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|2008 Race dates and results|
Club & Series
|Car||Result o/a||Class result||Weather|
|1||6th April||Snetterton||CSCC Swinging Sixties||Dave Thompson's Triumph GT6||9th||1st||Damp practice, dry race|
|2||26th/27th April||Brands Hatch Indy||CSCC Swinging Sixties||Dave Thompson's Triumph GT6||10th||1st||Dry and hot all day (20 degrees C)|
|3||7th/8th June||Rockingham||CSCC Future Classics||Triumph TR7V8||1st||1st||Hot and dry|
|4||25th/26th July||Brand Hatch GP||CSCC Swinging Sixties supporting WTCC||Dave Thompson's Triumph GT6||1st||Very hot (30 degrees C)|
|5||6th/7th Sept||Cadwell Park||Martyn Adams' Triumph TR7V8||1st||1st||Warm and dry|
|6||27th/28th Sept||Nürburgring Nordschleife||ADAC / CSCC||Triumph GT6||38th||1st||Hot and sunny|
|7 & 8||18th/19th October||Snetterton||CSCC Swinging Sixties||Triumph GT6||8th
|Cool and dry|
The soothsayers of the Meteorological Office foretold of snow and wind and blizzards and pestilence for the Norfolk area. They were nearly right, well apart from the pestilence bit. The CSCC’s first trip to Snetterton for 2008 brings my 20th year of motorsport and I must be close on 220 race starts by now.
The Mighty Dave Thompson had once again deemed me suitable partner in his Swinging Sixties campaign as co-driver in his very nice MkII GT6.
The race meeting was an eclectic mix of British and Jonnie-foreigner cars ranging from 500cc 1950s single seater things (not sure what they were but imagine a ride-on lawn mower with bicycle wheels in place of cutters and you’re about there), through loads of 1960s sports and saloon cars with a good array of older and newer Jaguars. There was even a monoposto race with a varied collection of what looked like 1980s and early 1990s Formula 3 cars; they were jolly fast!
I had a free day on Saturday to just mosey about and look cool (sorry that should be cold) and I did that quite successfully; especially when it started hailing!
Dave is planning to race in the 2008 Classic Le Mans race which is only open to invited FiA cars and he has lined up a drive in Mark Field’s Spitfire. As a warm up the car has been entered into the Virgin Radio FiA GTS race championship which had rounds on Saturday and Sunday, with Alistair Pugh driving Saturday’s race and Dave doing Sunday’s. While the Spitfire managed Saturday practice OK, unfortunately it then blew its head gasket during the race making it a DNS for Sunday. Dave was suitably disappointed but that’s racing sometimes.
Saturday night was a tight squeeze in the Wolfe RV (19 people at peak) as everyone tried to keep out of the cold wind. Snetterton Heath (as it was known during WW2) was the home of the B17 equipped 96th Bomb Group of the US 8th Air Force and many missions were flown from there resulting in nearly 1000 fatalities throughout its operational period; I believe that is second only to the locally based ‘Bloody 100th’. It must have been a pretty bleak place as nearly all aircraft maintenance took place out doors; there is an excellent memorial just outside the gates of the circuit. If you take a look on Google Earth you can still easily see the wartime, triangular, 3-runway configuration favoured by the USAF.
Anyway, back to 2008 and I was, as is usual, first driver. I did the first 20 minutes of the 40 minute, timed practice session (red flagged twice!) and on the second red flag we swapped over. The temperature was very low and the delay clearing the track lead to Dave sitting in the pits for 10 minutes so all the heat from the tyres was gone. He did a few sighting laps but it was all over before any chance for any quick laps and my best lap would have to stand as our grid position. We were slotted 11th out of 36 cars which was pretty good (we were later elevated to 9th after 2 retirements). We had Class pole and given we are really looking for good class results that was fine by us. The race was hugely over subscribed and the ‘extra’ Swinging Sixties cars were out with the Future Classics race; the CSCC seem to have done a pretty good job of giving people what they want and seem to have hoovered up all the failing championships into these two series.
Duly I took the start in surprisingly clear and bright weather! The track was dry and there was excellent visibility. I had a clean get-away and with several much bigger cars in front was content to arrive at the first turn in about 10th place. I then got boxed in by a slow Jaguar saloon and was passed by about 7 cars including several from our class! The next 15 laps consisted of me moving through the cars ahead, picking them off one by one – in fact it was hugely enjoyable and with the pit stop window opening at +15 minutes and cars starting to come in immediately, I did actually get up to 3rd place on the track at one stage!
