Racing on Hallowed Ground
There's something special about Silverstone. No matter the reason for your attending Silverstone it seems to reverberate with invisible energy and excitement. Car shows, auctions or racing the feeling is the same. There's a tingle that runs down your spine and along all the hairs on your arms. You don't need to have any interest in motorsport to have heard of Silverstone understand the sensations it produces in people.
Imagine then the excitement when the BRSCC announced the second round of the ClubSport trophy would be held at Silverstone. The feeling was euphoric. Then imagine if your can how much the level of excitement increased when the realisation set in that we wouldn't be racing on the national layout as would be normal for a grass roots series like our. We would in fact be racing on the full GP layout. The same layout used by formula 1! I've never partaken of recreational drugs so have no idea of the sensation that is experienced through the use of some substances but I wager the high of realising the 2RacingUK team and I would be racing on the GP circuit would have dwarfed that of an ecstasy fuelled 90's rave.
This excitement was clearly shared by other racing enthusiasts as the ClubSport Trophy held its biggest grid ever. 61 cars lined up on the grid to take part in this one race alone with hundreds more packing into the rest of the busy race schedule.
Once again the BRSCC had worked some organisational magic and managed to sort for both the ClubSport qualifying and race to be held on the same day, meaning overnight stays were kept to a minimum and the team could score brownie points at home by returning to our wives.
Staying on-site the night prior to race day was stunning. Silverstone lit up at night is a spectacular sight to behold. By arriving early we managed to bag a prime position in the paddock where we could spread out near a good viewing area so we could watch the action of the other races whilst waiting for our turn to do battle on track. and it was a battle too.
Scrutineering went without issue this time. The work to tidy the wiring and make everything easier to see in car 33 was worth the effort as we were passed first time. Nick brought his own Mazda2 to compete at this round. He either enjoyed driving my car so much he wanted to use his own or my dodgy wiring worried him to the point he didn't want to risk a second race in the car, he never. Nick's poor scrutineer had clearly never seen a Mazda2 race car, he was adamant that Nick was racing a Citroen C1.
The driver's briefing was held and the main point emphasised by the clerk was to be courteous to other cars on track and don't impact their race with poorly judged moves and lapping. Remember this phrase later. With 61 cars it was always going to be a tough ask.
Qualifying was crazy. 30mins of driving around the circuit trying to put a clean lap together. Every time we found an open bit of circuit one or more of the class A cars would come piling down a straight and affecting our braking zones or steaming into a corner just as we made our turn-in point. After a very rapid learning curve in which we discovered the only way to put a lap together with 61 other cars on the grid is, to get your elbows out and hold your lines, turn into a corner and let everyone else deal with going around us. The Mazda2s are brilliant for this, they are built like small nimble tanks with their roll cages and driver protection. Joe sharing car 33 did a great job setting a great pace. Stefan and Nick however were on another level with their stints at the wheel of their cars setting a blistering pace. Soon the pit boards were put out for Stefan and Joe to call them in for their driver change. We will have to invest in some pit to car radio soon to make the calls easier.
David and I jump into our respective cars and hit the track. We left the pitlane nose to tail and entered the track just as a flock of Mazda Mx5s came hurtling round turn one (Copse), all fighting for the racing line to enter the turn 2,3 and 4 Complex (Maggots, Beckets and Chapple). I chose to run around the outside of the left-hand Maggots entry giving me the inside line for right-hand kink before Beckets. This kept me out of the MX5 firing line. David sadly got forced to the middle of the circuit and did amazingly well to navigate the MX5 storm.
You wouldn't think it was a qualifying session the way the MX5s were battling for position.
Completing my out lap, the first time I entered Copse at speed I opt for caution and a dab of brake. The car weighted up and tucked into the apex and I found myself feeding the power back in before I had even reached the exit phase. Straightening the car for the run down to maggots, I look to my left and see I've three car widths left between my car and the outside of the track. Thinking to myself there's plenty of space left best use full throttle next time.
