Brands Hatch 0 Plate Meeting

1 12 2017

As far as my racing went, 2017 was a non-starter from the very beginning after the engine failure in testing 2 days before Round 1 at Castle Combe in Easter. Or was it? The all new No1 engine was on order, but as mentioned in the previous blog I had been putting parts aside for a spare engine for quite a while. By mid October we had an engine ready to rock so I decided to enter the Brands Hatch 0 Plate meeting.

The 0 Plate meeting is an end of year non-championship event where the winners are allowed to run the 0 number in the following year. This only applies to the mini7 and mini miglia classes, so as a Libre class runner I would only be racing for fun and maybe a trophy. However there were a few 7’s and miglias who were really keen to get their hands on the 0 Plate so we were on for some great racing.

After helping Sam all year the tables were turned with him helping me this time. With all the work involved it’s almost impossible to run a car and drive it on your own, so it was nice to have Sam in my corner. We even managed to get 2016 S Class champ Josh Collins out for the weekend as an added bonus.

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So it was a 4am start on Friday morning, on the road by 5, and we rocked up at Brands Hatch by 9. We were on the Britcar bill so there were lots of high end Ferrari’s, Aston’s and Ginetta’s testing when we got there making some great noises. Our man Mark ‘Cuddles’ Chandler was already there and had kept us a nice space with electric hookup – don’t you just love circuit racing?!

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Friday was spent setting up camp, then helping the rest of Team Owens set up the awnings and getting the miglias of Rob Howard and Alfie Brown settled in. James ‘Cuffy’ Cuthbertson was sharing our Lodway awning too.   Owens/Lodway is a great team and we all muck in to finish whatever needs doing, so when it was all done it was off to the Brands Hatch pub ‘The Kentagon’ for a pint and something to eat, and rip the p*ss out of each other for a few hours…

Saturday was a busy day. After such a crap couple of years the aim was to finish all 3 races, not blow it up, not crash, and get a bit of confidence back, so it was never going to be a ‘maximum attack’ sort of weekend. With signing on and scrutineering sorted, it wasn’t long before we were out for qualifying. I knew that as a Libre class car my place on the grid was pretty much set in stone, so I used quali as a test session to re-aclimatise to the car and circuit. It was pretty slippery in comparison to the summer races I’ve done at Brands so I didn’t push it at all. In fact the way things turned out that session was going to be the grippiest of the whole weekend. We got under a minute but I’ve done low 56 second laps in the past and the ‘bitza’ engine seemed capable of replicating that if I could just get some damn grip. The straight cut syncro box seemed to be a bit of a weak link though, and didn’t like changing down to 2nd gear at all. This is just a problem with the syncromesh design not being able to slow the gear down sufficiently, and it would give a bit of a crunch. The no1 unit has the Swiftune dog engagement gears so we won’t have this problem next season.

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Race1 came round soon enough and with no change in conditions we were all set on full slicks. Just as we went out for our warm up lap it started spitting with rain – it was going to be interesting… I got a pretty good start and overtook 3 cars mainly due to some of the drivers in front being a bit over-cautious.  I had a good first lap tussle with the massively experienced mini miglia racer Mark Sims, passing him off the line, then he got past me at Druids but I got past him again going in to Surtees. Amazingly I was up to 5th and in the hunt, and they didn’t seem to be getting away – this was a new experience! I hung on in the rain for a few laps. Historic F1 and Goodwood lap record holder Nick Padmore was leading from Honda Champion Lee Deegan, multiple British karting champion Alfie Brown, my stablemate Cuffy, and then me. Mark Sims got back past me into Paddock Hill bend and we all kept in line for a few slippery laps until there was a safety car period when our old mate Stuart Gilby went into the Druids gravel trap in his mini7. On the restart my Owens stablemates Alfie Brown (who had also had a little off-track excursion) and Rob Howard outbraked me into Paddock Hill bend. I was by now struggling to keep on the tail of these guys, and I really wanted to get a finish with the car intact, so that is how we stayed until the end. 7th overall, Libre class win, and a fun race to boot. Happy!

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It hadn’t stopped raining so Race2 was full wet setup. For this we soften up the dampers considerably, change the settings on the anti-roll bar, and fit wet tyres, as well as treating the windows with some de-mister. I was borrowing Sam’s wet wheels and tyres so I was keen not to damage them. The startline marshall came up to me on the line and said they had their eye on me as they thought I’d jumped the start in the first race (which I had not), but it must have freaked me out a bit as I stalled on the line and some mini7’s got past.  I retook a couple of them but Oli Windows was still in front of me when the safety car came out after Rob Howard binned it at Druids. When the safety car went in apparently I overtook Oli before the finish line which got me a summons to the clerk of the course after the race. Other than that it was a pretty run of the mill race. With the light closing in and the rain not letting up, along with the windows misting up quite badly I settled in to again finish the race without binning or breaking it. I was over the moon to get a 5th overall and a class win – my best ever result on the circuits! But was the clerk of the course going to take it all away?

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Summoned to the clerk of the course’s office in the tower, it felt like the numerous visits to the headmaster I had at school, which was interesting as I made a real schoolboy error by listing a few things he didn’t know about after he asked me ‘why do you think you are here?’ Oops. Eventually we settled on overtaking before the finish line after the safety car went in. It was a fair cop, and I got a verbal reprimand. At least we had plenty to talk about when the team went out for a curry and then the pub for another cracking night.

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Race3 on Sunday. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining – but it was still very cold – being mid November. So it was back to full slicks and then change anti roll bar & damper settings. Sat in the holding area watching the race before us going round it became clear the track was not as dry as first thought. First to change to wets was Deegan, closely followed by Padmore, Alfie and Cuffy. Even some of the mini7 guys were changing to wets. Sam ran up to me with some wets ready to change, but mindful they were borrowed and nearly new I really didn’t want to ruin them, besides I thought it might be worth taking a chance on slicks if all the other guys in front were wrong… Well as soon as I started to go round on the warm up lap I could see that they were right and I was wrong – it was like ice!    I got quite a good start passing 3 cars again, but the guys on wets were long gone into the distance! I had no grip at all. Mark Sims had also decided to stay on slicks but he got past me on lap 3. I was also really missing the advantage of the limited slip diffs that the full miglia guys now run. Somewhere around lap 9 I could see a dry line appearing but it was generally right next to the white painted lines at the edge of the circuit – and you don’t want to touch them! None of this mattered though, as rounding Druids a loud noise developed which felt like a cracked exhaust, so I retired from the race. As it transpired it was the lambda bung in the exhaust pipe that had come loose and fallen out. It was a bit of a shame we couldn’t finish all 3 races but at least this DNF was not an expensive one –  £4.50 on ebay free next day postage.

I just want to say a massive thanks to Sam and Keith Summerhayes for all their help getting back on track. Thanks also to the chap who was kind enough to pay my entry fee but would prefer to remain anonymous!  And of course all the guys in the Owens awning you know who you are – much appreciated fellas!

Not forgetting a massive well done to 0 plate winners Oli Windows and Lee Deegan.

Roll on 2018. No1 engine has been finished so things are looking up at last!

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2 responses

1 12 2017
Stuart Gilby

Nice one Ian, glad to see you back on the blog. A great weekend and excellent tester for next year.

1 12 2017
ianfraser27

Cheers buddy! You even get a mention 😉

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