Long time Spitfire racer Steve Adams had qualified right alongside us but in the lap 1, turn 1 melee he got well ahead of me. It took quite a few laps and it wasn’t easy to get back in touch with him but I did eventually get on his tail. We had been joking the night before that Steve normally runs well but (like most of us) can loose some composure when under pressure…as I dived passed him coming into Russell he spun off onto the grass…it couldn’t have been better for me but with some composed, tactical driving on Steve’s part he could have made it more difficult for me to get past.
At the close of the 2007 season, Dave and Steve took Steve’s Spitfire to Daytona in Florida for a long weekend of racing with the CSCC (about 50 cars went) and the two of them spent a lot of time properly setting the car up. It has suddenly got some stability that it never had before and when Steve has his mind on the job does very well.
Anyway, toward the close of my stint having passed quite a lot of cars I had a really good 3 lap ding-dong with Mk I Jaguar Saloon who had the legs of me on the straights but seemed to be struggling on the corners. Also it was really good to see Pete Richards and his daughter out in his red Clan Crusader. Pete and I were long time adversaries back in the mid 1990s when we both raced in Class A of the 750MC Roadsports Championship; he has been racing a lot in Germany recently and must now have a huge number of miles under his belt in that small but rapid Imp-engined car.
At +23minutes I was signalled in a dutifully came in for the driver swap. At this stage we were well in class lead and Dave just had to maintain class position which he did superbly. He didn’t get a lot of racing as such and it was a bit lonely out there for him but he kept his concentration and kept it on the island!
We finished 9th overall and won the class by about 3 laps (I presume some of the other cars in the class had some problems to have opened out that much gap) and took home some very nice cut crystal trophies.
Jon Wolfe at the wheel of Dave Thompson's mighty Triumph GT6 MkII
Plans are now afoot to do the rest of the year partnering Dave; watch this (web) space!
Brands Hatch, despite being a really nice driving circuit is not everyone’s favourite. The main paddock is outside the track and there is a very small inner area behind the garages in the infield. I quite like it but am never happy that the entry fees are more than other circuits even though it’s far from the best place to race. Anyhow, Dave and I had entered the Swinging Sixties, two-driver race as planned and had been watching the weather all week with interest. On the Monday prior to the meeting the forecast was wet but that changed throughout the week and in the event the Saturday was warm and sunny, peaking at around 20 degrees C. A proper sunburn day.
It was a two day CSCC meeting with ‘Swingers’ being on Saturday with a 10 AM practice slot. I rolled out first and did a few sighting laps while the traffic cleared. We were on the 1.2 mile Indy circuit and there were about 40 cars out there so not much space for a fast lap! After about 5 laps various cars were spreading oil, petrol and water on the surface such that a number of cars were sliding off into the gravel traps and by lap 11 the red flags came out and we all trundled into the pit lane. At this stage we decided it would be prudent to do the driver change leaving Dave to set a time for the grid as I had not really had an opportunity. It took 20 minutes to clear the circuit of broken down and beached cars and Dave took to the track. There was still masses of traffic and Dave did well to get a reasonable lap in to put us 19th on the grid of 36 starters. Notably, Dave had experienced a misfire that set in during his stint, developing from about 6500 rpm. Very unusual for Dave’s car.
John Thomason did an outstanding job and put his silver Spitfire on pole much to the consternation of many-a-driver of more exotic machinery.
Our clear aim of the day was to secure a Class C win and we had even been mentioned as Class favourites in the programme just to make matters more pressured. We were also keen to get an invitation to the WTCC support race so that meant being well behaved too. I took the start and kept a keen eye on my other class runners. There was a blue and white MGB GT up ahead and there were a couple of Alpines and an MGB roadster just behind. I took a few laps to get close in contact with the MGB GT and eventually managed to slide by into class lead but pulling away was another matter. It took me over 5 laps to open out a two second lead and then to my annoyance the safety car came out following an altercation between a pair of cars leaving them stranded in a gravel trap right by the circuit edge.
We ran at low speed behind the safety car for about 6 laps and then all set off again with that pesky MGB GT right on my tail again. Suddenly Dave’s misfire struck and the engine would just not pull over 6500; it wasn’t hugely affecting lap times but it wasn’t good. After about 5 more laps the MGB GT had pitted and I was called in for our change over.
The pit stop was good and Dave was out on track after about a 45 second stop. Fortunately for us the MGB GT crew had a terrible stop and we were now about 50 seconds ahead of them. Even with the misfire class victory looked pretty safe. I did however signal Dave that the MGB was about 15 seconds behind so he didn’t fall asleep! Unfortunately the MGB GT was out of the race a couple of laps later with bodywork rubbing the rear wheel following a bit of over zealous overtaking by someone. It’s very annoying when your day ends like that.