Maggots and Beckets is a joyful series of turns to drive. It's a fast sequence of five changes in direction (including the Chapple exit to hangar straight), The first left-right is flat out in the Mazda2. The car skips from left to right so easily with the uprated SuperPro control arms passing plenty of information to the driver through the wheel and maximising the performance from the suspension. The second left-right requires a touch of brakes to halt the understeer that's building due to the speed at which the car is traveling as we change direction. This pushed the weight of the car forward and adds grip to the front tyres. While the weight is on the front the rear swings round in a very controllable slide allowing the car to pivot faster and let the driver get on the power sooner. Again aided by SuperPro, their rear axel bushes help the car talk to the driver giving brilliant confidence to push hard.
The tyres are now squealing in protest as the weight of the car moves to the rear lifting grip from the front. The MRF control tyre used by the MAzda2s is truly epic. They handle the punishment so well.
Pushing the throttle pedal as hard as possible in the vain hope that doing so will encourage the car to go just a little faster down the hangar straight even though the throttle body is electronically limited. Four class-A cars still fly past like I'm standing still when I'm in fact, doing one hundred miles per hour. Straights ars not the Mazda2s friend and the straights at Silverstone are long, really long. The bends on the other hand are our territory. At the end of the Hangar straight is Stowe corner. a wickedly fast right-hander with a spectacularly late apex leading to the short vale straight and club complex.
Everything we lack in straight-line performance we make up for with interest through these turns. Braking just enough to load the front tyres, we could slowly turn the nose to face the corner. The moment the car is rotating pin the throttle wide open again and accelerate with everything the little Mazda2s have to offer. Through Stowe corner, there was nothing pulling away from us. We even gained ground over the class C and D cars. Vale straight is short enough that we could hang onto most other cars and gain ground through the club complex which has some of the slowest turns on the whole circuit. We could, depending on who was in front of us, exit Club quick enough that we could drop in behind the faster cars and let them tow us down the first part of the Hamilton straight in their slipstream.
Ending the Hamilton straight is Abbey. Another exceedingly fast right turn the apex of which is hidden behind the F1 pit wall. Abbey is flat out in our Mazda2s. There is so much run-off space on the outside of the turn that it creates the illusion of traveling far slower than we actually were.
Quickly following Abbey is farm corner, a left turn where the throttle remains flat to the floor.
A short straight after farm and you're into Village corner and the loop round to Aintree. Village is a slow corner that's key to the LOOP and Aintree exit. Following the speed of Abbey and Farm you're hitting the brakes really late and really hard. Brake modulation is key here and the Black diamond Predator pads did a great job. They offered consistent feel and stopping power that could be trusted lap after lap. More about the brakes later in the report.
Overshooting the braking point at Village means running wide and losing speed around the loop. If you try to make lost time up through the loop you end up running out of track and losing more time through Aintree. In essence, lose time in any of the three corners of this complex and your paying for the mistake all the way down the long Wellington straight.
When driving a low-powered car you'll note, straights are wonderfully adept at multiplying the time lost in corners.
The end result for the team's qualifying table is thus.
1st Nick 4 points car 18 Best time 2.55.069
2nd Stefan 3 points car 334 Best time 2.59.604
3rd Neal 2 points car 33 Best time 3.00.361
4th Joe 1 point car 33 Best time 3.00.585
5th David 0 points car 334 Best time 3.11.515
The discrepancy in times between Nick and everyone else is completely down to traffic and has nothing to do with Nick simply being a pro behind the wheel. This is the official excuse and we're sticking to it.
Season qualifying results after two races.
1st Nick 8 points
2nd Stefan 6 points
3rd Neal 4 points
4th David 1 points
4th Joe 1 point
After Qually ended all three cars were in good health and needed only a check of the tyre pressures and a set-up tweek.
Nick opted to change his brake pads for something more, aggressive. Having listened to Nicks's feedback about my brakes at the last round at Snetterton and received a very honest review on the camera audio. I decided to do the same. Out came the one race old Black diamond product, which still looked like new, and in went a set of Rodison Motorsport pads.
