Sunday was the first sprint of the season. We got up early and headed off to North Weald, Essex. The sky was dark and the wind was chilling, a barn owl flew along the hedge line at the side of the road. They say if you see a barn owl on a Sunday morning you’re up too early. They don’t really say that. They are all still in bed. Bastards!
This time last year I had never competed in a sprint before, I’d only done one track day (and not enjoyed it much) and I was more nervous than you can imagine. Now I feel excitement, not fear. I can’t wait to get out in the car, and I am always so happy to see the other drivers who I have claimed as friends and have the desire to feed cake to!
When we arrived at North Weald I didn’t recognise a thing. I know I have been there before, but none of it was familiar. I asked Rob, ‘Was that air traffic control tower really there before?’ he said, ‘Yes, since about 1920!’
The course layout was different to last year, I had the advantage of experience, but not of memory.
The track surface was super bumpy, gritty and loose with small chippings that made it hard to get much grip. My first practice was good fun. There was so much space on the last part of the track that I felt like I was in Tescos carpark, razzing around, old school stylee!
Adam and I are sharing the car and double-driving this year, so in a weird way we are competing against each other. That’s not a particularly nice feeling, so we have to see it as a team effort. I have also claimed Rob Clark as a team member because he’s good! Go team!
As a sprinkle of rain started to fall it was time for the second practice run. I managed to spin the car just moments after leaving the start line. That was rather embarrassing! I carried on, slip-sliding all over the shop. The grit and the rain making it feel more like a rally stage.
Small planes flew in and a helicopter landed.
There were over 80 cars competing, and 28 of them were Lotus’. It was like some kind of awesome Lotus parade and I liked it!
This year there are many more cars in the Supersport class than before. The big question that everyone had been asking throughout the winter was, would Xavier, King of the Sprinters still get a 1st place even though he’d changed car and class? The answer was yes. He also brought some delicious flapjack with him.
It was a bit of a cake fest, cake-off, cake-o-rama.
My cake of the day was a chocolate sponge. I was majorly out-caked by Jez Braker who brought along some spectacular and neat Lotus cakes made by his talented wife. My presentation was not up to scratch, I produced a brown in a box and hid it in Duncan’s trailer.
We managed to fit one timed run in before lunch. I did an 84.67, just over 3 seconds slower than my first practice which was annoying, but seeing the other results it was obvious that we were all slowed down by the change in conditions. Adam managed to lock-up and go off, cars were sliding all over the place.
We had two more timed runs, and after another 84-something, I managed 81.50, a fairly respectable time considering the conditions, and the car. This put me 11 out of 15 in Production class. Adam however, team mate, car sharer and first-time sprinter, took 10th place with 81.23, just 0.27 seconds faster than me! The winner in our class was Jez Braker, with his 74.70… damn you Jez Braker with your fast driving and fancy cakes! (I am typing this one handed, whilst waving my fist!)
It seemed like lots of people had car trouble and things going wrong, but not for long. Even though everyone is there to compete against each other, there’s no nastiness, and all day people were helping each other out. Tony fixed Duncan’s trailer for him and Xav gave Jez a header tank. For a while everyone thought Dave Mann’s car was actually on fire, (it turned out to be steam) Dave Carr and Xav helped him fix it. There was a lot of Lotus love shared.
Although it was bitterly cold, windy and drizzly. (and I spent most of the day wondering if my toes were still attached to my feet, or if they’d frozen and dropped off in my shoes), it was a really wonderful day. I’m glad to be back out in the car, and when I’m not driving it I’m glad to be hanging around in the paddock with some great people and some good fun.
New drivers, different cars, and three kinds of cake – marvellous!