So we took a comfortable class win and contemplated how close it could have been, certainly not like the easy one we had at Snetterton 3 weeks beforehand.
Good things about the weekend were the weather and excellent entry again; a very nice ’64 Ford Falcon, very like mine was there as well as a number of Mustangs and E-Types. The Swinging Sixties series really has attracted a good crowd. The only down side was the number of accidents and oil spills that marred practice and the race. A shame really given the Snetterton race’s exemplary performance.
Next race for the GT6 duo is Mallory Park on 26th May. (NB: we did not do this due to Dave's finger injury)
Following Dave’s unfortunate accident (the broken finger) he has no choice but to stop racing while recovering; hoping to be fit for the Le Mans Classic in July. This left me without any planned drives other than in either my TR7V8 or GT6 at Nürburg in September with the CSCC. Duly I dug the TR7V8 of the garage out for it’s first outing since I won the TR Register championship in it in 2006.
Accordingly I put in a late entry for the CSCC Future Classics race at Rockingham on the Tuesday before the race weekend and luckily there were still a few grid slots left so was in! Trouble was that the TR7V8 can only run for 35 minutes on its fuel tank so I’d need an extra tank fitted with a transfer pump to move fuel into the main tank. I planned to do that work Wednesday and Thursday night but ‘real’ work intervened leaving me with just Friday evening and Saturday morning to get the car finally prepped for Sunday.
It was all a bit rushed but by about 1 pm the car was ready and I went to get the RV out of the paddock where I keep it…oops very flat tyre on the rear. They are huge truck wheels and tyres so getting one of the inner rear wheels off was not a 5 minute job requiring Stacky to make a super-long, deep reach socket by welding 2 together just to get the wheel nuts off. We also had to use 2 jacks to lift the wheels of the ground! We finally set off at about 3pm without, of course, a spare as the deflated one had a hole in it about the size of a fist. It must have happened on the way to Brands Hatch a few weeks earlier as we had heard a loud bang from the rear of the vehicle but had never discovered what it was.
Luckily it’s not too far to Rockingham for us (about 90 minutes) and Stacky drove most of the way while I was on the phone to work; not ideal but thanks for doing that. We arrived to a very pleasant and clear evening and even had a full size pit garage to ourselves.
Come the Sunday the weather was warm and getting hotter but, bizarrely, after we bled the brakes (last minute decision by me to do it as the car has not been used for nearly 2 years) there was no pedal…it just went nearly to the floor although the brakes were working. I decided to go out anyway and see how it felt and in the event after just 1 lap the brakes recovered and were absolutely fine.
Nearly ready to "Get it Done!" - The TR7V8 in the pit garages pre-race...
Practice was excellent; we were using the excellent international layout (we have previously used the crappy club layout with the MGCC) and I had a good 40 minutes of largely uninterrupted lapping. I also did a proper pit stop rehearsal. All CSCC 40 minute races have a mandatory pit stop between 15 and 30 minutes where you must stop, switch off the engine, get out of the car, close the door and get back in etc… this can be a real race winner/loser if you get it right/wrong! Stacky and Chris (Sollom) did a great pit lane job and I was stationary for just 42 seconds. It would have been quicker but the engine did not restart immediately…more on that later.
On returning to the paddock I was confirmed as being on pole by 0.25 seconds; my first ever Rockingham pole position with a Jaguar XJ-S right along side. The Future Classics race series has a very eclectic collection of mostly 70s and 80s cars and the race included Mazda MX5s, Porsche 944 Turbos, Jaguars XJ6 and XJS, a Toyota Supra, an Alfa somethingorother, a Rover Tomcat, a Ford Sierra Cosworth and some other things too. About 25 cars in all.
Once the car was cool we bled the brakes again (and no pedal again!) but the car would not start…completely dead starter motor. A push start and it was away which meant any spin in the race that stalled the engine would mean game-over. It would also mean Stacky and Chris rounding up volunteers to push start the car on the pit stop.
The race I got a really good get away and the 450BHP XJ-S and I stormed through turn 1 together down to the hairpin. It was very close. I think it was either the 4th or 5th lap that we had a minor contact and the Jag hit my right rear wheel arch just enough to push the panel into the tyre…I could smell it almost instantly; that acrid hot rubber smell.
