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During 2015, the BRSCC MX5 Championship had the honour of supporting the Blancpain GT Championship meaning a rare opportunity to race on the full Brands Hatch GP circuit.
This year the venue would be held on the shorter Indy circuit which, with lap times under one minute, is technically very challenging to find those elusive tenths of seconds over one’s rivals.
The track is renowned for its elevation changes and in particular the infamous Paddock corner that has dragged many bold or unfortunate drivers into its gravel traps!
The 180 degree Druids hairpin can also be guaranteed to deliver action as well as the Graham Hill bend, a short sprint down from Druids, offering a deceptively tight turn.
Although Kevin (#41) was away enjoying the thrills of the F1 Grand Prix in Silverstone, the team still consisted of Martin (#23), Andrew (Go4it competition winner #32) and Jack “Captain” Warry (#132).
Each driver’s car was resplendently emblazoned with the team’s sponsors of MX5 City, Pollock Lifts, and Creative Touch Design.
Providing technical support were Jez, Alex, Liam and Adam; with the latter two additionally helping out the Birmingham University Aquilas with which they are so familiar.
Saturday’s practise session was constructive and proceeded without issue, leading into qualifying where Andrew and Jack were classified 6th and 9th respectively in the “B” group, while Martin’s time saw him placed 7th in the “A” group.
Unfortunately, the “A” race had a nasty surprise in store for Martin………………
Before heading out to the Assembly area, all had been reasonably dry following the night’s rain.
As such, many if not all of the drivers had configured their race cars for a dry set up.
But Fate seemingly has an ironic sense of humour and suddenly delivered steady drizzle followed by moderate rain as the cars lined up on the grid, ill equipped for the conditions – a recipe for trouble if ever there was one!
Starting in 7th place put Martin on the outside line going into the frantic melee that is Paddock corner.
With #23’s rear wheels grabbing desperately for the tarmac, it jumped ahead of the MX5 starting alongside, as the whole pack charged forwards and naturally started to funnel in together.
Consequently light wing contact and buffeting ensued between Martin and Ollie Allwood as they fought for the optimal line approaching the imposing drop of Paddock.
Shifting #23’s weight and loading up the outside wheels saw Martin begin to pile on more speed through the descending turn, only for his tail to lazily but forcibly begin to rotate around him.
Another racer has snuck up the inside on entry into Paddock, but as their own MX5 began to drift wide while taking the turn too tightly it pushed heavily into #23’s rear wheel arch.
Predictably, almost painfully, Martin found himself inexorably and frustratingly forced into a 270 degree spin that no amount of opposite lock or determination could save.
Narrowly missing the rest of the field as they darted around him, he regained control, realigned and gunned his Pollock Lifts sponsored MX5 in pursuit of the rapidly disappearing pack.
The track was now noticeably slippery, but with the safety car deployed due to other driver’s off-track excursions, Martin pulled into the pit lane for Liam to check for damage and soften the damper settings.
Sadly the marshals became seemingly confused and held the Go4it car in the pit lane for too long – #23 was now a lap down!
Never one to be deterred, Martin gave chase and began the task of un-lapping himself, but by the mid-field it was obvious the scale of the challenge in the time frame available was unrealistic – he therefore throttled back his onslaught to wisely use the time exploring his race car’s setup and testing the race craft of key competitors.
The result was frustrating for both the driver and the team, with Martin now due to compete in the “B” group; but comfort could be drawn from knowing that the issue was clearly not the vehicle or the control behind the wheel.
With both Andrew (#32) and Jack (#132) in close proximity to each other for the “B” race, like true gentlemen, they made a team pact to help each other out where they could.
This was just as well, as the two novices would find themselves dancing around one another through-out the ensuing race.
The start of the race saw both drivers quick off the mark with Andrew quickly up into second place and holding firm through Paddock.
Jack’s wheels kissed the grass on entry to Druids but the “Captain” held his nerve and soon passed Ivan Leary as he coaxed his MX5 City sponsored MX5 out of Graham Hill bend.
Meanwhile Andrew was driving like a man possessed and had fought his way past #80 on the Cooper straight to take first place.
Zeroing in on the next target, #132 carried more momentum around Clearways to gain another grid position only to suffer from being robustly held back by Danny Green in front for several consecutive laps.
