Without doubt this race weekend was all about the mechanic! During qualifying the car developed some very alarming, loud graunching noises such that I decided to come off track early. Dave quickly diagnosed the problem as an internal gearbox issue leaving us with a dilemma – do we go out and race in the hope that the car would survive, do we try and change the gearbox (we didn’t actually have a spare with us) or do we pack up and go home?
After some frantic seeking around the paddock we finally found a fellow MR2 driver, Gav Aldworth, who had a spare box that he had collected that morning. He kindly agreed to lend it to us so it was all hands to the pump with the first race due to start in under 4 hours. The MR2 gearbox is not the easiest to swap out and improvisation was the order of the day, including the use of my saucepans as oil drain trays! I don’t know if our food will ever taste the same.
Fortunately the weather was on our side; dry and warm. In just under 3 hours the donor gearbox was in and I had time to change and head out for Race 1. What an achievement; there is no doubt in my mind, Dave was the hero of the day.
Due to having only completed a few laps during qualifying I started down in 20th place out of 39 cars. Unfortunately on the first lap, as we were turning towards the Old Hairpin, the car in front spun and the only place I could go to avoid a collision was off into the gravel. Fortunately I managed to keep the car moving but by the time I was back on track I was well and truly last! However, after half a lap I caught up with the tail end of the grid and picked my way through the traffic to finish 24th.
Our grid position for Race 2 was based on our best lap time in Race 1. This put me back up into 12th only 0.07 seconds off a top ten start. In fact 0.8 seconds separated me from the second row of the grid. However, a fast lap time is one thing, racing is another and the top 15 drivers know how to race. My first few laps were really pleasing and I managed to hold my own but eventually Graham Malings’ relentless pressure forced me to make a mistake which allowed him and Peter Higton through. Later on Josh Brookes also found a way past on the approach to Redgate and I eventually finished 15th out of 37 starters. There were a few hairy moments, the biggest being when the tail stepped out on the exit from the chicane/esses and I just managed to keep the car in a straight line on the grass running parallel to the crash barrier! It wasn’t all bad news though; I broke my own PB with a 1.25.72, nearly 2 seconds faster than I had gone before.
So that was Donington; for me the highlight was the amazing job of swapping a gearbox in time for Race 1, something that would have been impossible without Dave. You would have to have tried this task yourself to realise just what an achievement this was. Now that I am home I am faced with yet another gearbox change – I was back in the garage early this morning and the donor gearbox is out. I will fit the refurbished one tomorrow.
A massive thanks to Dave ‘DJ’ Jacobs for his exceptional support, my son Paul and friend ‘Wags’. It was a great team effort and is undoubtedly all part of the challenges associated with this high octane, adrenalin filled sport.