Normally Snetterton would be the last race of the season, however as a consequence of Covid it was only the second race of 2020! So far this year I have been unable to get anywhere near as much ‘seat time’ as I would have normally had. This has undoubtedly affected my confidence and performance in the car.
Since the last race at Silverstone in August, Dave and I had made a few more changes to the set up. I had tried a softer set of springs but didn’t like them as much so went back to the original set. However, in the process of changing them, I found that the front right shock absorber had failed; no wonder the car wasn't handling correctly at Silverstone! Needless to say I repaired this straightaway.
Dave spent considerable time fitting an in-car adjustable brake bias lever for the rear brakes. I had found under limit braking the back wheels were locking up which would make the back end squirrel around. With the new adjustable proportioning valve I could get the brake set up far better balanced which made a big difference.
For the first time I decided to pay for a test session on the day before the race (not cheap!). It was well worth the investment though for several reasons, not least of which was simply being out on track in the car. However I struggled to find any pace on a wet and greasy track, the main issue being one of confidence. Qualifying was a similar event and I was disappointed with 8th in class out of 15, and 31st out of a field of 41. Worse still was I was some 9 seconds per lap off the front Class C runners. A spin at the long high speed bend of Coram didn’t help either although fortunately there was no damage. That night I had a long conversation with my race driving coach, Malcolm Edison, who identified a few key areas for me to work on in the race. His professional advice was superb and if it hadn’t been for it, I don’t think I would have been able to see my way through the issues.
The race commenced with a rolling start, the first being quickly red flagged due to a BMW beaching itself broadside to the track on a sausage curb on the inside of turn 2. It took a good 10 minutes to recover the vehicle and we were eventually off for the second time. I managed to pass 2 cars before turn 2, a third at turn 4, and another Class C competitor, Ivor Mairs, down the Bentley Straight. I had climbed up to 5th in class with the next rival in sight - so far so good. The track was virtually dry and so my lap times were far more competitive; in fact I beat my PB by 1.5 seconds which was most rewarding and closed the gap on the front Class C runners from 9 seconds to 2 seconds per lap. I was initially under pressure from Ivor so had no time to rest on my laurels until he made a mistake at the first hairpin which gave me the break.
On a less encouraging note, I noticed my fuel gauge during the race was decreasing rather more rapidly than anticipated. I mentioned this to Robin Jones, (he was manning the pit board and was my pitcrew for the race), during the pitstop and voiced my concern that I didn’t think I had enough fuel to complete the race. I had carefully calculated my fuel load based on the burn rate during qualifying as well as adding 5 minutes of contingency. However, whilst the calculation was correct for those conditions, the track was unexpectedly bone dry which meant I was driving much harder thus using far more fuel. That, combined with a lengthy delay to the start of the race, resulted in me being forced to make the decision to retire early after 31 minutes of the 45 minute race. It was the right decision: I had 6 lts of fuel left but would have needed 7.5 lts to finish. Naturally this was a big blow but I knew it wasn’t worth risking an incident for 5th place and walked away with my car intact and avoided the ignominy of having to be towed off the circuit. To add insult to injury, the SD card in my gopro failed to record the second half of the race in which I achieved my best lap time.
Despite all the above much has been learnt and notwithstanding the setbacks of the weekend, we are making progress and heading in the right direction. The car is feeling more stable and the brake bias modification has been a great benefit. My lap times are coming down and I have beaten my PBs at every circuit I have been on this year. I have recently invested in a set of car scales and will corner weight the MR2 before the next race at Donington on 21st November. To my knowledge this has never been done and it will be really interesting to see how far out the weights are and what difference it will make to the car’s balance.