Suddenly, while navigating Druids, the pack ahead split in front of Jack to reveal Andrew now only marginally ahead – Having applied too much power too soon through Druids, #32 was pounced on in quick succession by both #80 and #29, leaving Andrew to wrestle control back.
Andrew maintained position for several more laps while Jack tussled with Paul Austin before the veteran racer passed him through Druids.
Now wing-to-wing with Patrick Collins, Jack staved off the attacks only to very nearly lose all control as #132 squirmed on exit of Paddock, the vertical G-forces piling on to both save and pummel his MX5 into the track.
With Druids now the seeming focal point of action during the race, it did not disappoint when Andrew tried a bold dive between #80 and #29 on entry to the corner.
The bold move saw a subsequent brake lock-up which threw #32 wide, losing more precious time and a position to Paul Austin.
At this point Jack was now directly behind Andrew and gunning for a way past!
Honour between team mates stood true though as Jack tested Andrew’s defences for the opportunity of a clean overtake, all the while fending off the swarm of race cars behind.
Defensive lines are rarely quick lines and, in trying to maintain grid position through Paddock, it compromised #132’s entry into the seemingly devilish Druids hairpin, losing him two places.
However on the next lap on the very same corner, Jack threw caution to the wind and dived up the inside of both Patrick Collins and #29 to once again be directly hunting down Andrew.
While scrapping with #29 it caused Andrew’s MX5 to sacrifice a lot of speed, losing Andrew two places through Graham Hill bend.
With #132 attempting to pass around the outside of Druids, Andrew tightly held the inside line causing Jack to lose ground to the bright florescent orange race car of (coincidently) Simon Orange and an opportunistic Danny Green.
A succession of battles between Jack and Danny were mirrored by Andrew and Simon with the latter eventually gaining the upper hand to put #32 into fifth place.
A canny move from Jack saw him able to take the inside line into Paddock to overtake Danny, all the while praying that #132 held traction to finish the move!
Andrew tried his luck once more at Druids and was rewarded with a successful overtake only to lose considerable speed as #32 touched the grass a few corners later.
Frustratingly this lost him a position to the closely pursuing Simon Orange, but third place lost control to careen off track at Clearways, returning Andrew to fifth place.
Fortunately, both Go4iT team drivers had their revenge on the day-glow orange MX5 as first #32 had greater momentum around Clearways, followed shortly by #132 cutting up the inside of Graham Hill bend to pass him by.
At this point in the race, mayhem and destruction broke out in the ranks behind Jack on the Cooper straight – a driver in the mid-field had lost control while on the exit of Graham Hill bend and initiated a frantic, destructive game of MX5 pinball as it bounced unpredictably between cars in the tight pack, causing others to scatter and collide in turn.
No one was hurt and all involved quickly got to safety, but with race cars buried into the walls, others mechanically crippled trackside and debris strewn across the tarmac, the double yellow safety flags were deployed by the marshals.
For the remainder of the race, drivers had to slow down at Graham Hill bend with no overtaking permitted until clear of the hazardous sector.
Andrew and Jack were now running in 4th and 5th place respectively with mere inches between them.
While both drivers stayed true to their word and respected each other, neither had any intention of giving their team mate an easy time of it.
Jack later confessed “when following Andrew there had been a few tempting MX5 sized gaps on the inside of a few corners, but it quickly became obvious the front wasn’t quite going to fit so had to back-out”
With a strong Bristolian accent and a name like Jack, he inevitably earned the nickname “Captain” sporting a skull and crossbones totem drawn onto the black tape over #132’s cracked front lens.
Andrew summed it up – “I can always tell when it’s Jack behind me because all I can see is the skull and crossbones grinning at me in my wing mirror......it’s a bit unnerving really!”
At every corner, down every straight, the two kept up their battle; which saw the spectating team members with ragged nerves – especially Andrew’s father who was pacing with the tension and excitement.
They kept this up until they both took the chequered flag!
Given their result from race 1B, both Andrew and Jack were promoted to the second “A” race.
While it was not as frenetic as the first race, it was none-the-less entertaining to watch.
With the two team mates pulling up alongside each other on the grid, Andrew gave a quick thumbs-up before dialling in #32’s engine and firing it up the grid straight.
Taking two other competitors off the line, they forced their way through again at the now auspicious Druids corner.
Several positions ahead of #32, a seeming nudge to Les Bateman’s rear bumper saw him plough into the grass at Graham Hill bend only for him and Andrew to narrowly miss each other as his unsettled MX5 re-joined the track.
