circuit so all Steve managed to do with his well-meaning assistance was smudge the screen and make it look smeared. Joe and I checked the tyre pressures and adjusted the brakes to suit the warmer and bone dry conditions of the morning.
No more then 20 seconds before we were called down to the assembly area, Steve had eventually, managed to hand buff the windsreen to the point it was almost invisible to the eye. The plan for qualifying as decided the night before was for me to drive first put a couple of banker laps in then set the best time I could before pitting to change drivers and let Joe have his time setting the fastest time possible. Only things didn't go to plan. A long red flag disrupting any rhythm I might have been finding. Once the track was clear I managed an out lap noted where the accident had been as there was a long trail of cement dust on the track to soak up what ever fluid had been dropped. A fast lap and an in lap later and I'd managed a 1min59sec lap.
Joe sets off on a steady out-lap before going into full attack mode. We had the full team stood on or hanging over the pitwall shouting and waving encouragement to drive faster. And faster Joe drove. He set a brilliant lap time two seconds quicker than mine, which meant we would line up 5th in class with the second least powerful car on the grid. Joe was adamant he could go no faster and opted to bring the car into the pits with five mins still available. True self-confidence right there.
We had a great advantage early in our qualifying session as our Black Diamond Brake kit works at full retardation, even from cold. This meant we could get on pace immediately and make a gap giving us a clear track to set our times. The Black Diamond kit would also help in the early stages of the race.
Once qually had finished and the cars had been checked in park ferme, there was nothing to do but check the car and wait for the final starting position to be released. Good job we did check the car and tyres again as we found one of the tyres had a blister which had burst to show the cords of the tyre. This probably occurred on Friday when we were running the low pressures. This meant we needed another trip to Nick to beg for a new tyre.
Sadly nick only had two medium compound tyres left in stock for our fitment. Since the other three wheels were utilising hard compound MRF we had to purchase both the tyres Nick had available. Feeling lucky to have secured two tyres and with the team bank balance considerably lighter we were ready for the race.
The announcement for the Clubsport competitors was broadcast around the paddock. I start strapping myself into the car and realise my team has disappeared. I've no ideas were Joe had got to but Steve was eventually found smoosing with an Auto car reporter who was participating in the Full race of Rememberance later in the evening. After a lot of waving including a number of rude hand signals, Steve noted I was trying to get his attention from inside the car. No point shouting with my helmet on and cars starting up. Steve pulled the pin from the fire extinguisher and waved me out of our pit area to head to assembly.
The Marshals were brilliant. I was one of the last to arrive at assembly and they had my spot ready. They positioned me between a red MX5 mk1 and a Ford KA endurance cup car. In the assembly area its hard for drivers to look around due to the FHR we have to wear to protect our necks. Even so I try to make eye contact with the other drivers give them a helmet hidden smile and thumbs up to be friendly. The MX5 driver to my right responded with a small wave but there was nothing from the KA driver. No Acknowledgement at all. This identified him as our main target and the goal for the race became clear. Beat the KA.
Sitting in the assembly area always feels like an eternity. As a driver, your adrenalin is starting to flow and you're eager to get going. In reality, it's normally no more than ten minutes that we are waiting for the command to head to the grid where Marshals point you to your starting position.
A really nice touch, considering we were racing in support of a military charity. Was to have a pipes and drums parade walk the length of the grid before the green flag lap. It was quite touching to hear the wailing of the pipes.
The start lights turned green and we set off on the green flag or parade lap. I did my best to scrub the brand new tyres in over the 2.6 mile lap. Weaving much more than I normally would. A number of the racers around me were stamping on the brakes in an effort to get some heat into them on a very cold day. Something our Black Diamond Brakes don't need.
We weaved and braked our way back round to the starting grid. The 5second board was displayed followed by the red lights. Engine revs rise, the lights go out. All the racers dump their clutches making wheels spin and everyone is surging forward off the start line towards turn one. I'm not the best at launching a car and the KA made a cracking start letting him push his nose in front of me with a move around the outside in turn one. We sprinted down the shallow hill towards the steeply banked turn two. Having made his move around the outside at turn one the KA could now claim the inside line for turn two. Multiple cars bunched up jostling for the apex of turn two held the KA from taking a smooth line through the turn. I being on the outside of the corner had to travel further but found my path completely clear of cars allowing me to carry more speed out of the corner and out drag the KA to the flat out turn three.
On arrival at turn four it was clear a number of drivers failed to get their brakes up to working temperature as there were cars everywhere from higher classes facing the wrong way back down the hill which leads to turn four. I picked my way through the stricken and recovering cars meaning the team made a number of places.
