October 9, 2004

Academy Event 8 - Race, Brands Hatch

[NO VIDEOS TO COMPLY WITH MOTORSPORTVISION RULES - Please email me if you would like to see them]

So, it all comes to an end so quickly. The final race of the season (although not, for me at least, the final race of the year - I'll be at Pembrey for a double header next weekend and at Mallory for the 'Plum Pudding' race on Boxing Day). Before I write the report I'd like to make clear just how great the Academy season is. Racing is great fun - those in Graduates, Roadsports and the countless other Caterham and non-Caterham race series will no doubt experience that. But being thrown together with 26 (or over 50 if you put both groups together) other people who are all in the same boat as you is truly outstanding. You can only do it once - don't miss the chance.

For the first time in the season, I didn't test/go to a trackday soon before the race at the weekend. Partly this was down to pressures at work, and partly because I wasn't going to win the championship and the fun is in the racing. A number of people did test on the Friday including the unfortunate Andy Blight who, having recently had two cracked pistons replaced, crashed bending his DeDion around the diff. Thankfully the car was repaired (as much as it needed to be) in time for the race.

Signing on was at a ridiculous 07:30! I live about 45 minutes from Brands Hatch but this just led to contempt about getting there on time. I just made it for sign on and went straight into the scrutineering queue.

Qualifying was at 09:30 and they called us early. As we sat in the assembly area the rain started to fall - this was going to be interesting. We set out and started to build up the pace as the rain stopped and the track started to dry. One thing that you quickly learn in racing (especially in Caterhams with windscreens) is that slipstreaming is all important. You will simply not set a class leading time unless you are slipstreaming a car for the lap and in this session you can clearly see cars waiting for people that are slightly faster than them and people swapping places to give each other the tow. I do the same, variously following Patrick Scharfegger and Paul Jepson. Unfortunately my best laps come early in the session when the track is still slightly wet.

At the end of the session we collect the timing sheets. Pat Gormley is oustanding with a 56.724 (pole again), Luke Dimsdale is up in second with 57.333 and Chris Sedgwick in third with a very close 57.371. I'm in 13th with a 58.590. Jonathan Alpine, Darren Faraway, James Sykes and Andrew Blight who are challengers to my championship position are in 4th (great result Jonathan), 17th, 21st and 22nd respectively. So the scene is set and it's looking hopeful. Championship leaders Patrick Scharfegger and second place Paul Jepson qualify in 8th and 7th respectively. Simon Fielding qualifies in an impressive 12th.

As usual, see the full qualifying times here courtesy of MST and grid here.

So, for the last (competitive) time this season we roll round for the start. There's no danger of me messing up the time warnings/red lights this time round but I'm far enough back down the grid to be on a slope so it is brakes on until the lights change. Slightly too much wheelspin off the start but I manage to hold my place and go past Simon Fielding. Jamie has a good start and gets ahead of Chris Rome who I tuck in behind as we go into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. All the front runners get through safely and I adopt the 'Roger Ford' approach into the first tight corner (Druids), taking the inside line as the pack line up on the left to take the racing line. It works and I shoot past Jamie Bashall under braking and take Chris as we go round the corner despite having to cadence brake a few times to try and prevent the big rear wheel lock up that I have under braking! I worry about T-boning someone for a few moments but manage to shed enough speed to get round the corner and run down to Graham Hill Bend following Henry Fletcher. Although I'm quicker out of the bend, Henry has the inside line into Surtees and I have to back off. I get the tow coming out of Clark Curve however and get past Henry on the straight, as does Chris Rome. Up to 9th - great! As we come up to Druids for lap 2 I brake a bit early (and not hard enough) and Chris Rome shoots up the inside, retaking 9th place and dropping me to 10th. We continue round lap 2 until Adrian Argyros gets it wrong big time going round Surtees/McLaren and spins off to the inside of the track. Paul Jepson is also affected, spinning on the McLaren/Clark Curves and causing me a bit of a brown trouser moment! As I try to avoid Paul, Darren shoots past on the inside. Up to 9th at the end of lap 2.

Brands Hatch - First 2 laps (13Mb (!) Windows Media File)

Onto lap 3 and Chris gets past Adrian 'Wag' Wagstaff on the run up to Druids. The front three remain unchanged with Pat, Luke and Chris holding the podium places. By the end of lap 4 Luke has squeezed past Pat to take 1st. Going into lap 5, Darren overcooks it going into Druids and I squeeze past on the inside, up to 8th. James Sykes loses it at the same corner, going into the gravel and ending his race. I'm losing ground on Chris Rome (particularly at Graham Hill Bend) and am in desperate need of someone to slipstream. Paul Jepson has lost a front wing on the Brabham Straight but I (and everyone else) manages to avoid it.

