October 19, 2004

Non-championship race - Pembrey

Some time ago, Kim had offered us the chance of a non-championship race at the end of the season. At the time I was a bit uncertain but knew that I would want more racing after Brands once it came to it - and so it proved. It was a long drive across to South Wales for a double header at Pembrey. Judging from the laugh I got in the bar on the Friday night I wasn't the only one who burnt their clutch out whilst trying to reverse the tow car and trailer up the steep hill in the hotel car park! A total of 16 people from group 1 and 2 had made it, many (all but 4?) had been testing on the Friday. For myself, Chris Rome, Simon Fielding and Hugo Jones qualifying would be the first sight on the circuit. Daunting.

I don't think anyone would think it unfair to say that Pembrey isn't the most glamorous circuit we visited all season. It's unlikely to be on the RSB calender next year and I won't miss it :-). The circuit itself is fairly interesting with a number of sweeping bends that mean you can build up a good rythym that just feels 'right' when you are going quickly. On the downside it's totally flat being an ex-military base. I think I'd put it slightly above Snetterton but below Mallory, Brands and Oulton.

RACE 1 - Saturday

On the Saturday morning we arrive at the circuit and it's been raining all night and the paddock is full of puddles. There's a few qualifying sessions ahead of us though (including trucks!) and so it's hopeful that the circuit will have dried out. As we sit in the assembly area just before 11:00 it is drying nicely - until it starts to rain again! So my first experience of Pembrey is in the wet, and qualifying is just 15 minutes. I take it carefully and the timing sheets show an improvement on every lap - I manage 12 of them - with a best on lap 12 of 1:22.390. Adrian Argyros sets an astonishing pace of 1:17.140, over 0.8 second ahead of Keith Chanter (1:17.965) with Chris Fryar in third on 1:18.470. Chris Rome has a great set of laps, setting his best time of 1:20.930 on only his ninth ever lap round the circuit and it's enough to put him in 8th. I'm 14th, just two from the back and next to John Bickell in 13th. Full qualifying results are here from MST as is the grid.

By the time of the race at 16:15, the circuit is completely dry. Another new experience. We form up on the grid and the first thing I notice is how spread out we are - on the larger circuits the grids are often three abreast with little forwards/backwards spacing across rows but here we are two abreast with over a car length between each position on the grid. My gameplan is to try and get through the middle of John and Steve Grainger (12th) off the start and take the inside line into Hatchets Hairpin (aka the 'Roger Ford' manoeuvre).

Lights go out and we're off - I get a reasonable start with only a little too much wheelspin and aim down the middle. I start to make progress on Steve but John has also got a good start and is holding his position. Unfortunately he's decided to move over to the centre of the track and I rapidly find myself getting closer and closer to Steve's rear wing. I'm confident that the gap will be wide enough or that John will back off or move across at the last minute but he doesn't (and there's no reason for him to!) and I realise just too late that there isn't enough room, pushing Steve's offside rear wing [sorry Steve! post race inspection shows no real lasting damage and just a few broken fixings which Caterham rapidly repair]. Backing off means I drop back momentarily, but I go round the back of John Bickell and onto the inside and get the run on him down the straight. As we approach the hairpin everyone lines up on the outside and I hold the inside line. The other thing I haven't mentioned about Pembrey is how featureless it is and how difficult it is to find braking/turning points, especially when you've only done a few laps. On this occasion I brake too late and don't shed quite enough speed for the corner. As I run wide, I get in the way of Nick Brooks (9th) as he turns in on the racing line. We touch relatively gently but my nearside rear wing hits his front offside wing; my rear wing comes off, jamming between his wing and wheel and his wingstay has an argument with the back of my car. This eventually leads to Nick being black and orange flagged and having to come in twice - once to have it removed, which is done in a matter of seconds, and once because he should have come into the pit lane and not the paddock entrance. A real blow to Nick and apologies to him - I was going too fast for the line I was taking, my mistake. However, after corner 1 I'm up to 8th and behind Chris Rome.....I know that some serious racing is going to ensue! At the end of lap 1 Keith is in the lead after a great start, Adrian has dropped to second with Chris Fryar holding third.

Pembrey - First lap, first corner (3Mb Windows Media File)

During lap 2, Patrick Scharfegger (Group 1 champion) move from 4th to second, behind Adrian. On lap 3, Chris Rome manages to get ahead of Charles Bateman at the hairpin and moves up to 6th which means Charles is now ahead of me. On lap 4, Chris attacks and moves past Robin Russell at Honda Curves and is up to 5th. And the end of lap 5 Andy Blight in 8th is very close and we cross the line almost together. At the front, Patrick holds the lead with Adrian having moved up to second and Keith Chanter dropping to third. Into lap 6 and I think I've got Charles Bateman down the Park Straight but as Chris approaches Hatchets Hairpin he puts a wheel on the grass as he tries to avoid the back of Chris Fryar's car as Chris (F) brakes hard. Chris (R) spins but doesn't collect anyone - this distracts Charles which means that I definitely get past him! Up to 6th. Chris (F) manages to get past Keith Chanter and into third.

Pembrey - Chris Rome spin (2Mb Windows Media File)

On lap 7, as I come into Brooklands Hairpin I come across Nick Brooks cruising as he has to come into the pits [my own fault - still due to the incident on lap 1]. I'm very slow out of the corner and Andy Blight flies past me. Patrick loses the lead to Adrian. Into lap 8 and Robin Russell spins at Brooklands Hairpin so I'm back up to 6th. In the meantime Chris Rome has moved back up to 7th and is behind me, chasing hard. Patrick retakes the lead.

