Race of Remembrance 2021
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.