After my Cadwell Park trackday I had a two month wait until the race. Fortunately the time passed quickly (it always does when you’re trying to find the money needed). The race was a round of the MSV Trackday Trophy with classes based on power to weight ratio. This means that whatever vehicle you have, from an old track day car to a dedicated race car, if it complies with MSA safety requirements, there’s a class for it. Cars are usually double driven, with drivers sharing a 30 minute qualifying session and 45 minute race. For me, a last minute change of plan meant I’d be racing the car alone as Colin couldn’t find a second driver. Fortunately we struck a deal which made the day just about affordable for me.
The day of the race dawned clear and dry. Nothing like the wet conditions of my track day. Gotta love the British weather.. Supatune were running two Puma’s at Cadwell; the black Puma shared between Paul and Colin, and me in the green machine.
My first task was to sit in the car while wearing my new HANS device and Stilo helmet to ensure I could get comfortable. I’m glad I did. With the HANS device and helmet on, I couldn’t lift my head up enough to see over the dashboard. Tilting the rear of the seat back gave me just enough view of the road.
Qualifying was late morning so I was soon in my romper suit and heading down to the paddock where the next HANS challenge came to light. Due to the small collection area at Cadwell, cars must reverse into line. The HANS doesn’t allow you to turn your head so it was mirrors only. With plenty of blind spots I was just waiting for the crunch. Fortunately it never came.
As we waited to be let onto the track I decided to take it steady for the first lap but coming out of the second corner I had the car sideways. I quickly corrected but it was clear how easily cold tyres can catch you out. Something to remember for the race. I built up speed gradually, getting used to the higher grip levels and later braking points of the dry track. On the 7th lap I pitted for the guys to check tyre pressures. I then pushed on a little harder, with my final three laps being my quickest. The time wasn’t bad. Despite being in the lowest class I wasn’t last, although I was 5 seconds off Colin in the other Puma.
Between qualifying and the race, I spectated on the other races. At the hairpin just after the Hall bends, I noticed how many different lines people were taking into that corner. Some were coming in really wide to get their exit speed right but leaving a huge gap for the car behind to squeeze by, but apparently no one passes there…
Soon it was time to form up on the grid. I hoped this race would be more entertaining after my lonely second stint at Silverstone, . I wouldn’t be disappointed. The lights went out I made a pretty good start. A Porsche who’d had problems during qualifying tore past me, but before I’d even crossed the start line, there was a cloud of smoke and cars facing all directions. A crash up front and the ensuing avoidance of cars behind virtually blocked the track. Being close to the back meant I had time to react, and managed to squeeze past. I put the incident out of my mind and pressed on, but within half a lap, the red flags were out. Race restarted. At least I was getting to practice my starts!
After around 25 minutes, by which time the HANS was already getting uncomfortable, we started again, this time without incident. The first couple of laps were frenetic but I didn’t lose any places and was soon catching a Peugeot 106. I thought I could pass him easily but he soon settled down and began driving a little better. I was quicker in the corners but he was quicker on the straights. For lap after lap I tried everything to pass him. He was getting pretty ragged at times but held onto it pretty well. With my rallying hat on, if you catch someone, they get out of the way but here, he was just costing me time every lap. My frustration grew and I begin to think ‘if I damaged the car in a do or die pass, so be it’. I’d gladly pay Colin for a new wing. After being unable to pass at the normal passing places (end of park straight, entrance to’ the mountain’), I decided to try my luck at the old hairpin. I was quicker than him through the chicane preceding it and lunged right as he went left to take the racing line. On my first attempt I was alongside him. Slightly ahead on the next but each time he had the power to pull in front and cut me off at barn.
It looked like the only way to pass him was in the pits so I decided to come in earlier than planned. Annoyingly the Supatune crew were attending to the other Puma which had also arrived early. The pit stop was a compulsory two minutes and I had to guesstimate how long to stay in. To be certain I didn’t get penalized for a short pit stop I stayed in too long and when I rejoined the circuit, the 106 was well clear of me. However, in the distance I could see the black Puma, now with Paul at the wheel. I was catching him but there was a Golf GTi between us. I closed on the Golf as my lap times improved. With only 3 laps to go I tried another risky overtake at the old hairpin, and this time it stuck, with me emerging in front of the Golf onto the pit straight, much to the cheering of the supatune crew on the pit wall.
I now set about passing the black Puma. I willed the car on and was soon within touching distance, only to lose ground when being lapped by the leaders. At the hairpin I was just too far away to make a pass. “On the next lap i’ll get him”. Or so I thought. The chequered flag was being waved. I crossed the line half a cars length behind Paul. If only I’d had one more lap or hadn’t stayed too long in the pits. Ah well. That’s racing as they say.
With both cars doing well and being so close at the finish. The mood in the team was pretty euphoric, with spontaneous hugging occurring in the pit lane. An added bonus was that the black Puma was running in a different class so I’d won my class. A trip to the podium and spraying of sparkling white wine ensued. Boyhood dream realized!
It had been a great days racing. My times were getting pretty close to Colin’s toward the end which was pleasing, and I’d experienced some really close racing. Despite the bruised shoulders, courtesy of the HANS device, I made the long drive home with a smile welded to my face.
My thanks to all the guys at Supatune for providing one of the best day’s motorsport I’ve ever had.