I set my sites on the rear bumper of the Red MX5 that I had lined up alongside in assembly. We ran nose to tail through the next three turns before heading down the back straight to the hairpin of turn ten. A number of the recovering cars blasted past as we drove down the straight. I moved out from behind the MX5 and pulled in behind a very quick VW Golf in an attempt to gain a stronger slipstream. The Golf forced the MX5 wide and forced a great Mazda2 sized gap which would have gained me another place had I only been quick witted enough to follow the golf through. Instead, I thought the MX5 was going to close the gap and squeeze me onto the grass on the inside. The MX5 didn't however she held her line and we exited turn ten side by side and had our own drag race up to the final turn 11 corner. At turn 11 the MX5 held the inside line and thus could claim the corner before I was able to turn into the apex.
Exiting Turn 11 I once again tucked into the slipstream of the MX5 and ran on her bumper through turn one to the breaking point of turn two where I made a lunge for the inside line only for the MX5 to see me coming and cover the line. We piled out onto the straight towards Turn three again with me trying hard to remain in the MX5s tow. At turn four I again made a move towards the outside in the hope of being able to cut back to the inside on the brakes. Again the MX5 driver anticipated my move and defended accordingly. Dropping down the hill to turn 5 I'm in second gear trying hard to hold the gear as long as possible to get a good run back up the hill towards turn six. We were side by side again approaching turn six I was starting to edge ahead and held the inside line when I hit the rev limiter and missed my gear change. This gifted turn 6 back to the MX5 driver and she made the most of my mistake to pull four car lengths on me.
Without the assistance of the slipstream, I couldn't quite keep up with MX5. She would pull a little further ahead on each straight. Fortunately, the KA wasn't close enough to capitalise on my mistake meaning once all the recovering cars had picked their way though we were still fifth in class exactly where we had started.
After fifteen minutes of racing, I started to gain on the MX5 again as she caught another MX5 in front of her. Their battling was allowing me to creep back into the fight and I was starting to plan how I could maximise my attack when the start line marshal held out the pits open board. This instruction tells the drivers on the circuit they have fifteen minutes in which to complete their mandatory pit stop. The teams' original plan was to split the race evenly between Joe and I. Yet the opportunity for some tactical gains was too much to pass up. I completed two more laps pushing as hard as I could to reduce the gap as much as possible to the cars in front before pulling off the circuit into the pitlane. If you have never driven down a busy pitlane before at the 60kph pitlane limit allow me to inform you that it's terrifying. You're driving down a narrow lane with a wall on one side and a continuous row of garages on the other. From these garages cars that are already on the pits finishing their two minute stop are screeching from their boxes into the fast lane inches in front of you while you look for your garage to stop in front of. Our garage was number nine out of twenty so almost slap bang in the middle.
I skid to a stop unclip my harness and look around expecting to see Joe ready to pull me out of the driver's seat and Steve ready with the stopwatch to ensure we were stationary for no more than the mandated two-minute minimum duration. As I'm pulling myself out of the car with the assistance of the roll cage I see Joe running down the pitlane bringing a chap who was mechanicing for Team Peaky Blinders with him. Joe nimbly swings into the driver's seat and starts adjusting himself to get comfy. Richard, the terms borrowed peaky mechanic, is checking and adjusting the tyre pressures and wiping off the windscreen. I'm not sure where he came from but suddenly Steve was beside the car standing next to the Marshal tasked with checking the legality of our pit stop.
Without meaning to, the team looked like a professional outfit where everyone had a job and everyone knew what they were doing. I help Joe adjust the harness straps and gave him an update on how the car was behaving. Steve shouts twenty seconds. Richard has finished his checks and given us the thumbs up. I shut the driver's door and step back. Ten seconds shouts Steve. I move round the back of the car to stand on the garage side. Richard has moved to teh front and is stood with one hand up in a stop sign. Steve shouts five, Four, Three, Two, One Richard drops his hand and waves Joe out into the fast lane with a scream of tyres and a flashing indicator.
As Joe reached the pit exit the Red MX5 appeared at the pit entrance. If joe could complete one and a half laps while the track was quiet and the MX5 was in the pits we had a chance of gaining places in the stops. Joe raced round and although the MX5 remained in front of us after its stop, Joe had halfed the gap.
Joe spent the next few laps playing cat and mouse with the MX5s gaining one lap and losing out the next. We did manage to increase our lead over the KA to over half a lap. At the end of the race, joe brought the car safely home still fifth in class but with a sterling performance.
The car performed faultlessly. The combination of medium and hard compound tyres seemed to suit the Mazda2 giving us a predictable amount of slide from the rear. The tyres came up to temperature well and gripped from the first turn. The Black Diamond brakes remained just as impressive as they were in qually. They bite into the disk just as hard at the start of the race as they did at the finish. We did find the limit of our suspension kit so we will be looking to upgrade that overwinter.
In addition to our motor race, I also participated as the designated fool for Team Peaky Blinders in the Biathlon of foolishness. This is a foot race that takes place straight after the Clubsport event. In this competition, every team from the Main Race must volunteer a fool to run half the length of the circuit and take a dive into the Irish sea. All while wearing fancy dress.
