10th May 2017
Champion of Brands
After 7 months out of the car and a long winter rebuilding the 1993 Van Diemen I was itching to get back out on track again.
I had 4 test session on the Friday to give the car a good shakedown after it’s rebuild and for me to blow off some cobwebs.
Test session 1 was a huge success. I intended on just going out, not to push, bed new brakes in and to make sure everything was still as it should be when I came back.
However after an initial 5 laps I could tell already I was back in the groove and the car was feeling better than ever. Fifteen minutes later and I was 2 tenths off my best time of last year.
With just half a lap of the session left the heavens opened, a spin on to the grass at Surtees see me pushing the car back to the pits. The rain seemed to catch a few of us out at that point.
Session 2 and the rain never really stopped. I only took the car out for a few laps to make sure all was ok after the off at Surtees in the previous session. The only thing to report back was a blown exhaust gasket.
Session 3 didn’t last very long with the battery giving up the ghost on about lap 12.
Session 4 and the final practice before qualifying on the Saturday. A really good session where I could really get my head in gear and concentrate on bettering my times over and over.
My pace throughout Friday was great. I was 1.5 seconds on average quicker than last year and the times seemed pretty consistent.
All the hard work over the winter had paid off
It’s Brands Hatch. The suns out. The crowds are flooding in. IT’S AMERICAN SPEEDFEST AND THE FIRST ROUND OF & THE CHAMPION OF BRANDS.
Many family and friends where here once again to support me as I head out for qualifying at 10.30am.
The car felt great through qually although I was struggling on the exit of the slower corners- druids in particular.
A flurry of personal best times flashing up on my dash was great to see but unfortunately 4 of my 12 laps were disallowed due to TRACK LIMITS mainly on the exit of Druids!
A 52.7 would see me start 8th on the grid behind Vincent Jays 2010 Ray on the outside of the grid, I would have Archie Hine in his 2012 VanDiemen lining up 7th and on my inside.
3.30pm and it’s lights out.
I didn’t get a great start but I did manage to jump Archie in to the first corner, I was able to keep the 2012 VanDiemen at bay for a couple of laps until I made a mistake going into the hairpin, leaving the door wide open on the inside for Archie to come through and take the place back.
I was keeping on the tail of Archie but just couldn’t find a way of passing, as the battle was continuing I could see the distinctive red nose of Kevin Bottemleys stunning 1988 Raynard becoming ever clearer in my mirrors.
I was now a blueberry stuck between two red raspberry’s. As hard as I was pushing to make a move on Archie’s red VanDiemen I was having to defend from Kevin behind - a situation iv not really been in since I started racing last year. It really was nose to tail.
With 8 laps to go I could feel my tyres sliding more through the fast corners especially through Clearways where they caught me off guard and I took a pretty rapid trip through the gravel.
I was once again issued the black and white flag for track limits and on the following lap I was giving a further flag that would incur a 5 second penalty.
With my mistake at Clearways Archie had opened the gap to over 6 seconds, with just 6 laps remaining my head ruled my right foot and instead of trying to make up 6 or 7 seconds in as many laps I decided to settle for what was now 6th position and take home my best Champion of Brands result to date.
I was later promoted to 5th after a driver in front was given a 20 second penalty demoting him to 6th.
I was over the moon with how myself and the car performed over the two days.
I learned a lot as a driver and gained yet more race experience and this great level.
I yet again had great support from friends, family And sponsors.
The support I get throughout the paddock and from fellow competitors is also highly appreciated.