I thought my race was run but did my best to ignore it and carried on with the smell getting worse. On about lap 6 the Jag tried again to get past but out-braked himself and ended up on the grass and I was away. It was just the break I needed. The smell and tyre rubbing noise became less bad so I decided it was safe to go as fast as I wanted to and just did a controlled drive to the pit stop which I did at 15 minutes. I had a quick look at the tyre during the stop and it looked OK so after a hefty push from what looked like about 10 people I was out on track again – a 45 second stop. Nearly all the leaders pitted early so I think I lost the lead for only a lap or two and signals from the pit soon confirmed I was back in top slot again and I then managed to open up a 30 second lead by 35 minutes. With 5 minutes to go a low fuel misfire set in; it was evident that the fuel was not transferring fast enough and I was using it from the main tank quicker than the transfer pump was moving it from the reserve tank. I did the last 3 laps in just 4th and 5th gear to reduce consumption but that cost me 5 seconds a lap and I won I the end by about 12 seconds. See the race pit stop on YouTube here.
It was good that I had the spare time and that the end of the race was so near. There is no way I could have held the lead for anything more than 2 further laps at most; it was a really close run thing.
|1st||Jon Wolfe||Triumph TR7V8||41:19||1:38.719|
|2nd||Steve Davies||Jaguar XJ-S||41:35||1:39.184|
|3rd||Mike Watson||Ford Sierra Cosworth||41:49||1:39.721|
|4th||Roy Johnson||Rover Tomcat||43:05||1:40.327|
|5th||Macadam/Truelove||Mazda MX5||41:28 - 1 lap||1:43562|
Thanks to Stacky and Chris for pit crewing; Diane for pit signals and all the people who push started the car on the pit stop whoever you all were (Kevan & Mark Hadfield and Ian Smythe from the video) and thanks too for Howard for coming to watch and videoing the entire race from the grandstand…no Noreen this time as she was at home poorly; Natasha stayed home too.
For us humble club racers it does not get much better than supporting an FiA world championship and that’s exactly what we had when the CSCC was invited to support the British round of the World Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch. This was a direct result of supporting the Formula Palmer Audi race at Oulton Park in 2007 at which Jonathan Palmer, owner of MSV which owns Oulton and Brands, was suitably impressed.
The CSCC Swinging Sixties organisers were offered one 30 minute timed practice session on Saturday afternoon and then two races on the Sunday; the first race of the day being 20 minutes and the last race being 30 minutes. With Dave still recovering from his hand injury he offered me the 30 minute race while he would do the 20 minute one. Unfortunately there was no opportunity at this meeting to do our normal two-driver thing.
This was a superb opportunity for me as I have only raced on the Brand Hatch GP circuit once before and that was in torrential rain and I was a DNF; from memory that was in 1996.
After a relaxing Saturday, Dave went out for practice first but his session was completely upset by the safety car being deployed very early on due to a Lotus Elan catching fire (see picture). This meant Dave doing 4 laps at slow speed then just one fast lap before coming in for the driver swap (we both had to qualify in the same 30 minute session). My session was far more successful than Dave’s and I managed 5 flying laps in a nicely warmed up car. It was disappointing for Dave but worked out better than expected as my lap time was used as Dave’s grid position for the first race.
Oops, Lotus Elan severely damaged by engine-bay fire
The GP circuit is far nicer than the Indy configuration we normally use and I really hope we can use it again one day; its use is severely limited (just 12 days a year for racing) due to noise limits set down by the local council.
Race 1 Mark Campbell put his very nice TR5 on pole with Simon Lane’s 6.6 litre Camaro alongside. Third on the grid was John Muirhead in his early Lotus 7 with another 41 cars behind him; it was a truly huge grid! Dave was back on the 10th row of the grid with two Class C cars ahead (an MGB and an Alpine). I did not get to see too much of the race as I was in the pit lane however the MGB only lasted 1 corner before a rear wheel fell off due to loose wheel nuts; the wheel hit Steve Adams’ Spitfire and the brake drum clouted Dave’s offside front wheel putting a visible dent into it.
After a few laps Dave passed the Alpine and stayed ahead to the finish (despite the Alpine driver ignoring yellow flags at Paddock Hill bend) and was delighted to take an unexpected class win. The race was shortened by 4 minutes as an E-Type Jaguar had become stranded at Graham Hill bend right in the middle of the track having suffered a wrecked rear tyre bend and was unable to be moved.
Campbell won the race with Lane second and Muirhead in third. Stacky won a fairly comfortable Class B victory in Mark Hadfield’s 1500 Spitfire, Kevan Hadfield was second in Class D in his TR4 and Keith Files parked his TR6 backwards into a tyre wall following a brake failure.