The Peaky Blinders team was very kind only revealing the costume I was to wear at the last moment. A bright orange inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex! If you haven't seen one of these costumes before, you should know that this is a sealed plastic suit inflated by a small mobile air pump. The air pump also serves to prevent the little viewing window that permits the wearer to see where he or she is going from steaming up.
As soon as the Clubsport race finished and I'd seen Joe cross the finishing line I was wisked into the team garage to change into the dino suit. no small feet of achievement. Once wearing the suit it required two car mechanics to inflate the costume and position the head in a realistic pose. the view out of the little portal is extremely limited and while strutting and pouncing in my best Trex impersonation to the start line I realised I'm wearing a sealed plastic suit that relies on electrics to help the occupant breathe and I was going to be going for a swim. I had the pumps battery pack taped to my bearskin with ample amounts of duck tape. The thought of removing the battery pack was worse than the idea of running in the suit.
As I was guided to the line by Charlie one of the peaky mechanics we observed there was a theme going on with five other dino clad competitors already on the start. Can you give someone the competitive eye while wearing a fancy dress outfit? Well I tried to.
After a quick speech from the event organisers, the Biathlon racers were told to take our marks and GO!!.
Determined to be the first Dino to finish I set off at a sprint. my first step ripped the crotch of the suit. five strides later while jinking around captain Jack Sparrow my air pump got pulled out of the rear end of my suit. I was now slowly deflating. The first warning I had that my suit had failed was the viewing portal steaming up meaning I could see nothing but my own condensed breath. Gradually my Trex head flopped down pulling the suit tight in some very unpleasant areas.
The old jokes about a Trex not being able to scratch its chin are perfectly valid here. I'd even say they are letting the Trex off lightly. The arms of the suit are positioned in such a way as to mimic the range of movement a Trex should have had. This did however mean I couldn't reach the front access zip on my own.
Continuing to run in the general direction of the voices around me I started shouting for help and eventually, a pink fairy took pity on me and requested I stop while she found the zip and pulled it down. Suddenly able to see and breathe we flipped the Trex head over my shoulder and set off running again with my head poking out of a Trex body in the same manner as a zenomorph being born in the film Alien.
Looking around I note that I cant see my fellow dinosaurs. Imagining they had passed me while blinded by my suit I increase my pace. I'm running past famous characters, passing Mr Incredible on the left and the black swan on the right. As we approach the off-road section of the run I can see the other dinos. They hadn't run the full course! Instead, they cut across the grassy infield from one side of the circuit to the other.
Leaving the circuit we climb a banking duck under the wire fence where spectators are yelling encouragement for their favourite costume character. Once under the fence, the runners must scramble down a cliff into a small sea bay. the runners must swim or wade out to a marker set fifteen meters from the shore.
As soon as I stepped into the water my now unzipped suit filled with water. it acted like an anchor dragging behind me. struggling against the water resistance I reach the marker and turn for land. As the water gets shallower the suit gets heavier.
On exit from the sea, the suit was completely full of water. It must have measured close to forty litres in the tail alone. Hauling the extra mass back up the cliff wasn't fun. Neither was the tail getting stuck on the wire fence. Eventually, back on the track with a rapidly emptying suit, I joined the dash across the infield to the finish line.
Apparently, I was the first dino to finish and tenth overall.
To sum up the weekend. It's fantastic fun all in aid of a fantastic cause. The Mazda2 as a cheap easily accessible entry into motorsport was fantastic. It ran consistently and predictably all weekend. As a team we enjoyed the event so much that we have since been in touch with the BRSCC and committed to full seasons racing with the Clubsport trophy in 2022.
As I write this I am also in the middle of setting out a detailed set of regulations for a Mazda2 class within the Clubsport Trophy. 2RacingUK must say a huge thank you to RRG Mazda Stockport. Without their support, we wouldn't have been able to compete in such a fantastic weekend. RRG are a superb Mazda Main dealer and a company we are exceedingly proud to be associated with.
Toxic Knobs also required special thanks. This is a wonderfully company saving tones of plastic from entering landfill, melting it down and forming bespoke gear knobs for motor enthusiasts.
Black Diamond has been mentioned but it's worth saying again. Their Brake products are next level. road or track they just work. I have completed a competitive season using just two sets of predator pads. This includes road use and multiple trackdays.
Joe, Kimberly and steve played a big part in the weekend. They give the team so much support and really bring the fun.
Lastly Thank you to the BRSCC for organising and the marshals for running the weekend. your all fabulous people and we cant wait to see everyone again in 2022.
IF your looking at trying motorsport the Clubsport Trophy is an excellent and cost effective first step. If you want more information on the Mazda2 please do get in touch we have guest drives and hire cars available.