15th September 2017
After the highs of the previous August meeting – when I took two podium finishes on the Knockhill reverse direction races – I knew it was going to be back to another steep learning curve for this race meeting when I saw the weather forecast for the weekend. It was forecast for heavy rain on the Sunday, and apart from a handful of laps on a wet track when I had my first try out in the Formula Ford, this was going to be all about learning to drive one of these cars in the wet. Driving a Formula Ford single seater in the dry at 120mph is difficult enough but driving at 120mph in the pouring rain was going to grab my attention!
There was only two practise sessions available on the Saturday afternoon and I was really hoping for once that it would be pouring rain. However the first session started off in perfect dry conditions but only five laps into the session it absolutely poured down and everyone came straight in as we were all on dry settings and then the session was stopped. It never rains when you want it to and the second session was dry for the whole twenty minutes. On the one hand it meant going into Sunday with no wet practise but on the other hand, in the dry, I carried on where we had left off at the last race meeting which was at the front of the times with my team mate Ross Martin, who was quickest again, but I was just 3/10ths of a second behind.
So I woke up on Sunday morning and it was pouring down. It was going to be an interesting day but one that I would learn a massive amount from, if all went well. As we lined up for qualifying I was still confident I could get into the top six in qualifying with a fifth or sixth place. As it was I was in 5th place until the last couple of laps when I dropped to 6th by 1/100th of a second. More troubling was the engine was now making some strange noises and starting to miss as the qualifying session ended.
As a precaution the team changed various electrical bits and pieces for the race but as I set off from the line for Race 1 it was quickly obvious that there was something far wrong with the engine. As the race wore on it got worse and I didn’t think it would get to the end of the race. By the time the chequered flag came out I was hardly getting into top gear on the straight.
However I still managed to hold on to 6th place which would still give me a fighting chance in Race 2. Everything was changed on the engine again back in the garage but the engine still wouldn’t run properly. Closer inspection showed that there was damage inside the distributor and when this was changed the engine appeared to be running fine again.
It was still pouring down as we lined up for Race 2. When the red lights went out I got a shocking start as the car didn’t want to pull away cleanly. I lost a couple of places but regained them over the next two laps. I could then pull up to the car in 5th and past it a couple of times but my car had no initial acceleration out of the corners and I was re-passed each time. Again it was a case of just hanging on to a 6th place finish.
It had been such a rush to get the car running and out for the Race 2 that the ignition timing wasn’t able to be set right so the engine was quite flat to drive. It was great that the guys had even managed to get me out for the second race at all so at least I had got some much needed wet weather experience in the car.
My next race is the final Scottish Motor Racing Club meeting on October 8th and although I’m looking forward to getting back out in the car I can’t believe that will be my first season of car racing nearly over. But before that happens I have the two big Formula Ford events of the year to go. The 50th Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on 21st/22nd October and then the Walter Hayes Trophy meeting at Silverstone on 4th/5th November. Two events that I’ve been given the opportunity to compete in due to the unbelievable generosity of family and friends.