Race 2 The MGB was a DNS as were about 10 other cars! The CSCC had accepted 8 reserves and they all got to race such was the attrition through practice and the first race. I had an excellent start and got into a superb 20 minute battle with a Morgan, an E-Type coupe, Steve Adams (Spitfire), Mark Hadfield (Spitfire), Simeon Chodosh (early Corvette) and Geoff Mussell (‘67 Mustang); we were swapping places for most of the race much to Dave T’s nervousness as we all raced very close together for lap after lap. Eventually I was forced to drop back as a darn misfire set in at anything over 6000 rpm. It cost me over a second a lap and I dropped away from the pack and just managed to stay ahead of a closing Reliant Scimitar.
Race 2 start grid.
Wolfe, Adams and M Hadfield around mid-race descending to Graham Hill bend.
I was happy to finish in the class lead having put some pretty good laps in although Mark Hadfield was the star driver of the day for me with some outstandingly quick times in what is really quite a modestly modified car. So I won Class C, Mark won Class B, Steve Adams was 3rd in class A and Kevan was 2nd in Class D. Really good show for the Triumphs especially as Mark Campbell won overall again in his TR5.
It was a truly memorable event with around 30,000 spectators for the WTCC races (obviously rather fewer for our races) and a proper ‘big-event’ atmosphere with a fun fair, loads of trade stands and a number of PR ladies doing their thing! Well done to the CSCC team and let’s hope we get to support another big one next year!
Anyone who has been following my racing activities over the past few years will have noticed I have been doing quite a bit of driving in other cars. The week before Cadwell I spoke to Martyn Adams (Triumph TR7V8 in Future Classis and long-time racing friend of mine) who offered me a drive as second driver in the Cadwell Park race. I had originally intended to do the Swinging Sixties race in the normal Thompson/Wolfe GT6 paring but Dave has now retired the GT6 and put it up for sale since acquiring a very nice 1963 TVR Grantura which he is rebuilding.
Also, Martyn is going to be driving my GT6 in the two enduro races at Nurburg at the end of September so I did quite fancy having a go in a ‘rival’ TR7V8.
The weather prior to race weekend was unbelievably wet and it certainly looked like we’d be in for a rain-soaked weekend in Lincolnshire. I had just taken the RV in for its annual service and MOT too so that was unavailable for us, instead I took the caravan…first time out for it as we only acquired it recently from Mrs. Wolfe’s parents following their decision to give up their caravanning days.
Anyway, enough of that. The weather was looking surprisingly optimistic come Sunday morning and we had decided that Martyn would drive first and I would do the second stint (opposite way round from when I drive with Dave) and Martyn kindly offered me 20 minutes of the 30 minute practice session. I found the driving position to be very different from my own TR7V8 as Martyn has the steering wheel away at arms length and his seat lays back rather more than mine. I tend to prefer to sit very upright with the wheel more-or-less right in front of me. That wasn’t going to stop me however and I found a comfortable position.
Practice Martyn went out in the dry and did about 6 or 7 laps before coming into the tiny Cadwell pit lane for the changeover. I went out in a nicely warmed up car on a fairly grippy track, especially when compared to how it could have been. I was somewhat surprised on Park Corner however when I over-braked! The car has power assisted brakes which I had not cottoned on to; I soon got used to it but felt very odd as I had never before raced a Triumph with braking assistance.
There was a typical mix of cars for the race including Jaguars XJ-S and XJ6 as well as Porsches, Mazda MX-5s and a Toyota Supra. Amongst the quick cars were a 2.6 litre Talbot Sunbeam Lotus and a Lotus Esprit driven by Nik Olson with whom I used to race in the 750MC Roadsports championship over 10 years ago when I was a Spitfire racer. Nik has been out of racing for over 10 years and is now back and in the same car.
Martyn’s TR7 felt really quick out of the corners with a huge amount of low-mid torque. Mine differs in that it has more power and can rev quite a bit higher but other than that the cars felt fairly similar. I’d have preferred stiffer front springs but that’s just me.
The practice results were surprisingly good with us in second place on the grid; just the Talbot Sunbeam in front but with about a 3 second margin! Apparently the car is quite well known in saloon car racing circles and normally runs with slick tyres and some aero aids. The Lotus Esprit was in 3rd, about 2 seconds slower.
The race The weather improved further and it was very sunny and about 18 degrees C for the race. Martyn had a good start but it was almost immediately evident that the Talbot was going to be untouchable as it opened out a 3 second lead just on the first lap. Martyn kept ahead of the Esprit but it was close for lap after lap. The Esprit never really threatened but would have been there to capitalise on any mistake that Martyn made.
