First Saloon Car Race at Castle Combe

First round. First race. First trophy.

So here we are, the first race report of the 2013 season from the Castle Combe Racing Club (CCRC) Saloon Car Championship in association with National Windscreens.

The team from Grant Motorsport and I weren't able to get our 1400cc Lupo out in time for the first round due to issues with the cage and delay in supply of engine and suspension parts from our suppliers, but as the points from the Championship are accumulated by the drivers, it was important to still get out there. Plus it was an opportunity to learn the circuit at Castle Combe a bit more and get used to the wheel-on-wheel action in cars rather than karts.

At the eleventh hour we managed to secure a suitable race-ready car from Racers Edge Junior Drivers Academy in Wales. However race-ready it wasn't, and the team at Grant Motorsport did a fantastic job getting the seat, harnesses, fire extinguisher, transponder and new tyres fitted whilst sorting the induction, lights and towing in the early hours of Monday morning ready for the race.

Qualifying

Once I'd been through the mandatory briefings and vehicle/racewear scrutineering I hit the track. Pulling out from the pit lane on my out-lap immediately showed that the relatively standard 1400cc MG ZR was very underpowered and severely lacked acceleration. Even on the first lap driving through Folly and up Avon Rise proved that I would be lucky to hit 4th gear on what is the fastest part of the circuit!

After a couple of laps judging initial braking points, turn-in and what grip the car gave on entry, mid and corner exit I was able to put in my quickest time of 1:31.795 but still on every lap my 4th gear change point was on the braking point for both Tower and Avon Rise/Quarry. Only two points on the entire circuit and yet I still couldn't change!
As a result my lap left me starting in 26th but ultimately I did manage to out-qualify Class D competitor Peter Weston in his MG ZR running a standard engine and race gearbox by 3.201 seconds. With a few non-qualifiers added to the grid that left me 26th out of 29 starters.

Qualifying Lap Time: 1:31.795
Overall Qualifying Position: 26th
Class Qualifying Position: 5th

The Race

We couldn't hope for too much following the qualifying performance, but made a few adjustments to the tyre pressures and induction system in the hope that I may be able to grab 4th on the two longest sections of the circuit. As this was my first competitive race (and only the third time I'd driven the circuit in my life) I was actually quite nervous, but once the formation lap was completed those nerves quickly dissolved.

From the lights I got a good start, relatively limited wheel-spin and through 1st and 2nd gears I was gaining ground on Class C drivers Terry Thorne and David Harries. But once I hit 3rd gear that gain was rapidly lost, along with any chance of keeping my starting position as the remains of the field behind me (including Pete Weston) shot past before I'd even reached Folly!

Luckily the car was able to carry a fair amount of speed through the corners, so once the pack bunched up at Quarry I was able to gain some ground. To my surprise, I was able to keep up if not gain time on the cars in front on both the corner entry and mid points/apex but once we got back on the throttle (in 3rd gear as 2nd pushed the revs too high) I was left standing!

This did however give me the opportunity to catch and chase Pete in his MG ZR and by the second lap on the exit of Quarry I was able to squeeze up the inside towards The Esses until my lack of performance saw Pete gain just enough so I had to give way and fall behind him through the chicane. This compromised my exit and gave Pete the upper hand through Old Paddock and Hammerdown before I was able to gain on him at Tower, Bobbies and Camp.

On the third lap I was able to attempt the same move, but this time set the car up slightly differently on entry and was therefore able to pull further alongside on the approach to Bobbies. This time I didn't have to rescind my position and held the inside line, braking later into Bobbies and taking what was 5th position in Class.
On the fourth lap, Class D competitor David Rose 'fell-off' with an incident promoting me up to 4th in Class where I remained for the majority of the race, slowly opening a larger gap on the chasing Pete but never threatening the Class C Citroen C2 VTS of Lewis Penney in front.

With 3 laps remaining, the front running Class D car of Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird stopped at Westway promoting Russell Poynter-Brown and his Vauxhall Corsa into first place and Steve Sutton's Peugeot 106 Quiksilver into 2nd. To my surprise (I didn't find out until after being pulled into Parc Ferme) that also promoted me into 3rd place and my first podium finish and trophy on my first ever race!

Fastest Race Lap Time: 1:31.664 (PB)
Overall Race Position: 19th
Class Race Position: 3rd

Published on Tuesday, Apr 02, 2013 by Antony Weeks

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