Race Report: Bassett Reflects on Rounds 1 and 2.
It’s my second consecutive year with the Peugeot 205 GTi and it promises to be exciting, with the introduction of the all-new engine and set-up changes from 2014, a new title sponsor in Complete Weed Control, a completely fresh approach and higher expectations, but with the same familiar and friendly faces.
The opening round of the 2015 BARC Cannons Tin Top Championship took place at Brands Hatch over the weekend (1-2 April), on a circuit that holds fond memories, as the Indy circuit was where I achieved our first ever podium finish in 2014.
This year would be tougher because, having only completed a few days of pre-season testing with the car in relatively low temperatures, much of the car’s componentry and geometry had yet to be shaken down.
So, what about the car? An all-new engine, built and developed by Peter Mann and Russell Turner, new wider wheels and tyres, new bodywork and a few other surprises which were all fitted by Tom Burgess, sponsored by Complete Weed Control and Complete Ice Control, as well as my personal sponsors Fusion Media (thanks for your support).
Tom and I were genuinely curious to see what we had underneath us when we finally rolled out for the morning’s first 15-minute qualifying session. It didn’t last too long however, when a faulty union between the oil filter and oil cooler came loose on the last corner of the first lap, causing me to spin along the start/finish line. This meant our qualifying session was effectively over.
After repairing the car, we had to make sure that it was race-ready which meant three laps had to be completed before race officials were happy, but we were starting from 21st and last place in the first race.
After the final few checks were complete, we got down to the real business. It was going to be hard work starting last, but we thought the top 10 and a decent starting place in race two was achievable if we got settled into a rhythm quickly and picked off cars when we could.
Once the lights went out, I quickly set to work to try and get into the top ten. By the end of the first lap we had already overtaken eight cars and hopes of finishing in the top ten were looking very optimistic.
Lap two saw us move ahead of another three cars and lap three ahead of another two, and into 8th poisition behind the turbo-charged Vauxhall Astra of Peter Osbourne and Len Colley’s BMW 3-series- albeit by this time we were three seconds behind.
Over the next two laps we closed the gap and was tucked right under the rear of the Astra and looking for a way past on the start/finish line before the safety car came out for a stricken Renault Clio at Druids.
Three laps behind the safety car bunched the field up and allowed our tyres to also cool down having opted to fit the soft compound.
Once the safety car peeled in, racing resumed. Braking later going into Paddock Hill Bend gave us a good run up the hill and into Druids where I was able to outbreak the Vauxhall and into seventh.
A lap later and we passed the BMW 3-series on the start/finish line and into Paddock Hill Bend and with it a top six finish was looking like the minimum we would leave race one with.
On the same lap, I was able to out-brake the Ford Fiesta of Dominic Ryan going into Surtees into 5th and by this point finishing on the podium looked a real possibility with 5 laps still to go. While the Honda Civic and MG ZR190 of Terry Searles were visibly quicker on the straight, we seemed better under-braking and through the more twisty parts of the circuit.
This would prove to be the crest of the weekend, as things began to unravel from there. Coming out of Paddock Hill Bend, we started the lose power and the engine note changed. Coming onto Cooper Straight the MG and Honda started to pull away even further and we pulled off at the bottom of the pits entrance, bringing a disappointing end to race one having started last and, at the time, in 5th looking to get into the top three.
We got the car back to the pits and set about trying to find out the problem with a view to getting the car out for the second race, but it wasn’t meant to be. The engine had seized which meant an early end to the race weekend.
With so much promise, it was a disappointing end – we know there is more time to come from me and the car once we get some testing under our belts and can spend time setting the car up. The speed is there for all to see and at some point we know we will get it right – it’s just so frustrating for all of us at the moment.
Once we got the car back to the workshop, the investigation work started. It turned out oil starvation caused the seizure to the number two piston and con-rod which also bent the crank.
So, after so much promise in race one we left with no points and only a few scars to show for all of our efforts.
We now are trying to get the car ready for the triple header at Lydden Hill in Kent on 20/21 June.
For more on Chris Bassett’s racing activities, please visit the official www.chrisbassett.co.uk website, ‘like’ his Facebook page or follow @Chris_Bassett on Twitter.
Photography courtesy of Rafal Biniszewski.