Warm-up lap - that pesky Talbot! MA at the wheel of the TR.
At the half way stage Martyn was signalled in for the driver swap and we did a fairly swift change in around 45 seconds. Trouble was that Nik in the Esprit did a 27 second stop which placed me in 3rd position as I left the pits. After a couple of settling-in laps the Esprit was long gone and I had lost visual contact completely.
A lap later and I saw the Talbot parked up by the side of the track at the Mountain (subsequently I learned that the second driver had felt a huge vibration set in and had pulled off fearing the worst) and this brought me up to second place. By now I was hitting back markers and, as is usually the way, some are easier to pass than others. Within 5 laps however I could see the Esprit again and really got a wiggle on! I had the car bucking around and on the limit for several laps until I got on his tail with just 3 laps to go. I had a heck of a time trying to get past him with a number of failed out-braking attempts; The TR7 has more grunt than the Esprit but Nik was driving very defensively and making it near impossible to get past on the straights.
Back marker action...JW at the wheel
My chance came on the way down the Gooseneck on the very last lap, he missed a gear change and I saw the Esprit stutter as Nik was fighting for gears. I nailed the throttle then the brake and squeezed by on the inside. It was then just the Mountain section and Barn corner to negotiate before securing the outright win. It was the closest of margins!
Me driving Martyn Adams' mighty TR7V8 - just got by on the last lap!
The front tyres on the TR7 were somewhat flat-spotted due to some desperate attempts by me to out-brake the Esprit on a number of occasions and we did come mighty close to each other at times but we never touched and the final passing manoeuvre was without incident.
Martyn’s first ever outright win and he was pretty happy! Trouble is that at the next race he gets to drive my car; and that’s at the Nurburgring!!! I better take some spare tyres!!!
I have no idea what happened elsewhere in the race.
My third visit to the awesome Nordschleife but the first time for my co-driver Martyn Adams. Despite the Channel Tunnel’s fiery efforts to thwart our efforts to cross to France we made it there by noon on Thursday and made good progress to the ‘ring, forming up around the Liege area of Belgium with the convoy:
Martin ‘Stacky’ Stackpoole and Mark Hadfield (Mark’s Spitfire)
Kev and Diane Hadfield with Andy Vowell (Kev’s Herald)
Martyn and Jo Adams (Martyn co-driving my GT6) with their kids
Nigel Gibbins and me with my GT6
Three cars, six drivers and two crew of Nigel and Diane! We arrived at the circuit around 5pm local time and made our way via paddock signing on (!) to our allocated space in the Mercedes Arena. This was one heck of a meeting, organised by ADAC as the 2008 Eifel Rennen. As well as our Triumph Competition race there was Thoroughbred GP, Formula Junior, Porsche races etc etc. The cars of the show for me wer David Piper’s green Porsche 917 and the Porsche 908 and Carrera race cars from the 1960s. I suppose it’s close to being Germany’s Goodwood revival with thousands of spectators and hundreds of race and other historic cars on display.
There were so many cars they had to use part of the GP track as paddock hence why we were all parked up on the Mercedes Arena section which in previous visits there I have raced on! The circuit we would use included the full GP loop down to the Dunlop curve then back up through Schumacher etc. then up and onto the Nordschleife.
We unpacked and setup camp in the paddock on Thursday ready for the two timed practice sessions on Friday. Martyn had been learning th circuit like mad from my 2007 in-car DVD and was fairly sure he knew where all the main areas of concern were. He was pretty nervous having never driven my car before and never on this circuit either.
Ready for the 'ring...
Practice One – Friday morning
Martyn went out and did 5 laps to get to know the circuit and for us to have an idea of how much petrol the car would use. He did just fine and posted an acceptable lap time given his lack of knowledge of the circuit. The only gripe was severe brake judder. We refuelled the car and I went out and did just three laps and came in happy that the car was basically OK having put in a pretty good lap time.
Before the second practice we fitted new front brake discs and did the normal car checks.
Practice Two – Friday afternoon
Martyn started again and did 3 laps and improved on his morning time by nearly thirty seconds. I took over and went out for my stint. Unfortunately on my out lap there was a truly horrendous noise from under the car and I though the exhaust had come off. The noise was deafeningly loud but the car kept going. I slowed to a crawl and came back to the pits (15 km away) and returned to the paddock. Looking under the car everything looked OK so we jacked up the rear and started the car and ‘drove’ through the gears with the rear wheels spinning in the air. The final drive was making an appalling noise and it was so hot you couldn’t actually touch it!