Pembrey - Robin Russell spin (3Mb Windows Media File)

All through laps 9 and 10 I 'm close to Andy. As we cross the line at the end of lap 11 I go for the overtake but am concentrating so much on the slipstream I forget to change gear :-(. I stay behind although we get very close at the hairpin! Up front Patrick is still in the lead with Adrian and Chris Fryar close behind.

Pembrey - trying to overtake Andy (2.5Mb Windows Media File)

On Lap 12, Chris shoots up the inside and gets past me at the hairpin. I stick very close to him and we have a few scary moments round the lap until I manage to get back past him into Honda Curve. I stay in front through most of lap 13, until Chris gets his own back at the Honda Curve. However, I'm extremely close to him down the straight and I pull to the outside in the run up to the hairpin. Chris has the better line though and goes into the corner first. I'm desperate to keep close to him but misjudge it slightly and we touch. Only later do I discover that I'd neatly extracted his fog light! I have a big moment doing about 80 around Dibeni bend [I remember thinking at the time that it would look good on the video!] which loses me time. The positions stay as they are and I cross the line in 7th.

Pembrey - last two laps (20Mb (!) Windows Media File)

Patrick takes a win (his first of the season!), with Adrian holding second and Chris Fryar third. MST results can be found here.

And some pictures from the aftermath!

RACE 2 - Sunday

Race 2 was on the Sunday. Although it had been raining on and off all morning it was definitely wet as we lined up in the assembly area waiting in the positions that we finished Race 1. MST have the grid here. Unfortunately for Chris Rome, he'd realised just 30 minutes before that he'd left his immobiliser plipper and ignition key in the hotel and had rushed back to get it. Just a few minutes before we went out onto the circuit to line up, he made it back!

As we lined up for the green flag lap I wanted to get some feel for how much grip there was off the line. The basic answer was none at all as the car was spinning its wheels with the slightest hint of throttle. We line up for the real start and the lights go out. I edge away and gradually floor the throttle - too early as the wheels just spin. I grab second and floor it; big mistake - no grip! Chris gets an absolute flyer and charges through the field. Charles Bateman comes past me on the outside round the hairpin and I'm already down to 8th after the first corner. By the third corner he's past Andy Blight as well. At the end of lap 1, Adrian is holding the lead from Keith Chanter and Patrick Scharfegger. Chris Rome is up to 4th from his 6th on the grid and I'm down to 8th.

Race 2 - First lap (8.5Mb Windows Media File)

My good intentions didn't last very long under race conditions. I slipstream past Andy Blight down the straight as we head into lap 2 but get my braking all wrong, almost put it on the grass and eventually slither into a gap (luckily) sideways and out the other side. I would have only lost a few places but the car stalls as I go to pull away which loses me more time. Down to 13 but as we come round the Esses, Simon Young spins so I cross the line at the end of lap 2 in 12th.

Race 2 - Two spins (5Mb Windows Media File)

As we go into lap 3, I go past Steve Grainger into the hairpin and come across John Bickell and Robin Russell battling hard. He eventually gets past John turning into the start/finish straight. Adrian is still in the lead with Keith in second and Patrick third. Up to the harpin in lap 4 and I squeeze (or more accurately, slide) past John and into 10th place. Steve Grainger also gets past John as you can just about see him all over the back of my car in my mirrors.

Race 2 - sliding past John (1.5Mb Windows Media File)

Onto lap 7. Steve scares the life out of me locking up on the inside into the hairpin! Down to 11th.

Race 2 - Steve slides past (2.5Mb Windows Media File)

The top three are still unchanged as Lap 8 begins. Steve gets it wrong going into the haripin and I get up on the inside at the exit. I remember thinking that in the dry, he might try to get past me on the outside but there's no way he'll try in the wet. Wrong! Het gets straight back past me.

Race 2 - Steve gets it wrong at the hairpin (1.5Mb Windows Media File)

We follow each other for the rest of the lap but I'm determined to get past at the hairpin on lap 9. I do get past but it's very close for the next few corners until Steve manages to stay in front.

Race 2 - Past Steve again but not for long (3.5Mb Windows Media File)

Apologies for the jerkiness of the footage, not sure what happened there.

Into the hairpin at lap 11 I lock the rear wheels up, get the diff in a bit of a state, overcook it (no surprise there!) and spin. Back down to 12th

Race 2 - Second spin (1.5Mb Windows Media File)

After the second spin, I realise that I'm too far behind John Bickell [9 seconds] to catch up with him. I decide that I've used my luck for the day and I cruise round gently thinking that I'm in last position. As we come round on lap 11 I see Nick Brooks in my mirrors and speed up a little. Eventually, I cross the line in 12th.

The lead has stayed the same from the end of lap 1 - Adrian takes the win, Keith in second and Patrick in third.

The full MST booklet from the event with grids, results and lap by lap times can be found here.

Well that's it for 2004. Sort of. I'm entering the 'Plum Pudding' race at Mallory Park on Boxing day in what will definitely be the last race of the year. But I've signed up for Roadsport B in 2005 with (at the time of writing) over 30 other people. The numbers will have to come down as these numbers are large for the grids but I'm sure a few people will drop out.

Look out for a 2005 Roadsports site soon!


Posted by charles at October 19, 2004 4:25 PM

The way that you extracted Chris' fog light was surgical!

Bet you couldn't do that again!

Can't wait to get broadband so I can download all these videos....



Posted by: Guy at October 23, 2004 10:02 AM