As we go into lap 6, Henry and Darren shoot past me on the inside into Paddock Hill bend. I never really got the corner right all race after forgetting where my braking point was. I outbrake them both, and almost myself, in the run up to Druids but am much faster than Henry on the exit. However, he has the inside line and retains the lead through Graham Hill bend. Henry again has the inside line into Surtees and I follow him around Clark curve but I have the speed down the Brabham Straight to take him and get back into 9th, although I only narrowly miss Paul's wing.

Brands Hatch - Battling with Henry and Darren (6.5Mb Windows Media File)

The front three positions remain unchanged. Into lap 8 and Henry comes past me into Druids. Again I have the run on him down to Graham Hill bend but he is holding the inside line and I'm forced to back off but get very close in the process! This time I have the inside line into Surtees but I cannot retake my place until I get tow down the main straight.

Brands Hatch - Battling with Henry (5.5Mb Windows Media File)

Still the front three are Luke, Pat and Chris Sedgwick.

At the end of lap 11, Wag makes it into 3rd after a tremendous charge. I go into the final lap (12) under pressure again and am too busy looking in my mirrors to keep an eye on Paul's wing which I hit head on! [Post race examination reveals a smashed number plate and some cosmetic damage to the front wishbone and side skin]. You can also just about see them black flagging Jamie Bashall who was Black/Orange flagged a few laps earlier for a loose door.

Brands Hatch - Hitting Paul's Wing (1Mb Windows Media File)

We finally cross the line with me holding 9th. Luke takes a great win, with Pat in second and Wag in third. Patrick crosses the line in 5th to take the overall championship title. Paul Jepson finishes 10th which is enough to take second overall after a countback from Luke who takes third. Full results from MST here.

I have beaten James Sykes and Andy Blight, but Darren Faraway and Jonathan Alpine are too quick for me today meaning that I move up to 13th overall in the championship.

Updated results with final positions here.

Congratulations to all for a great season, but particularly Patrick Scharfegger who takes the Group 1 championship, Paul Jepson who was 2nd and Luke Dimsdale in third.

Posted by charles at October 9, 2004 8:00 PM

First of all, as an enthousiastic parent, can I say a big thank you for your website, which has provided me, and I am sure everyone else, with a lot of pleasure. I appreciate that I may be biased, but why did Jamie Bashall not get any points at Brands Hatch for finishing 10th?

Posted by: Jonny Dimsdale at October 10, 2004 8:24 PM

The amended MST results show Jamie as being excluded for J16.1 (k &m), which is offences related to black/orange, and black flag. They were hanging out there for a few laps, and I guess he didn't come in.

Well done to Luke for taking the fight to Pat Gormley, and winning.

Charles - would love to see your video of the first 2 laps. My front one didn't run, but I have some interesting footage from the rear !! ;)

Posted by: Chris (#88 red) at October 11, 2004 9:08 AM

Thanks for the comments. Yes, amended results have Jamie excluded for missing the Black/Orange (due to a door hanging off onto his exhaust). To be honest, it wasn't that easy to see...

Will hopefully sort the footage (well, footage that looks like me at Brands but again, is just a reconstruction :-)) and report tonight. It does look pretty good even if I say so myself. Was certain I was going to T-bone someone (probably you Chris!) going into Druids on lap 1 though.

Posted by: Charles at October 11, 2004 2:50 PM

I have watched my video footage back many times and still cannot see my number as it was obscured by the flapping flag.

I was having too much fun getting past Henry to car about the flags anyway and was just waiting for the chequered. (Must learn to look at flags for next year).

I felt that the penalty was very harsh.

After following Patrick Scharf @ Mallory (well done by the way) with his exhaust trailing and wings hanging and then flying off and who knows what else, I thought that my door problem was minor in comparison.

The lack of consistency from the stewards at these events causes me concern.
I have informed the MSA of my thoughts and sent them video evidence.

Should I invest in pitt to car comms next year?
Very unlikely.

ANyway, not to worry and on to fight another day.
I am in the Grads next year so I will miss your reports Charles. I have no idea how you remember any detail of what goes on in a race. It is all a blur to me.

Well done Luke, a great race.

See you lot at the Caterham dinner bas in November???

Posted by: Jamie at October 12, 2004 6:03 PM

Great account Charles, as always. I was looking forward to racing you, being next door on the grid, but I stuffed up the start with loads of wheelspin - lost 9 places.
I spent the rest of the race fighting my way back up to 13th, highlights being avoiding Adrian A as he re-entered the fray after his spin, and a multiple-lap battle to get past Simon Fielding. He eventually succcumbed with Paul J overtaking on the right and me on the left down the Cooper straight.
Brilliant race!

Posted by: Martin at October 15, 2004 1:14 PM

Hi Charles,
Re Pembrey, just read your post on Academics about downloading footage, Oh have I got some footage. I shall send it to CR with instructions to forward to you.
Regards John B.

Posted by: John Bickell at October 18, 2004 11:22 PM