We let the car cool down for 30 minutes and dropped the final drive out; all the paint had flaked off it and it was still almost untouchably hot; by now it had seized solid so we were 95% sure this was the culprit. We fitted a new unit and let the car back down. Martyn went for a quick spin round the paddock and all was OK. The new unit was a 3.89 ratio rather than the 3.63 I normally use so wasn’t overly happy but it was the only one we had! We had qualified onto the fourteenth row of the grid for our race; not bad at all.
Now the complicated bit!
Complexity 1 The Nordschleife is so long they regularly start over 250 cars at one time but we only had 60 or so in our race. There were two other races with 60 or so entrants too so we would all go out together but in our own grids. Grid one would go followed two minutes later by grid two then two minutes later by grid three – all rolling starts behind a pace car. We were in the third group. The down side is that grid one had some mighty fast cars and they would lap the whole of grid two before the end of eight laps so we needed a seven lap strategy. Keeping up with this?
Complexity 2 Our race was nominally a 400km race, but run in two 200 km parts, one each day. The overall results would be derived by adding Saturday’s race time to Sunday’s race time to give a total; therefore success in both parts was essential. Also the grid for part two was the finishing order of part one.
400 km race part one Saturday 08:30 Martyn would do the warm up lap behind the pace car then three race laps. He would then come in for refuelling and the driver swap. All went well and he was much quicker than he had been in practice. The car was ace (in fact the final drive ratio was better) and the brakes superb. At the end of my four laps we were leading Class D as I managed to catch and pass the other GT6 in the race on the last lap. During Martyn’s stint a Swiss owned Ford Mustang had a huge accident at Wehrseifen and the driver was killed; the race carried on and we found out about it later. Following a drivers’ meeting the decision was made to carry on and run part two on the Sunday as planned. Both the driver’s sons were in other cars the race too and unsurprisingly they withdrew.
400 km race part two Sunday 08:30 The race was reduced to 7 laps so we needed a six lap strategy (see above!) but this time we were starting on row four. Martyn did three and I did three. The car was faultless again and I managed to pass the GT6 again on the final straight of the last lap – he had a throttle problem that had hampered the end of his race so that sealed our win over him; trouble was we had no idea where anyone else finished.
When the results were finally issued we had won the class by just six seconds from an MGB, very close but good enough! Naturally we were delighted especially as we got a trophy each.
On the Hadfield front their Saturday went pretty well (following the Herald having an oil cooler and a head gasket failure during Friday practice) but Sunday was altogether different. In the Herald, Kev had an oil leak which took quite a while in the pits to resolve meaning Andy never got to drive that day. The car finished the race OK though. On the Mark/Stacky Spitfire front all was not well. Stacky had a coming together with an Austin Healey at Hatzenbach which spun the Healey off and damaged the bonnet on the Spitfire. Stacky crawled back to the pits for temporary repairs and Mark went out some fifteen minutes later only for the engine to fail resulting is retirement from the race. The Stacky/Healey incident resulted in some pretty appalling behaviour from the Healey driver back in the paddock but inevitably the outcome was that it was an unfortunate racing incident although it did take the edge off the weekend.
Steve Adams (Spitfire IV) had a good race until the last lap where he spun it off the track. He was helped back on by the marshals but on restarting his engine forgot to start the electric water pump and cooked the engine on his way back to the paddock. Possibly a very expensive mistake.
An excellent result for Martyn and me but not so good for teams Hadfield or Steve Adams. Our thoughts however are with the family of the driver that died in the race; it’s easy for us to forget that it is a dangerous sport and although we do everything we can to make is as safe as possible it is not completely risk free.
Full results here
It gets pretty tricky when you decide to run two race cars in the same meeting. As a season finale and as our normal Birkett entry has had to be withdrawn I decided to use both the GT6 and the TR7V8 at the CSCC end of season race meeting at Snetterton.
I would share my GT6 in the Swinging Sixties race with Dave Thompson (his own GT6 is now sold and gone to its new owner) and the TR7V8 in the Future Classics race with Martin Stackpoole.
Dave took the GT6, I towed the TR7V8 up behind the RV and Stacky took the works van full of spares and petrol! Luckily, throughout the whole weekend only one part was needed, that being a spark plug for TR7V8!
The CSCC has really filled a gap in club racing and has been able to muster up big grids throughout the year especially in Swinging Sixties where there are regularly reserve entries. It seems to be where many of the TSSC and TR Register regulars have gone following the ending of those Championships.
