Rockingham 3 Hour Race Preparation
After and early evening nosebag and night on Friday, it was an early breakfast Saturday morning too in preparation for the big day. Tucking into light continental buffet, a guy on the table next to us introduced himself as a driver of a team of four drivers and two mechanics from team Chequered Passed in cars #422 and #423. The discussion reminded us of our Caterham Academy year, a cheery dialogue of strategy and hints and tips.
This first race of the Trade Team Citröen C1 Challenge was to be competed upon the International Super Sportscar Circuit at the Rockingham Motor Speedway stadium. The circuit is used by the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship as well as for all other car race events at Rockingham. The circuit combines long straights, sweeping high-speed bends including the infamous Turn 1 and Gracelands and a lower speed, highly technical infield layout. Average lap speeds around the circuit range from 1m 24s in the BTCC to 1m 12s in British F3 and a 1m 52s in this C1 series.
The First Third Would Be Good
Mark Cox made an interesting comment in respect to the first corner at Deene. With his practice in Friday’s testing, he was conscious that there was a big difference in driving experience. Many drivers were braking at different points. We agreed that we would base strategy for corner one once we knew our position on the grid. It was at this point that our objective was set for a finish in the first third or the grid, with celebration should we attain the first quarter.
Arriving at the pits, it was obvious that we were too early. So now was a good time to fit the GoPros to the car as we wanted some footage of qualification and race start. It also gave us an opportunity to view some of the other cars. It was time for a little gesticulation to Mat in that Cox also wanted to change the steering wheel. Lewis also wanted to change the wheel from the production standard during the build. Pardon the pun, but could this be the ‘turning point’ as there are now two against one! One other point noted was that on #MissFire, Peter had not placed the requested tread plate in the foot well. Cox also reminded us that we forgot the egg timer. Ooops!
It has to be said that it’s not an easy task pulling together the plethora of information for this series which comes from official or non official ‘social media’ communication mediums. I think there was an assumption that someone else in the team would know what’s happening, where and when? Oh no, no, no! So at 07.30am, Cox wanted to sign on, but we did not know where. We tried the test/track days sign-on offices, but there was no-one there. Back at the garage and having a look at the timetable, sign-on was 08.15am, so we were a little premature.
Peter and the rest of the SPY team were starting to appear and there were still a few bits to do to the car. Peter explained that the tread plate still had to be fixed before scrutineering and he needed to affix the decals too. So while he did that, we had coffee and sausage rolls.
Time now 08.15am and time to head for sign-on. As scrutineering was at 08.20am, Lowe went with #MissFire and team support to scrutineering, while Cox went back to the test/track days sign-on offices, but there was no-one there again. Some kindly chap with a red C1 shirt on stated that sign-on was at scrutineering. Time was tight as supplementary regulations stated that there was a Drivers Briefing at 09.00am, so we had to be quick.
On the sign-on door, there was a notice that the Drivers Briefing would now be after qualification at 10.30am. So with Cox signed in and his white ticket in hand, it was off to scrutineering to find Lowe.
Peter had already weighted the car with a full tank of fuel, having also weighed both drivers with full kit. He had added additional lead to #MissFire with the knowledge they were 2KG over the minimum Regulation weight. However, Scrutineering calculated the total weight of driver and car 2KG light of the minimum and hence we added another 3KG to place us 1KG over. However, when the car was weighed a second time, the combined weight was now 3KG over. We do not understand either, but c’est la vie. The lead was sealed and all was good.
Coming up to qualification time, Cox took the first stint. Though he seemed to be taking ages to get onto the circuit and time was ticking down.
For some bizarre reason, everyone (drivers, crew and other teams) somehow thought qualification was 20 minutes, but the timer was counting down from 30 minutes. As far as Cox was concerned, he was back in at 10 minutes, which only gave him about three or four laps. Nonetheless, he was back in the pits and now it was time for Lowe to show what he could do. Positions incremented and decremented as Lowe went around in circles, finally placing the team a kindly 8th on the grid from 32 cars.
Back To Scrutineering
Off to Parc Ferme with Cox and we could see some sort of kerfuffle going on between Lowe and the Scrutineer. One of the support team too, were engaged in some discussion of sorts, only to find out that we were now 7KG under the Regulation weight. The only variable here was fuel consumption and the Scrutineer confirmed that he had included that in his calculations. “How can this be?” we call asked, looking at each other in a confused state as we tried to calculate what was happening. Would we be excluded from the race? Would there be some penalty? But as other teams around us were experiencing a similar issue, consensus was that it maybe a weighing scale issue. Alas, no real misdemeanour but I think the team needs our own clipboard and note any Scrutineer comment, ask his name and ask him to sign our form.
In a world of telephone recordings, liability disclaimers and cover arse signatures to everything, I think it’s going to be prudent to keep a log of the car. At this moment, I am not sure how granular this should be, but a certain ‘Scrutineer Log’ needs to be created that should mirror the Scrutineer’s own notes and log.
We all scuttled off to the Drivers Briefing in the Welcome Centre. A review of the day and driving standards. The presentation started with an audience snigger as the Assistant Clerk of the Course was reminded that his blend line instruction was incorrect. Otherwise nothing too onerous, but a big emphasis on driving standards and penalties. The role of Race Observers were explained and also Judges of Fact, with everyone warned that this is low cost motorsport event and any race infringement will be dealt with severely.
Whether this will be an issue at our race at Pembrey, we are unsure, but perhaps a new web address for the car maybe a consideration. As aforementioned, maybe this should be added to a car log? Is this the start of #BastardGate perhaps?
The other issue was that a race Marshal was not too happy with Cox on his qualification session. This is why he was delayed. Apparently our race number #332 was not on the front windscreen as Cox went out on his first qualification lap. We do not want to put a dampener on this, but why was this not picked up at scrutineering? I can use the ‘gesticulation’ word again, as this Marshal was at the pit gesticulating that the number needed to be placed on the windscreen before the race. Granted he had a valid point, but Peter had it all in hand as he had to remove the previous numbers in the week to place the Trade Team sun strip decal at the top of the windscreen.
Car fully prepared, it was time for some strategy. Like most cars on the grid, this was our first time racing in this challenge. The team was pleased that we attained P8 in the end and Cox was happy that we were not stuck mid-grid, his breakfast time concern for the first corner at Deene. Further, racing standards were addressed at the Drivers Briefing in that drivers will only “fuck it up” for themselves and others if they total the car on the first corner.
The Drivers Briefing also highlighted that we had again failed to digest the Challenge Regulations 2.12.1 in that there were three mandated driver changes. All drivers have acknowledged that they and the other team members should pay more attention to the published Series Regulations and Supplementary Regulations.