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Silverstone Classic
This must truly be the largest classic motor racing event in the world, bar none!

Once again and, because of its size, racing was conducted across both paddocks including the new Grand Prix Formula 1 ‘Wing’, and the original, now called the National Paddock. The circuit for all races was the new F1 Arena circuit of some 3.66 miles.

We arrived on the Wednesday to set up Base Camp as for the first time we arrived for Testing or ‘Free Practice` on the Thursday.

Thursday was still very wet from the past few weeks of very heavy, wet weather conditions. However, for Mel and me, it gave us valuable familiarity of this very long and complicated circuit consisting of some 15 corners.

QUALIFYING

On Friday, it was the day of our Woodcote Trophy official Qualifier. Sitting and waiting in the Assembly Area, we were then waived through to the circuit, and then the heavens opened in a very big way. The side effects of not realising that this would happen, was that we had the wrong tyres on the car, incorrect shock absorber settings, which made the car very stiff indeed.

Another point to note, was the fact that in the 2½ years I have owned and raced this car, I have NEVER driven the car in ‘The Wet’. This was an education to behold! After about a quarter of the lap, I decided just to have fun and not try any heroics.

I must say that the car handled beautifully, as I aquaplaned across an absolutely sodden circuit. The good news was that the car did not ‘Steam Up’ as has happened with other ‘Tin-Tops’ (Fixed Head Coupes) I have driven in the past.

The net result of this was that Melvin and I both settled into having a bit of fun and learning from the experience.

Two of the new corners, namely ‘Village’ and ‘The Loop’ are 2nd gear corners, which we just could not get right last year, as the car, with its original 1955 Moss gearbox, really doesn’t have any ‘Synchro’ left and therefore, a combination of Double de-clutching and Heel and Toe were used with an incredible degree of patience.

Finishing the session we ended up in 33rd position out of 46 cars. Not great, but we learned a lot. Please read on.

THE RACE

For the first time, The Woodcote Trophy 50 minute race was divided into a two race secenario. This meant that we now had a total of 60 minutes but divided into a Saturday evening Feature Race of 30 minutes duration and a Sunday morning race of some 30 minutes. The end result was an aggregation of the two races.

It was now back to the drawing board for Mel and I to think ‘Strategy’. The questions were, whether we should do both races together with a driver change in the middle, or to do a race each.

We decided on the latter. However, both races had an obligatory 45 seconds Pit Stop. But our rationale was that one driver in each race, would stay in the car and still be focused on that race and not have to wait for the second driver to get his brain attuned and up to speed.

In addition, I had never raced an evening race before, so I opted for this approach. So, with a WET qualifying time of 3 minutes and 27.9 seconds, I set out to improve on that.

NOTE: My objective prior to the event was to beat 2 mins 50 secs, (In the Dry) as we only achieved a 2 mins 59 second qualifying time last year. I decided to go for it.

As it turned out, having a wet quali, really helped me with understanding the car’s handling and ‘Skid Pan’ capabilities.

RACE 1 – Dry Conditions (Miracle 1)

All races in the Woodcote are now Rolling Starts and, as I went into the first corner. ‘Abbey’ then ‘Farm’ I was certainly holding my own. ‘Village’ and ‘The Loop’ were very busy on the first lap and I considered all options but not risk damaging the car or, having to visit the ‘Clerk-of-the-Course’, post-race as many drivers did over the weekend.

My lap times started to fall and I was almost literally on fire. I realised that my wet quali had really helped my concentration and understanding the car, as I drifted the car around many of the corners. My main achievement of the race was clocking my better than expected lap time objective of:

2 minutes 49.42 Lap Time

YES, job done! This turned out to be 10 seconds a lap better than last year.

In addition, I overtook many cars namely Aston Martin DB2’s and Austin Healey 100M’s and improved our overall position from 33rd to 24th in the race.

Nick Ruddell who was following me in his Aston DB2 said that coming out of ‘The Loop’ and coming out of ‘Luffield’ that my front wheels were about 6 inches off the ground, with almost full steering lock on and it seemed like maximum power on and then significantly pulled away from him. I would love to see photos of this, but could certainly feel the wheels lifting!! GREAT STUFF!! Real boy stuff ay??

NOTE: Please, also realise that we using ‘Drum Brakes’ and the car is a major feat to stop from even quite lowly speeds of 70 mph, let alone 135 mph going down the Hangar Straight into Stowe Corner.

My result to hand over to Mel on the Sunday was 24th in the race and 6th in Class.

Race 2 - Dry Conditions (Miracle 2)

On Sunday, it was Mel’s turn behind the wheel and, after seeing him off from the Assembly Area, he quickly set about the race and his lap times started to fall, but in this case he could not hold off the hard-charging Nick Ruddell in his Aston Martin, but Mel finished a creditable 26th in the race, and set his own personal best Lap time of 2 mins 51.0 seconds.

However, combined results placed us 25th in the race and 5th in class C.

POST RACE ANALYSIS

A great weekend, from downpours to dry and warm but an excellent joint effort at the Silverstone Classic 2012 and our best result to date, in terms of fun, enjoyment and achievement on this classic circuit! The car performed well, plenty of power and resetting tyre pressures did us proud. The car went so well, that we literally had NO tread left on the rear tyres, such was the sliding we achieved through drifting!


Our next race will be held at:


Spa – Francorchamps at the Spa 6 Hour Event on the:

20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd of September



Will we see you there? I hope so!!

John D R


NOTE: Action photography taken by John Retter, of www.johnretterphotography.com
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