Saturday - GT6 in Swinging Sixties Although I have raced in Dave’s GT6 many times, Dave had never properly driven my GT6 before other than a track day in 2007. It’s quite different from Dave’s; it has a bit more torque, a 5 speed gearbox, I suspect is a bit lighter, sits a bit higher and has softer suspension settings as I really built it for use on the Nordschleife. He soon got to grips with it in the practice session and as soon as he became used to its vague straight-line stability (soft suspension) he was well away and did about 20 minutes of the 30 minute timed session. I called him in and went out to try to go quicker and move us up the grid.
I managed some good clear laps and moved us up about 6 places; with the retirement of one of the quicker cars we were second on the grid. As Dave would be first driver it would be his debut as a front row starter right alongside Simon Lane’s 6.3 litre Chevrolet Camaro.
Getting my GT6 off the line is not as easy as some other cars as it has lot of torque and does not have a limited slip differential. This means that one wheel can spin leaving the car virtually stationary! Dave struggled to get away cleanly and in the first lap melee lost a number of places. By the end of the first lap we were in 10th place out of a field of 31 cars. Dave then circulated well and most importantly in the class lead; I think he was a bit disappointed when he got the signal to come in for the driver change after about 10 laps. We did a pretty good driver swap and I was out into clear space on the track and managed to make up 6 places before the safety car came out due to a three-wheeled Jaguar XK120 being beached at the Esses. I knew I was in fourth place when the safety car came in and I knew there was only one lap left, trouble was I thought the guy in third was in the group in front of me so I made an over ambitious attempt to out-drag a few cars into turn 1. I locked up, ran wide and spun onto the grass letting four cars come by, dropping me to 8th. I recovered quickly and finished the race unscathed but very cross with myself for making such a stupid mistake. We won the class by quite a margin making it the sixth Wolfe/Thompson Class C win in a row and the fourth one this year.
Sunday – TR7V8 in Future Classics This was the one making me feel more nervous. I had never shared the TR7V8 before and Stacky is a relative rookie to racing still and has only ever raced a Spitfire. I knew the car was capable of winning if we could both circulate at a decent pace. Our main rivals were Martyn Adams who was sharing his TR7V8 with Spitfire regular Mark Hadfield and a handful of Sierra Cosworths and a Porsche 911 Carrera.
Come timed practice it was immediately obvious that both Martin and Mark were comfortable with their respective V8 engined cars and both put in surprisingly quick laps. I took over from Stacky at about 20 minutes and put in a couple of quicker laps which got us up to second on the grid, very slightly slower than Guy Blumer in a Sierra Cosworth.
Both Martyn Adams and I decided to let the new boys take the start and to suggest the next ten laps were nerve wracking would be an understatement. Blumer opened out a good gap and Mark quite soon was in front of Stacky. Those two were then pinned to each other for 15 minutes with Mark starting to put in fastest laps in the race as they slowly reeled the Sierra back in.
I called Stacky in after 12 laps and took over – because I had won in my car at Rockingham earlier in the year we had a minimum pit stop of 1 minute so I sat waiting 25 seconds to be released then stonked out onto the track hoping to get round and in front of Martyn as I suspected Mark would pit next lap. As I sped up the pit straight I saw Martyn’s V8 emerge from the pit lane just in front of me (they too had a one minute pit penalty due to Martyn and me winning at Cadwell!) but I was a good three seconds adrift. I slowly closed on Martyn and sneaked past 2 laps later with a better exit from turn two giving me better Revett straight speed. The cars are almost indeterminable in terms of performance, it was very close.
Up ahead there was no sign of the Sierra – I soon learned from a pit signal from Stacky that I was in the overall lead and that got my attention for sure. The Sierra was out with a split fuel tank. I managed to maintain a one to two second lead over Martyn for lap after lap and was getting pretty tired by the end of the race. In the end I crossed the line just 0.6 seconds ahead of Martyn.
We won the Future Classics race by just 0.6 seconds!
Back in the paddock Stacky was overjoyed and with our winners’ garlands and trophies we were pretty happy. Outright wins are pretty good and that was Stacky’s first, it took me 130 races! So that was my 13th outright or class win in a row in car number 13 in the 13th race of the weekend and it capped off this year where every race has been a class or outright win, I can’t complain at that. Roll on 2009.
The Season is over and even the 2008 annual awards dinner has been and gone. The CSCC does not tally points but does award a number of overall prizes at the end of the year. I can report that Dave Thompson and I won Class C of the Swinging Sixties and I was third in Class for the Future Classics series. I was very happy with those results and have added two more trophies to the cabinet!
Jon and Dave with Penny Mallory - the guest speaker at the 2008 CSCC awards dinner
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