The last sprint of the season, and where better to be than Brands Hatch? Brands Hatch! I felt lucky and nervous. We’ve been there a few times (like that time we went to the truck racing and Mark delighted in finding a ketchup covered umbrella in the bin), but we’d never driven there.
We arrived the night before, stayed at the Mecure Brands Hatch hotel, hung out in the bar with our racing driver pals. We talked about cars and puzzled at the thinness of Nigel’s peppercorn sauce.
The bedroom was nice. The wallpaper above the bed depicted a speedo display (not the swim trunks, thankfully) and everything was all grey, red and white, like a boys bedroom from the eighties.
We met everyone in the paddock, went to get scrutineered, and picked up copy of the programme. That’s me on the front cover! I’d like to say it’s because I am their star driver, but it’s possible that I was the only person going slow enough for them to get a clear shot.
I wore my (un)lucky shoes. You know, the ones that got covered in concrete last month. They had to be broken from their cast and forced into the washing machine before un-crisping with wear.
In a change from our normal order, I was first driver and Adam second. We took the car up to the holding area and waited for the VW qualifying to finish so we could go out for our practice – two runs, back to back.
The air was damp, and a light drizzle began to fall. I headed off the start line, slowly, trying to remember my way round, telling myself, as I swooped down Paddock Hill, ‘Don’t let off, don’t let off, don’t let off!’ Completing my one and a half laps I headed back across to the pit lane to swap over with Adam. Except, I didn’t turn into the pits, I turned back onto the track… whoops! I didn’t know which way to go, so I just went, and, well, as I drove round and saw the angry faces of marshals mouthing who knows what at me, I realised it was clearly wrong. Double thumbs up, and with a forced grin on my face, I drove the half lap back round to the finish again, where luckily there was now a marshal to direct me (with very vigorous arm movements) back to safety.
Practice number two got underway and as the drizzle let off the track felt a lot drier. I was over 13 seconds faster than my first practice, which was a relief.
Mark Swarbrick managed to spin off 3 times in one run, bless him. Martin Roberts, Nick Emery, Rob Holt, Terry Baker, Stuart Cheshire – they all went spinning, and Martin Scarfe broke his car on track – something to do the the distributor cap, I think.
And then it was time to wait for the afternoon to come round. To sit around and talk, look at expensive watches, and to eat cake. Luckily Mark’s Exige came readily equipped with a built-on cake serving station, and the bright orange paintwork complimented the lemon drizzle cake perfectly.
The track was dry, and it was time for the three timed runs. As I came down Paddock for the second time, I saw a red Cup 220 Elise in front of me, in the distance. The thought of, ‘Hey! I’m catching them up!’ then became a reality and turned into, ‘Uh oh!’ I’m catching them up!’
I let off the throttle for fear that I might put them off or make them jump by sneaking up on them. It may have slowed me down a second or so, but it didn’t matter, I still had two more runs to go and the car was getting warmed up. To be fair, it was probably karma for my accidental wrong-turn sighting lap earlier!
Run two 144.21, run three 142.65. In total I knocked just over 25 seconds off from my first practice, to my last run. Considering I’d never driven there before, and also that I didn’t need to carry a map, I feel pretty happy with that. It put me 11th out of 14, and to be honest, I thought I would probably be 14th. Adam, on the other hand wowed us with a time of 135.78 and 4th place. He didn’t need a map either.
1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Phil Stratton-Lake
1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Simon Foley, 3rd Andy Pidgeon
1st James Tubby, 2nd Stuart Cheshire, 3rd Russell Whitworth
1st Nick Emery, 2nd Rob Clark, 3rd Paul Neale
Jez Braker was in a class all of his own, wafting round the track in the comfort of his Z3.
It was a fun and successful day, but what had been on almost everyone’s minds throughout it’s entirety was the Championship.
Xavier Brooke was crowned the champion in Production, and Duncan Fraser in Supersport. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to parade them around on our shoulders, but their trophies would have been too heavy for us to carry.
Nigel Hannam missed winning the Production Championship by just 1 point. One. Duncan already had the Supersport Championship in the bag before Brands, which was lucky, because he didn’t have a car to drive.
Overall for the year I came 14th out of 38, and 6th in the class I was competing in – Production. (7th in Production and Production Modified combined). That sounds good. Well done Karen!
Adam came 4th… overall, in the combined championship results, 4th out of 38. Bloody brilliant. I taught him well.