Just like old times! After the customary overnight stay in Breckland Lodge, we awoke to find a grey and overcast Snetterton. Well, we would have had it not been for all the bloody fog around! Off we trundled through the murk to the circuit where we found a good spot in the paddock and set to work unloading the cars.
A tight schedule at this meeting saw us having to scrutineer at 8am and be out for 1st qualifying session at 9! Poor old Stu also had to squeeze in a 1st time drivers briefing so we made sure that we got ourselves organised. I was a bit concerned about my car as it had been given a thorough soaking on the way up and had then sat overnight uncovered. Well, prophetically, this proved to be well founded as I switched on the ignition only to find that the fuel pump (which normally whirrs away) distinctly quiet! After running a live feed direct to the pump it fired up which pointed to a problem with the ignition switch. Due to the double trailer design, the car's dashbard had been facing skyward so water ingress into the switch was quite likely. We stripped out the switch and coated it liberally with WD40 to drive any moisture out. Once connected back up it ran fine..... for now!
I was aiming to do well at Snett as it's my favourite circuit and I've run well there in the past. 1st in the queue for scrutineering assured a good place for qualifying, 1st one out as it happened despite a bit of confusion with the noise testing. Pleased that we'd managed to get ourselves nicely organised I was dismayed to find that the fuel pump had started acting up again now that I was sat in the assembly area :( The fog was delaying the session but I had no time to replace it with a mechanical pump (which I had in the van). The pump feeds a fuel pressure regulator so whilst it was intermittent, I hoped that it could keep the regulator filled and that would supply the carb float chamber with a constant feed. So I decided to hope for the best and go out. Well, accelerating up the pit straight and everything seemed fine, round Sears with a lot of twitchyness (the track was quite damp and very greasy in places) and up on the run into Park when BBBBBWWWWOOOOOOOAAAAHHHHHHH - it was obvious that the regulator had been drained and no fuel was replacing it. I coasted to a halt in what I thought was a safe position to try and fix the pump only to be ushered out of the car by the marshalls :( Bugger.
So I spent the next 15 minutes or so watching everyone else from behind the armco. Some bizarre lines being taken onto Revitts kept me entertained with plenty of spinners, but I was a bit downhearted as the recovery truck turned up to tow me in. We stopped on our way back to the paddock to oversee the recovery of Simon Read's car as he'd become the unlucky victim in a collision with a new driver. The new car was almost untouched but poor Simon had two sets of broken wishbones and shocks to contend with :(
Back in the paddock I confirmed what everyone suspected, that the fuel pump had seized. We stripped it as much as we could but the impellor was well and truly stuck. Bugger, bugger and bugger (and maybe an ARSE thrown in for good measure!). Asking around the pits revealed no spare pump so I decided to opt for good old fashioned technology and fit the original mechanical pump. That done, she fired up on the button and was running fine. I was kicking myself for not having the time to fix it earlier :( Anyway, the net result of all this was that I hadn't qualified so I toddled off to see the Clerk of the Course to explain why and attempt to get into the race. I told him about my situation and confirmed that the car would be fixed in time for the race. However, we had a full grid and so the best they could do was put me in as 1st reserve. Obviously, this wasn't my day!
Hels and Stu both put in good performances on a drying track to qualify in the midfield and I felt comforted by the fact that it was likely that if I did get a race that I would do some overtaking for a change instead of dropping down the order!! The damp conditions had made a real jumble of the field with Brett Townsend putting in a good performance to qualify on pole with Erik Fairburn pulling a hot lap out of the bag to take 2nd place on the grid. Championship contenders Darryl Beckwith and James Grantham were surprisingly lower down the top 10. The scene was set for an interesting race that's for sure!
Back in the paddock it was a simple job to re-plumb the fuel lines to the mechanical pump, especially in contrast to Simon Read who had to source new wishbones, shocks and springs in order to make it bak out. A special mention to Simon and his team who never gave up and deservedly saw their efforts rewarded as Simon was able to rejoin the grid for the race. Good job fellas!
So off we all went to the assembly area with Stu and Hels being traditionally nervous and me not knowing whether I'd get to go out at all. With the majority of the grid in attendence, I was instructed to make my way to the end of the pit lane where I'd have to wait to see if anyone had dropped out.
