Well I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend despite feeling like death for most of it. I’ve lost the best part of half a stone which could have been critical had I not accidentally overfuelled the car.
Friday morning was spent on the rolling road and confirmed that the car was over fuelling at the top end and that the timing was optimum and that no matter what adjustments were made, we weren’t going to improve on the 90BHP the rollers were showing. Not an accurate reading but well over 10 BHP down on Eugene last time she was there.
Firstly, I’d volunteered up my place on the Nippon grid so that Jeff McCall could get a run. That put me down to fifth reserve. With the amalgamated Nippon and Tricolore events there were 40 entries plus 5 reserves. The track license allows only 40 to race and 10% more than that to qualify. I turned up in the assembly area and they let me out on the track.
I didn’t film Nippon qualifying but should have done. Jason Jesse and myself basically had a race for 15 minutes taking it in turn to lead, both cars smoking like chimneys. Not the best way to qualify but it was certainly a good crack. We shared stories in the paddock afterwards and both laughed like drains and hugged a lot.
Nippon Race 1 had the full amount of room available for the 26 entrants so I had a confirmed run in this. Remarkably I had qualified Fergie 8th on the grid despite her relative lack of power on what is technically a power circuit. I gridded up and waited for the floodgates to open up and the field to stream past me, but they didn’t. Paul Lawrie got in front of me for a couple of laps but I got round him on lap 3 and wasn’t really troubled from behind to finish 7th, losing about a second a lap to MR2 leader Peter Higton.
Nippon race 2 was shared with the Tricolor Trophy guys and there were 45 of us wanting the 40 grid slots. I was 5th reserve. There were a few known suspects who’s cars were on the trailer or the M1, or both; so three of the reserves had got a run. With a couple of minutes to go a fourth drop out was confirmed but there were still two cars missing so it was looking good for a run. One of them turned up and was gridded in assembly so we went to shut the gate. Not allowed came the cry. With a matter of minutes to go I was ordered into my car to get ready and as the cars left for the grid, I was slotted in behind as a successful fifth reserve. From 44th on the grid I was slightly round the corner but could still just about see the lights in the distance. I could only assume what it said on the boards they held aloft.
A good race was enjoyed trying to work my way from the back of the field and I was pleased to climb to the dizzy heights of 24th come the finish.
After the race we enjoyed the club BBQ where I was able to stroke a single burger down after it was cooked to my preference (not raw) with three sessions on the grill. A couple of beers and I managed to last until after 9pm before I retired to the sleeping bag.
I was awakened early the next day with a torrential downpour and the prospect of fitting the wheels and tyres I couldn’t be arsed to do the previous night in the warm, dry paddock. I stripped down to my undergraspers and donned my rubber suit and set about converting the car to marine settings with a brand new set of boots. I also did Steve Hennessy’s car as well while I was wet in turn for a steaming hot cup of coffee.
Qualifying was a lottery as usual with cars driving round in packs holding each other up. (a bit like me and Jesse did the previous day I suppose) I would drop back a good 200 to 300 metres from the cars in front anticipating a clear lap and I would still catch them at Beckets. Eventually I was able to put a good lap together and to my amazement had stuck it on pole. (Let’s ignore the Hyundais here for a bit) The first ten MR2s were all within a second so it looked like being close.
Race 1 and Hurricane Bertha did her stuff and dropped a deluge of precipitation immediately before the start and after some delay, we started behind the safety car. I don’t think anyone was quite sure how this all worked but we sort of worked it out in the end and off we went into the murk, led away by a pair of very rapid Hyundai Coupes. Here’s the footage of race 1.
Pleased with my race 1 victory, the first in my five years of racing, I was doing rain dances all afternoon. We were tracking the clouds and rainfall on the iphones and it was looking increasingly like race 2 was going to be dry. With an hour to go the decision was made to drop the car back on to dry settings and let a couple of pounds out of the tyres.
Starting from third on the grid and first MR2 and knowing full well my lack of power in Fergie, I was nervous as to how far down the field I would actually drop. Sure enough, cars started to come past in dribs and drabs, most of whom took each other off in front of me so I was very surprised with another podium finish behind a runaway Peter Higton, Paul Corbridge and the Hyundai of Jon Winter that doesn’t count.