While Andrew had the momentum and pulled some distance ahead, the experienced racer in Les soon saw him re-overtake through Druids (again!) which saw #32 finish the race near the back of the field – Being a novice and his first time in the “A” race, there was no shame at all in this.
Meanwhile, Jack had been having a difficult time out on the track.
A wheel spin at start set the tone for the race as he fought to gain ground from the back of the grid.
Following Andrew, the pair piled into Paddock corner and made up some positions.
However, Paul Austin soon zoned in on Jack and passed him a few laps later, followed by the barn-storming Les as he made his way back up the grid.
Jack later confessed to taking a while to get his head into the game.
Those of us on the team that were spectating were certainly concerned that either his driving seemed a little out of character or the car was not inspiring confidence – it was suspected a bit of both as his tyres had experienced a long and punishing life by that stage.
Jack had ironic revenge on Paul when the latter’s gearbox failed and stuck into third gear through Clearways, echoing the same problems Jack had endured at Oulton Park.
Although a little sideways at times, the “Captain” started to find his groove and made good progress catching up with Andrew and the pack of race cars ahead.
Catching the apex curbing at Paddock, #132 jumped across the track and into the gravel.
The gravel traps are deep and designed to quickly bog down a speeding race car to prevent it hitting a wall, unless an enterprising driver can gently glide it over the stones with shallow steering inputs.
Jack opted to do just this, inducing a noticeable draw of breath from the spectators as he looked to be on course to hit the wall – but his quick thinking and good car control shone though as he slowly glided his MX5 out of the speed trap and into Druids, ready to chase down Andrew once more.
Given the high level of talent within the “A” race, both had learned valuable experiences as they brought #32 and #132 across the finish line.
Martin’s unfortunate combination of events in race 1A, saw him starting on the second line of the grid in race 2B.
With the engine revs primed and the clutch on a hair-trigger, #23 was like a barely restrained coiled spring!
Frustratingly, a slight leg twitch caused the MX5 to jump a couple of feet a mere heart beat before the lights extinguished to begin the race.
Already rolling and the race started, Martin had to make the best of the situation and kept the engine gunned in order to dive to the front of the grid.
Knowing he would be given a time penalty (10 seconds in this instance) he had to work hard to pull a clear gap from the rest of the field.
For many laps Martin pushed hard and constantly dared his MX5 to carry increasing speed into each corner.
However, while the majority of other drivers were left trailing in his wake, Stuart Symonds was hunting him down with each lap, taking small but steady bites out of #23’s lead.
Stuart, like Martin, had been a victim of circumstance in race 1A and is a skilled driver.
Also demoted to the “B” race, he was now using the slipstream from #23 to close up the gap.
Hounding the Go4it race car, Stuart kept up the pressure for turn after turn before eventually making a last minute dummy move and dive into Druids.
With Stuart past him, but barely, Martin was now in a position to use the same tactics.
Returning the favour of piling on pressure, Stuart’s wing mirrors must have been filled with the MX5 City logo!
Barrelling into Paddock corner, Martin bravely ran deep in an attempt to pass Stuart around the outside, but was soon blocked, forcing him to desperately wrestle #23 back into control.
A good show for the grandstand full of spectators, but possibly not for Martin’s underwear!
By the time the protesting MX5 was back on the racing line, Stuart had pulled a small but critical lead on Martin, which saw the duo take the chequered flag respectively in 1st and 2nd place.
Fortunately the Pollock Lifts sponsored Go4it driver had indeed pulled enough of a gap from third place to keep his finishing grid position – it’s hardly any wonder when you watch the on-board footage and see the ballistic approach speeds to many corners!
While the focus on any race tends to be on the drivers, there is an entire army of people helping them to compete – the trackside crew give their time and provide expertise, the families that enable everyone on so many levels and of course the generous sponsors without whom it would not be possible.
Therefore thanks goes to MX5 City, Pollock Lifts, BizSmart and Creative Touch as well as Liam, Adam, Jez, Alex and all of those at home who support the team.
For the entire Go4it team, Brands Hatch 2016 had been as much of a roller coaster as the physical track itself!
But I’ve yet to find a racer who didn’t find the thrills, excitement, frustrations and challenges undeniably additive.
After all, if it was easy, it probably wouldn’t be so much adrenaline pumping fun!
Next Event: Donington Park (Go4it’s local!)
22 August 2016
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