My Snetterton weekend started on Good Friday loading the car on to the trailer, the spares, tyres and tools; along with camp bed and sleeping bags were loaded onto the van as well as about £2,000 worth of flat packed furniture.
Nothing is simple in this life and they say you have to earn it before you can spend it, so I was up at sparrowfart on Saturday morning and on my way to Central London in the van with the car on the trailer on the back wondering where I was going to park it and how the hell I was going to get the furniture to the third floor of number 1 Harley Street.
Luckily, I had some assistance today in the form of a couple of chippies and a labourer, plus John who was going to be team manager and mechanic for the weekend at Snetteron and had kindly volunteered to give assistance with the clinic refit as well. Unloading wasn’t too difficult as we parked in a loading bay directly outside the side door on Wigmore Street. Although we were outside the permitted loading times the parking warden offered to check everyone else on the street and come back to us, by which time we were just shutting the doors and I set off on my quest to find a parking spot big enough for the long wheel based van and a trailer. Believe it or not, there was one a couple of hundred yards up Harley Street with unmarked bays and a number plate parking system so, as I had only one number plate on the rig, I parked all day for the cost of a car.
Once all the furniture was assembled, we left the chippies to fit it and hang the doors and headed off to a very cold and windy, and often rainy Snetterton.
The overnight rain had cleared by the time we woke up. Scrutineering went without a hitch and we were soon out qualifying on a cold but sunny track for the Nippon Challenge amongst much quicker machinery. I was the quickest MR2 Series car (The Series competitors are eligible to compete in the Nippon Challenge and slot into the GT150 class ) but was second in class behind Pete Higton in an MR2 Mk3 by just over a tenth of a second.
Race 1 was held in a deluge of Hurricane Kate and despite starting in a quite respectable 15th on the grid, I had managed to work my way up to 5th at one stage as the more powerful cars slithered around and struggled to get the power down. By the end of the first lap I had been raped to 7th by a couple of Tricolor Trophy Peugaultreons who were quite frankly rude in the way that they barged through despite me giving them plenty of room. The 100 BHP power difference meant it was inevitable they would come past so I wasn’t going to make it difficult for them. A safety car on lap 2 bunched things back up again but the rear of the field didn’t quite catch up. From the restart to the end of what turned out to be a five lap race, I ended up dicing with fellow Wakefield lad Andy Glover who was having loads of fun trying to get his Peugaultreon to stop at the end of the straights and I had a number of completely unplanned dives up the inside but the victory went his way after a dash to the line and I ended up in ninth.
Race 2 was a different story as the track dried completely in the minutes before the race and I had retained the wet weather set up just in case. The relatively high finish in the first race put me on the fifth row of the grid and the exceptional start the MR2s usually get compared with the front scratters meant that Neal Hurren and myself were both in the thick of it for the first few corners before things settled down and we attempted to get on with our race which was being rudely interrupted by the onslaught of the faster Peugaultreons coming through from the back of the grid. We were enjoying a ding dong battle with the lead for MR2 Mk1 honours changing hands a couple of times per lap until the third from last lap where a Clio and a Porsche of all things; forced their way past me hanging me out to dry on the outside of a bend then proceeded to dilly dally (Heard that for the first time in 20 years the other day and absolutely had to use it) in front of me and opened up a gap of three secods to Neal which I wasn’t destined to catch.
Hurricane Kate grew to fever pitch over night with the van rocking in the gale force winds and the rain and hail driving against the un-insulated panelling I easily drifted off to sleep. I woke several times in the night to the sound of the driving wind and rain and when I rose in the morning the place was awash with water and broken awnings.
MR2 Qualifying was a challenge to say the least. The rain had calmed a little but the standing water remained and the wet set up certainly didn’t need to be changed. My pace was not as good as it should have been and although I tried to follow Adam Lockwood, I simply had to watch him drive away from me and plant it on pole; a smidging under five seconds ahead of me. Arron Pullan was no surprise in second and Neal Hurren was really on form after yesterday’s run with Nathan Harrison in fourth and me back in fifth. The rear of the grid posting times some 21 seconds slower than the pole time.
