Race Report: Brands Hatch 7 November 2015
We headed into the final round of the Cannons Motor Spares Tin Tops Championship in high spirits with a third, second and three class wins from our last five races. Big crowds were expected with the series acting as a support race for the British Truck Racing Championship and it was always going to be a lively affair with the wet weather and the possibility of finishing second in the championship if things went our way.
The day started well after achieving our first outright pole position of the year, but that was as good as it was going to get.
Starting from pole position, we made a good start with Barnaby Davies in his turbo charged Toyota Starlet and Rod Birley in his Honda Integra chasing. The top three pulled away from the rest of the group in slippery conditions with us managing to keep the Toyota behind – pulling out a lead in the corners and Davies closing in on the straight. It wasn’t until two laps from the end that Davies made the turbo power of the Toyota Starlet count. Pulling out on to Graham Hill bend, I got a bit wide and lost time, allowing Davies to get close enough coming out of clearways and power past on the straight.
I spent the next two laps on his boot lid looking for a way past – it seemed easier to follow and gauge braking distances when following someone else (something else to learn for 2016!) rather than looking in the rear view mirror! Coming out of clearways on the very last lap; Davies got bogged down behind a back-marker and we tried to seize the opportunity around the outside of the final corner. I did manage to pass both Davies and the backmarker, but the turbo power of the rapid little Starlet proved too strong and we were practically beaten on the line by just 0.1 seconds.
As we slowed down for the parade lap and entered the scruiteneering bay after the race; things started to unravel. We were told that our race transponder (the ‘red box’ that gives lap timers the time and position of the car) was not working throughout the race and race officials had come to enquiry why. When we looked, we noticed it was not on the car.
After a ‘heated’ conversation with the clerk of the course, the decision was made – we were disqualified from the race, lost our points and had to start the next race from the back of the grid. At the time it seemed a very harsh decision and the time since, has only served as a reminder that I must have upset someone. We learnt that three other drivers on the same day had caused the same ‘offence’ but were not penalised.
Our season was effectively over without scoring any points in the first race and so we had a team discussion about whether to race at all in race two. It was decided that we would and try to get as far as we could up the field to end the season on some sort of high. It would be no easy ride starting from 23rd on the grid in wet conditions.
So we headed out on track in last position with the bit between our teeth and eager to put on a good show. The race started and I managed to pass twelve cars on the first lap alone.
By the end of the race (red mist in tow) I managed to finish the race in third position overall and second in class – a very pleasing outcome having started at the back, but wondering what might have been had we not had victory taken away from us in the cruellest of circumstances.
On the plus side, we now have reliability in the Peugeot and having spent time developing the car and set-up throughout the season, we know we have the pace to be a front-runner and possibly challenge for the championship.
So, what does 2016 hold? That’s the 24 million dollar question! I very much doubt we will be racing in the same championship next season after all the politics at the back-end of the year (can’t say more at this stage as a complaint has been made and a outcome yet to be received from the MSA).
Further development of the Peugeot 205 GTi is planned for the winter on engine upgrades and a few other tweaks on lightening the car. Further time will be spent on the set-up and balance of the car, so whatever championship we decide to compete in for 2016, you can bet we will try to be as competitive as possible!
Thanks to my sponsors Complete Weed Control, Complete Ice Control and Fusion Media for your continued support over the last season – I look forward to working in partnership with you all going into the 2016 season.
A massive thanks to Tom Motorsport for all the hard work in getting the car to where it is at the moment – more to come in 2016 I’m sure!