The BARC SE Cannons Tin Tops rolled in to Brands Hatch for the first double-header races of the season on 26th March which saw Peugeot 205 GTi driver Chris Bassett achieve a double podium.
Over the winter, we began to make some changes to the Peugeot to try and eek a bit more time out of the car while making a few adjustments to the set-up and removing some weight only for the rule makers to change the weights of the different car classes. This meant we had to add around 25kgs of weight to make the minimum weight limit. We also planned a pretty extensive test series, which unfortunately didn’t materialise.
The racing weekend started in chaos. We turned up at Brands Hatch to get the car scrutineered (where officials check the car before you can race), only to discover that the battery was completely flat. We ‘jumped’ the car to make scrutineering and then straight out for qualifying. When the scruiteeners checked the ‘kill switch’ (where race marshalls can turn the engine off in the event of a crash) we were left in the paddock as the other cars went out on track. Following some frantic work by Tom Motorsport we made it out on track, but without being able to set the car up or even check tyre pressures!
We managed just a few laps in qualifying, which was wet, but was surprised to see us in third position come the end of the session – not a bad effort when you consider than one of the tyres had just 15psi in it!
We managed to change the battery (with the kind loan of a spare one from Daniel Adams who races a Proton Satria and was unable to race following gearbox issues) and set about trying to achieve our first podium of 2016. Going into the first corner (Paddock Hill Bend) we were up to second and in hot pursuit of Rod Birley’s pace-setting Honda Integra. Going into Surtees we made our move only for the brake lights to suddenly appear on the back of the Honda, which in turn made me brake mid-corner and un-settle the Peugeot on the slippery track, which was beginning to dry out, and spin across the grass – not the type of advertising our new sponsor Etesia UK (a lawn mower manufacturer) was hoping for!
After re-joining the race back in 15th position, we set about chasing the pack down to try and limit the damage to our points. By this time, Chris Whiteman in his Honda Civic Type R had passed Birley and began to disappear. Over the remaining 15 laps we were able to finish in 3rd position and the objective of a podium finish was achieved in the first race. We finished just two tenths of a second behind Birley and another lap could’ve seen us get second, but it wasn’t meant to be. The top three cars (Whiteman and Birley – both in Honda’s and us in the Peugeot) fastest laps were just two tenths of a second apart meaning that the season has the promise of being tightly contested.
So, race two saw us starting in third position again – behind race one winner Chris Whiteman and Rod Birley. Going into Paddock Hill bend Birley opted for the outside of Whiteman and made it stick while we followed him through and into second position. Lap two saw the power of the Honda Civic of Whiteman pass on the main straight and then on the next lap he was able to pass Birley going round the outside of him going into Paddock Hill bend. The next lap saw Whiteman go out slightly wide and spin across the grass going through Surtees which promoted us up into a solid second and in pursuit of Birley. We were nose-to-tail, despite being well down on straight-line speed due to the Honda’s vast power difference, but able to make up the time going in-to and out of the corners. I was starting to think about making a move, only for the safety car to come out for a nasty looking crash for Bob Hossier in his Seat Leon at Paddock Hill Bend.
A long safety car period followed while the marshalls recovered the seat, which only left around four minutes of race time left when the safety car peeled off for the racing to resume. As we were trying to tuck ourselves under the Honda of Birley and up to race speed, I went from second to fifth gear, which allowed Birley to get a two second gap over the start finish line.
With only four laps remaining, we were going to find it tough to achieve our first win of the season. We did manage to close the gap to the Integra but again the sheer power of the straight-line speed ensured that he was able to keep ahead to win the race.
So, all-in-all with no pre-season testing, it was an encouraging first race weekend of the 2016 season. Two outright podium finishes – a third in race one and second in race two has left us in third position (in class) in the championship, just eight points of the leader Rod Birley. See the BARC SE website for full championship standings.
We certainly have the pace over a full lap compared to the Honda’s who both have a lot more power (over 100bhp) compared to our Peugeot which looks good for the remainder of the season. With a few updates due later this season, we hope to bridge the gap and go for more outright wins.
We won’t be racing at the Brands Hatch GP meeting as it’s a non-championship event on 16th and 17th April and sees the Tin Tops combine grids with the quicker MN Saloons, which seems a little strange as it was a points scoring race last season, but we will be back at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit on the 30th April when the championship resumes.
As always, a massive thanks to Tom Motorsport who prepares the Peugeot 205 Gti and our race sponsors Fusion Media, Complete Weed Control, Complete Ice Control and Etesia UK.
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