My car was sick after qualifying and this was diagnosed to being a loose distributor cap which in turn had broken the rotor arm; but their replacement didn’t cure the problem so two hours was spent in the driving rain replacing plugs, leads, distributor, timing her up again and finally we tried another ECU which cured it instantly. Who’s heard of a rotor arm taking out an ECU?
Race 1 remained soggy and the rain persisted. The usual jovial and friendly assembly area was reduced to a couple of dozen cars with drivers in them keeping dry and I was trying not to breath and steam the windscreen up. The usual plethora of assistants had strapped their drivers in and were sheltering behind the marshal’s shed in a huddle like penguins in a blizzard. Adam decided to ignore the instructions we’d been given and did two green flag laps rather than the one and we were eventually under orders and away into the gloom.
Arron and Adam settled down to a ding dong battle for the lead while Nathan led Neal Hurren and myself. I managed to pass Nathan with an undercut at Agostini which put me alongside and up the inside at Hamilton and I was on my way to catch Neal Hurren. I managed to catch Neal over the course of the first lap and was all over him like a cheap suit around Coram and tried a cut back manoeuvre through the last corner to set up a drag race down the start straight. Neal’s car had the legs on mine and the best I could do was draw level with the back of him before he started to pull away and go defensive for Riches so I kept it buried for an extra 50 yards, had a little tap on the brakes and hung on for dear life as I drifted round the outside of the bend and led into Montreal Hairpin.
Now all that was left to do was to chase Arron and Adam down and pass them for the lead, you’d have thought? Oh no. Mr Hurren had different ideas about that and was busily snapping at my heels and poking his nose up the inside on every corner which prevented me from concentrating on catching the leaders. On the occasions where I did manage to open up a gap, I was having to push that hard that I was making mistakes; letting the back slip onto the slippery kerbs or stepping out so much that I lost speed on the straight and Neil came sailing past. Adam and Arron were setting a pace that was uncatchable and Neal was holding my hands behind my back.
On lap 3, Neal pushed me so hard into Agostini that I locked up and drifted wide, he slid up the inside at Hamilton and defended around Oggies so I tried to do him round the outside. This pushed me all four wheels on to the wet grass so I had to lift a bit to get her straight before I planted it and headed back to terra firma and away behind him down Revvett Straight. A dive down the outside into Brundle unsettled Neal a bit and he twitched a bit through Nelson so I stuck her up the inside into the Bomb Hole and we did the Bomb Hole, Coram and Murrays side by side with me exiting the corner the quickest and leading away up the straight and onto the final lap. Neal kept charging and was alongside me on the brakes into Agostini. I left the braking ultra late and Neal left his later. I slid dangerously close to the limit of the track and gathered it together but Neal managed to reach the run off area and was gathering it all back together as Nathan came past Adam beat Arron to the stripe and I pottered home in third with Nathan fourth and Neal a disappointed fifth but with a grin from ear to ear after an absolutely exhilarating race.
Race 2 and for the first time this weekend I could see up the road from my grid slot. We were now onto dry settings and the track was almost dry as well. The correct amount of green flag laps was completed and the lights went out and we all got a perfect start. I had a brief look up the inside of Adam which I knew would end in tears so I buttoned up behind him in the hope that we could hang Arron out to dry at the hairpin. Arron is not one to lie on his back with his feet in the air and kept his foot in round the outside of Montral which gave him the inside line for Palmer and he had the lead. I was forced to tuck in behind Adam and we set off in a train of three cars at a pace where each one of us lapped quicker than the five year old lap record. I managed to squeeze my way past Adam on lap 4. Arron was going too quick to catch the four second advantage he had and Adam’s new engine was proving to be a force to be reckoned with as he was drawing level with me on every straight so some defensive driving was called for. I managed to hold on to second place for the remaining three laps to take second place with Nathan coming home a respectable fourth.
Images courtesy Marc Lawrence