The last 2 rounds of the 2017 MR2 Championship were held at Snetterton, located 20 miles to the south west of Norwich, on Sunday 24 September. I drove down on Tuesday for a track day on the Wednesday having never been to the circuit before; I loved it! It is very technical with sequences of bends that can catch the unwary out but there is plenty of runoff so the risk of hitting something solid is minimal. Given that the race wasn’t until Sunday I decided to come back to Doncaster and then Dave and I drove back down on Saturday afternoon.
The car is looking fantastic after its respray and a completely new livery. A good friend Ian Simmons, who works for a graphics company in Sheffield was a massive help and did all the decals for me as well as helping with the design. I almost didn’t want to race the car again for fear of damaging it but of course it is there to be used not kept wrapped up in cotton wool!
We arrived at Snetterton at 6.30 pm and were met by Sean Hurley of Hurley Race Engineering who was dropping off a couple of camber bolts for us. These are fitted to the suspension to allow the camber to be adjusted. The pair we were originally supplied with turned out to be the incorrect ones even though they were packaged and labelled correctly! Dave was straight into fitting these and setting the car’s tracking up, all of this having to be done in the hours of darkness with a spotlight to illuminate the work area.
As an aside the car transporter/mobile home’s generator has been a source of trouble ever since I bought it. It has been converted to run on LPG but this seems to have made it extremely temperamental, eventually letting me down completely at Anglesey. I stripped it down and found the engine was virtually a write off due to poor maintenance by the previous owner. It was more economical to buy a new engine, which I did, but even then I had difficulty starting it up, the fault eventually being traced to a priming issue. I eventually had it running well and thought the problems had been solved. However, it initially worked fine when we arrived at Snetterton but yet again started to play up by constantly stalling. We could get it to fire up but it would only run for a few seconds before cutting out again so we had to leave it for another day with more important matters to attend to.
I qualified 16th out of 27 entrants. 2.2 seconds separated me from the top 10 so I was reasonably pleased with this having only driven there once before. After the usual jostling for position on the first lap the field settled down and I was running in my original starting position after a few brief skirmishes. Near the latter part of the race I managed to get inside the car in front on the approach to Montreal Hairpin. However I turned in with too much brake applied resulting in a spin. This let the following 2 cars through and instead of gaining a place I lost 2! After a brief chase I was back on the tail of these 2 cars. One of them, Tim Kemp went for an overtake at the end of the Bentley Straight which didn’t work out, losing him a great deal of speed in the process. I saw an opportunity to overtake him at the Bomb Hole on the last lap and went for the inside line. Unfortunately Tim went for the apex at the same time and we collided, spinning us both of circuit. More lost places and damage to the car – not a good result. So, from starting 16th I finished 19th with the whole of one side of the car dented and scratched. Time for a morale boosting cola and a chocolate brownie.
After the contact in Race 1, Dave checked the tracking which unsurprisingly needed resetting. It is really good that we have been able to work out our own system for setting the car’s geometry up and this was the first time we have used it in anger. I started 19th on the grid having improved on my best lap time by 0.05 seconds – not much admittedly but at least I wasn’t going slower! Overall a far better race and I shaved 0.99 seconds off my best lap time; great improvement. However I had a ‘moment’ on Coram and went grass cutting briefly, letting the car I had just overtaken past. At the time of writing I finished 15th but this should have been 14th, possibly even a 13th had I not left the track. I am having to learn my lessons the hard way but as long as I learn from my mistakes I am sure I can make steady progress up the field. Great controversy followed the final results since one of the front 2 runners for the Championship put in a protest over the winner’s degree of camber which was found to be 0.1 degrees over the limit on one wheel. This has been appealed against and the case is with the MSA so I might yet be demoted to 16th!
So that’s it, the season is over and Dave and I are back to repairing and preparing the car for next year. Lots more track days are called for so I can continue to learn how to safely drive to the limit – I can’t wait!