With the 2 minute board out the marshalls confirmed that the grid was indeed full and that my only chance of a race was if proceedings were red-flagged within two laps. Well, c'est la vie as they say and I was pushed back into the white box in the pits to sit it out. Lap one passed with no incidents as I briefly spied Hels and Stu race past the pit lane exit (as well as all the other drivers of course). 1 lap down and Robin Knight came to see me to ask if I'd like to race with the 'Kits'. I considered it, but was concerened that I'd hold some of them up (some of them put in pretty low lap-times) although Robin reassured me that the slow ones were in the 1:40's (I had done a 1:30 last year). I was tempted, but not wishing to spoil their race I declined resigning myself to the fact that I'd have to settle for a refund albeit without the 40 quid admin fee. However, before I was able to tell Robin, a big incident at Russell brought the red flags out! Darryl limped into the pits for some attention but the marshall's confirmed that I could go out and would join from the back of the grid - woohoo!! :) It was bizarre being let out on my own for a lap (to join the grid) and was told repeatedly to 'take it easy' and not to 'go mad'. The last thing I wanted to do was make a complete muppet of myself by falling off the track on a sighting lap so I kept a conservative pace to join the others with no problems. Darryl managed to get going again and I'm sure he was relieved to find that the pack would be re-gridded in original race order. This of course allowed Brett to become just as nervous as he had been for the first start as he had to do it all over again!!
So, there I was with a full grid in front of me. Well, this should be a laugh ;) I made a bit of a granny start as the rearmost portion of the grid were slow to get away and there were cars all over the place. A heroic run up the order after the first corner was denied due to the amount of cement dust that came up from an earlier oil spill so I just settled into a race pace given that this was to be my first 'proper' lap. The first backmarkers were passed with no incident and good drive onto Revitts gave me an excellent run past 3 more cars - however, the fourth was jinking left and right and just as I came to pass doing about 15mph more, he pulled straight out giving me no chance to avoid contact. My nearside wheel duffed his wheelarch which, uniquely was made of aluminium! Therefore, instead of breaking, the arch just gained a big dent and was now stuck on the tyre! Blue smoke poured from it as I waved my fist in anger as it was a bloody daft and dangerous move. The car pulled off onto the grass to avoid shredding it's tyre and I hoped that no damage had been done to mine. The run through the Esses, Bombhole and Coram revealed a vibration from the nearside so I'd probably done the tracking - bugger. Still, there were plenty more laps to go as I got the bit between my teeth to chase the pack, so it wasn't long before Colin Beckwith's very orange rear (the car that is) loomed into view. Colin had had a spin which dropped him down the order and was now trying to make up lost time. I got up behind him after a lap or so to find my brother having a 'moment'. Stu was making good progress and keeping a decent pace but Team WildCat (or Tony the Tiger as we affectionately know them - they're Grrrreeeat! ;) gave him a trouser filling moment with a big spin out of Park. I caught him as he was fishtailing down Revitt's but he clung onto my rear as Colin and I entered the Esses.
Colin did his best to make his car fill the width of the track for the rest of the lap but I finally made a move into the Esses. But, it didn't last long as he managed to make the same one on me a lap later as we caught Tim Gray and Hels - darn it. I was having to back off majorly through all the corners and just couldn't seem to time a manouver well enough to get by. Colin may not be the fastest driver out there, but he's bloody good at keeping you behind him. In fact, I think that they should trademark the family's favourite move of 'squeezing' you across the track. It shall now be know as 'Doing a Beckwith' ;) Anyway, eventually, after we'd both made it past Tim round the Bombhole, I went round the outside of Coram (which was made risky as the car was understeering BADLY) only to outbrake myself and have to run over the grass to avoid a spin - doh! I was all set to let the cars back past that I'd inadvertantly overtaken off the track, but once Hels had gone by I caught sight of Colin facing the wrong way! He'd spun at Russell and so I had a clear line of attack on Hels. She wasn't hanging about and had got away after my moment at Russell. A good run into Sears (the first of the day) swallowed up the gap but with my ahem, added ballast I struggled with drive out of the corners and it took me until Coram to get right behind her. Not wishing to pressure my other half into making a mistake I backed off a bit only to find her fishtailing out of Russell gifting me the place just before the flag!
So we all came home in one piece. The results were a bit of a shambles as it turned out that two cars came in underweight and were disqualified so at the time of writing, I dunno how the places ended up, although I do know that James Grantham took the win strengthening his hold on the Championship with Brett taking a well deserved second with Darren Banks completing the podium lineup.
As another year's racing draws to a close with only 3 meetings to go, I find myself even more determined to get onto the podium. So, with Cadwell, Snett and Mallory still to come, I hope that I can bring it all together to make the grade. Cheers!