The change of brake pads and general health checks gave a great opportunity for Callum our new Pitlane manager and senior mechanic to get his hands dirty. With Callum's help we had the pads changed on both sides in ten mins flat. He's not bad with a spanner.
After some lunch and a serious amount of caffeine consumption, on my part at least. We were called to the assembly area by the tannoy. 61 cars cant be squashed into the normal assembly area. As such, the line for the ClubSport cars snaked around the back of the medical centre and out towards the main paddock. The poor marshals tasked with organising our rowdy stable of racers did a great job. By the time the last car was called to the grid and positioned in their space they were hoarse from shouting.
The marshals clear themselves from the circuit and the green lights and flags were shown. Off set 61 cars in close formation to complete the safety lap. Even at the slow speeds of the green flag lap, the sound from 61 racing cars all setting off at the same time was brilliant the whole pit lane vibrated with a low pitch thrum of engines.
Back on the grid the marshals once again assist the drivers to find their starting space. For various reasons, a good number of cars were demoted to the back of the grid which promoted our drivers to start in the top two-thirds of the grid. What has been called the danger zone for race start incidents?
As soon as all the cars are lined up the marshals vacate the grid and the start boards are hung from the gantry followed by the start lights. One by one they illuminate to the sum of five. The engine revs build, not a low thrum but a mixed scream of horsepower straining to be released and cascade down the straight to turn one. Five lights are on, a pause as everyone stares intently at the gantry. Then the lights go dark and the madness begins.
I'm driver two sharing my car with Joe so I'm starting by standing in the pitlane as the lights go out. You cant stand on the pit wall at the start of a race until every car has passed the start line meaning nothing can be seen, so all David, Callum and I could do is hope that all three cars make it around the first lap safely and listen to the circuit commentary.
The commentators are evil gits. They oo and ahh making everything sound dramatic and worrying everyone in the pitlane to death as we strain to catch every word to ensure our cars and teammates are safe and ideally making progress up the grid.
The lead cars come hurtling around the final turn and across the line to start lap two. Now standing on the pit wall we watch each car cross the line. First of the Mazda2s to appear is Stefan in car 334. Somehow in the mayhem of the start, he's managed to climb three places and pass Nick. Nick is virtually glued to Stefan bumper drafting down the pit straight followed two car lengths back by Joe. All three cars still in the running. David is going apoplectic with joy to see his car running so well.
From the pit wall, we see Nick pull out from Stefan's slipstream and place his car on the inside of turn one. They were running side by side as they drove out of sight around the bottom of the pits.
A couple of minutes later the safety car is called out and the race is reduced to half speed. Not sure of the reason for the safety car to be called out but a sad-looking BMW smoked into the pitlane before the safety car could complete a lap. The hard luck of the BMW was good luck for 2Racing as that promoted us another place up the field. As all the cars cross the line we spy Stefan still leading Nick followed a car back by Joe.
The safety car's bunched everyone together. Some of the faster cars that had been demoted for the original standing start used restart as an opportunity to pass the 2s. The process of these cars moving through the field dropped Joe back from the Nick and Stefan battle.
Nick managed to pass Stefan in the restart and the pair of them duelled for five laps before a collision with a damaged Seat Leon forced Nick off the track at Aintree. The Seat was trying to move to the left of the circuit to get off the racing line when Nick who was on the racing line came round Aintree. The Seat cant have seen Nick and drove into the right rear of NIcks Mazda2 spinning Nick off the track. Nick caught the spin and recovered to the circuit to find the safety car had been called out again to cover the now standard Seat.
This second safety car coincided with the opening of the pit window so everyone piled into the pits for a cheap pit stop. As the safety car is slowing the cars on track you lose less distance to the cars ahead while serving the mandatory 2 min pit stop. Ironically, Callum had called Joe and Stefan into the pits for their scheduled stop on this lap, so all was still going to plan.
Stefan arrived in the team's pit area first followed by Nick and Joe. Callum set to work checking the tyre pressures while Dav